The violin was perhaps the most frequently used instrument (apart from the mandatory tabla, bongos or other percussion instruments) in Indian films from the 1940s to the early 70s. The Flute will perhaps come a close second to the violin as the most frequently used instrument. Many music directors created memorable sweet melodies with flute in this period.
Of course, any song featuring Lord Krishna featured the flute. But there are also several other songs where the flute was used in a variety of ways. The flute appeared to be a natural fit for some situations. In other cases, the music directors seemed to have a liking for flute and used it extensively. A number of music directors also created attractive sounds and interesting arrangements by using the flute with other instruments.
Many songs featuring flute use the combination of flute and clarinet in Hindi film music. This combination allows the composer to combine the relatively high sounds of the flute with clarinet and provides flexibility in using the flute across multiple pitch levels. This combination also creates an overall sound that is both rich and mellow. Sometimes, composers use multiple flute instruments in the same song, at different pitch levels. Interestingly, there are many types of flute – ranging from the classical bansuri, the recorder, common man’s flute, and electric flute to the piccolo. Our composers created many sweet melodies with flute, but the sounds of the flute are not the same across all the songs. As an example, here is the sound of the piccolo that has a relatively high pitch.
And here is the sound of the classical bansuri at a different pitch.
Here is a medley of 17 flute pieces from Hindi film songs that runs for 5 minutes. The medley shows how different types of flutes were used to produce a wide variety of sounds and effects. However, the sweet sound of flute is the common factor across all the songs.
If you want to enjoy the complete songs with vocals, check out the playlist below. Enjoy 20 sweet melodies with flute (other than Lord Krishna songs). Most of the songs are from late 40s to early 70s (with one exception).
( A tip to enhance your listening pleasure: When listening to the songs in the playlist, if you want to browse further on this site or another one, open a new window for further browsing. The player will continue to play the songs in the current window while you are browsing)
Stalwarts like Naushad, S D Burman and Roshan seemed to have a preference for flute and used it extensively in some of their songs.
Gaye jaa geet milan ke (Mela) and Tu mera chaand main teri chaandni (Dillagi) are two of Naushad’s songs that have beautiful and extensive use of the flute.
Another stalwart, Roshan used the flute extensively in Bahut diya denewale ne tujhko (Soorat aur Seerat). The flute sounds sweeter in Roshan’s songs!
S D Burman used flute in many of his songs to provide a breezy and light touch to complement the vocals composed in his unique style. But, it is his sad number Jaayen to Jaayen kahaan (Taxi Driver) that has extensive use of flute. Talat’s voice and the flute combine to create unforgettable pathos.
(I missed including Chup Gaya Koi Re (Champakali) in the original list. A reader Mukesh Ladiaji pointed out this omission. This is a lovely number composed by Hemant Kumar with extensive flute that touches the heart. Thank you Mukesh Ladiaji for pointing it out. )
Situations and visuals with green or snow-capped mountains and streams seem to be a natural fit for flute. And romantic duets or solos in the moonlight are tailor made situations as well. And to top it all, if the hero is a flautist, it is only natural for flute to figure in the song.
Shanker-Jaikishen were at the top of their profession for a long time because they were masters of all types of genres from classical to modern. Basant Bahar, at one end of the spectrum, had lovely songs like Main piya teri that featured beautiful flute interludes played by the hero.
Composer Ravi was a master in creating simple and beautiful melodies often with the use of santoor and flute. Two of his lovely songs with flute are set among the hills and streams in the movie Hamraaz– He nile gagan ke tale and Tum agar saath dene ka vaada karo.
Kalyanji- Anandji created the super hit Mere mitwa mere meet re (Geet) also amidst hills, streams along with a hero playing the flute. There is another equally attractive song in Geet, Jiske sapne humen roz aate rahe that also makes brilliant use of flute. Apart from the lovely flute interludes, observe the delightful use of flute as a countermelody.
S D Burman gave some of his best music in Dev Anand movies that had good doses of romance and mischief set amongst beautiful backdrops. While Dil Pukare (Jewel Thief) was set amongst the hills, there were additional elements of fog and moonlight in the lovely song Tu kahaan ye bataa (Tere ghar ke saamne).
And S D Burman’s long time assistant, Jaidev gave us some memorable songs as an independent composer. One of his best songs with flute is Yeh dil aur unki (Prem parbat). There are many variations in flute which make this song among the best flute songs.
Some of the music composers used their creativity, inspiration and their expertise in arrangements to make attractive use of flute, sometimes in situations where the flute was not a natural fit.
Salil Chaudhary was a composer who could play the piccolo and who loved the instrument. He used the piccolo attractively in the prelude in Jaa re Jaa re (Maya).
The song Jis dil mein basaa tha (Saheli) was a Binaca Geet mala topper. This is a sad song but Kalyanji-Anandji used the flute attractively in the interludes like a normal song. Kalyanji-Anandji also made unusual and attractive use of the flute in the song Jo tumko ho pasand (Safar). This attractive flute piece creates a haunting effect as well and will remain etched in your mind long after you finish listening to the song.
Another sad song, Chahunga main tujhe (Dosti) by Laxmikant-Pyarelal was a big hit. The flute was used attractively in this classical song.
Shanker-Jaikishen’s Shree 420 was a blockbuster musical. The song Pyaar hua ikraar hua, perhaps evokes many images in the mind and one of the unforgettable images is of Raj Kapoor playing and dancing to the common man’s flute. The flute is also attractive in one more Shanker-Jaikishen movie, Teesri Kasam in the song Duniya banane wale.
RD Burman’s Aaja piya tose pyaar (Baharon ke sapne) has a superb flute piece in the first interlude that sounds very modern. And among relatively modern songs, Zara Zara (Rehna hai tere dil mein) has a superb heart touching flute prelude.
Mind blowing flute
If you want to enjoy truly magnificent and the best flute in film songs, you have to turn to regional songs.
Dadasaheb Phalke award winner K Viswanath also won multiple National awards. His movie Sirivennela (in Telugu language) is about a blind flutist and a mute painter. Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia played the flute in a number of songs in the movie. When you hear his flute, you will run out of words to describe the effect – magnificent, heavenly, soulful, brilliant are some of the words that will come to your mind. Enjoy two of the songs below from this movie with heavenly flute. The composer, K V Mahadevan needs to be credited for creating tunes that were melodious and became hugely popular without being overshadowed by the brilliance of the flute. Even though the language may be alien, if you can listen to the songs patiently till the end, I am sure you will enjoy the mind blowing flute (and also the songs).
The first song from Sirivennela, Ee gaali is a joyous one – note how the mood is set by the outstanding flute in the prelude. Though S P Balasubrahmanyam has a major share of the song, do not miss the magnificent flute set to the visuals of rain before P Susheela begins her singing.
The second song from Sirivennela, Vidhaata thalapuna starts with words about the sound of ‘Om’. Again, observe how Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia sets the mood in the prelude with his flute as well the brilliant interludes, background and the soulful end to the song.
Apart from these two songs, there is a song from another K Viswanath movie Salangai oli (Tamil version of his Telugu movie), Mounamana neram that also has gorgeous flute. This silken smooth melody was composed by Ilayaraja and is considered one of the most romantic songs in South Indian music.
Sweet melodies with flute
The talent, skills and creativity of the music composers and the beautiful sounds of flute gave us many evergreen and sweet melodies with flute. I hope you enjoy the songs, admire the sounds of flute and the greatness of our composers.
Thank you for this post – very enlightening, especially the stark difference between the sounds of the piccolo and the baansuri. I hadn’t known that at all.
By the way, is the ‘common man’s flute’ (what you mention as being the instrument RK’s character plays in Pyaar hua ikraar hua hai) also called a penny whistle? I had been told it was a penny whistle or a tin whistle, so am a wee bit confused now…
Thanks Madhu for going through the post.
Among flutes, the common man’s flute that I referred to uses a whistle attached at one end through which you blow air to produce the sound. Yes, the tin-whistle or penny whistle are also of the same type as the common man’s flute since they also use a whistle to blow air. Another type of whistle flute is the Recorder. The bansuri, on the other hand, is a side-blown flute where the air is blown directly into a hole and not through a whistle.
“The bansuri, on the other hand, is a side-blown flute where the air is blown directly into a hole and not through a whistle.”
Ah, okay. Thanks, Ravi. I had noticed that (in fact, just the other day I was watching a song – I’ve forgotten which one – and noticed someone ‘playing’ a bansuri the way one would hold a straw to the lips. And I thought. “Isn’t that wrong? Isn’t a baansuri played by blowing into the side?” 🙂
Not quite sure why you differentiated between the bansuri with the piccolo. A better comparison would have been with a bansuri and a classical concert flute. The classical bansuri or the classical south Indian flutes have many registers depending on the size of the instrument whereas the western concert flute has a specific range. In addition the highest registers of the flute and the lower register of the piccolo overlap. So while I cannot be sure, the “Ja re ud ja re ” song could have been played on the standard flute not necessarily on the piccolo.
You might like the flute played at the beginning in this lovely Salil Chowdhury composition. This is quite difficult to sing and Sandhya Mukherjee is wonderful here.
Thanks a lot SSW for visiting the site and sharing your thoughts. I admire your extensive knowledge of the finer technical points in instrumentation and arrangements. Yes, perhaps I should have compared the Concert Flute with the Classical Bansuri. All I wanted to do was highlight two different sounds. And thanks for sharing Sajani Go Katha. The brief flute prelude is nice and I really enjoyed Sandhya Mukherjee’s singing.
Another song that I particularly like the way the bansuri is played is this one from Abhimaan.
The bansuri leads Lata’s voice into the melody and in the first exposition of the mukhda unobtrusively supports the voice. In the interlude it twines beautifully with the shehnai (or is it the taar-shehnai) and plays a counterpoint to the voice during parts of both the antaras. In the second interlude it has some beautiful phrases with support from the guitar.
True Sadanand. The flute is delightful in this song. One admirable feature of almost all of SD Burman’s songs is his arrangements and orchestration. They are ‘just right’ – you never feel that they are “too much” or “too little”. Invariably, his arrangements and orchestration create an effect that complements the mood created by the vocal melody and lyrics. Apparently, he would ask his assistants to create preludes and interludes that did not exceed a specified number of seconds, to ensure that the main melody was not drowned. My personal favourite from Abhimaan (a song not related to the flute theme of this post) is Ab to hai tumse – the beautiful melody, Lata’s voice and the orchestration create magic. Thanks again Sadanand for sharing your thoughts and expertise.
Pls continue to provide such Info on various instruments of music and name of artists who played them
Sweet melodies with flue…
Very heart touching and mind filling selection of Hindi film songs having very sweet melodies on flue. I enjoyed it a lot, but sorry to remind you one of best Hindi film song with very best melody on flue in starting – ‘Chhup gaya koi re due se pukar ke’ from film – Champakali (1957), Singer – Lata Mangeshkar, Lyrics – Rajinder Krishan and mind blowing Music by Hemantkumar, so please add the said song in this list.. I will be very happy
Thank you Mukeshji for pointing out this omission. I am, of course, aware of this beautiful song, but missed including it. I have now included this under Extensive flute description and mentioned your name for pointing out my omission. Thanks again for your suggestion.
Please, sorry to remind you that said song ‘Chhup gaya koi re due se pukar ke’ is not added in play list, so please add the same to enjoy it alongwith others
Thanks for your attention on my suggestion and sing song.. I appreciate your contribution of melodious film music..
Thanks for your attention on my suggestion and sing song.. I appreciate your contribution of melodious film music..
Amazing article with some golden selection from our archives. I agree a lot of our regional works get buried under Bollywood. Please keep writing such insightful articles..purists delight.
Thanks Susheel……Glad you liked the post.
How or what about “Bahrain mera jeevan bhi sawaron “
Hi Jayant….Yes, this song also has beautiful prelude. Thanks for pointing it out.
Very good read. You have mentioned the Music Directors but it will be true justice to the musicians if you mention that who played the flute in which song. Thanks.
Thanks Raj…..Glad you liked the post….Unfortunately, I am not aware of the musicians who played the flute in each song. I would have definitely mentioned their names, if I knew. We have to give credit to the musicians as well.