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Best Classical Songs of Bollywood

Updated on February 13, 2018
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V Kumar is a free lance author, who writes because of his passion for writing, on a variety of issues, including Indian movies & music.

The Greatest Ever Classical Songs of Bollywood

Hindustani Classical Music in Bollywood

Bollywood music, the most popular genre of music in India and one of the most popular in the world, largely owes its existence, evolution, sustenance and longevity to the classical musical tradition, from which it has heavily borrowed, particularly during the first few decades of its evolution.

Classical based songs blossomed in Bollywood during a period that witnessed a great renaissance of musical compositions in Hindi Cinema, particularly during the fifties, and in the process, created a trend that continued right up to early eighties. This period saw some great numbers, which inspired a whole generation of Bollywood musicians to adopt classical music and consequently led to what is often referred as the 'Golden Era' of Bollywood Music. In the process, it also created many legends whose work continues to be extremely popular even today.

Here are the ten all time best Bollywood songs based on Ragas of Hindustani classical music. They find a place in this list because of the way in which they have preserved the integrity and basic elements of the Raga (the original classical composition) and yet delivered a unique musical proposition that is popular with the masses!

It may be opt to remember that Bollywood music itself is not classical music. These are popular numbers composed by adhering closely to the classical Raga and sung almost to perfection by the legendary masters.

These ten songs are not listed in any particular order or rank, and we would like know which one do you consider the best among them, so do not forget to mark your choice in the POLL at the end of this Hub. Also feel free to add your COMMENTS about any other great song that you would like to see in this list.

#1: from the movie DIL HI TO HAI (1963); Raga Bhairavi; sung by Mannade

One of the greatest classical songs of Bollywood, this combines a great rendition with a mesmerizing dance performance by a dancer, who was not even credited!
One of the greatest classical songs of Bollywood, this combines a great rendition with a mesmerizing dance performance by a dancer, who was not even credited!

Laga chunari mein daag....

This number has a very strong claim to be considered the greatest ever classical song in the history of Bollywood. It is composed in Raga Bhairavi , a classical music composition of Hindustani music, commonly used by music composers of Bollywood. It was sung by Mannade, one of the greatest exponents of classical music in the history of Bollywood, who has rendered it with extreme precision without violating the raga, and yet incorporated enough of his own innovation to make it stand apart from other ordinary compositions. Backed by excellent lyrics written by Sahir Ludhianwi and a piece of great music composed by Roshan, it is a source of perennial delight for the connoisseurs of Bollywood music based on classical ragas.

#2: from the movie BASANT BAHAR (1956); Raga Basant Bahar; sung by Mannade & Pt. Bhimsen Joshi

A competitive rendition between Bhimsen Joshi & Mannade, wherein music wins and we are left ecstatic!
A competitive rendition between Bhimsen Joshi & Mannade, wherein music wins and we are left ecstatic!

Ketaki, gulab, juhi ......

This number is unique, simply because it brought together two young singers who were destined to achieve legendary fame in classical vocal music. Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, one of the greatest Indian classical singers, joins Mannade, one of the greatest singers of Bollywood songs based on Hindustani classical music, in what must be a contender of best ever classical vocal "jugalbandi" (partnership) of Bollywood. It is set in Raga Basant Bahar, a classical composition of Hindustani music. Its music is composed by Shankar Jaikishan and its lyrics were written by Shailendra.

#3:from the movie MERI SURAT TERI AANKHEIN (1963), Raga Ahir Bhairav; sung by Mannade & S.D. Batish

An excellent example of Raag Ahir Bhairav. It has two versions, the first one by S.D. Batish (featured on Kanhaiya Lal) followed by the main version featured on Ashok Kumar.
An excellent example of Raag Ahir Bhairav. It has two versions, the first one by S.D. Batish (featured on Kanhaiya Lal) followed by the main version featured on Ashok Kumar.

Poochho na kaise maine rain bitayee....

Another great classical rendition from the great master, Mannade, this time in Raga Ahir Bhairav, another composition of Hindustani Classical music. This song is in two parts, the first of which is sung by S. D. Batish, which is also a delight to listen. The music for this song was composed by S. D. Burman, another legend in Bollywood, while its lyrics are written by Shailendra. This is an eternal classical number that will survive the onslaught of time, from a movie that gave us some of the best classical numbers ever heard in Bollywood.

#4: from the movie BAIJU BAWARA (1952), Raga Bhairavi; sung by Rafi

Baiju Bawra, featuring Meena Kumari & Bharat Bhushan, is a landmark musical in Bollywood history. It ushered in an era of songs based on classical ragas, often referred as the 'Golden Era' of Bollywood music.
Baiju Bawra, featuring Meena Kumari & Bharat Bhushan, is a landmark musical in Bollywood history. It ushered in an era of songs based on classical ragas, often referred as the 'Golden Era' of Bollywood music.

Tu Ganga ki mauj mein....

This great number is almost sung to perfection by Mohammed Rafi, one of the greatest singers of Bollywood, in Raga Bhairavi (tal Dadra). It was composed by Naushad, another all time great, with lyrics written by Shakeel Badayuni. It comes from a movie, which was one of the earliest in a long tradition of musicals based on Hindustani classical music. It heralded a "Golden Era" of Bollywood music that overshadowed all other forms of popular music in India and had a great role in evolution of Bollywood music. This movie, set in the medieval period, also provides an excellent depiction of those times and how masters striving for excellence brought in a fusion of Indian and Persian traditions of music.

#5: from the movie CHASHM-E-BADDOOR (1980), Raga KAFI; sung by Yesudas & Hemanti Shukla

This song based on Raga KAFI is a reflection of the genius of YESUDAS. Featured on Deepti Nawal in the movie, the visuals reflect an interesting analogy with the lyrics as "kali ghodi' takes the form of a black motorcycle!
This song based on Raga KAFI is a reflection of the genius of YESUDAS. Featured on Deepti Nawal in the movie, the visuals reflect an interesting analogy with the lyrics as "kali ghodi' takes the form of a black motorcycle!

Kaali ghodi dwar khadi .....

This number is one of the best expositions in Raga KAFI, a composition of Hindustani classical music. It brings together the genius of Yesudas, the main singer, with the simplicity of Raga Kafi resulting in a very simple and yet mesmerizing number. Hemanti Shukla (female singer) joins Yesudas to make it eternal. Music was composed by Rajkamal for a highly acclaimed comedy of the eighties. The song is screened in a simple but innovative way and the lyrics written by Indu Jain make the song very meaningful.

#6: from the movie DASTAK (1970); Raga Charukesi; sung by Lata Mangeshkar

A great exposition of Raga Charukesi by the living legend, Lata Mangeshkar. This song is featured on Rehana Sultana & Sanjeev Kumar, in a movie with a very unique plot.
A great exposition of Raga Charukesi by the living legend, Lata Mangeshkar. This song is featured on Rehana Sultana & Sanjeev Kumar, in a movie with a very unique plot.

Baiyan na dharo ....

One of the great numbers based on Raga Charukesi, a composition of Hindustani classical music, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, a living legend, to near perfection. The music for this number was composed by Madan Mohan, who always reserved his best for Lata, who was also near the peak of her singing prowess at that time. Lyrics were written by Majrooh Sultanpuri. The result is an eternal melody not only for classical connoisseurs, but for every one. The tal is a mix of Punjabi Theka and Kaherva. Ironically, the movie is a tale of how ladies in singing profession were looked down by the society.

#7: from the movie ANARKALI (1953); Raga Bageshwari; sung by Hemant Kumar & Lata Mangeshkar

A great duet, based on Raga Bageshwari by Hemant Kumar & Lata Mageshkar. It is featured on Beena Rai & Pradeep Kumar in a beautiful courtesan dance sequence.
A great duet, based on Raga Bageshwari by Hemant Kumar & Lata Mageshkar. It is featured on Beena Rai & Pradeep Kumar in a beautiful courtesan dance sequence.

Jaag dard-e-ishk jaag ....

A great duet, based on Raga Bageshwari (taal Dadra), which has also been very popular among the Bollywood music composers of fifties and sixties. Sung by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar, two great voices of Bollywood. The music was composed by C Ramachandra and the lyrics are by Rajinder Krishna. The movie is based on the tale of Anarkali, a courtesan in the palace of Mogul Emperor, with whom the Heir Prince falls in love, creating a havoc! A great musical depiction of the crisis.

#8: from the movie MERI SURAT TERI AANKHEIN (1963); Raga Bhairavi; sung by Rafi

A great number from Mohammed Rafi, based on Raga Bhairavi, featured in the movie on Ashok Kumar (as an ugly singer trying to hide his face by dim lighting) and a scintillating dance performance by Asha Parekh - probably her best!
A great number from Mohammed Rafi, based on Raga Bhairavi, featured in the movie on Ashok Kumar (as an ugly singer trying to hide his face by dim lighting) and a scintillating dance performance by Asha Parekh - probably her best!

Nache man mora ...

Another all time great rendition from a great singer, in a movie that was a landmark for classical music in Bollywood, composed by arguably the all time greatest music composer of Bollywood, in a Raga that has been one of most popular ones in Bollywood. The Raga is Bhairavi, singer is Mohammad Rafi and music was composed by S D Burman. This song is in taal teental/kaherva, with Pandit Samta Prasad accompanying on Tabla, the effect of which is what makes this song one to remember. Lyrics were written by Shailendra. Asha Parekh's dancing performance on the screen lends it an additional color.

#9: from the movie AMAR (1954); Raga Bhairavi; sung by Rafi

Another great rendition by Mohammad Rafi, exemplifying how classical music touches your heart. It is featured on the legendary pair of Dillip Kumar and Madhubala, and wonderfully depicts the human guilt complex on screen!
Another great rendition by Mohammad Rafi, exemplifying how classical music touches your heart. It is featured on the legendary pair of Dillip Kumar and Madhubala, and wonderfully depicts the human guilt complex on screen!

Insaaf ka mandir hai yeh ...

A great number, that is not just a near perfect rendition of a song based on Hindustani classical music, but one which conveys a lot, making use of the different effects of classical compositions. It is based on Raga Bhairavi, and sung by Mohammad Rafi - an evidence of why Rafi is considered by so many as the greatest ever singer of Bollywood (amidst very legitimate protests from fans of Kishore, Lata and Mukesh, of course!). The music was composed by Naushad, lyrics of Shakeel Badayuni are special and expressions of Dillip Kumar and Madhubala (actors) complete the story.

#10: from the movie RUDALI (1993); Raga Bhupali; sung by Bhupen Hazarika

This song is Bhupen Hazarika's gift to the world of Bollywood music, featured in the movie on Dimple Kapadiya and Raj Babbar, depicting ironies of a fast changing rural India of 20th century.
This song is Bhupen Hazarika's gift to the world of Bollywood music, featured in the movie on Dimple Kapadiya and Raj Babbar, depicting ironies of a fast changing rural India of 20th century.

Dil hoom hoom kare ....

Bhupen Hazarika has not been involved in many Bollywood movies, but this song will be enough to carry his legacy. He will always be remembered for this song, at least till there are people who follow classical based music produced in Bollywood. From a classic movie, Rudali, acclaimed for its bold and realistic depiction of one of the less known societies, the song was composed and sung by Hazarika, in Raga Bhupali. Lyrics f this number were written by Gulzar. The number brings out the power of Hindustani classical music and shows why it is considered such a great gift - a real treasure that can never decay!

Select the Greatest Classical Song of Bollywood

Which is the best ever Bollywood song based on classical music?

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© 2012 V Kumar

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    • profile image

      jamshed 

      4 years ago

      Mujhe bachpan se hi sangeet ne apni kaid me jakad rkha hai aur mai sangeet ko apni aatma se sikhna chahta hu.

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