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Popular Bollywood Songs in Raag Bhairavi

Updated on October 29, 2018
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V Kumar has been writing on Bollywood movies and music for several years, highlighting perspectives that are often missed out or ignored.

Raag Bhairavi in Popular Songs of Bollywood

Raag Bhairavi is the most commonly used Raag of Hindustani classical music in Bollywood Songs.
Raag Bhairavi is the most commonly used Raag of Hindustani classical music in Bollywood Songs.

Popular Songs Based on Raag Bhairavi

It was in 1935 that the first song in a Hindi movie was composed using Raag Bhairavi of Hindustani classical music. Since then, it has retained its popularity among music composers of Bollywood. It has not only been used for songs that are identified with classical music and are loved by connoisseurs of classical music, but has also been used for composing mainstream popular songs that cater to the masses. Many such numbers based on Raag Bhairavi with a lot of variations to suit the popular taste.

One of the reasons for the popularity of Raag Bhairavi in composing popular numbers is the character of the Raag itself. It has a soft, peaceful, flowing character that can easily fit into all kind of compositions depicting different feelings. It has been used to depict distress as well as ecstasy, and yet, its primary character is rather peaceful, making it a good choice for introspective numbers. This way, it covers an entire range of emotions that can be expressed using it, making it a popular tool in the hand of music composers.

The tradition of using Raag Bhairavi was popularized in the fifties, when following the success of movies like BAIJU BAWRA (1952), classical music was adopted by Bollywood composers to compose mainstream music. The popularity of these songs were instrumental in making that period the "golden era" of Bollywood music. These popular numbers do not fully adhere to the rigid rules of classical music, which is perhaps the reason why not many realize that these seemingly lightweight songs owe their melody to the classical music.

Raag Bhairavi, associated with early morning hours around sunrise, has been the most commonly used Raag for this purpose, and the songs based on it have been enjoyed by one and all. Here is a list of ten such songs. These numbers belong to different genres of Bollywood music, from pulsating outdoor numbers to sad and introspective ones. These songs may have captured public imagination for different reasons, but they owe their melodious rhythm to Raag Bhairavi, and their popularity reflects the influence of ancient Indian music in contemporary India!

Song # 1

Raj Kapoor glamorized the life of a vagabond in the song "Awara hoon..", for the movie AWAARA (1952)
Raj Kapoor glamorized the life of a vagabond in the song "Awara hoon..", for the movie AWAARA (1952)

"Awaara hoon .. ya gardish mein main aasman ka tara hoon..."

This number is from the movie AWAARA, which is considered one of the best ever movies of Bollywood. In many ways, this song was a milestone. It defined Raj Kapoor for the rest of his career, and along with a similar number, "Mera joota hai japani..", from the movie SHREE 420 (1955), it also made him a rage in different corners of the globe during the fifties. In the process, it also helped in popularizing Bollywood beyond the Indian borders.

This number also confirmed its singer, Mukesh as the voice of Raj Kapoor, and helped in creation of the musical team that also consisted of Shankar Jaikishan as music composers and Shailendra as the lyricist. The opening words of the song, which literally mean "I am a vagabond...or a star of the sky that has fallen from grace..." denoted the struggles and challenges of the Indian society that was trying to find its feet just after independence, with enormous aspirations and equally difficult challenges.

Song # 2

Moushumi Chatterjee featured in the song, "Baki kuchh bacha to mehngayi mar gayi" from the movie ROTI KAPDA AUR MAKAAN.
Moushumi Chatterjee featured in the song, "Baki kuchh bacha to mehngayi mar gayi" from the movie ROTI KAPDA AUR MAKAAN.

"..baki kuchh bacha to mehngai maar gaayi..."

"..whatever was left, was destroyed by inflation.."

This song topped the 1975 Binaca Geetmala annual list, which was widely considered the unofficial popularity chart of Bollywood songs during those days. It derived its popularity by describing how high inflation was making life difficult for every Indian. It was a period of oil shocks that added to the turmoil faced by the Indian economy that was already besieged with the burden of a war and burgeoning population. This song is actually a medley of semi-musical narrations, but retains its musical appeal thanks largely to Raag Bhairavi on which it is based. It made Narendra Chanchal, one of the singers who sang the lines related to inflation, a household name almost overnight. The other singers were Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh and Jani Babu. Its music was composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal and its lyrics were written by Varma Malik.

Song # 3

Shammi Kapoor in the song "Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe.." from the movie JUNGLEE
Shammi Kapoor in the song "Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe.." from the movie JUNGLEE

"Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe..."

Before this song, few could have conceptualized a song based on classical Hindustani music, where the singer slides down from a snow clad mountain shouting, "let them call me uncouth, if they like, let them call me so..", and yet, this is exactly what happens with this number, except of course that the actor on screen is lip-syncing it. It is a very unusual number for any genre and any age, and yet an eternal classic depicting the genius of its singer, Mohammed Rafi, who has sung it to perfection.

This number, composed by Shankar Jaikishan, was considered a song inspired by Western musics when it was released. Actually, it is based on Raag Bhairavi, with several innovative variations, both in instruments and the voices. The uninhibited character of this song is almost an antithesis to all that the Hindustani classical music stands for. Yet, Raag Bhairavi fits perfectly into it, and in the process lends it that precious melody which complements its adventures. Shailendra wrote its lyrics and every word of it fitted perfectly on Shammi Kapoor, the actor on whom it was pictured.

Song # 4

Vyjayanthimala featured in the song "Dost dost na raha.." sung by Mukesh for the movie SANGAM (1964)
Vyjayanthimala featured in the song "Dost dost na raha.." sung by Mukesh for the movie SANGAM (1964)

"Dost dost na raha... pyar pyar na raha..."

This song is often considered one of the most popular sad songs of all times. In his own inimitable style, it has been sung to perfection by Mukesh. The music of this popular number is also based on Raag Bhairavi, indicating how broadly Raag Bhairavi has been used in the Bollywood music of fifties and sixties. One of the reasons of such wide reliance of Bollywood composers on Raag Bhairavi may be its fresh and peaceful rhythm, like that of water flowing in a pure stream in the Himalayas, or the first rays of the Sun on a pleasant morning. The music of this number was composed by Shankar Jaikishan, who mastered the Raag in their own ways and made use of it to create all kind of variations in popular musical melodies during the so called golden era of Bollywood music. The lyrics of Shailendra also played an important role in its success.

Song # 5

A still from the song "mere desh ki dharti sona ugle" sung by Mahendra Kapoor for the movie UPKAR
A still from the song "mere desh ki dharti sona ugle" sung by Mahendra Kapoor for the movie UPKAR

"Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle .. ugle heere moti.."

If it difficult to imagine an Independence Day or Republic Day in India when this song will not be aired all over the place while the Indian flag is hoisted or some function is organized to celebrate these National Festivals. This number derives its popularity as much by its nationalistic flavor, as from its music, which is based on Raag Bhairavi. It was composed by Kalyanji Anandji and sung by Mahendra Kapoor for Manoj Kumar, who was lead actor in the movie UPKAR. The lyrics of this song were written by Gulshan Bawra. This number is said to be inspired by the slogan of "Jai Javan Jai Kisan" given by the late Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bhaadur Shastri to boost the moral of Indian farmers.

Song # 6

Anita Raj featured in the song "Zihal-e-muskin makun-ba-ranjish.." partly written by Amir Khusro in 13th century AD, adopted in the movie GHULAMI (1985)
Anita Raj featured in the song "Zihal-e-muskin makun-ba-ranjish.." partly written by Amir Khusro in 13th century AD, adopted in the movie GHULAMI (1985)

"Zeehal-e-muskin maqun ba-ranjish, behal-e-hijra bechara dil hai..."

This popular number from the eighties has a double connection with the centuries old Indian musical tradition. The first of them is in the form of Raag Bhairavi relying on which its music was composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal. The second and the more interesting of this connect are its first few words, which are borrowed from a famous bilingual poem, written by Amir Khusro in thirteenth century, with alternating sentences in Persian and Brij Bhasha (a dialect of Hindi) that literally meant "Take pity and look without frown on the poor heart, which has been wounded by separation of love".

Amir Khusro was a Sufi poet who is credited with fusing the Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Indian musical traditions to create qawwali, a form of Sufi music, and is also widely credited with introducing the tradition of ghazal in India. This reinvention of Khusro's lyrics was a handiwork of Gulzar, another great lyricist of contemporary Bollywood, and the number was sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Shabbir Kumar.

Song # 7

A still featuring Smita Patil in the song "Mitwa re mitwa.." sung by Pankaj Udhas for the movie, JAWAAB (1985)
A still featuring Smita Patil in the song "Mitwa re mitwa.." sung by Pankaj Udhas for the movie, JAWAAB (1985)

"Mitwa re mitwa... poorab na jayiho, pachchhim na jayiho, mere dil me rahiyo.."

This song is sung by Pankaj Udhas, who was extremely popular in the eighties with his own style of ghazal singing. The music of this number, based on Raag Bhairavi, is also composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal, the genius duo that mastered the use of Raag Bhairavi in popular Bollywood music to consistently top the Bollywood charts in the seventies. The Raag has variations but not to the extent usually observed in Bollywood numbers and in that sense, it preserves the original form of Raag Bhairavi to a reasonable extent. The sweet and meaningful lyrics were written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.

Song # 8

Shahrukh Khan and Preiti Zinta in the song "Jiya jale na jale.." sung by Lata Mangeshkar and M G Shreekumar for the movie DIL SE (1998)
Shahrukh Khan and Preiti Zinta in the song "Jiya jale na jale.." sung by Lata Mangeshkar and M G Shreekumar for the movie DIL SE (1998)

"Jiya Jale jaan jale... naino tale dhuan chale.."

And finally we come to a number composed by the great Indian Master, A R Rahman, winner of two Grammies and two Oscars, and this number is certainly a few notches above the numbers that won him those international awards. This popular yet classic number is also based on Raag Bhairavi of Hindustani classical music. Given the preference of Rahman for Karnatika music, it may be worth noting that Raag Bhairavi of Hindustani classical music is very different from Raag Bhairavi of Karnatika musical tradition, but is somewhat similar to the Raag Hanumantodi of Karnatika music. So this song can also be characterized as one based on Raag Hanumantodi of Karnatika tradition. In any case, one must give due credit for the melody and popularity of this song to the innovations of Rahman's genius that made him the first Indian composer to win such international accolades. The greatness of this number is equally contributed by the voice of Lata Mangshkar, singing with M G Shreekumar. Its Lyrics were written by Gulzar.

Song # 9

"Bhor bhaye pandghat pe.." sung by Lata Mangeshkar is a popular song from the movie  SATYAM SHIVAM SUNDARAM (1978)
"Bhor bhaye pandghat pe.." sung by Lata Mangeshkar is a popular song from the movie SATYAM SHIVAM SUNDARAM (1978)

"Bhor bhaye panghat pe, mohe natkhat Shyam sataye.."

Had it not been for the manner in which this song is filmed, it might have been considered more of a classical song rather than a popular Bollywood number. It remains an excellent depiction of classical music in a Bollywood song, yet is remembered primarily for the bold presentation of female beauty that became characteristic of Raj Kapoor in his later years. The dress of Zeenat Aman, who is the lead actor in this song largely overshadowed its music in grabbing the attention of the audience. In fact, some feel that it may have been a mistake, as the song itself, without this distraction, could have contributed even more to the popularity of the movie. This great classical number was voiced by Lata Mangeshkar, its music was composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal in Kaherva taal, and its lyrics were written by Anand Bakhshi.

Song # 10

Dimple Kapadia featured in the song, "kisi nazar ko tera intzaar aaj bhi hai.." for the movie AITBAAR (1985)
Dimple Kapadia featured in the song, "kisi nazar ko tera intzaar aaj bhi hai.." for the movie AITBAAR (1985)

"Kisi nazar ko tera intezaar aaj bhi hai ..."

This number was one of the more popular songs during the middle of eighties, when Bollywood music was experiencing one of its worst down slides, consisting of a period where most songs were reduced to a caricature of the earlier melodies. One of the reasons for this state was the exit of earlier composers who were able to utilize the Hindustani classical music to create melody. This song lighted the relative darkness of this era relying on Raag Bhairavi as its base. Its music was composed by Bappi Lahiri. It was sung by Asha Bhonsle and Bhupinder Singh and the lyrics were written by Hasan Kamal. It is one of those few songs of this period, which retain their popularity and appeal even today.

© 2012 V Kumar

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    • V Kumar profile imageAUTHOR

      V Kumar 

      13 months ago

      Thanks Amar for the kind words.

    • profile image

      Amar 

      13 months ago

      Thanks, Very nice collection.

    • V Kumar profile imageAUTHOR

      V Kumar 

      3 years ago

      Thanks! Your encouraging words will help me do more.

    • Top Indian cinema profile image

      @ Bollywood... 

      3 years ago from Ahmedabad

      Such a nice collection. Great work. Hats off.

    • V Kumar profile imageAUTHOR

      V Kumar 

      6 years ago

      Thanks Vijaya, It is greatly satisfying to know that it was useful for you, I will definitely work on your suggestion.

    • profile image

      Vijaya Kurup 

      6 years ago

      Wonderful job done.I was looking up the net for detailed info for a a concert nd ur info provided everythign i needed,Really,u hv put in a lot of effort collecting and putting all these together,If in future u want to add some more lists,do think of adding best numbers of music directors like Madan Mohan,C Ramchandra,Vasnt Desai,etc etc

      Thank and kudos to u

      kurupvijaya@yahoo.com

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