Bollywood songs based on Raga Pilu


Sharada Iyer

The contribution of Hindi cinema and Hindi film music in taking the basic knowledge of Hindustani classical ragas in a simple form to the masses is indisputable. While an average listener without any technical knowledge of these ragas would find it difficult to listen to any classical song in its pure form with all the typical nuances intact, such a person would thoroughly enjoy any film song lightly clothed in these ragas and embellished with meaningful lyrics that touch an emotional chord in his/her heart.

This glorious accomplishment can be attributed to the music directors and lyricists of the ‘Golden Era’ of Hindi film music- the period between the late 1940’s – early 1970’s, who churned out memorable songs which are remembered and revered even today. By skillfully weaving the basics of the ragas from our rich musical heritage in a simple form, different music directors touched upon this raga in different ways to convey the mood of the scene and the character in the film. These memorable songs thus reached a much wider section of the audience and gave them a mass appeal.

Raga Pilu

Raga Pilu is a light classical raga and generally suited for light-hearted compositions like ‘thumri’, ‘bhajan’, ‘dadra’, and ‘ghazal’. Each of these genres has a particular structure to it and the compositions are very pleasant, evocative and convey a plethora of emotions ranging from devotion and yearning to love and even lullaby. To get a basic idea of the beauty of this raga here is the YouTube link to a shehnai recital by Ustad Bismillah Khan playing raga Pilu:

This raga has been extensively used in Hindi film music and there are scores of ‘Pilu’-based songs which are very catchy and hummable. Several music directors set their songs in this raga due the pleasing and melodious feel of this raga.

As mentioned earlier in the blog, there are a large number of Hindi film songs based on this raga and it not feasible to include all of them in one post. This blog lists 18 popular songs based on Raga Pilu which include bhajan, lullaby, love song, poignant melody as well as fast-moving song with catchy beats. Also included is a note on the film to give an idea of the characters on whom it is picturized.

Let us start the blog with this lovely bhajan from the 1960 film Ek Phool Chaar Kaante sung by Lata Mangeshkar and set to tune by music-directors Shankar-Jaikishen.

Song: ‘Banwaari re, jeene ka sahara tera naam re…’ (Ek Phool Chaar Kaante)

In the film, Waheeda Rehman has four uncles with different ideas of how to bring her up and all four are trying to find her a suitor in accordance with their ideas. One of them, Dhumal, is a religious fellow and Waheeda is made to sing devotional songs in the temple for him.

Song: ‘Kaali ghata chhaye more jiya tarsaye…’  (Sujata)

Next in line we have an endearing song by Asha Bhosle from the film Sujata where Nutan is thinking of her lover Sunil Dutt and wishes he were near her. She belongs to a lower caste but Sunil Dutt is attracted to her for who she is and does not believe in caste system. The words in the song bring out her feelings beautifully and music director S D Burman skillfully navigates the tune through raga Pilu. The film with its revolutionary thought was a big hit and the songs of the film became very popular.

Song: ‘Jhoole mein pawan ke aayee bahar pyar kar le…’ (Baiju Bawra)

The film Baiju Bawra which released in the year 1953, had some great classical songs by Naushad. Director Vijay Bhatt wanted to make a film with classical music as the main plot of the story and going against the trends of that time he showed guts in sticking to his belief and even signed two new faces Bharat Bhushan and Meena Kumari as the protagonists. The film till today is remembered as a great musical and music director Naushad won the only Filmfare award of his career for this film. Here is a super romantic duet picturized on the two actors set to raga Pilu.

Song: ‘Maine shaayad tumhe pehle bhi kahin dekha hai…’ (Barsaat ki Raat)

This song is from the musical blockbuster of 1960- Barsaat ki Raat. Considered till date as having one of the finest soundtracks of Hindi cinema the film also had an emotional plot which keeps the viewer engaged. This Muslim social starring Bharat Bhushan and Madhubala had Shyama as the third angle of the triangle. He plays a struggling poet and Madhubala is his big fan though she has never met him. One stormy night they accidentally bump into each other in the dark, and when lightning strikes, they get a good look at each other and sparks fly. Soon after, he sings on the radio recollecting this entire incident of the rainy meeting and she realizes that the person she had seen that night had been none other than the poet she adores. Following this she attends a function where he sings this song based on raga Pilu, acknowledging his feelings for her once again.

Song: ‘More saiyyanji utrenge paar nadiya dheere baho…’ (Udan Khatola)

The tragic love story Udan Khatola which released in 1955 was produced by music director Naushad and directed by S U Sunny. The love story involved three principal characters- Dilip Kumar, Nimmi and Suryakumari. One day Dilip Kumar’s plane crashes and he lands in a city ruled by women. Nimmi rescues him and they fall in love but when the princess of the city played by Suryakumari meets him, she too falls in love with him. The song chosen here is a soothing melody where Nimmi lovingly rows her lover in her boat and wants to get him safely to the shore.

Song: ‘Dheere se aaja ri akhiyan mein nindiya aaja ri aaja…’ (Albela)

The film Albela starring Bhagwan and Geeta Bali was a musical-super-hit of its time and the music director C Ramchandra composed many excellent songs. If one hears the audio version of this soothing song set to raag Pilu, the lyrics suggest that it is a lullaby sung by a mother to her child, but there are three versions of the song and none of them is picturized like that. There is a male happy version which Bhagwan sings to Geeta Bali while driving a car. There is a female happy version which Bhagwan’s sister sings to him and the third is a sad female version which the sister sings when she is on the streets with her father.

Song: ‘Dhadakte dil ki tamanna o mera pyar ho tum…’ (Shama)

The film Shama was a love triangle starring Suraiya, Nimmi and Vijay Dutt. Both the female characters fall in love with Vijay Dutt. But he loves only Suraiya. Nimmi true to her name in the film Shama (candle), sacrifices herself. The song chosen here is a lovely romantic number and interestingly Suraiya sings for Nimmi also apart from herself.

Song: ‘Ae meri zohrajabeen tujhe maloom nahin…’ (Waqt)

The film Waqt directed by Yash Chopra laid the foundation of the popular ‘lost & found’ theme for the Hindi film industry and several films have been made based on this plot over the years. In this film Balraj Sahni’s loves his family and has big dreams for his sons when they grow up but fate has other plans in store. A devastating earthquake hits the town and they all get separated and all his dreams are thrown asunder. This song by Manna Dey in raga Pilu is an evergreen song with very catchy beats and the words manage to stir up emotions in any listener to this day. As soon as the song finishes, the earthquake strikes.

Song: ‘Mainnu ishq da lagya rog…’ (Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin)

Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin starring Pooja Bhatt and Aamir Khan and directed by Mahesh Bhatt was a remake of the popular Raj-Kapoor-Nargis starrer of 1957 Chori-Chori. Pooja‘s father disapproves of her relationship with her lover and in anger she runs away from home to unite with him. However, in the course of her journey, she meets an interesting man, Aamir Khan, whom she finds exasperating initially but soon starts to fall in love with him. He helps her find her lover but now after spending so much time with him, she loses all interest in meeting her so-called-lover and is sad thinking of the separation from Aamir that awaits her the next day. The words set to raga Pilu convey this mood effectively.

Song: ‘Maine rang li aaj chunariya sajna tore rang mein…’ (Dulhan Ek Raat Ki)

This happy song sung by Lata Mangeshkar is from the film Dulhan Ek Raat Ki, starring Nutan Dharmendra and Rehman. Lovers Dharmendra and Nutan are not able to get married because of the lecherous Rehman who taking advantage of a vulnerable moment rapes her. A lot of drama ensues before Dharmendra realizes that Nutan is faultless and agrees to marry her but then Rehman gets murdered and things go awry. Finally Nutan gets to be Dharmendra’s wife only for one night, as the title suggests. This song is sung by Nutan when Dharmendra agrees to marry her and her heart is full of hopes and dreams.

Song: ‘Itni shakti hame dena data man ka vishwas kamzor ho na…’ (Ankush)

Directed by N Chandra, the film Ankush told the story of four unemployed youths and how their lives are wasted till their new neighbours – a young girl and her grandmother bring about a change in their perspective. But then a tragedy strikes which causes these youths to take law in their hands and are finally sentenced for their crime. This soothing and inspiring bhajan in raga Pilu became a super-hit and today while no one even remembers the film, the bhajan is played regularly during several occasions and sometimes in schools also. The female version is sung by Sushma Shrestha and Pushpa Pagdare and music composer is Kuldeep Singh.

Song: ‘Main yeh sochkar unke dar se utha tha…’ (Haqeeqat)

The 1964 war movie Haqeeqat directed by Chetan Anand is considered by many as the best war film made in Hindi cinema till date. The film had an ensemble cast of very talented actors and haunting music by Madan Mohan. The song chosen in this blog is a soft number sung by one of the soldiers played by Sudhir, when he misses his lady love at the border and is deeply saddened when he does not receive any letter from her. The film depicts that though these soldiers put up a tough exterior and a brave front when it comes to fighting the enemy, there is an inner vulnerable side where they miss their loved ones. The song starts with a soft violin piece in raga Pilu played by Pyarelal Sharma (from the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo), followed by a soft humming by Mohammed Rafi and the violin can be heard again.

Song: ‘Kaisa jadoo balam tune daara…’ (12 O’ Clock)

12 O’ clock was a murder thriller and interestingly had the same cast of Chaudvin Ka Chand-Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Rehman and Johny Walker. Guru Dutt plays a lawyer and Waheeda Rehman is his secretary. Further she stays with her uncle who happens to be the neighbour of Guru Dutt.  Not surprisingly romance brews between them and after a couple of meetings, Waheeda is totally smitten by him and in a happy mood sings this song which touches upon the raga Pilu. Geeta Dutt’s soothing vocals are a joy to listen to. Incidentally Rehman who plays Waheeda’s brother-in-law looks very handsome and suave as the villain.

Song: ‘Kahe gumaan kare sakhi ri…’ (Tansen)

This song is from the 1943 film Tansen based on the early life of the great musician Tansen, one of Emperor Akbar’s nine jewels in his court. The film directed by Jayant Desai had the two singing stars K L Saigal and Khursheed Bano, who play Tansen and his childhood friend Tani respectively. He leaves his village as a young boy to learn music and on his return meets up with his Tani who in her playful manner keeps teasing Tansen. During one such occasion, he sings this song to her. The raga in K L Saigal’s golden voice is a treat for music lovers. The film had more than a dozen songs all based on classical ragas. As it is not possible to embed this song here, do visit the link given to enjoy this song:

Song: ‘Ab ke baras bhejo bhaiyya ko…’ (Bandini)

This song from the Bimal Roy directed film Bandini is sung by Asha Bhosle and is sung by the inmates of a women’s prison. The heroine Nutan is serving sentence for a murder she has committed. Music is by S D Burman and lyricist Shailendra based his words on a folk song where the girls after marriage remember their childhood home, parents and friends and yearn for the days gone by. In the film’s context, the inmates remember with grief the life of innocence they lived before but which is now lost forever.   

Song: ‘Tere bin sooni nain hamaare…’ (Meri Soorat Teri Aankhen)

Directed by R K Rakhan, the emotional and thought-provoking film Meri Soorat Teri Aankhen released in 1963 makes us wonder why we humans attach so much importance to our skin colour! Tarun Bose is so disappointed when his wife gives birth to a dark-skinned baby that he asks his doctor to abandon him and informs his wife that the child was stillborn. Adopted by a childless couple of another religion, the child grows up to be Ashok Kumar who is trained in classical music by his adopted father Kanhaiyalal. One day circumstances force the latter to reveal the truth to Ashok Kumar before dying, after which Ashok Kumar goes in search of his biological parents. He has now mastered classical singing and in this song based in raga Pilu, when he is singing his feelings, Asha Parekh who has come with her lover Pradeep Kumar in the same area is enchanted by his voice though she cannot see his face. Ashok Kumar is brilliant in the film.

Song: ‘Kabhi aar kabni paar laaga teere nazar…’ (Aar-Paar)

This Guru Dutt-Shyama starrer of 1954 Aar-Paar, was a musical super-hit. The two looked very good as a romantic couple and their on-screen chemistry was much appreciated. In the scene, Shyama’ car is having problem and Guru Dutt pretending to help is having fun teasing her. Sung by Shamshad Begum, this is a light-hearted peppy number based on raga Pilu. An interesting fact about this song is that it was initially picturized on Jagdeep who was still a child artiste and the censor board of that time found it very vulgar and ordered Guru Dutt to scrap it. But just before release, as Guru Dutt could not get any popular dancer of that time, he decided to get newcomer Kum Kum to shoot the song in 2-3 days. Ironically this very song became the biggest hit of the film and Kum Kum shot to fame with her very first film thanks to this song. Incidentally Jagdeep is still part of the song but is only seen dancing with other street kids.

Song: ‘Sur na saje kya gaun main…’ (Basant Bahar)

This film starring Bharat Bhushan and Nimmi had music by Shankar-Jaikishen, and all the songs of the film were based on different classical ragas. In the film Bharat Bhushan, the son of the court astrologer, is not interested in astrology but keen on learning classical music from the court musician. But the musician’s son out of jealousy administers some kind of poison to Bharat Bhushan and just before a competition in front of the King, Bharat Bhushan loses his voice. He then comes across an old man-Man Mohan Krishna- with a divine voice and requests him to take him as his disciple. When the latter refuses saying that each person must find his own notes to become a professional singer and walks off in a huff, Bharat Bhushan goes after him singing this lovely song based on raga Pilu.






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