In the last eight decades of its evolution, Hindi film music may have grown to be considered as a genre by itself. But in reality, Bollywood has been a great melting pot of various traditional genres of music–both Indian and Western. From among all genres, Hindustani classical music has had arguably the greatest impact on Hindi film music. Thousand of songs have been composed based on Hindustani ragas. While most of them have been sung by the popular playback singers–most of whom were trained in classical music–once in a while, the composers have turned to the classical vocalists to render a song or two for them in the films. Great Hindustani vocalists, right from Pandit D V Paluskar to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Amir Khan have lent their voice to the Hindi films occasionally. Despite the advent and popularity of Western music, the trend continues even today with recent hits such as Jab We Met and My Name is Khan containing a few such numbers.
The list of such songs, however, is not too long. My estimates are that if we exclude the Ghazal singers, number of songs rendered by classical vocalists for Hindi movies is not more than 100-120. This is excluding some more regular names like Shubha Mudgal and from an earlier period, Nirmala Devi. There are many good discussions and lists of such songs available on the Net. This is one such good discussion. And this is a good attempted list. My idea is not to create yet another list, though if you want to have a fairly long and organized list of such songs, I have one for you here. This excel sheet, which you are more than welcome to download, gives each song with film name, year of release, music director’s name, and the film’s director’s name. Also, for beginners, I have mentioned the name of the Gharana that each of the vocalist belongs to, against his/her name. An album, released by Saregama, called Aalap, also has a good selection of such songs. But I could not find in their new site, so I give here this link of a third party site where you can buy it. There is, however, another rare collections album, called Classics from Films: Rare Collections which you can buy from Saregama. But unless you are really into it, you may find it an odd album because except for rarity, there is nothing common to the tunes that are there in this album.
Some of the songs such as aaj gawat man mero in Baiju Bawra by Pt D V Paluskar and Ustad Amir Khan; jhanak jhanak payal baje by Ustad Amir Khan from the movie Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje, the title song in Geet Gaya Pathoron Ne, sung by Kishori Amonkar; and Humein Tumse pyaar kitna in Kudrat sung by Begum Parveen Sultana are known to one and all. A few others–such as prem jogan banke by Ustad bade Ghulam Ali Khan from Mughal-E-Azam and Ketaki Ghulab Juhi by Pt Bhimsen Joshi in Basant Bahar–are well-known to the connoisseurs. But many others, some of which are equally good, are hardly known. Very often, that is because the movie was not a success or even never released. The objective of this piece is to identify and create a small list of such hidden gems. For the long list, you can always refer to the excel file I mentioned above. Since this is my personal selection, you may or may not agree with it. And if you think I have left out a particularly good one, you will do a great favor to me and the readers by pointing that out.
So, here I go.
#1 On top of the list should be this beautiful jugalbandi rang raliyaan karat sautan ke sang from Birbal My Brother, sung by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Pt Jasraj. The 1973 movie was a passable film and hardly known. But the song is an absolute masterpiece and has no parallel in the history of Hindi film music. The last time two such greats came together in a song was in aaj gawat man mero jhumke. It is rare, but here is a link. It is also there in the album, Classics from Films: Rare Collections. This has also been sung by Asha Bhosle in a recent (2003) movie Khwahish, with music by Milind (of Anand Milind duo, son of Chitragupta) but with all respect to Ashaji, the jugalbandi is in a class of its own.
#2 Another great number is suno re bhaila from the 1998 movie Godmother sung by Pt Sanjeev Abhayankar. Vishal Bhardwaj, the music director of the movie has used Pt Abhayankar’s voice in more movies like Maachis and Maqbool. But I feel this is the best. Unfortunately, I could not find a link to this song anywhere, despite the fact that this song won the National Award for best male playback singer.
#3 Another one that I like is jabse tune bansi bajayi re, a song sung by Lakshmi Shankar of Patiala Gharana, for movie Aarop, set to tune by Bhupen Hazarika.
Some other rare but great songs in no particular order are
#4 Megha jhar jhar barsat re by Kishori Amonkar for the 1990-Govind Nihlani directed movie Drishti. She herself had scored music for the movie and sang two more songs in the film. Here is a link to all the songs.
#5 Vandana karo archana karo by Pt Jasraj for a 1966 movie Ladki Sahyadri Ki, made by his father in law V Shantaram with music by V Shantaram favourite Vasant Desai.
#6 Ram prabhu aadhar, a soulful bhajan by Pt Bhimsen Joshi for a movie called Sant Tulsidas.
#7 Marmuwa kahepe bawre, a song by Hirabai Barodekar, the noted exponent of Kirana Gharana and daughter of the Gharana founder Ustad Abdul Karim Khan in the movie Pratibha. I have listened to this song once but have not been able to get it after that.
# 8 Yeh hai shaan Banaras ki, a song from a 2006 movie called Banaras with music by Himesh Reshamiya.
There are many more, but this is my first cut shortlist. I have, obviously excluded the more known songs from more well-known movies.
While Naushad started this trend with Baiju Bawra, Mughal-E-Azam and Shabab, most popular directors like Shankar-Jaikishen, Laxmikant Pyarelal and more recently Vishal Bhardwaj have turned to classical vocalists for some of their songs.
Though the association of classical musicians with Hindi music is broader, with maestros like Ustad Allah Rakha, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia scoring music for movies and many playing instruments in some songs, I have kept the list restricted to only vocalists. Also, I have kept out songs from Marathi, Bengali and other language movies to which some of these maestros have lent their voices.