Hindustani Raagas Are The Foundation of Hindi Film Music

Simultaneously providing structure and texture to the music, raagas have been the life thread running through the rich tradition of Hindustani and other classical Indian music.  Not surprisingly, these same raagas have been the foundation of Hindi Film Music, especially in the early decades through the 60’s.  Some were formally based on the raag, such as Madhuban Mein Radhika Naache Re from Kohinoor, based on Raag Hamir, or Kahan Se Aaye Badra from Chashme Buddoor, based on Raag Megh.  Others are more loosely based, and don’t strictly adhere to the guidelines imposed by the raag (aaroh, avroh, strict use or non-use of swars etc.).  Regardless, I often find myself awarding four or five GP stars to songs based on raags on Gaana Pehchaana’s rating scale.  Here is a small sample of HFM based on classical Hindustani Raagas.

Raj Kapoor was reportedly fond of Shivranjani and often asked Shankar-Jaikishen to compose songs based on this raag.  Jaane Kahan Gaye Woh Din from Mera Naam Joker, O Mere Sanam, O Mere Sanam from Sangam, and O Basanti Pawan Pagal from Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai are all good examples of songs based on Shivranjani from Raj Kapoor/Shankar Jaikishen movies.  Other Shivranjani examples include Tere Mere Beech Mein from Ek Dujhe Ke Liye and Mere Nainon Sawan Baadon from Mehbooba. 

Pahadi is another very commonly used raag in HFM.  S. D. Burman in particular often used it in his compositions: Dil Pukare Aa Re Aa Re from Jewel Thief; Kora Kagaz Tha from Aradhana; Phoolon Ke Rang Se from Prem Pujari; Raat Ka Sama from Ziddi; Rula Ke Gaya Sapna Mera from Jewel thief; Vahan Kaun Hai Tera from Guide … the list goes on!

A comforting fact is that even today, with western beats and percussion and dance music dominating HFM, there are occasional gems based on classical raagas: Shikayat Hai from Jism based on Bhairavi, Tose Naina Lage (Javeda Zindagi) from Anwar, based on Raag Kirwani; Aye Ajnabee from Dil Se, based on Raag Bhimpilasi; Dekha Hai Pehli Baar from Saajan, based on Raag Darbari Kanada; Ghar Se Niklate Hi from Paapa Kehte Hain, and Mere Humsafar, Mere Humsfar from Refugee, both based on Raag Yaman Kalyan.

In my humble opinion, today’s music directors should not stray too far from the rich and time tested Indian music traditions.  Don’t get me wrong, HFM has done a wonderful job of melding western, international and Indian music (I love all the songs from Metro, a good example of fusion well done).  But, let’s not let the pendulum swing too far to the west and away from our roots – we have too much to lose.

On occasion, the film music directors were able to persuade the doyens of classical music to render songs for films.  Examples include Pt. Jasraj singing Vaada, Tumse Hai Vada from 1920; Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan singing Shub Din Aayo from Mughal-e-Azam and one of my personal favorites, Ustad Rashid Ali Khan singing Aaoge Jab Tum from Jab We Met.

I would like to acknowledge one of my primary sources – a website set up by David and Chandrakanta Courtney with an extensive list of Hindi Film Songs based on Raagas.  The site includes links to videos of the songs and additional information on taal and lyrics and the degree of adherence to the the raag.  Thank you David-ji!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GaanaP - Coming soon
Gaana Pehchaana music game app
Gaana Pehchaana music game app Aur-Sunao