Best Songs of 1951: Wrap Up 2

September 6, 2014

Songs of Yore Award for the Best ‘Other’ Female Playback Singer goes to?

Amirbai Karnataki-Rajkumari-Zeenat Begum-Shamshad Begum-Geeta Dutt-Sandhya MukherjeeIn the previous two series for 1953 and 1955, I had one Wrap Up for the best female playback singer, and unlike the question mark for male singers, the by-line for female singer had a straightforward: “And the Award goes to Lata, Lata, Lata, Lata, Lata….Lata Mangeshkar.” But in the write-up and the final ten I made efforts to include about 3-4 songs of other singers too, in the nature of affirmative action. Her dominance is no less pronounced in 1951- Mahesh goes to the extent of saying that the best female playback singer other than Lata is Lata Mangeshkar herself. But several readers gave separate lists of their favourite songs of Lata and ‘other’ female singers, and suggested that I do the female playback singers in two parts. The ‘other’ singers bring immense variety and several of them had their landmark songs in the year. Therefore, let me split the female singers in two parts, and start with the ‘other’ singers first.

I am conscious that ‘other’ is a somewhat unfair term. There are equally passionate fans of Geeta Dutt, for example, who might put her Baazi songs ahead of the best of Lata. Rajkumari evokes a great deal of respect and nostalgia. Splitting and putting them in a separate category implies a pre-conceived Lata-bias, and precludes an overall comparison. Let me say in defense that it makes the discussion convenient, and allows us to savour the multi-coloured mosaic of female singers in a better way.

Before I start let me put the numbers in perspective. Taking from Venkataramanji’s comments, Lata Mangeshkar accounts for 40% of the total female solos, whereas 36 other singers account for the rest. Some of the 36 and their songs would be almost unknown. But the interesting part is that a large number of them – probably more than the earlier series – figure in my list of memorable songs.

I mentioned Geeta Dutt and Baazi, which zoomed her career to a higher orbit. Aaj ki raat piya is everyone’s great favourite, but there are people who like Taqdeer se bigadi hui a lot. Shamshad Begum was the lead singer in Bahaar, with iconic songs like Sainya dil mein aana re and Duniya ka majaa le lo duniya purani hai. Besides, she has great songs in Deedar and Jadoo. And her Dekho pyala mera chhla ke (Shabistaan) is a superlative dance song, which I have mentioned in ‘special’ songs. Mumbaikaar 8 added a number of her songs from Naazneen.

Suraiya’s Raaton ki neend chheen li (Shokhiyaan) ranks among her sweetest songs and has been mentioned by many readers. She also had a very melodious song in Raajput (Raste pe hum khade hain dil-e-beqaraar le kar). Almost everyone has mentioned Rajkumari’s Ramaiya bin neend na aave (Badi Bahoo). Anil Biswas and Rajkumari shared great personal vibes as we have seen on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, which shows in their quality of music too. Rajkumari also had a fabulous mujra Koi kis tarah raaz-e-ulfat chhupaye (Hulchul), which I had included in ‘special’ songs. Then, who can forget Sandhya Mukherjee’s Ye baat koi samjhaye re (Sazaa).

Zeenat Begum’s Hamaari gali aao Shyam (Mukhadaa) has been mentioned by many readers. There is a sprinkling of Asha Bhosle songs, a couple of which have figured in ‘special’ songs.

This is an awesome list by any yardstick. But I am yet to mention my greatest favourite of the year. Chori chori aag si dil mein laga ke chal diye by Sulochana Kadam is a class by itself. Five out of ten penalties, done with great deliberation and concentration, are missed in Brazil-Chile Round of 16. The success in this situation should be almost 100%. And you see some incredible goals in the World Cup, pure magic pulled out by a conjurer. These happen by some divine force. One such song was Afsana likh rahi hun (Naushad) a few years earlier, which made Uma Devi immortal as a singer. Chori chori aag si is in that class. It has not only the same infectious rhythm, but also a great melody.

All the above songs have been mentioned by the readers. Let me try to summarise the sense of the House (with a fair amount of my preference), and present the best ten songs of ‘other’ female playback singers.

1.  Chori chori aag si dil meinlaga ke chal diye by Sulochana Kadam from Dholak, lyrics Shyam Lal ‘Shams’, music Shyam Sundar

Sulochana Kadam sang about 220 songs in 60 films in her twelve year career, but this one song has made her immortal. Though the picturisation shows Meena Shorey in a sad mood, the doyen of Punjabi school of music, Shyam Sundar, chooses to give it a fast beat. I have another category of songs – discordance between the song and picturisation. But without quibbling, let yourself go and sway to this all-time great song.


2.  Aaj ki raat piya dil na todo by Geeta Dutt from Baazi, lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanavi, music SD Burman

With songs like these it is not surprising the debutant director, Guru Dutt, fell in love with Geeta Dutt. After a great start in Do Bhai (1947), SD Burman further cements her position as the only challenger to Lata Mangeshkar with a variety of her songs in Baazi. Contrast this with the Sahir’s ghazal Tadbeer se bigadi hui taqdeer bana de, which he presented as a cabaret number. The moonlit night, Kalpana Kartik’s seductive pleading to Dev Anand, Guru Dutt’s picturisation and SD Burman’s orchestration, with Geeta Dutt’s voice make it an eternal song.


3.  Ramaiya bin need na aave by Rajkumari from Badi Bahoo, lyrics Meerabai, music Anil Biswas

One of the losses of Lata Mangeshkar domination has been the eclipse of great singers of the Vintage Era, like Rajkumari. Her TV appearances showed that she retained the timbre of her voice many years after the industry had forsaken her. Industry became equally disinterested in Anil Biswas when he was still in his prime in the late 50s and 60s, forcing him to quit Bombay and move to Delhi to join the All India Radio. He was very fond of Rajkumari. This one is one of their best, and has been mentioned by many readers.


4.  Sainya dil mein aana re aa ke phir na jana re by Shamshad Begum from Bahaar, lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music SD Burman

That some songs are timeless is not a clichéd statement. After more than 50 years its appeal has not waned – its remixes in several voices became a big rage in the modern era.


5.  Hamaari gali aao Shyam ankhiyan bichhaye by Zeenat Begum from Mukhadaa, lyrics by Aziz Kashmiri, music Vinod

Zeenat Begum is one of the true representatives of the vintage style of female singing, who had to fade very quickly because of the change of era. This happens to be her last playback. Shakeel Badayuni-Naushad-Rafi combo – three Muslims – creating O duniya ke rakhwaale is often mentioned. This song is no less remarkable that it has Muslim lyricist, Muslim singer, and a Christian composer, Vinod (Eric Roberts). Zeenat Begum married music director, Babul (of Bipin-Babul), and later migrated to Pakistan. I am happy to bring this song from ‘special’ songs to the main list.


6.  Raaton ki neend chheen li by Suraiya from Shokhiyan, lyrics Kedar Sharma, music Jamal Sen

In my series on “Forgotten Composers: Unforgettable Melodies”, both Vinod and Jamal Sen have figured. A multifaceted personality himself, Kedar Sharma, also had a great gift to discover talents. The movie bombed, but he gave Jamal Sen a vehicle for immortal creations. This is the film which has Lata Mangeshkar’s matchless Yaman, Sapna ban saajan aaye. Many readers have included Jamal Sen in the best MDs of the year. This Suraiya song is another of great beauty.


7.  Ye baat koi samajhaye re by Sandhya Mukherjee from Sazaa, lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music SD Burman

Born in Calcutta on 4 October 1931, Sandhya Mukherjee was a contemporary of the great female playback singers of the era: Geeta Dutt and Lata Mangeshkar. In such a tough field, and with a voice that was indistinguishable from Geeta Dutt’s, she could not go very far. She sang in over a dozen films, but one song that became her identity was Ye baat koi samjhaye re. She also had a superlative duet with Hemant Kumar, Aa gup chup gup chup pyar karein, in the film.


Seven different voices, seven landmark songs by five composers, two of whom are among the “Forgotten”. The ‘other’ singers never shone more brightly in a single year during the Lata Mangeshkar era. This indeed needed a separate post.

For the remaining three slots, I would include Rajkumari’s mujra Koi kis tarah raaz-e-ulfat chhupaaye, which has figured in ‘special’ songs, and one each of Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum – these are very well-known, and have appeared on this blog earlier, therefore I am not providing their link.

So who is the best among the above? They were all distinct; they all enriched the year in their own way. It would be impractical to choose one, or rank them; everyone’s choice would be different. They are all winners. Can I say that:

Songs of Yore Award for the Best ‘Other’ Female Playback Singer goes to the ‘Other Singer’.



Mahesh, whose name I have mentioned in the beginning, made some useful observations in the comments (see the Comments section below). Pursuant to discussions with him, I would like to add another honour:

Songs of Yore Award for the Best Female Playback Singer, who made the most impact in the year, goes to Shamshad Begum



(Acknowledgement: Swaron Ki Yatra by Anil Bhargav)

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 N Venkataraman September 6, 2014 at 2:42 pm

“The ‘other’ singers never shone more brightly in a single year during the Lata Mangeshkar era. This indeed needed a separate post.”
AK Ji,
Well summarised and aptly concluded. A separate post on the ‘Other ‘singers were indeed needed. The Sapta Swars were perfectly tuned. I am sure nobody will find a single discordant note. Although most of us have repeatedly listened to these songs a few months back, it was pleasing to listen to them again.

While selecting the best songs in different categories, we, in general, tend to listen to a large number of songs, sometimes we even going beyond your list. Varied factors influence our personal selections. More often than not the selections are made on the mood prevailing at the time of listening. Sometimes we tend to miss out some and some of them we may not be aware of. These songs come to our focus through the discussions. If we listen to the songs again after sometime we feel few of the left out songs were equally good. Some of us assume that others will include certain popular numbers, why not bring forth a different set of good songs, up for discussion. In the end it does not really matter which songs were adjudged the best. Ultimately we, the music lovers are the gainers. We are treated to a feast of delightful songs and beautiful melodies. And the erudite discussions in the comments section add icing to the cake. Thank you AKji.

2 SSW September 6, 2014 at 6:13 pm

AK nice selection but permit me to voice dissent on one thing. Sandhya Mukherjee’s voice was not indistinguishable from Geeta Dutt. In my opinion her voice was quite different and possibly if you hear her Bengali songs you might agree. I also think she was a superlative singer with a fluid capacity to hit notes effortlessly and could hold her own with anybody.

3 AK September 6, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Thanks a lot for your appreciation. Personal choices indeed vary, but it is a unique year that we have seven different singers having their one of the best songs by so many different composers. If we want to savour different flavours, these songs would be generally a common choice.

You are one of those who add a lot in your comments in every post. Thank you for that.

4 AK September 6, 2014 at 6:54 pm

I have to agree with you that Sandhya Mukherjee’s voice was indistinguishable from Geeta Dutt’s. I got excited by having so many ‘other’ singers in a single year.

5 Arunkumar Deshmukh September 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm

AK ji,

My choice would be-
Chori chori-Sulochana kadam in Dholak-1951.

The song has retained its appeal even today and the tune is evergreen.


6 AK September 6, 2014 at 10:01 pm

You have sensed I am with you in toto on this. I remember in male solos too you were very clear on Meri yaad mein tum na, and I couldn’t agree with you more.

7 AK September 6, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Dear readers,
Arvinder Sharmaji brought to my notice that for Sandhya Mukherjee’s, instead of the solo – Ye baat koi samjhaye re, I have inadvertently given the link of her duet with Hemant Kumar, Aa gup chup gup chup pyar Karen. As I am travelling I would be able to correct the link not until the 8th night. (I can post basic comments from mobile devices.)

8 DHANWANTARI G. PANCHOLI September 6, 2014 at 11:54 pm

It is really unimaginable that anybody could find this much information regarding these songs. I humbally pay respect to the great explore/explorers and their passion. Amen. – DrPancholi

9 SSW September 7, 2014 at 1:01 am

AK I said Sandhya Mukherjee’s voice was distinguishable from Geeta Dutt’s. 🙂

10 mumbaikar8 September 7, 2014 at 5:07 am

You have made a good list of seven different singers.
Its different like Tomato Ketchup:)
All the songs as discussed as earlier are gems. ( Saat Ratna)
This makes me think, once again same kaash aisa hota……..
had equal opportunity prevailed at that time we would have enjoyed a variety of music and you would not have, had to pick female singers only in the nature of affirmative action.
The inequality in opportunity was not confined to female only, mark the drop in number of male songs in early to mid-fifties.
Here is one more beautiful song by Sulochana Kadam from Titli (1951)

11 AK September 7, 2014 at 5:53 am

Dhanwantari G Pancholi,
Welcome to SoY and thanks a lot for your appreciation.

12 AK September 7, 2014 at 5:58 am

Oh! I must be dozing when I read your comment.

In that case I have to disagree with you as far as her Sazaa songs are concerned.

13 AK September 7, 2014 at 6:05 am

It seems 1951 was a unique year. For real variety of female singers one has to go back to pre-Lata years.

Male scenario was very different. Even if the number of songs was very skewed, all the major singers – Rafi, Mukesh, Talat Mahmood, Hemant Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey – commanded huge following.

14 maheshmamadapur September 7, 2014 at 10:54 am

AK ji,

Many Thanks.
You have mastered the art of naming posts aptly and arriving at conclusions. I do understand your convictions as well as compulsions.
Now, regarding the last two slots, one each of Geeta Roy and Shamshad Begum, may I please know which are they. ?

15 AK September 7, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Thanks a lot for your appreciation. For Geeta Roy, I would obviously choose from Baazi, most probably Taqdeer se bigadi hui. But Shamshad Begum presents interesting choice. Until sometime back, my choice would have been from Bahaar, Deedaar or Jadoo, but now I am hooked by Dekho pyala mera chhalke from Shabistan.

16 maheshmamadapur September 8, 2014 at 12:39 pm

AK ji,

Due to some personal and time constraints I was unable to plunge deep into the discussions but would like to put forth my case now.

I do stand by my earlier comment about Lata’s dominance and no decent competition.

However since this being a “other” female singer, I strongly disagree with the conclusion and would like to pitch in favor of Shamshad Begum.

With due regards to you and Arun ji, I agree that Sulochana Kadam and Sandhya Mukherjee etc had their “zenith” moments.

However Shamshad Begum shone all through and that too with various composers. With more than a dozen movies she was no less a dominant singer in 1951 having sung for SJ, HB, SDB, Naushad, Shyam Sunder , Madan Mohan , Roshan and others.

To further buttress my point I would like to bring this exotic number form Dholak which for some reason has escaped everyone’s attention so far.

Its “mere dil mein aayiye, meri nazar mein aayiye” from Dholak.

Not crowning Shamshad Begum in this category would be grossly unfair to the talented singer.

17 Arunkumar Deshmukh September 8, 2014 at 5:11 pm

AK ji,

I think, wrapping up 2- best SONGS of 52, is all about a Song and not how big or consistent a singer has been throughout.
The merits of the song per se has to be considered. Really speaking, it is a very difficult task to come to a consensus, I know, because everyone will have his own choices with reasons and logics to support it.
one cant please all….

18 maheshmamadapur September 8, 2014 at 5:43 pm

AK ji,

“a” song, consistency or popularity, I feel Shamshad Begum wins on all accounts in 1951 for this particular category. Her songs in a single film “Bahaar” will cater to all types of scrutiny and demands.

Having left Lata aside, if we are unable to reach a consensus on other singers, the very exercise serves no purpose. After all the cards have been placed on the table, this “anonymous” ka funda mujhe samaj mein nahin aya.

Will this wrangle of mine also go the “awara hoon” line ?

19 AK September 8, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Your observations are always backed by solid reasoning.

On Sulochana Kadam, frankly I regard her as a one-song wonder. That happens in 1951, and the song is a real wonder according to me. It seems Arunji is also entirely with me on this. So, I don’t think you would have serious objection if we treat it as the best song of the year. Since it is a matter of personal choice, one could be sure there would be many who would choose a Geeta Dutt or Rajkumari song for this honour. That is why, you would notice, in my final conclusion I have not named a particular singer, but acknowledged as the ‘other’ voice as the winner.

But we have to recognise Shamshad Begum’s presence in 1951 in a very special way. The other ‘Other’ singers had a narrow range. Shamshad Begum left her imprint in many films with a number of different top composers you have mentioned. You would recall in one of the earlier years I had decoupled the best song from the best singer. It would be fair if we recognise her as the most dominant singer other than Lata Mangeshkar in the year.

20 ASHOK M VAISHNAV September 9, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Whether by design or by market demand, it an undeniable fact that Lata Mangeshkar has overwhelmingly dominated female playback singing ever since 1950s.

But, that in no way would mean that ‘other’ female playback singers were that much trifle in terms of quality of the signing.

However, it has been a much different situation in the case of male playback singing – Rafi did dominate but that put ‘others’ in so much of obscurity.

Since this series is a fine-tooth-combed retrospective, and not an award ceremony, a separate post of ‘others’ category in each of the classes of female and male singers as well as music directors would certainly bring out great hidden gems every year, particularly when there is so discerning a group of active participants in a so-evenly -conducted orchestra.

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