Best songs of 1953: Wrap Up 3

October 6, 2013


Songs of Yore Award for the best duet goes to?

After the survey post on the best songs of 1953, I have already done Wrap Up 1 on the best male solos and Wrap Up 2 on the best female solos. Continuing the series I present the third Wrap Up on the best duets.

1953 filmsWhile surveying the music of 1953, Subodh made a somewhat radical statement that it was not a great year for male solos. Some other readers also too seemed to echo that sentiment. The absence of any great Rafi solo did make the year less diverse, and it ultimately became a one-horse (Talat Mahmood) race. Subodh was equally dismissive of female solos ‘Female solos too don’t do much either’. If a year had Ye zindagi usi ki hai, Ye sham ki tanhaiyan, Raja ki ayegi baraat, Aa ja ri aa nindiya tu aa, Hamare baad ab mahfil mein afsane bayan honge of Lata Mangeshkar, and great songs by Rajkumari, Shamshad Begum, Asha Bhosle, Geeta Dutt and Jagjit Kaur which we discussed, I would say it was as great a year as any. Nevertheless, it was a given that in the most of 1950s and 60s it was going to be a one-horse race (Lata Mangeshkar), which meant that one had to make special efforts to include ‘other’ female singers in the final list of ten.

When we come to the duets in 1953 we do not face any of the above doubts and issues. Rafi more than compensates by three great duets which can rank among his all time best – Sun mere sajna (with Lata Mangeshkar, Aansoo), Aapne cheen liya dil (with Meena Mangeshkar, Farmaish) and Devta tum ho mera sahara (with Mubarak Begum, Dayera). Another one, La de mohe balma aasmani chudiyan (with Shamshad Begum, Rail Ka Dibba) is no mean song, and can easily rank among the best of Rafi-Shamshad duets. Did you notice that his four duets are with four different female singers? Arunji mentioned in the context of Asha Bhosle that music directors considered her voice better suited for duets. I would give a Freudian explanation. Since the music directors had decided that Lata Mangeshkar was going to be the solo voice for the heroine, they were purging their guilt of ignoring other female singers by giving them outstanding duets.

Mukesh’s Aa ja re ab mera dil pukare is an incredibly sweet song. Jane na jigar too is quite above any threshold of quality. Lata Mangeshkar figures in both.

It has been said earlier by readers that probably no song of Hemant Kumar can be less than good. He had two outstanding duets in the year – Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag and Yaad kiya dil ne kaha ho tum, both with Lata Mangeshkar – which are among their all-time greats. These have already figured in my post on the best of Hemant Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar duets. Canasya also speculated that Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag would be declared the best duet which, with Ye zindagi usi ki hai, would pave the way for C Ramchandra’s crowning as the best music director. Even though I control the coin and the umpire’s finger, I frankly do not know. I do not pre-judge, and declare openly if I have any personal bias.

This was the year of Talat Mahmood. He had great duets too. SoY regulars would be aware that I am mesmerized by Chahe nain churao (with Lata Mangeshkar, Aas) and Mohabbat ki dhun beqararon se poochho (with Sudha Malhotra and Jagjit Kaur, Dil-e-Nadan). I am counting the latter song in duets for want of a convenient category. Moreover, every Talat fan has great regard for Baharon ki duniya pukare tu aa ja (with Asha Bhosle) and Aasmanwale teri duniya se jee ghabra gaya (with Lata Mangeshkar) – both from Laila Majnu. And there are huge admirers for Chali kaun se des gujariya (with Asha Bhosle, Boot Polish) too.

This was an incredible year for Manna Dey. We have seen his great solos earlier, which he surpasses in duets and comes up not with one but at least three which are among his best ever – Mausam beeta jaye, Hariyala sawan dhol bajata aya (both with Lata Mageshkar, Do Bigha Zameen) and Ritu aye ritu jaye sakhi ri (with Lata Mangeshkar, Hamdard).

Here I must admit my pseudo-Freudian theory is already collapsing as we find Lata Mangeshkar all over in duets too. Well, as we discussed earlier she was The Female Playback singer of the 1950s and 60s. But is that a problem? If you are looking for diversity, male playback arena was more democratic. Here everyone shone. All the great singers are there without any affirmative action as I had to do in the case of female solos.

I am not finished yet. There is an exceptional duet still lurking behind. Kishore Kumar in the 1950s ranked after his other great contemporaries. Yet he gives an everlasting gem Aa mohabbt ki basti basayenge hum (with Lata Mangeshkar, Fareb).

So I have mentioned Rafi’s (3+1), Mukesh’s (1+1), Hemant Kumar’s two, Talat Mahmood’s (2+3), Manna Dey’s three and Kishore Kumar’s one – in all 17 duets of great quality. I hope this covers all the worthy duets. Reducing it to ten is going to be an uphill task, and surely any song I leave is going to disappoint a large number of readers. Now the task would have some of my bias. But before I embark on that I entirely agree with Subodh’s statement that this was the year of duets. I have to also thank all the readers for their valuable suggestions and involvement in the discussion.

Let me start by must-include songs – those which in Ashokji’s phrase are default choices. I do not see how any list in this year can leave Aa mohabbat ki bati basayenge hum. Manna Dey’s Mausam beeta jaye is a default choice. Same with Hemant Kumar’s Jaag dard-e-ishq jag, and Rafi’s Sun mere sajna. Mukesh’s Aa ja re ab mera dil pukara is a definitive song from RK-SJ banner. Talat Mahmood has several must-include duets. I go for Mohabat ki dhun beqaraaron se poochho.

Six slots have been taken but every major male singer has been represented (this was not on account of social justice, they came on their own merit). In the remaining four slots, one I give to Manna Dey, and bowing to popularity I choose Haryala sawan dhol bajata aya (sorry Venkataramnji for not including Ritu aye ritu jaye sakhi ri, but Anu and many others are going to be happy). I give another to Rafi – Devta tum ho mera sahara – this is going to make connoisseurs too happy. I give remaining two to Talat Mahmood – Chahe nain churao (my favourite, Ashokji has also mentioned it) and Aasmanwale teri duniya se (quintessential Talat-Lata duet).

I have come to the final ten which should give at least 80% satisfaction to every reader. Putting them in order is frankly an impossible task. They are so good that putting them in any order would be probably OK. My own choice for the first two slots would have been Mhabbat ki dhun beqaraaron se poochho and Sun mere sajna re. Jignesh and Ashokji happen to share my fondness for Talat Mahmood. But Manna Dey’s two duets have been preferred by many, so also Hemant Kumar’s Jag dard-e-ishq jag. Therefore, if I harmonise the preferences of everyone, giving the top slot to Mausam beeta jaye is a fair conclusion, followed by Jaag dard-e-ishq jag. The rest of the ranking reflects my preference.  Here I have to mention that there being no separate category for all-female duets, these have to be covered in this category.  Some readers mentioned a number of these duets.  But the field being so crowded I hope the readers would agree that it does not seem possible to squeeze in an all-female duet

1. Mausam beeta jaye by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar from Do Bigha Zameen, lyrics Shailendra, music Salil Chaudhary

Salil Chaudhary’s debut film established him as one of the most talented music directors. He was quite frank in admitting his inspiration from a Russian marching song, but his own adaptation to an Indian village scene is remarkable.


2. Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar from Anarkali, lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music C Ramchandra

Anarkali was a high point in C Ramchandra’s career. By this time he was firmly with Lata Mangeshkar, and their combination had set an enviable benchmark for sweetness and melody. With Hemant Kumar’s sweet voice Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag becomes one of the greatest duets of all-time.


3. Mohaabt ki dhun beqararon se poochho by Talat Mahmood, Sudha Malhotra and Jagjt Kaur from Dil-e-Nadan, lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad

Ghulam Mohammad would rank among the top two or three composers who gave the best music for Talat Mohammad. He is known more for Pakeezah, but Dil-e-Nadan is among his best works. Shyama and Peace Kanwal are not only learning the song from Talat, but also seem to be vying for his affection. The newcomer Peace Kanwal is somewhat stiff, leaving the field for Shyama, who snuggles closer to Talat and, towards the end of the song, also slips in her photograph in his pocket.


4. Sun mere sajna by Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangehskar from Aansoo, lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi, music Husnlal Bhagatram

By this time Husnlal Bahgatram were displaced by their protégés Shankar Jaikishan from their top pedestal. C Ramchandra had displaced them from the special favour of Lata Mangeshkar. Yet they show their brilliance in this haunting melody of the mountains, easily among the all time greatest duets of Rafi-Lata.


5. Aasmanwale teri duniya se by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar from Laila Majnu, lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad

This film had two music directors – Ghulam Mohammad and Sardar Mallik, but the songs are individually credited. Ghulam Mohammad had some special tuning with Talat. A quintessential Talat-Lata duet. Shammi Kapoor became a sensation with Tum Sa Nahi Dekha and Junglee, but, though it is difficult to believe, some of his best songs are by Talat Mahmood before his image make-over.


6. Chahe nain churao chahe daman bachao by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar from Aas, lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar Jaikishan

This is one song for which I am willing to stand alone against the whole world. It seems it does not figure on the radar screen of some readers. I would urge you to see this incredibly beautiful folk dance by two unknown actors (identified in the video clip as Om Prakash – obviously not the famous comedian/character actor – and Chanda Bai). The lead couple, Shekhar and Kamini Kaushal (newly married?), watch it, with the lady feeling very abashed, and the husband and the dancers encouraging her to open up. Shankar Jaikishan’s orchestration is wonderful – different from their RK style of music. In the same year they gave some typical blue songs for Talat, and now you have this very atypical peppy song from him which would make your feet dance. If we were not living in a democracy I might have put this song at no.1. I am thankful to Ashokji for mentioning this song.


7. Aa ja re ab mera dil pukara by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar from Aah, lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri, music Shankar Jaikishan

Now SJ with RK banner style of music. It is a corroboration of the year being the year of great duets that one of the best Mukesh-Lata Mangeshkar duets should figure at no. 7. Even though the film was a flop, the music was out of this world.


8. Aa mohabbat ki basti basayenge hum by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar from Fareb, lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Anil Biswas

Even though Kishore Kumar skyrocketed after Aradhana (1969), his best is in earlier period. Did Anil Biswas have any doubt whether he would carry it off? He must have been immensely satisfied that the outcome was one of his best creations by a singer who was not associated with his kind of music.


9. Hariyala sawan dhol bajata aya by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar from Do Bigha Zameen, lyrics Shailendra, music Salil Chaudhary

It is very unusual for two duets from the same film to be included in such a tight field. The film opens with this song when there is no indication of the misery that is to follow. Therefore, you have a very cheerful farmers’ song heralding the arrival of monsoon. You see Salil Chaudhary’s mastery over folk, which he would display later in Madhumati with great finesse.


10. Devta tum ho mera sahara by Rafi and Mubarak Begum from Dayera, lyrics Kaif Bhopali, music Jamal Sen

Left to myself I might have chosen Aapne chheen liya dil or La de mohe balma, but I am aware Devta tum ho mera sahara has an iconic status among connoisseurs. We have discussed this song earlier with great deal of respect in my earlier posts on Jamal Sen and Mubarak Begum. If a duet of this quality can bring up the rear, we can only salute 1953 as a great year for duets, and all the singers and the music directors who have given songs that are everlasting.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Arunkumar Deshmukh October 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm

AK ji,

The above songs are so haunting that I wish I had a CD only containing these songs.
Excellent picks.
I am glad one of my choices has featured in it.

2 AK October 6, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Yes, this was a year of great duets. But I am sure there would be more than one of your favourites in this list. Thanks for your appreciation.

3 Jignesh Kotadia October 7, 2013 at 11:51 am

Inclusion of ‘sun mere sajna’, ‘chahe nain churao’ and ‘aa muhabbat ki basti’ is a nice move.
I think there should be the big one ‘yaad kiya dil ne’ instead of taking both duets from ‘do beegha zameen’.
Overall, a supermelodious collection as Arunji said.

4 AK October 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm

My own preference would have been Yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho tum, but for Manna Dey there was a great deal of support – if not the two duets from Do Bigha Zameen, then I would have to include Ritu aye rite jaye from Hamdard. That is a problem of trying to harmonise the collective choice from too many superlative songs. I have already sneaked in Chahe nain churao which may not be everyone’s great favourite.

5 Jignesh Kotadia October 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm

my special ones from remainings

1. Saahir’s masterpiece

‘husn ke khilte phool hamesha bedardo ke haath bike
aur chahat ke matwalo ko dhool mili veerano ki’

‘chahe kitna mujhe tum bulaoge, nahin bolungi, nahi bolungi’


2. Vinod’s magnificent tune

‘kehta tha zamana, magar hum ne na mana
mushkil hai bahot pyar ki rasmo ko nibhana
Ek aag ka dariya hai aur doob ke jana’

Rafi-Asha-Aag ka dariya-Vinod

3. Majaz cameo

‘Aye gham e dil kya karoon’

Also In duet by Talat-Asha
This song is recorded in all three forms, male solo, female solo and Duet.

6 N Venkataraman October 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm

The 3rd wrap-up on duets was, more or less, as expected.
Let me start with a discordant note. I would have loved to have the following two duets among the final ten, Mukh se na bolun ankhiyan na kholun and Ritu Aae ritu Jaae Sakhi ri. In fact Ritu aae ritu jaae had more popular support than Hariyala sawan dhol bajata aaya.

But I have every reason to feel pleased. I am happy to find two out of the three Manna Dey-Lata Mageshkar duets (that I had mentioned), among the final ten. The best two duets, Mausam beeta jaye and Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag were also the most popular ones.

The inclusion of next three songs/duets (none of them were among my final twelve) was also on the expected line. It was obvious from your comments posted in the first article. Both the duets, Sun mere sajna and Aasmanwale teri duniya se deserved a place in the final ten.
I am also glad to find two duets of Md.Rafi , Sun mere sajna and Devta tum ho mera sahara.
On the whole, a good and well balanced wrap-up.
It was a sheer pleasure to listen these melodious duets once again.
Thank you

7 mumbaikar8 October 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Good wrap up! all songs are treat.
I would like to draw your attention to, that the song # 1 is blocked and in song #9 There is an error in Harliyala sawan’s music director name, though in the write up it is correct.

8 AK October 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Between Hariyala sawan dhol bajata aya and Ritu aye ritu jaye sakhi ri I must have made an error in judgement, if you think the latter was more popular. We can take that as the second Manna Dey duet in the list. In any case that means we have to leave out Yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho tum. It is a difficult year. But as I said everyone should be at least 80% satisfied.

Thanks for you compliments, and pointing out the two errors. YT this time was super fast. Normally they remove after a few months. I do not see the point of this. I have replaced #1 with another link which hopefully should work for some time.

9 Ashok M Vaishnav October 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm

No doubt choosing duets would have been a more difficult, more fulfilling and in the end, a more rewarding exercise than the choosing male or female solos (even when we discount the ‘fair’ness clause of having included ‘other’ female singers in the top 10).
In so far as one’s own individual choice is concerned, one may prick some hair here or some there in this list. But, in the end one would agree with AKji’s reasoning and would merrily go along the list to (listen [n+1]th time the songs.

10 Mahesh Mamadapur October 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm

AK ji,

A lot of consideration from comments has been taken and a fairly good list arrived at. I know its very easy to sit back and comment after the trouble you have taken in making this, but I would still make a comment which no one including you will second.

I also happened to see the list from composers point of view as its ultimately they who sum up the lyric writer and the singers for the songs.

The great Naushad is missing in 1953 for obvious reasons.

However Roshan had three offerings in 1953. Aagosh, Maashuqa and Maalkin. ( None of the three among his best I would say.)

Mukesh, Suraiya duet from Maashuqa ….Jhilmil taare kare ishare, soja soja raaj dulare…. could have been squeezed in to accommodate Roshan and Mukesh’s last and failed attempt to sing on screen.

11 AK October 8, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Jhilmil taare kare ishare is not a bad song. It could fit in as a ‘special’ song, but difficult to squeeze in among top ten. But thanks for your participation.

12 Canasya October 9, 2013 at 11:53 am

I join the universal chorus of applause for this list. You seem to have left little room for disagreement. I agree that 1953 seems to have been a year of duets. But I do not think that was an accident. Duets are uniquely “filmi”. The make-believe world of Indian cinema allows male and female protagonists to sing a song together in perfect sync even while being separated by seven seas. As a result they occupy a disproportionately larger share of space in HFM than in other popular genres of music here or abroad. Musically they have one advantage over solos: two voices (usually male and female) automatically guarantee greater variation (read ‘lack of monotonicity’) within song. That accounts for a hit rate that is probably better than for solos.

As far as the perceived lack of dominance of duets by Lata is concerned, my guess is that scheduling issues might have contributed to it. MDs were already facing problems in getting dates from one singer. Getting two leading singers together at one time for rehearsals and final recording would have been tricky, to say the least.

My top pick, as I had indicated earlier, is “Jaag Dard-e-ishq jaag”. Hemant’s deeper voice provides excellent contrast to Lata’s. The melodic variations between sthayi (refrain) and antara and across stanzas make this one of the greatest duets.

With Talat, Jagjit, and Sudha Malhotra, “Mohabbat ki dhun” from Dil-e-naadan” is truly one of the collectibles.

From Aah my favourite has been “Jaane na nazar”, primarily for the recording quality, I guess. Somehow, some of the songs (this one, “Yeh sham ki tanhaiyaan”, and “Sunte the naam ham”) on the Aah CD in my collection have better voice quality, so much so that, for all practical purposes, I consider this the reference CD for these voices for pre-1970 recordings. As far as I can recollect, the Aah LP also sounded better in terms of recording (of voice) quality than some other contemporary LPs, but that is my opinion and I would like to hear from others. Both Lata and Mukesh have sung “Aa ja re ab mera dil pukara” with greater feeling and the song has greater variation too from sthayi to the antaras. But the minimalist orchestrestation in “Jaane na nazar” allows the voices to shine better.

“Chahe naina churao” is 3 minutes of musical bliss. But it is an SJ piece where, as AKji has himself pointed out, the beautiful orchestration dominates the song. By comparison, “Jab jab phool khile” (Talat-Lata; SJ; Shikast) allows one to savior the silken voices of Talat and Lata. When listening to a Talat-Lata duet I ask the question – could CR have replaced Talat (as he did in “Kitna hasin hai Mausam” – Azaad)? For the melody in “Jab jab phool khile” Talat’s and Lata’s voices appear indispensable to me, much less so in “Chahe naina churao”.

Husnlal Bhagatram were among the few MDs who could extract the best from both Rafi and lata. “Sun mere sajna re” is a prime example.

13 AK October 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Thanks a lot and I think you agree more than 80% with the list. I also had similar thoughts about duets – that they represent a unique category of our film music and very special from solos. The early followers of SoY would have noticed that I have done a lot of duets before I came to solos.

In the final tally this year, Lata Mangehskar happens to dominate in duets too as she did in the solos. But duets are mostly male dominated – I hope I do not sound sexist – I mean in the sense of the dominant voice which lingers in your mind. Therefore, you would find in the duets arena, Geeta Dutt, Asha Bhosle etc were as good as Lata Mangeshkar in pairing with Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Talat Mahmood etc.

You make an interesting point about recording quality. I had never thought like that. Aa ja re ab mera dil pukara to me is such a moving song that I would not notice the recording quality of Jane na jigar.

I am very happy that you, Jignesh and some others are equally passionate about Mohabat ki dhun beqaraaron se poochho and Chahe nain churaao. If I were to do this list again, I would make only one change – Ritu aaye ritu jaaye sakhi ri in place of Haryala sawan dhol bajata aaya. If two duets of Mann Dey had to be taken, it is better that they are from different films, and Ritu aye is such a wonderful song.

14 Subodh Agrawal October 11, 2013 at 9:15 am

AK, thanks a lot for giving me ‘top billing!’ even if you don’t agree with my views about female solos. I did mention ‘Yeh zindagi usi ki hai’ and ‘Aa ja ri nindiya’ as two exceptions.

As usual you have done a competent job of making the final list – it includes most songs most of us would like to see without completely closing the door on further discussion. I do like ‘Chahe naina churao’ which I discovered thanks to your earlier post. But I won’t put it in the same bracket as ‘Jaag dard-e ishq’, ‘Aa ja re ab mera dil pukara’ or ‘Sun mere sajna’. I don’t really think of ‘Mausam beeta jaaye’ and ‘Hariala sawan’ as duets, but they are among my top favourites in my list of folk songs from films/choruses.

15 Sathya April 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm


I just landed up on this site today. I am not sure if the 1953 related discussions are closed – I did not see the Best Music Director note. But just wanted to add my two thoughts.

I am very surprised by an indication that 1953 was a “weak” year for music. We had the whole host of brilliant tracks from Shankar Jaikishan and C.Ramchandra, Anilda’s “Hamdard” songs are worth going miles and miles to hear, Salilda’s blazing entry, Chic Chocolate’s brilliant creations in “Naadaan”.. and oh, such more. There are a whole bunch of supreme Lata melodies in the “lesser heard” breacket as well. I think it was a wonderful year for music.

With all these gems, Jamal Sen’s “Daayeraa” was the soundtrack of the year for me. It was a soundtrack built mainly on the vocals of a new comer named Mubarak Begum. I am hard put to choose one song from such songs as “deep ke sang jalun main”, “suno more naina”, “jali jo shama” and that greatest of all bhajajans (arguably) “devata tum ho mera sahara”. As if these were not enough, we have three superlative Talat solos – “aa bhi ja meri duniya me”, “ae chand sitaron” and “aansu to nahi hai ankhon me”. A truly outstanding soundtrack.

16 AK April 10, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Welcome to SoY. Discussions are always open. I myself did not entirely agree with the readers who felt it was a weak year. All the soundtracks you have mentioned are outstanding and have figured either in the write-ups or discussions.

The final Wrap Up 4 on music directors was wrongly labelled, therefore it was not showing. It is here. Thanks for pointing it out.

17 AK April 10, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Are you sure Naadan came in 1953? I think it was in 1951, and has come up for discussion in my recent post on 1951 songs (I am proceeding in the reverse order).

18 Sathya April 10, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Thanks for your response AKji!!

My apology for mistake on “Naadaan”. I was reading your 1951 post and the 1953 post in parallel in two tabs and got mixed up !! Sorry.

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