Film Songs Based on Classical Ragas (9) – Pilu

February 15, 2015

Guest article by Subodh Agrawal

(Pilu is one of the most popular Ragas in Hindi film music.  Naturally, many songs based on Pilu have appeared on SoY, and some interesting discussion has taken place about KL Saigal being mesmerised by SD Burman’s ‘Ami chhinu eka’, and speculating which of his song it was similar to.  Now, our expert Subodh writes a formal article on the Raga, in which he discusses the best film songs based on this Raga and some fine classical pieces.  It comes after a long wait, which I can ascribe to Writer’s Block.  Let us hope that 2015 would see more from him.  – AK)

Raga_PiluI have been rather lazy about writing this article. The list of songs was ready months back, but I just couldn’t get down to writing. What spurred me into action is the realization that it is nearly a year since the last article of this series. My apologies to AK and to the amiable readers of SoY whose comments are something I always treasure.

As I begin this article my mind goes back to Anuradha Warrier’s beautiful article on Rain Songs on her blog. Let me quote “The rains are here… And with it comes the smell of freshly dampened earth. ‘Puthu mannu’ we call it, a smell that cannot be described; it has to be experienced. It is the smell that assails your senses when the parched earth eagerly drinks in the first drops of the first monsoons…” The smell of freshly dampened earth – mitti ki sondhi khushbu, as we say in Hindi – has long been a metaphor for folk art and music. If there is one raga from the North Indian repertoire that is inseparably linked in my mind to this earthy smell, it is Pilu. There are other ragas with strong folk roots: this series has already covered Pahadi, Desh and Tilak Kamod; but for me Pilu is the one that truly captures the mood evoked by this earthy smell, possibly because it is the raga of the Gangetic plain, where the summers are long and severe, and the rain – when it comes – comes in torrents.

I will stick my neck out in writing this article. Despite the title of ‘expert’ in classical music conferred on me, I am quite aware of the limits of my knowledge. I generally don’t include a song in my list unless I have independent confirmation of the raga from a reliable source: usually or However, in my list for Pilu I am including some songs for which I don’t have such confirmation. I could be wrong – as I have been in case of Mohe panghat pe nandlal chhed gayo ri which is Gara, not Pilu. I will be very happy to be corrected by knowledgeable readers if I make any mistake.

Pilu is used extensively in folk songs of UP and Bihar. Many of the traditional wedding songs of this region are based on Pilu. Let me present, as a prelude to the list, a fragment from the film Sara Akash (1969), as it captures the traditional movement better than any other clip I could locate. This very tune was later developed into a full song for the film Dushmani (1995):


Now for the list:

1. Pinjre de vich qaid jawani by (Baby) Noorjehan from Gul Bakavli (1939) music by Ghulam Haider

Noorjehan was only 13 when she sang for this movie, but she already commanded top billing as the poster shows. I came across this gem on Richard S’s blog ‘Dances on the Footpath’. Thank you Richard.


2. Prabhuji tum raakho laaj hamari by Kanan Devi from Hospital (1943), lyrics Pt Madhur, music Kamal Dasgupta

This song is a pleasant discovery while researching this article. I had heard many other songs by the great Kanan Devi, but not this one. So I got my reward even before I wrote the article!


3. Ri gori, Kahe guman kare by KL Saigal from Tansen (1943), lyrics Pt. Indra, music Khemchand Prakash

This song by the incomparable Saigal-Khemchand Prakash duo stays very true to Pilu as heard from regular classical singers. Saigal’s songs are usually the oldest in lists that figure on SoY. Pilu’s timeless appeal has ensured that he makes an appearance at number 3.


4. Paa lagoon kar jori re by Lata Mangeshkar from Aap ki Seva Mein (1947), music by Datta Davjekar

There have been claims that this is the oldest film recording of Lata Mangeshkar. There was a discussion on SoY which belied this claim. This song has a mix of many ragas, but the part ‘Shyam mose na khelo hori’ distinctly evokes Pilu.


5. Dheere se aa ja ri ankhiyan mein by Lata Mangeshkar (solo) and Lata and Chitalkar (duet) from Albela (1951), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music C Ramachandra

There are two excellent loris in Pilu, both duets: this one and Chandan ka Palna, resham ki dori. I had a tough time deciding between the two, but then I opted for this one because of the comparative rarity of the Chitalkar version. The movement at the end of the line ‘… aa ja ri aaja’ is something extremely difficult to manage even for an accomplished singer – the way the second ‘aa ja’ trails off in Lata’s voice. One little doubt – what kind of person sings a lori while driving? AK may also note that this is one song in which the female version trumps the male one in terms of recall!


6. Main soya ankhiyan meeche by Rafi and Asha Bhosle from Phagun (1958), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi, music OP Nayyar

Madhubala is the queen of romance and there is no dearth of songs in which her presence lights up the screen with her own mix of mischief, innocence and sensuality. If I were to pick two songs that best represent her in a leisurely romantic mood, I would always pick this one and Beimaan tore nainawa which is also set in a folk based raga – Pahadi. The setting of the two songs is very similar, with a haystack providing the backdrop. I had first seen this video clip on Doordarshan in the days before the internet, and it stayed with me on the strength of that one viewing. Thanks to the internet we can see it any time now.


7. Tere pyar ka aasra chahta hoon by Mahendra Kapoor and Lata Mangeshkar from Dhool ka Phool (1959), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, music N Dutta

Pilu is at its playful best in this nok-jhonk song. Rajendra Kumar and Mala Sinha, neither of them among my favourite actors, have done an excellent job on screen. The lyrics of this song – a part of them at least – have a special place in my life. ‘Hasino se ahad-e-wafa chahte ho, bade nasamajh ho ye kya chahte ho’ has been my mool-mantra in dealing with hasinas through my life, along with another equally important couplet ‘Hasino se to bas sahab salaamat door ki achchhi, na inki dosti achchhi na inki dushmani achchhi’. I have followed this mantra quite faithfully – the sole exception being the lady who deigned to marry me.


8. Dheere se gagri utaar by Lata Mangeshkar from Zindagi aur Hum (1962), lyrics Shiv Kumar, music Roshan

This song has figured earlier on SoY in AK’s post on Lata Mangeshkar songs by Roshan. That’s where I first noticed it, and it joined the ever growing list of old gems that I discovered thanks to this blog. How can such beautiful songs be forgotten?


9. Tere bin soone nain hamare by Rafi and Lata from Meri Surat Teri Aankhen (1963), lyrics Shailendra, music SD Burman

As musicals go this film was right there at the top. One would be hard put to choose the best song out of the amazing repertoire created by SDB. This duet is as good a choice as any other. It is interesting how SDB has used Rafi and Manna Dey for different songs, building on the strengths of each for the individual nuances of the particular song. It is hard to imagine Manna Dey in this song, or Rafi in Puchho na kaise.


10. Ab ke baras bhej bhaiya ko babul by Asha Bhosle from Bandini (1963), lyrics Shailendra, music SD Burman

Another great musical by SD Burman. I had initially kept this song out of my list because it had figured prominently in AK’s post on Asha Bhosle songs, and generally one avoids repeating songs. But this one proved too beautiful, too evocative to leave out. Two other folk based ragas – Pahadi and Mand – excel in depicting the mood of longing and separation. Pilu – along with other folk ragas of the Ganges valley like Khamaj, Desh and Tilak Kamod – does quite well in presenting a playful and joyous mood. However, it doesn’t lag behind in depicting loneliness and yearning, as this song amply attests.


Let me mention a few more songs before I move to the classical pieces – Maine shayad tumhe pahle bhi kahin dekha hai, Kaali ghata chhaye mora jiya tarsaye, Apni kaho khuchh meri suno, Pi ke ghar aaj pyari dulhaniya chali, Sur na saje kya gaoon main, Zindagi khwab hai, Jhoole mein pawan ke, Kaisa jaadu balam tumne dala, Dhadakte dil ki tamanna ho, More saiyan ji utrenge paar and so many more.

Before moving to the classical pieces I present a traditional wedding song by an amateur group. It is worth buying the album ‘Wedding Songs of Uttar Pradesh’ by Shubha Mudgal to hear the professional version of this and many other wonderful wedding songs. The owners of the album have been quite zealous in removing their songs from YouTube and other music sharing sites.


I begin the presentation of classical pieces with a thumri by Girija Devi. I need not say anything by way of introduction, as this job has been done by Ustad Shujat Khan in the video:


Pilu is normally used for light classical compositions like thumri, dadra, kajri, chaiti, holi etc. I haven’t come across a full-fledged classical recital in this raga by a vocalist. Instrumentalists, the best of them included, have however used it to present in full length pieces. Here is Amjad Ali Khan on his sarod:


The next piece must be a very rare one: a jugalbandi by Vilayat Khan and Ali Akbar Khan. Both Ustads have lovingly explored all nuances of this raga at leisure. An ideal piece for students of music to learn this raga:


When people compare Vilayat Khan and Ravi Shankar they say that Vilayat Khan’s music is much closer to vocal, he is more lyrical. In this piece, however, Ravi Shankar excels in presenting the lyrical beauty of Pilu. Those who don’t have time to hear the entire piece may skip to 19:24 for the ‘drut’ part. It is something amazing!


I close with this amazingly beautiful thumri by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. In just over three minutes the Ustad has explored the entire range of Pilu and left nothing out. Whatever Pilu can do has been done in this short piece:


The painting used as thumbnail in this article is done by Renu Agrawal, the lady who ‘deigned’ to marry Subodh – Lucky Man!  My grateful thanks, Renu, and welcome to SoY – AK.

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

1 PRAVEEN February 15, 2015 at 10:46 am

Vow. Pilu, as Subodh sir says, has been better explored by instrumentalists than vocalists. Have not yet listened to the songs posted here – but am sure they must be a treasure trove. Many from the 40s – must be a first listen for me. Let me come back and hear them at leisure

Hari Prasad Chaurasia with Zakir Hussain were the best combo to get the energy out of Pilu. Had two versions in casette

PS : The sketch is wonderful – similar to the character of the Raaga. Rustic , but still sweet. Thanks for sharing

2 SSW February 15, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Subodh thank you for a wonderful article though I must confess that I have mixed feelings about the Noor Jehan song . I liken it to the curate’s egg, to me it is good in parts. I think I have never been partial to the enunciation and singing technique of the earlier periods of film music with the exception of Saigal. For a second I was stymied as you mentioned Zindagi Khwab hai and my mind drifted to the more famous song from Jagte Raho which did not sound like Pilu at all to me. Then I realized it was the song from Choti Choti Baatein composed by Anil Biswas that you meant. Incidentally Chandrakantha has a blooper there. Somebody should correct it. They have added the Jagte Raho song and credited it to Anil Biswas.

I would like to present this song by Shobha Gurtu a singer I am partial to.

This lovely piece on the guitar by Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra

and Kishore Kumar singing his own composition in Door ka rahi. I like the instrumentation though sparse and it is sung without a classical inflection.

3 yogesh February 15, 2015 at 8:42 pm

sir, this is awesome…why don’t you create a concert between single malts and ragas…for reference

this can be an exotic and heady combination of a single malt responding to a singe raga put discerningly together

4 Anu Warrier February 15, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Subodh, thank you for the wonderful article (and the lovely compliment!). I do not know much about ragas, so it is difficult for me to appreciate the use of it in film songs. But I love the disparate songs you have chosen, and will listen to them, and the non-filmi and instrumental ones once we come back from digging snow in sub-zero weather. 🙂

Thank you once again. And my compliments to your wife – that painting is beautiful!

5 Dee Thakore (derubala) February 16, 2015 at 3:54 am

A wonderfully well written and helpful article.

6 yogesh February 16, 2015 at 6:02 am

sir, here goes,

what axes can we think of when it comes to ragas and then perhaps we can collaborate and curate an e-book entitled: “the Malt Raga”…a symphony of pure raga and matching malts…the dimensions of ragas that come to my mind are: traits, season. time of the day, etc…

” Aa sitamgar, hunar aazmaaein, tu teer aazma, hum jigar aazmayein”

beautiful descriptions indeed..

7 yogesh February 16, 2015 at 6:03 am

ragas ought to have a flavour

8 Subodh Agrawal February 16, 2015 at 7:56 am

Thank you Praveen. Pilu does sound very sweet on the flute. The humble instrument made of a simple bamboo stick goes very well with the earthy tone of Pilu – ‘mitti ki sondhi khushbu’. I will search the net for pieces on the flute and add something in comments.

9 Subodh Agrawal February 16, 2015 at 8:04 am

Thanks SSW. I too am not a big fan of the 30s style of singing. For me the golden age of film music began in late forties – around the advent of Lata – and continued till mid sixties. Still, I found something very sweet about the song from ‘Gul Bakavli’. It does have its historic value in any case.

Thanks for clarifying the confusion about ‘Zindagi khwab hai’. I confess I had included this song in the list without giving it too much thought. You are right, the song from ‘Chhoti Chhoti Batein’ is quintessentially Pilu, while the one from ‘Jagte Raho’ is not. Let me add the link here:

Thanks for the links. I too am a great admirer of Shobha Gurtu. Brij Bhushan Kabra is uniformly good. Special thanks for the song from ‘Door ka Rahi’. Heard it after ages and realized that yes, it is a fine example of Pilu.

10 Subodh Agrawal February 16, 2015 at 8:06 am

Thanks and welcome Anu. As I mentioned this article has been in my mind for a very long time before I put it down on the keyboard, but the reference to your post has been there all through – right from the first mental draft.

11 Subodh Agrawal February 16, 2015 at 8:15 am

Thanks Yogesh. Exploring the relationship between malts and ragas is indeed an idea worth pursuing. As a starter I would say that Pahadi would go quite well with the Highlands, Pilu-Desh-Khamaj-Tilak Kamod with Islay, and the Kalyan family with Speyside. However, these ideas need to be tested experimentally at leisure. This exploration may also succeed in doing something that 40 years of friendly persuasion has failed: introducing AK, the author of SoY, to the pleasures of Dionysian worship!

12 Subodh Agrawal February 16, 2015 at 8:16 am

Thanks Dee Thakore and welcome to SoY.

13 SSW February 16, 2015 at 6:34 pm

I would like to add this piece by Sadahsiva Brahmendra played by U Srinivas, in my opinion one of the greatest musicians of our time. I have been amazed how from his childhood this man was able to coax the the gamakas and svaras and feelings from this compromised fretted instrument. It is a pity he passed away when he had so much more to give. The recording is not the best the sound is faint but I still like to listen to it.

This song by Asha Bhosle

And this song from a film that had rather decent music, sung very well by Shreya Ghosal. It has definite shades of Pilu and is quite humorous.

I really like the play of light in Mrs. Renu Agrawal’s painting.

14 Subodh Agrawal February 16, 2015 at 6:52 pm

Thanks SSW. The U Srinivas piece is excellent. Is he playing Pilu or a Carnatic equivalent?

Good to find one other person who likes the music of ‘Khoya Khoya Chand.’ I think it was one the best releases of recent years in terms of music. Another recent film that scored high on music was last year’s ‘Ankhon Dekhi’.

Yours and Anu’s compliments have been duly conveyed to Renu. Thanks on her behalf.

15 SSW February 16, 2015 at 8:27 pm

Subodh , it is Pilu. The equivalent Carnatic scale would be Kaapi but a Kapi rendition is different to that of Pilu. This is a song from a Malayalam film sung by Chitra the music is by Johnson who was a wonderful composer.

Yes Ankon Dekhi’s music is excellent. I must confess that I had very positive feelings about the music though my reaction to the movie was a little ambivalent and I usually like Rajat Kapoor’s films. Sagar Desai has been a fixture in his movies. I had never heard either Ronkini Gupta and Mansheel Gujral before and found their singing wonderful. There are a lot of very talented young composers out there in India, who have new and wonderful ideas.

16 AK February 16, 2015 at 11:56 pm

Subpdh, SSW
I have been enjoying from sidelines the conversation between you, and some wonderful songs that have been mentioned. Chale aao sainya reminded me of this beautiful song from Bazaar (1981), composed by Khayyam. Is it by any chance Pilu?

17 Subodh Agrawal February 17, 2015 at 8:02 am

AK, ‘Chale aao saiyan’ does sound a lot like Pilu, particularly the opening lines of the stanzas like ‘Sajan mohe tum bin bhaye na…’. Khamaj, Manj Khamaj, Tilak Kamod and Pilu form a quadrilateral of similarity. Most wedding songs, chaitis, kajris etc. of UP and Bihar fall somewhere in this quadrilateral. ‘Kahe ko byahi bides’ from Umraao Jaan is another such song. Another lovely song, that you discovered for all of us, in this quadrilateral is ‘Pyas kuchh aur bhi bhadka di jhalak dikhla ke’.

18 Ravindra Kelkar February 17, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Subodhji, thanks for a wonderful article & excellent collection of songs & classical pieces & special thanks for including the song from the film “Phagun”. There is an interesting anecdote about Phagun songs. All the 11 songs of Phagun were written & handed over to OP Nayyarsaab by Qamer Jalalabadi & OP created all the 11 tunes in one sitting in about 2 to 3 hours. Now OP didn’t have any formal knowledge in Classical Music as he has repeated said it. OP & Ustad Amir Khan were good friends. After hearing those songs, when Amir Khansaheb next time met OP, he asked him “How come you say you don’t know classical music, but still create all the 11 songs in “Phagun” based upon one Raga?”. As was typical with OP , he told him, “I really don’t know Classical Music, By the way, which is that Raga?”. Amir Khansaheb replied “Pilu”. OP was astounded, since he geniunely was not aware of it.
Ustad Abdul Karim Khan was the founder of the famous “Kirana” Gharana, some of the famaous vocalists of “Kirana” gharana are Sawai Gandharva, Hirabai Barodekar, Gangubai Hangal & Bhimsen Joshi. I have posted a link of of Pilu sung by Abdul Karim Khansaheb. Please listen to it, it is just divine.

19 SSW February 17, 2015 at 5:30 pm

AK sorry for the delay, I see Subodh has already answered you. I was torn with that song. There were portions that were a lot like Pilu but the interludes seemed different so I wasn’t sure. My problem is that since I’ve no training in Indian music I tend to fix on the note progression and to me a raga like Pilu (which can appropriate notes other than its scale ) becomes evident in the lower registers. When the song explores the higher register I am lost.

20 SSW February 17, 2015 at 10:40 pm

I might be wrong here but I think this song by another of my favourite music directors has shades of Pilu.

Lovely prelude by the strings and a beautiful cello line just before Lata begins. They really destroyed the music in the revival version.

21 Subodh Agrawal February 18, 2015 at 10:22 am

Thank you Ravindra Kelkar, in particular for the anecdote about OP Nayyar and Ustad Amir Khan.

Thanks also for the link to Ustad Abdul Karim Khan’s piece. I had not heard it earlier. Sudh Pilu is something quite different from Pilu as we normally know it. The other famous composition is Sudh Pilu is ‘Kya karun sajni aaye na balam’ of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saheb.

SSW, thanks for the link to ‘Jaana tha hamse door’. Beautiful song, and it does show shades of Pilu in the lower register, but not in higher notes.

22 Subodh Agrawal February 18, 2015 at 10:29 am

Coming back to comment no. 1 from Praveen. Couldn’t find a Pilu by Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain, Here is one by Chaurasia:

23 SSW February 18, 2015 at 7:54 pm

I was trying to find a Kaapi based song that would follow the Hindustani mode more closely and thought this would be more appropriate. Since this movie was remade in Hindi there is of course the same tune in Hindi but this came first . Illayaraja’s use of the flute and keyboards is wonderful and you can hear the voice violin quite clearly.

I do like this Ali Akbar Khan rendition .

24 Soumya Banerji February 19, 2015 at 6:22 am

I eagerly await your articles, Subodhji. Do try to be more frequent. 🙂 As usual a very nice round-up of Pilu-based songs. Let me add my 2 cents.
“Lagi Nahi Chootey Rama Chahe Jiya Jaye” from Musafir sung by Lata and Dilip Kumar.

I have one quibble though. In your reply to Ravindra Kelkar you mentioned that “Aaye Na Baalam” is in Pilu. I thought it was in Bhairavi. I have the thumri on CD and it says Bhairavi on it.

25 Subodh Agrawal February 19, 2015 at 12:31 pm

SSW, thanks for the links. My children remember the ‘Moondram Pirai’ song as ‘Surmayi ankhiyon mein’ from ‘Sadma.’ When my daughter went abroad for studies she had a recording of this song in my voice!

26 Subodh Agrawal February 19, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Thank you Soumya. The song from Musafir is excellent. I had not heard it before.

Thanks for the correction on ‘Aaye na balam’. I remember from the sleeve of the LP I had as a student that it was ‘Shudh Pilu’. My memory must be getting hazy, as all the references on the net show it as ‘Sindhi Bhairavi’. In any case it doesn’t sound at all like Pilu, as we understand it today.

27 yogesh February 20, 2015 at 7:46 am

hi AK,

i am encouraged by Mr Agrawal. Having been a member of the single malt club at mumbai a couple of years ago..i realise that there are fewer connoisseurs of malts whilst most would like to know more.. Not only do both; malts and ragas need a discerning audience, they are both organic expressions and take years to mature…reminds me of pablo picasso, he said, “It takes a long time to grow young”…i propose to write out a few descriptions of the malts…and serve them here…lets see if we can set up a concert..

28 AK February 21, 2015 at 4:59 pm

You have started your Pilu with Noorjehan’s song in Gul Bakavali (1939). In this tribute to Ghulam Haider, Noorjehan describes when she was about 9-10 years old, Masterji having heard of her classical training, sent for her to Pancholi Studios to demonstrate her singing. She sang a Pilu thumri: Pyaare rasiya Bihari suno binate hamaari. That got her a minor role in Gul Bakavali, but three exquisite songs, which set her on the path of a great career.

Noorjehan’s tribute to Ghulam Haider

Pyaare rasiya Bihari, addressed to Lord Krishna, must be a traditional thumri. I have been since looking for it. Has anyone heard it?

29 Subodh Agrawal February 21, 2015 at 7:53 pm

AK, thanks for this lovely link. ‘Pyare rasiya bihari re, suniyo binati hamari’ is available in some other voices on and, but I couldn’t figure out the right way of playing them. Maybe you will succeed.

30 ASHOK M VAISHNAV February 22, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Welcome back, Subodhji.
Yes, we wish you to be more frequent during 2015 and thereafter.

31 Subodh Agrawal February 22, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Thank you Mr Vaishnav. Looking forward to your next too.

32 PRAVEEN February 26, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Finally today was the day when the Pilu songs made the background music for my office work. Lovely pre-50s song – first timers for me, all four of them including ‘Paa lagoon kar jori re’

I would have preferred ‘Beiman tore nainawa’ , but the picturisation of ‘Main soya ankhiyan meeche’ takes the cake. One of the most romantic visuals (of course, ignoring Bharat Bhushan!!)

All said, the best is ‘Ab ke baras bhej bhaiya ko babul’. Can’t have enough of this Asha number

Listening to these in sequence, I’ve got a fair idea of a Pilu structure (am raaga illiterate, though have been listening to Hindustani from my teenage!!).

A sunny noon time – with not even a faint breeze to move a leaf; a lonely dusty path – these are the images that comes to my mind while listening to film songs in Pilu. Thanks for the article

33 Subodh Agrawal February 26, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Thank you Devendra.

I entirely agree with you on Bharat Bhushan. He is a lot worse in ‘Zindagi bhar nahin bhulegi ye barsaat ki raat’. To recall a comment I had made on this song on Anu Warrier’s blog: ‘Bharat Bhushan looks about as romantic as a neta delivering a funeral oration!’

Raga’s evoke different images in different minds. I would go with yours up to an extent but add the first few drops of rain and ‘mitti ki sondhi khushboo’.

34 SSW February 26, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Subodh, I’d like your opinion on this particular song in Malayalam composed by Salil Chowdhury.
It seems to be in Pilu sometimes and at other points it seems to veer off into Khamaj territory and then elsewhere. Typically Salilda, a complex tune with the notes all over the place it would challenge any singer and S Ambili has negotiated troubled waters with a great deal of aplomb. There is also a reed counterpoint in the song during the vocals which provides a nascent chord progression.

35 Subodh Agrawal February 27, 2015 at 7:53 am

SSW, the initial alaap of the song makes it amply clear that Salilda had no intention whatsoever of remaining within the confines of a raga. One does hear Pilu and Khamaj occasionally but also a lot that doesn’t sound like either.

36 mumbaikar8 March 1, 2015 at 6:41 am

Sorry for being late. Better late than never
Whenever I have to comment on Ragas or Vadyas I plead guilty of my ignorance. Initially I had some hope that that by reading and discussing with knowledgeable persons on SOY I can expect to get better, but Anu shattered all my hopes, if better half of SSW cannot, how can I?
I have resigned to the fact that it is not possible. But that does not deter me from enjoying and appreciating good work. Thank you.
I am equally ignorant about fine art इस लिए इतना कह सकती हूँ के रेनू की पेंटिंग ने आपके ब्लॉ में चाँद लगाये है (मगर कितने …..एक या चार अब इतनी समझ नहीं है

37 Subodh Agrawal March 1, 2015 at 7:58 am

Thank you Mumbaikar, on my behalf as well as my wife’s.

38 SSW March 2, 2015 at 12:42 am

Mumbaikar8 you shouldn’t believe everything Anu says. She has had five years of good solid carnatic classical vocal training under her belt and even had an arangetram which is more instruction in music than I have ever had.

39 mumbaikar8 March 2, 2015 at 5:32 pm

I am sorry I took Anu oh her face value, I did not know she was being humble.

40 Ashwin Bhandarkar March 21, 2015 at 11:01 pm

I came across this wonderful website last week… and I am hooked!

A song, which IMO, absolutely deserves its place in any list of Pilu-based film songs is ‘Nadiyaa kinaare’ from Abhimaan. Was it not listed only because this site restricts itself to songs from the ’30s to the ’60s?

Prior to it being recast in tunes based on other ragas, the Tulsidas bhajan ‘Raghuvara tumko meri laaj’ used to be sung in Pilu. Unfortunately, I could not find a vocal rendition of this version on Youtube. Here is an instrumental one by Sangeeta Shankar, N.Rajam’s daughter:

Last but not least, the peerless MS singing the Purandaradasa kriti in Kaapi ‘Jagadodhaarana’ :

41 AK March 21, 2015 at 11:41 pm

Ashwin Bhandarkar,
Welcome to SoY and thanks a lot for your appreciation. I hope you get to spend more time with SoY and participate actively. The guest author of this article, Subodh, should be responding to you soon.

42 Ashwin Bhandarkar March 21, 2015 at 11:53 pm

IMO, the Sara Akaash song is not in Pilu, but in Gara – the komal dhaivat which is so vital to establish the Pilu identity is missing in the song.

Here is an article by the multi-faceted Deepak Raja on Gara and its flavours… or rather, its additive fragrances to other thumri-ang ragas including Pilu.:

43 Subodh Agrawal March 22, 2015 at 8:23 am

Thanks Ashwin Bhandarkar for your appreciation and the links you have provided. I second AK in hoping you will be a regular visitor to this blog and comment frequently, as I can see your appreciation of music is backed by sound knowledge.

Gara has been a subject of much discussion elsewhere on this blog and the Deepak Raja article has been referred more than once. Let me say this: Gara comes in several flavours – the Pilu flavour, Jaijaiwanti flavour, Desh flavour and so on. The ‘Sara Akash’ song does have a definite Pilu flavour. My approach to ragas is based more on movement and mood, less on the sargam. One can create the mood of Pilu quite well without touching komal dhaivat at all.

Special thanks for the Kapi link of Subbulakshmi. The other day someone in a music function in the neighbourhood was playing the song ‘Roja jaaneman’ on flute and I thought it sounded a lot like Kapi.

44 Ashwin Bhandarkar March 22, 2015 at 9:20 am

AKji and Subodhji: Thanks a lot for your kind words. This blog is like a magnet – I can’t help being drawn to it :), and I will definitely contribute my mite by way of comments.

Subodhji: I appreciate and respect your approach to ragas….but I would beg to differ with your view that the Saara Aakaash song is in Pilu. Let us agree to disagree on the matter then 🙂

While on the subject of Pilu, I cannot resist quoting from the chapter ‘The A to Z of being Indian’ in in Shashi Tharoor’s book ‘The Elephant, the Tiger & the Cellphone’:

“The late Piloo Mody once defined All India Radio as an institution designed for the promotion of two women: Indira Gandhi and Lata Mangeshkar. He was half wrong. Lata has done far more for All India Radio than All India Radio can ever do for her.”

45 Ashwin Bhandarkar March 22, 2015 at 9:34 am

Another MS gem in Pilu/Kaapi: ‘Aaj suni main Hari aawan ki aawaaz’ from Meera:

46 Ashwin Bhandarkar March 22, 2015 at 10:19 am

A patriotic song all Indians know, and which happens to be in Raga Pilu: ‘Saare jahaan se acchaa’:

47 Subodh Agrawal March 22, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Thanks Ashwin Bhandarkar. No quarrel with your stand on the ‘Sara Akash’ song. Trying to put folk tunes categorically in one raga or other is a hazardous undertaking. However, I am quite confused by the komal dhaivat part. Komal dhaivat is used along with its shuddha counterpart in Pilu but I don’t find it ‘essential’. One can do a lot in Pilu using the two gandhars, the two nishads; shuddha rishabh, and madhyam and of course shadj and pancham. The dhaivats show only brief glimpses in passing.

48 Ashwin Bhandarkar March 22, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Subodhji: I agree that folk songs cannot be straitjacketed into ragas. Wrt my point on komal dhaivat and Pilu, it would have been more correct to put it this way: without the komal dhaivat and the komal gandhaar, both of which are absent in the ‘Saara Aakaash’ song, the raga cannot be Pilu.

49 N Venkataraman March 22, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Subodh ji,
I am terribly late in responding to your post on Raag Pilu. I am sorry for that. Compelling situation did not permit me to come up with my views earlier. I went through the post again a few days back. I enjoyed the post and the songs. A most awaited post after a long time. Thank you for presenting a wonderful selection of Pilu compositions. So here I go with my “brief” comments !!!

In my humble opinion, Raag Pilu’s rendition demands more of emotional expression than grammar. Most of the compositions in this Raag depict Shringar Ras, Bhakti Ras, Viraha/shoka Ras. Your selection of songs represents all these aspects of this Raag. The first four songs from the vintage era carry a special charm. The melancholy touch in the first three songs of the forties appeals to the heart. The Lata Mangeshkar number, in the style of Thumri, depicting Shringar Ras and ending with a typical laggi, was also impressive. The selection of the songs from the fifties predominantly represents Shringar Ras. The three excellent compositions from the sixties are superb and we find both Roshan and S D Burman using Raag Piloo for depicting Viraha/sokha Ras. I feel PIlu has its origin in folk songs, depicting the diverse emotions. Even when the songs represent shringar or Bhakti Ras, a touch of pathos adds to its appeal.
Here I would like to add a song in Pilu from a Marathi film Pinjraa. I feel the singer is Lata Mangeshkar. Lyrics Jagadish Khebodkar and music by Ram Kadam. The film was set in the “Tamasha folk mould”.
Moving to the light classical numbers, you have presented two fine Thumris by Girja Devi and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, in two different styles. Listening to them was absolutely a pleasure.
I believe the traditional thumri singing comes from Benaras and Lucknow, known as Purab ang, rendered at a leisurely tempo, with an underlying feel of pathos. Punjab style, I understand is an offshoot of the Purab ang. Ali Baksh Kasurwale received talim in the rendering of Thumri from Maharaj Binadeen and Maharaj Kalika Prasad of Lucknow gharana. To this, the stalwarts of Patiala Gharana added sensuous approach and delicate melodic embellishments. These and the embedding of swift movements of the Tappa style and folk tunes of Punjab made it quite different from the Purab ang and thus the distinct Punjabi ang of Thumri emerged. Both Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and his brother Barkat Ali Khan inherited this style from their father Ali Baksh and gave it a new dimension. In fact Bade Ghulma Ali Khan composed many Thumris under the name “Sabrang”.
Since Thumri originally belongs to the Purab ang, most of the compositions were/are in Braj Bhasha, did the Punjabi Ang continue to use the same dialect. Can you or somebody confirm whether the Punjabi ang had Braj Influence? The Piloo Thumri of Bade Ghulam Ali set to Dadra was also delightful.
Saiyaan Bolo Tanik Mose
Rhayo Na Jaaye
Karo Has Has Batiyaan
Laago Mori Chhatiyaan
Nij Prem Ki Moti Rolo

Here I will like to add two songs. The first one a Marathi composition by the famous Natya Sangeetkar Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande. I understand that this is a Natya sangeet composed by Annsaheb Kirloskar and popularized by Balgandharv.

The second one a Bengali song rendered by Begum Akhtar, penned by Gyaan Prakash Ghosh.

Presenting the greatest Sarod and Sitar players of our time was great, and added to the listening pleasure. To this let me add a Jugal bandhi based on Raag Pilu by Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar.

You and our knowledgeable friends have mentioned/added some more songs and put up a lively discussion. SSW has mentioned about Kapi in his comments and added the instrumental presentation of Bhajare Yadunatham. This Sadahsiva Brahmendra’s compostion and Jagadodharana, Purandaradasa Kriti rendered by M S Subbalakshmi are my favourites. The later was posted by Mr. Ashwin Bhandarkar. Thanks to both of them. Before I take leave I will like to share a very interesting explanation about the difference between Karnataka Kapi and Hindustani Pilu by Prince Rama Verma of Travancore. The first part which contains the explanation is followed by a Veena recital in the same Raag by Prince Rama Verma in two parts. Interested listeners may listen to the other two parts.

Thank you very much once again and will be looking forward to your next post soon.

Please convey my compliment to your wife for the wonderful painting.

50 Subodh Agrawal March 23, 2015 at 9:15 pm

Welcome back Mr Venkataraman and thanks for your knowledgeable comments which, as always, have enhanced the value of this post. Thanks also for the links. I am listening to Vihara Maanasa Raama as I type this and it is beautiful. ‘Dere Kanha’ reminds me of a song from a Hindi film featuring Joy Mukherji and Sharmila Tagore – ‘O Kanhaiya … aaj panghat pe Radha akeli khadi.’ Begam Akhtar’s composition has the same gentle sensuousness of Saiyan bolo of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

51 N Venkataraman March 23, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Thank you Subodh ji.

52 devendra November 17, 2015 at 1:25 am

” Mohe Marag Nek Baatade” sung by Smt . Shruti Sadolikar is another fine rendition in raag Pilu. devendra

53 Subodh Agrawal November 18, 2015 at 11:30 am

Thanks Devendra. Do you know any audio or video link to Shruti Sadolikar’s Pilu? My search on the internet just brought me back to your comment.

54 devendra November 19, 2015 at 1:12 am

I have some songs by smt. shruti sadolikar on audio cassette. U tube has some video links. thanks devendra

55 chitrapatsangeet November 19, 2015 at 3:02 pm

How about “Cha Gaye Badal Neel Gagan par”from Chitralekha?

56 Subodh Agrawal November 19, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Thanks Chitrapatsangeet. I had not heard this song before. I wasn’t too sure as I listened to the whole song but the final instrumental piece left me in no doubt. It is Pilu. Thanks.

57 Vinod Thomas May 9, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Hi, Tu jo mere sur mein by Yesudas/Hemlata is also Pilu and a great song!!

58 Bibhuti Dash May 15, 2016 at 4:39 pm

I think Sir you have forgotten Nadiya Kinare Herai aye Kangna by Lata from Abhiman.It is one of the outstanding songs in Pilu.Regards.

59 RSR September 8, 2016 at 1:50 pm

‘Murli Bairan Bhai’ in NEW DELHI film ( Shankar Jaikishen) is said to be in Piloo ragam. No?

60 Subodh Agrawal September 10, 2016 at 10:03 am

Dear RSR, ‘Murli bairan bhai’ does sound like Pilu in the Mukhda, particularly the second ‘…bairan bhai’ with which it ends. The stanza seems to depart from it though.

61 RSR September 10, 2016 at 10:22 am

Another MS gem in Pilu/Kaapi: ‘Aaj suni main Hari aawan ki aawaaz’ from Meera:….. ( of the 17 songs for which I am hunting for the ragam , one has been given here. (Ashwin Bhandarkar).Many thanks.
There is a lot of confusion between Pilu and Kafi. Our esteemed experts are requested to clear my doubts. I am not trained in classical music. (” SSW has mentioned about Kapi in his comments and added the instrumental presentation of Bhajare Yadunatham. This Sadahsiva Brahmendra’s compostion and Jagadodharana, Purandaradasa Kriti rendered by M S Subbalakshmi are my favourites….Sri.Venkataraman).. But as I understand, typical Kafi ragam songs are 1) Murali Mohana ( MS in Meera). 2) Vaishanava Janatho (music I came to know recently was set by Piano Venkataraman of Hari Thum Haro of MS). 3) Balam Aaye ( Saigal) 4) Poonkuyil koovidum by DK Pttammall in the same tune lyrics by Kalki.
Now coming to Jagadhodharana, it does not sound like the above Kafi songs at all. It may be Pilu. So must be MS song Bajare Yadhunatham. But , most blurbs mention the Jagadhodharana song as in Kafi.
May I request some clarification?

62 Ashwin Bhandarkar September 18, 2016 at 12:08 am


The Kaapi (usually spelt as Kapi) Raagam of Carnatic music is equivalent to Raga Peelu/Pilu in Hindustani music. Raga Kaafi (usually spelt as Kafi) of Hindustani music is equivalent to the Raagam Karaharapriya of Carnatic Music. Hope this explanation is kaafi and clarifies your doubts.

63 SSW September 18, 2016 at 2:27 am

Ashwin. 🙂

64 RSR September 18, 2016 at 12:06 pm

I would group the songs a) Vaishnava Janatho by MS ( music by Piano Vaidhyanathan b) Murali Mohana in Meera-MS c) Poonkuyil koovidum
-DKP d) Baratha desa naree ke hum ( Ramarajyam). …as all of Carnatic Kapi ragam. and would place MS a) Bajare Yadhunatham and b) Brundhavana Kunja Bavana (MS-Hindi Meera) c) Jagadhoddhrana (Purandharadasa) by MS in Pilu . (Carnatic).
I am thinking of raga names as mentioned in Carnatic only. If this is correct, that would be enough.

65 Subodh Agrawal September 22, 2016 at 7:31 am

Thanks RSR, Ashwin and SSW for your interesting contribution.

AK, something has gone wrong with email alerts. I have checked the box to receive email alerts for comments, but I don’t get them.

66 Subodh Agrawal June 2, 2017 at 1:34 pm

The Pilu-Gara issue just got more confusing. ‘Mohe panghat pe nandlal’ from ‘Mughal-e Azam’ always sounded like Pilu to me, but I deferred to more knowledgeable sources to assign it to Gara. A couple of days back I was watching Ustad Shujat Hussain Khan’s afternoon program on DD Bharti in which he introduces a raga and presents a few semi-classical and classical pieces by various artists. This episode was on Mishra Pilu and the opening bandish was ‘Mohe panghat pe nandlal’ sung almost exactly like the film song.

67 Subodh Agrawal October 16, 2017 at 4:57 pm

Vinod Thomas @ 57 and Bibhuti Dash @ 58: Thanks for reminding me of these songs.

Sorry for the delayed response. The email alert for 57 was received today. Haven’t yet received the alert for 58.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: