My ten favourite hindi film bhajans
Hindi film bhajans are not my cup of tea. They are mostly preachy and weepy, and in worst cases, also very demanding. God give me this and god give me that, as if God is a servant to be ordered around. ;-) That is why I thought this will be any easy list to make. In fact dustedoff and I spoke about it some 2-3 years back.
While collecting songs for this list I did find some soulful music going with some good bhajans with content.
So as to boil the list down to 10, I had to make some rules. Well, in fact only one rule that the songs/bhajans must be sung by person(s) sitting/standing in front of an idol of a god or goddess (or something equivalent). Songs of wandering monks, ascetics or mendicants will constitute a separate list.
So, here is my list of 10 favourite Hindi film bhajans
1. Ghunghat Ke Pat Khol Re – Jogan (1950)
MD: Bulo C. Rani; Lyrics: Meerabai; Singer: Geeta Dutt
Nargis enacts the role of jogan (a female ascetic), who falls in love with Dilip Kumar. The Meerabai bhajan, asking one to renounce the worldly pleasures to get a glimpse of god, seems to be lost in her. Geeta Dutt manages to convey this message eloquently, though it is in sharp contrast to Nargis’ acting, who by fervent repetition of the bhajan lines hopes to suppress her feelings and passion.
Ghunghat ke pat khol re (Raise the veil) plays on the theme of bridal night. The bride is asked to raise her veil, so she can see her beloved. Meerabai turns it around and asks to raise the veil of maya and see everybody as one.
2. Hari Om…, Man Tarasat – Baiju Bawra (1952)
MD: Naushad; Lyrics: Shakeel ; Singer: Mohd. Rafi
What a voice! What a composition! What lyrics! A sublime combination of three great talents! Three Muslims composing a Hindu-bhajan! But such a novelty as it is made out to be, it isn’t. In the Sufi tradition, the spiritual-master is often lauded in songs. Baiju sings for a vision of Hari, but here the Hari is not Krishna but his guru Swami Haridas. The pleadings for a vision in most bhajans are also often misunderstood as a wish for a physical vision, which in fact is for a divine realisation.
3. Tu Pyaar ka Saagar Hai – Seema (1955)
MD: Shanakar-Jaikishan; Lyrics: Shailendra ; Singer: Manna Dey
Amazing song, sung serenely by Manna Dey (Lately, I am re-discovering many songs of his!). The serenity of the bhajan is matched by Balraj Sahni’s facial expression. Such a gentle and kind look, incorporating the message of Love is God and God is Love. An often to be heard phrase in so many religions, but unfortunately often forgotten at crucial points in history. But on the other hand maybe we just notice the cases when it failed rather than the most daily cases when it successful.
4. Naa Me Dhan Chahu – Kala Bazaar (1960)
MD: S. D. Burman; Lyrics: Shailendra ; Singer: Geeta Dutt & Sudha Malhotra
Leela Chitnis again playing a sick mother with her trademark shawl around her. Poor thing always damned to play the sick, consumptive mother! But this duet with Geeta Dutt and Sudha Malhotra is so sweet! And what I like about this song is also the picturisation. The horizontal and transversal lines of the staircase make up a nice maze in which Dev is shown to be trapped. I don’t know why, but when I listen to this I always have to think of Rita Mae Brown’s quote “Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself.”
5. Hey Ram Hamare Ramchandra – Guide (1965)
MD: S. D. Burman; Lyrics: Shailendra ; Singer: Manna Dey
This was well before a political party turned Ram into a bad word. Ram of Ayodhya is scientifically at least, a comparatively recent phenomenon. But the word Ram is, said by some, even pre-vedic. No wonder, that the chant has such an aura to it. Raju, the guide, in his penance gets the vision of the divine and the realisation of his identification with the universal self. What dies is his ego (and his desires and aversions), leaving him pure and one.
Few years back I during a meditation course I participated in a ‘Ram’-chant. It was eerie and at the same time purifying.
6. Tora Mann Darpan Kehlaye – Kaajal (1965)
MD: Ravi; Lyrics: Sahir ; Singer: Asha Bhosle
A Sahir bhajan! And it can only be deep philosophical one. Here the mind is called the mirror and the witness to everything in life. I think Sahir used the word man (mind) instead of self, because it would create confusion for the listeners. Deep, profound, beautiful!
7. Sooraj Ki Garmi Se Jalte – Parinay (1974)
MD: Jaidev; Lyrics: Ramanand Sharma; Singer: Sharma brothers
A male quartet! Quite a rare appearance in Hindi film songs. I haven’t heard any other bhajans from Sharma brothers, but like this a lot. I can still remember when I saw this song on DD at the age of 12 or so. Neither did I know what they were singing nor did I understand it, but I was fascinated. I was transfixed.
8. Saancha Naam Tera – Julie (1975)
MD: Rajesh Roshan; Lyrics: Anand Bakshi; Singer: Asha Bhosle & Usha Mangeshkar
I took this one because it has such a good melody and for the fact that Asha and Usha’s voices blend so good together.
9. Saanware sunawo bansuri – Baseraa 
MD: R. D. Burman; Lyrics: Gulzar; Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
No list of mine is complete without a Pancham song. Lyrics by Gulzar here aren’t one of the complex ones with empty vessel night and such. Straight simple lyrics with a soothing melody, which caresses the heart and soul. The way Lata sings ‘Brindavani radha banu,..’, the scent of the flowers of Brindavan wafts through!
Forget the video, just listen to the song!
10. Pal Pal Hai Bhari – Swades (2004)
MD: A. R. Rahman; Lyrics: Javed Akthar; Singers: Madhushree and Vijay Prakash
Okay this is not a bhajan in the strictest sense. The beginning part is made up of much Sitagiri. I took it in because I like the concluding lines so much. Raavan and Ram are not somewhere outside. Both of them abide in one’s own self. Ram is the divine part of self, Raavan the ego. Remove Raavan and you have Ram with you!! Lovely!
So, which are your favourite bhajans. And as usual my rules don’t apply to you!