The Great Qawwalis of Indian Cinema

As music, as an art form, as a medium of devotion, as a form of flirting, The Qawwali has been indispensable in Hindi Cinema (as has somehow the association of Rishi Kapoor with them). In Indian Cinema, it started off way back in the 1940s and can be heard even today, albeit pictured and presented differently than the way it used to be, as a musical tradition Qawwali stretches back more than 700 years (when it was sung in the praise of Allah (hamd), in praise of the Prophet Muhammad (naat) and in praise of Imam Ali (manqabat))

The Filmi Qawwali  has always been trying to keep that Qawwali tradition alive. 

Here is a list of 11 Great Qawwalis spanning across the decades of our film industry (in No Particular Order)

Mann Ye Bawra (Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi) - 

I honestly feel like thanking Shantanu Moitra for composing this piece. The soul of the Qawwali is this sher from Mirza Ghallib -

"हजारों ख्वाहिशें ऐसी कि हर ख्वाहिश पे दम निकले
बहुत निकले मेरे अरमाँ, लेकिन फिर भी कम निकले"

Swanand Kirkire & Ajay Jhingran have written the song around Mirza Sahab's masterpiece and sung it equally soulful. Though Hazaaron Khwahishein Asis had a poor run in theatres but he film won the Filmfare Best Story Award, while Shiney Ahuja won the Filmfare Best Debut Award for his performance. One interesting fact to know would be that Swanand Kirkire was also the associate director of this movie and has acted as a villager in the movie. Kirkire has also composed and sung two other notable qawwalis - 'Ajab Teri Karni Maula' from Striker and 'Khoya Khoya Chand' from the movie with the same name.

Khwaja Mere Khwaja (Jodha Akbar) - 

As you would notice, the list has 3 Sufiyana masterpieces from A.R.Rahman. When it comes to a sufi feel, no one does a better job than Rahman Sahab. It is amazing to see that Rahman who was an atheist through much of his childhood understands Sufism so deep inside. He admits that the early death of his father was the reason why he later on converted to Islam in 1989 and this is why the soul of his music has been most amazing when it has a Sufi touch. 

Kashif was brilliant with the lyrics of this qawwali and the duo makes you feel as soulful as Hrithik is shown to feel in the song. And needless to mention the huge list of awards that the Mozart of Madras-  Rahman Sahab - got for his music in this movie (Filmfare, IIFA and Star Screen for best background score, V Shantaram Award and IIFA for best music director). 

Though I don't respect Star Screen Awards much but it was really pleasant to see Raju Khan getting awarded as the Best Choreographer for this particular Qawwali and indeed he deserved it. 


Piya Haji Ali (Fiza)

So, this is second by Rahman Sahab in the category we were talking about. This was the only song in Fiza (directed by Khalid Mohommed) which was composed by him (rest were composed by Anu Malik). Rahman has always had an eye for singers which could do wonders with the song, his selection for the most suitable voice has always been brilliant (Remember Daler Menhdi in"Rang de Basanti" ? Till 2006, Daler Paji had sung only 3-4 songs for Indian Cinema,  out of which two were for Rahman - one was Nach Le in Lakeer and the other one was Rang De Basanti - title track)

A. R. Rahman, Kadar Ghulam Mushtafa, Murtaza Ghulam Mushtafa and Srinivas have given their faqeerana touch to this qawwali shot in Haji Ali for the brilliant lyrics by Shaukat Ali (He is the one behind Kaddi Te Has Bolve, which was used in Love Aaj Kal of Imtiyaz Ali). The music comes very close to making you experience the actual tranquility that you feel when you actually visit the shrine. 

And yeah....You all love this song...Don't you?

Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahi (Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahi)

Hmm...I have devised a new name for 'this kind', Apart from qawwali, I call this - "Nokjhok-Sawal Jawab-Inkaar-Iqraar" kind. Many qawwalis have the same pattern, shuruaat heroine k gusse se hoti thi aur kuch 9-10 minute me iqraar-e-ishq (And you say we Indians are slow...huh?)

Entire soundtrack of 9 songs by R.D.Burman was brilliant and the movie was a genuine musical. "Bachna Ae Haseeno" was one of the biggest chart-busters of the year 1977, and was remade into Yash Chopra's, Bachna Ae Haseeno. Rafi sahab got a Filmfare for the movie. Other sooper-dooper hits of the movie were - Kya Hua Tera Wada, Chaand Mera Dil, Mil Gaya Humko Saathi mil gaya, Tum Kya Jano Mohabbat,Dil Kya Mehfil Hai, Hum Ko To Yaara Teri Yaari and Yeh Ladka Hae Allah. 

Parda Hai Parda (Amar Akbar Anthony)

May be this one would be the most popular of them all. This qawwali, from Amar Akbar Anthony, was so popular that it was ranked second in the Binaca Geetmala year-end chart for 1977.
(we recommend you to read about Binaca Geetmala too)
Laxmikant-Pyarelal were awarded the Filmfare Best Music Director Award for 1977 on the strength of Amar Akbar Anthony's soundtrack, and particularly this song. Mohammed Rafi was nominated as the best playback singer that year for the same song.
Rishi Kapoor was trying to impress Neetu Singh in this qawwali and indeed he could impress pretty much. (Aisa be-parda kiya ki dono by-god-touch ho gae aur masha-allah aaj tak sabse behtareen couple lagte hain)

Arziyaan (Delhi 6) - 

This one is my favourite. This is exactly what happens when a musician like Rahman, a sufi singer like Kailash Kher (and Javed Ali too) and a lyricist like Prasoon Joshi collide. The Big Bang. 

The Big Bang which makes Abhishek Bachchan and Sonam "tolerable". And jokes apart, what beautiful lyrics !!! - 
"Arziyaan Sari Main, Chehre Pe Likh Ke Laaya Hoon
Tumse Kya Mangu Main, Tum Khud Hi Samjah Lo Maula
Dararein Dararein Hain Mathe Pe Maula
Maramat Mukdar Ki Kar Do Maula, Mere Maula..."

A friend, who had not bothered to google about the movie at the time of the music release had commented 'Kya badhiya lyrics likhi hain Gulzar sa'ab ne', I guess Prasoon Joshi should take that as a compliment, that he was/is able to write Gulzar-esque lyrics effectively.

Ishaaron ko Agar Samjho (Dharma)

Dharma HAD a young hero (Naveen Nischal, whose star was on a rise at that time), but he was easily overshadowed by the awesomeness of Pran, who played the titular character. It was a movie in which Pran sa'ab donned many garbs, one of them being of a Qawwali singer, the product of which is an excellent 'competitive qawwali' between him and Bindu. It is one of those songs in which the singer (the legend and qawwali staple Rafi sa'ab) is equally complemented by the actor on screen. And it's not just Pran sa'abs excellence, Bindu's lyrical warnings (voiced by Asha tai) have the right amount of playfulness in them.

This is a qawwali which works both as a Video as well as in its audio form. The poetic battle between the two singers has no love lost between them. The lyrics get physical and provocative, and not in a sensual but in a violent way.

tumhaari zaat kyaa hai
teri auqaat kya hai
tumhaare kyaa iraade
ye pahle tu bata de
husn ki maar buri hai
ishq ki haar buri hai
nazar ka teer jo chhodoon
teer ko aise todoon
agar ghoonghat utha doon
to main aankhen ladaa doon
kamar ke dekh jhatke
idhar bhi dekh paltke
tu mujhko na pahchaane
mujhe bhi tu na jaane
badan mera hai kundan
mera dil bhi chandan
main chandan ki khushboo hoon
main chandan
main chandan
main chandan hu bahu hoon
ishaaron ko agar samjho raaz ko raaz rahne do
ishaaron ko agar samjho raaz ko raaz rahne do

Ae meri Zohra Jabeen (Waqt)

This is as much a qawwali as it is a passionate Love song. It is about the middle-age of love, and how a man fondly tells his beloved that she is as beautiful as she ever was (before cheekily adding that he too is still young) and that despite the passage of time he still promises to give up his life for her if need be.

Such simplicity and purity of expression, aided by the larger then life Balraj Sahni who sang with Manna Dey's voice and quintessential filmy mother Achala Sachdev (may her soul rest in peace), this was a song which was not composed by the film's music director Ravi (who has composed one of the most beautiful songs of all time - Aage bhi jaane na tu, from the same film) but it was by Ustad Abdul Gaffoor Breshna, whose name has sadly not been as popular as time has made this qawwali.

Teri Mehfil Mein (Mughal E Azam)

If you are less lazy than we are then search for the original Black and White clipping of this song and watch it for Madhubala in all her Ethereal beauty (the colourization of the epic left parts of it to be very candy-coated in appearance). The lyrics are a high-art. Who knew Sparring between two women to gain the attention of the man they admire could be so beautiful!

For Mughal-E-Azam, K Asif ensured that everything should be perfect. When he had to show the courtship of Saleem and Anarkali, he provided the voice of the legendary Bade Ghulam Ali in the background, and when he had to shoot a Qawwali, he got the best in the business- Shamshad Begum and Lata Mangeshkar. Add the music of Naushad and lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni, and the result was/is magical.

The couplets are well crafted, check out the differences in approach of the two ladies

'तेरी महिफल में किस्मत  आज़मा कर हम भी देखेंगे,
घडी भर को तेरे नजदीक आकर हम भी देखेंगे. …'


तेरी महिफल में किस्मत  आज़मा कर हम भी देखेंगे,
तेरा कदमो पे सर अपना जुका कर हम भी देखेंगे …

No points for guessing which line is sung by whom.

Hume to Loot Lia Mil k Husn Waalon ne (Al Hilal)

We would highly recommend you to take a couple of minutes and watch the whole video of this awesome qawwali, we are sure all of you would have heard this song and its various versions from times immemorial, but credit must be given to the original singer (who features in the video) to have made this simple sounding song so memorable.

The video itself is quite funny, it might seem dated but the frivolous nature of the actors on the screen is infectious and charming, in fact it seems quite clear that none of the actors on screen (working in an obscure movie named Al Hilal) had any notion that they were creating history. This is a light, flirtatious qawwali that beats the hell out of all present Emraan Hashmi courtship songs (Tu hi mera mera mera mera mera mera mera mera mera).

The object of affection (as it used to be at that time) are dressed 'modernly' while the dudes Sing around them sharing the lyrics as private inside-jokes. Credit must also be given to an innovative form of Ending to the song and the movie. 

Na to Karvaan Ki Talaash (Barsaat ki Raat)

This song is the End-all and the Be-all of all filmy qawwalis. It's epic at 12 minutes, but it keeps you in thrall throughout. Music by Roshan and the singers being a constellation of stars, it had (staple singing actor) Bharat Bhushan, and of course the most beautiful woman of all time (although she appears only in glimpses in the qawwali), but it's not just the lead players, the expressions of all the players in this qawwali are dramatic and well etched.

In the 12 minutes journey of epic awesomeness the song, it starts with the lament of someone looking for love, and then progresses to the musings of an unrequited lover, then it makes you experience the pain and anguish of being in love, and then ascends (descends, take your pick) into the limit of Deewangi (Jo dawa ke naam pe zeher de...)

The second half of the song is where the tempo picks up, and the song slowly reaches its destination - and becomes a Qawwali about Ishq. The lyrics transcend the love between a man and a woman, and touches Sufism, and the Bhakti movement too. The playful nature of the relationship between Krishna Radha is mentioned, the journey of Moses to the mountain, and the love of Meerabai for her Lord is also Ishq.

The song ends in a crescendo wherein the singer says Intehaan to ye hai ki bande ko khuda karta hai ishq (The limit of love is that God Loves Man).

It's the best qawwali there is, it's the best Sufi song, the best love song, it's the alpha and Omega of Filmy Qawwalis and if you haven't watched/heard it till now, you have done yourself a great disservice.


{ Mandy Kumbi } at: May 15, 2012 at 7:01 AM said...

good collection indeed. how much ever i hate to admit, even 'tumse milke dil ka hai jo haal kya kahe' from 'main hoon na' also makes for a decent number.

{ Dhruv } at: May 15, 2012 at 7:36 AM said...

@Vaibhav Srivastav : Correct me if I am wrong... But I don't think RD Burman won a Filmfare for "Hum kisi se kam nahin", (though I believe he should have!)... In fact, it was in 1978 (and not 1977) that Laxmikant-Pyarelal won the filmfare for "Amar Akbar Anthony", the movie to which "Hum kisi se kam nahin" lost out...

{ vakrachakshu } at: May 15, 2012 at 8:19 AM said...

I correct you... :)
You are wrong

{ B. Kamna Will...... } at: May 15, 2012 at 8:26 AM said...

hoke majboor from haqeeqat is missing from the list ... would have loved to read something about it ... nonetheless its an amazing collection .. :) ... heard 'arziyan' for the first time and now it forms a part of my playlist !! ... keep up the good work ... and do write a piece on Guru Dutt ...

{ vakrachakshu } at: May 15, 2012 at 8:50 AM said...

Guru Dutt will surely be here pretty soon

{ Vaibhav Srivastav } at: May 15, 2012 at 9:49 AM said...

@B. Kamna Will... there is a small section on Guru Dutt in this

{ B. Kamna Will...... } at: May 15, 2012 at 10:57 AM said...

my bad i missed that article.. read it just now ..thanks for the link .. :) ..

*respect* ..

{ Nandit Pathak } at: May 15, 2012 at 10:39 PM said...

Bade Ghulam Ali Sa'b charged Rs. 25,000 for each of the two songs he sang in the movie, at a time when Rafi sa'b and Lata di were paid less than Rs. 500 per song (I think Lata di got Rs. 100 per song here).

And Pablo da, you missed out Shirdi wale Sai baba!

{ mayank } at: May 16, 2012 at 2:04 AM said...

I think the blogger Vaibhav is slightly insecure about his position. He corrected the information regarding daler menhadi that I suggested bt deleted my post. Learn to accept vaibhav. U cant b right everytime & grow up... And yes, thanx for correcting ur post.

{ vakrachakshu } at: May 16, 2012 at 2:24 AM said...

Mayank, I corrected the post. And neither Blogger Vaibhav, nor did I, delete your post :)

(There are some 7-8 Admins here but I don't think that they did too :P It wasn't such a big deal to delete)

And, thanks for the information You shared :)

{ Vaibhav Srivastav } at: May 16, 2012 at 2:29 AM said...

@Mayank, I don't quite understand what my 'position' is, and I do not know who deleted your post (yet), filmistani is run by a team. I will ask.
And I will still apologize if it hurt your feelings that your post got deleted (although the correction got made) in some way. THanks for reading. We shall always be open to suggestions and corrections.

@Anybody else reading this comment thread - Mr Mayank very rightly pointed out that A R Rahman was not the first person to use Daler Mahendi as a singer in a film, he sang 'Na Na Na Na Na Re' (a song of epic proportions) as well as 'Kudiyan Sheher Diyan' for Arjun Pandit. The point that we were trying to make is were that A R Rahman was the first to utilize his awesome voice as a Playback singer, his earlier Filmy Outings were more in the nature of 'Daler Mehendi Item Songs' (If you know what I mean). Still, an error is an error.

Rest assured we are always open to any sort of criticism. Thanks for spending your valuable time in reading the blog.

{ vakrachakshu } at: May 16, 2012 at 2:40 AM said...

Thik kie, Blogger Vaibhav :D

{ Unknown } at: May 16, 2012 at 6:18 AM said...

YE dekho Qawwali.... .....Nigahe naaz ke....kam suna jata hai...

{ Prachi } at: May 29, 2012 at 4:51 AM said...

I don't think "baawra mann dekhne chala ek sapna" is a qawwali. And... "nigaahein milane ko jee chahta hai" from "Dil hi to hai (1963)" and "mere mehboob mein kya nahin?" from Mere mehboob (1963) are missing in this list.

{ Vaibhav Srivastav } at: May 29, 2012 at 10:51 AM said...

@Prachi - We meant 'Mann Ye Bawra' and not 'Baawra mann..'

and thanks for your suggestions , we will incorporate them in the sequel to this article

{ sushil } at: June 14, 2012 at 11:37 AM said...

very good list.
may be in part two thr will be one frm wandali brothers.n ek mulakat jaruri hain sanam frm sirf tum

{ mama kar } at: January 17, 2018 at 6:29 PM said...

'Inteha ye hai ke bande o Khuda karta hai ishq' does not mean - like you said "(The limit of love is that God Loves Man)."
It means that love at its best makes God out of a mere man.

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