THE LIFE-CHANGING CINEMATIC MUSICAL NUMBERS THAT BROUGHT FAME TO SINGERS ACROSS DIFFERENT GENERATIONS
by ASJAD NAZIR
Bollywood singers have gifted the world countless magical moments ever since music appeared in India’s first talkie Alam Ara (1931).
The moment that has perhaps been most remarkable for singers is when special songs have suddenly elevated them to superstar status and enabled them to reach great heights.
With that in mind, Eastern Eye went back in time to compile a musical playlist of Bollywood songs that were life-changing for some of the most popular singers of all time.
Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De from Pehli Nazar (1945): After a few years of trying to get
noticed, Mukesh became a star after he sang this Anil Biswas composition. The song gave him stardom and put him on the radar of major movie producers. In fact, his rendition was so good that singer KL Saigal, who ruled Bollywood then, thought he had sung the song and famously said, “That’s strange, I don’t recall singing that song”.
Aayega Aane Wala from Mahal (1949): Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar admitted that this song was life-changing for her. Up until it released, she was a young singer struggling to support her family and trying to get noticed. The haunting song from the smash-hit ghost tale became the highest selling song at the time of its release and was so successful that it made producers fully realise how lucrative music sales could be. The song catapulted Lata to the very top and set up one of the most extraordinary musical careers in history.
Tadbeer Se Bigdi Hui from Baazi (1951): She may not be remembered today in the same way as other great legends, but, make no mistake, Geeta Dutt was one of the biggest singing stars of the 1950s. The sensational singer’s superstar-making soundtrack occurred with a crime thriller directed by her future husband Guru Dutt, which had this stand-out number performed brilliantly by her namesake Geeta Bali.
O Duniya Ke Rakhwale from Baiju Bawra (1952): Hailing from humble beginnings, Mohd Rafi sang in various capacities for the movie industry from the mid-1940s, but largely remained in the background. Music director Naushad believed in his talent and roped him into the classical-based collection of songs in Baiju Bawra. The soundtrack defied all expectations and won Naushad the first ever Filmfare Award given for music. Mohd Rafi’s rendition of O Duniya Ke Rakhwale turned him into an overnight star and enabled him to become a king for the next decade.
Uden Jab Jab from Naya Daur (1957): Asha Bhosle had a troubled start to her career and struggled to make an impact. She was largely given songs major names like Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum and her then estranged sister Lata Mangeshkar turned down. Music director OP Nayyar showed faith in her talent and gifted the singer star-making songs in hit film Naya Daur, including this duet with Mohd Rafi. She would go onto reach incredible heights. Then in the early 1970s, she teamed up with RD Burman for game-changing numbers like Piya Tu Ab To Aaja, Dum Maro Dum and Chura Liya Hai Tumne. Then, later on, she would get international collaborations that would elevate her further. Having so many turning points is perhaps why most experts agree she is the greatest of all time.
Mere Sapno Ki Rani from Aradhana (1969): Up until this rip-roaring soundtrack released, Kishore Kumar was a talented actor who had a flair for singing. Although he won his first singing award for Aradhana song Roop Tera Mastana, it was Mere Sapno Ki Rani that turned him into a sensation globally and the number one singer in Indian cinema. The song managed to single-handedly push out a generation of singers and started a record-breaking run for Kishore Kumar. The song was so superb that it also turned Rajesh Khanna into the biggest heartthrob Hindi cinema had ever seen at the time.
Aap Jaisa Koi from Qurbani (1980): One of the greatest singing debuts of all time saw teenager Nazia Hassan sing the superstar-making Bollywood song. The massively influential number helped turn the young British Pakistani into perhaps the first pop idol in south Asia and saw her become an icon in subsequent years. The legendary film song also laid the foundation for the pop industry in India.
Hawa Hawaii from Mr India (1987): Music directors were well aware of the immense talent classically-trained singer Kavita Krishnamurthy possessed, but she struggled to get noticed until this song changed everything. The smash-hit number performed by Sridevi was almost like a lottery ticket for the multi-award winning singer and kick-started one of the most prolific singing careers in Bollywood history.
Ek Do Teen from Tezaab (1988): Alka Yagnik had been bubbling away under the surface until she delivered the biggest song of the 1980s, which won her the first out of seven Filmfare awards. The song was such a big hit that it not only turned Alka into a massive global star, but also resurrected the item number in Bollywood and transformed the career of Madhuri Dixit, who performed it brilliantly on the big screen.
Papa Kehte Hain from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988): The Nepalese singer went to Mumbai after getting a musical scholarship and struggled for over a decade before getting his life-changing break with Papa Kehte Hain. He got paid very little for the song, but that was more than made up with the transformative effect it had on his life. The song started an amazing journey for the singer loaded with hits, awards and worldwide stardom.
Aashiqui (1990): While for other singers, it was a song that made them into a star, for Kumar Sanu, it was an entire soundtrack. Music duo Nadeem-Shravan made the inspired decision of getting the talented newcomer to deliver most of the songs in the romantic movie Aashiqui. The soundtrack became a sensation and he was elevated to the position of being the number one male singer in Hindi cinema.
Chaiyya Chaiyya from Dil Se (1998): Sukhwinder Singh struggled for over a decade and would hand out CDs to music directors with the hope of getting noticed. Luckily for him, AR Rahman heard his voice and got him to sing a song that would change his life. The star-making song won Sukhwinder Singh his first major award and saw him become the alternative voice of commercial Hindi cinema. The song was so good that it won choreography awards and inspired the West End musical Bombay Dreams. He would later team up with AR Rahman for Oscar-winning song Jai Ho.
Bairi Piya from Devdas (2002): There are many singers who struggle to get noticed and then there are others like Shreya Ghoshal who started their film careers in top gear. The talented teenager was spotted by director Sanjay Leela Bhansali participating in a children’s reality TV show and thrown into the deep end with his magnum opus. She rose to the challenge and made a multi-award winning debut with a winning collection of songs. And this would start an extraordinary journey that led her towards becoming the queen of Bollywood music. The star-making Bairi Piya made her one of the youngest ever recipients of a National Award.
Mann Ki Lagan from Paap (2003): Qawwali singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan spent years trying to climb out of his late great uncle Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s shadow. The game-changing moment arrived when he made his Bollywood debut singing for the crime thriller. The massive turning point in his career, the neatly crafted number led to further film songs and subsequent global stardom.
Aashiq Banaya Aapne title track (2005): Himesh Reshammiya started off as a music director and was doing quite well, but then became a big star after singing the title track of the romantic thriller. The award-winning hit turned the music producer into such a big singing star that producers were willing to finance films with the not-so-heroic-looking star playing the lead, just as long as he sang.
Tum Hi Ho from Aashiqui 2 (2013): Today, Arijit Singh is the undisputed king of Bollywood music and a massive star able to sell out arenas around the world. The classically-trained musician and singer was largely anonymous for a decade despite appearing on reality TV, until he sang life-changing love song Tum Hi Ho, which swept the globe life wildfire. The song catapulted him to the very top in Hindi cinema and helped turn the romantic drama into a huge hit.