Some of my favorite Bollywood songs, in no particular order.
Music in Bollywood movies is complicated.
- Most singing is done by playback singers; few actors actually sing. Nearly all dance, though.
- And not every Bollywood movie is a musical. . . .but many (most?) are.
- Often the song has nothing to do with the plot and might be written completely independentaly of the screenplay. (That seems to be changing, though; at least, songs in modern movies seem far more integrated with the story than in the past.)
- Musical sequences are usually dreams or fantasies. . . but not always.
- And finally, nearly every Bollywood movie includes an “item song,” a number usually completely divorced from the movie; it’s sole purpose is to show off some hot girl (and an occasional guy).
1. “Chaiyya Chaiyya” from Dil Se (1998)
The song starts slowly, softly. Then the thumping beat kicks in and you can’t help but dance, or at least walk with purpose.
2. “Mere Mehboob Mere Sanam” from Duplicate (1998)
Seeing this music video on a local access Indian-American show is what pulled me in to Bollywood in the first place.
3. “Discowale Khisko” from Dil Bole Hadippa! (2009)
Now, a big part of the appeal here is the video: the bright colors, the gorgeous stars, the energetic dancing, the sense of fun. But the song itself keeps you moving. I like to listen to it when I work out or have an arduous task to complete.
4. “Sheila Ki Jawani” from Tees Maar Khan (2011)
This item song was a huge hit and basically inescapable in 2011 and 2012. A woman singing about how awesome she is is rather appealing.
5. “Tooh” from Gori Tere Pyaar Mein (2013)
“Tooh” is a slang term for “butt.” I’ve been obsessed with this song lately. I like shaking my butt.
6. “Chalte Chalte Phir Milenge” from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008)
Another song where a big part of the appeal is the video: a quick tour through Bollywood’s history. But the variety of musical styles keeps it engaging.
7. “Dard-e-Disco” from Om Shanti Om (2007)
The rare male item song, I often find myself just idly singing “Dard-e-disco, dard-e-disco, dard-e-disco” to myself. So catchy. The movie translates the phrase as “pain of disco,” but “dard” can also mean “ache, sting, pang.”
8. “Very Good Very Bad” from Trimurti (1995)
Trimurti was a huge flop and somehow I’ve seen it twice. This song drove its way in to my skull. The simplistic beat makes you want to just dance around in a circle. In a field. Surrounded by your friends, who are also dancing.
9. “Saree Ke Fall Sa” from R…Rajkumar (2013)
I haven’t seen R…Rajkumar yet, although it’s at the top of my list. That said, I just love the melody on this song, especially the strings.
10. “Chammak Challo” from Ra.One (2011)
Ra.One was a superhero movie, a huge hit at first that slowly dropped off in terms of box office. But goodness, this song was everywhere, because it is awesome. This is quintessential modern Bollywood: fun to sing along to, fun to dance to, and featuring a rather goofy video. (He’s a robot who looks like her dead husband, and maybe they are falling in love with each other?!)