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8 magical, memorable Madhubala numbers – Birth anniversary special


On Madhubala's 85th birth anniversary (she was born on Valentine's Day 1933), we revisit some of the songs that made audiences fall in love with her.

Mayur Lookhar

There was never one like her and there never will be. Madhubala is often regarded as the most beautiful actress in Hindi cinema history. Born Mumtaz Jahan Dehlavi, Madhubala worked as a child artiste before appearing in her first lead role in Neel Kamal (1947), starring Raj Kapoor. She was just 14.

Not only was Madhubala a good actress but also a brilliant dancer. However, what perhaps separated her from her contemporaries was how she totally immersed herself in her songs. They may not always have had great choreography, but Madhubala picked the mood of her characters well. 

When it came to picturization of songs, the star was very efficient at lip-synching the lyrics. Her expressions matched the voice and tone of the singer. Very few artistes are able to master this art. 

On her 85th birth anniversary (she was born, fittingly, on 14 February 1933), we look back at some of the magical and memorable numbers that made audiences fall in love with her.

1. 'Kaun Samjhega Dil Aane Ke Dhang Nirale' — Singaar (1949) 

As mentioned earlier, Madhubala played her first lead role at the tender age of 14. One wonders how she learnt the nuances of romance at such a young age. Leave alone romancing, most girls at 14 in the 1940s would probably struggle to even express themselves. Undoubtedly, Madhubala was quick to learn the tricks of the trade. This song has her expressing her crush on the hero; one moment she bursts into joyous expressions, the next she blushes like a newlywed. 

The 16-year-old was immaculate with her lip-synching and seems to be imitating Surinder Kaur’s singing style. All through the track, she leaves you stunned with her expressions.

If you do manage to get your attention off Madhubala, you will marvel at Nakhshab Jarachavi’s mesmerizing lyrics. Khurshid Anwar’s minimalist yet classic score rides on delightful ghatam beats. 'Kaun Samjhega Dil Aane Ke Dhang Nirale' is a unique and breathtaking number in every sense of the term.

2. 'Pyar Karne Walo Ke Liye Hai Duniya' — Aparadhi (1949)

Much before she brought the nation to a standstill with 'Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya' from Mughal-e-Azam (1960), a rather sombre-looking Madhubala spread the message of love through the ‘Pyar Karne Walo Ke Liye Hai Duniya’ song. 

Yashwant Pethkar’s Aparadhi begins with this love anthem. Sitara Kanpur was the elegant voice of Madhubala while Sudhir Phadke provided the endearing score. This song might be a relatively unheralded one, but it truly celebrates the spirit of Valentine’s Day.

3. 'Aaiye Meharban' — Howrah Bridge (1958)

This is one of the most sensuous songs in Hindi cinema, but with hardly any skin on show. Madhubala's mystical eyes created enough magic to woo the audience.

This classic OP Nayyar composition saw Mabhubala use her inimitable charm to entertain the hero (Ashok Kumar) in a night club. There is a touch of jazz style to the singing (by Asha Bhosle) that gives the song a modern feel. Even today, fans go berserk when they see Madhubala holding the mic and singing ‘aaaaaiyyyeeeeee meharbaan’. Qamar Jalalabadi’s fine lyrics wouldn’t have had the same impact without Madhubala's charm.

4. 'Achcha Ji Main Haari Chalo' — Kala Pani (1958)

Who would dare to upset an ethereal beauty like Madhubala? Even if the lady was at fault, millions of men would have readily taken the rap rather than made her apologize. But Dev Anand does not flinch.

Raj Khosla’s Kala Pani saw Dev Anand and Madubala involved in a lyrical lover’s tiff, penned beautifully by Majrooh Sultanpuri. Asha Bhosle and Mohammad Rafi were flawless in their singing. The SD Burman composition, however, belongs to Madhubala. She truly was exemplary at enacting the various moods that her character experiences in the song.

5. 'Haal Kaisa Hai Janab Ka' — Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)

Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi had a great music album, with the 'Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si' track being the most popular. However, while Madhubala was the subject of the lyrics in that number, the focus was on the hero, Kishore Kumar, as he crooned the song.

It’s the 'Haal Kaisa Hai Janab Ka' song where Madhubala gets the camera for herself. A simple greeting ("how you doing?") formed the base for this lyrical conversation, penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri. The million-dollar Madhubala smile lit up every frame, every second of the song. This was yet another endearing score by SD Burman, with Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar adding another great duet to their collection.

6. 'Rik Rik Tik Tik Tik' — Do Ustad (1959)

It is difficult to decipher the meaning of Qamar Jalalabadi’s 'Rik Rik Tik Tik Tik', but who cares. This is one of those Asha Bhosle-Mohammed Rafi songs that is just fun to listen to. The song had Raj Kapoor romancing Madhubala. Here is an urban setting and the lead artistes are shaking a leg at a ball. Though Kapoor and Madhubala don’t quite perfect the moves, they still put on a memorable show.

7. 'Aankhon Mein Tum Dil Mein Tum Ho' — Half Ticket (1962)

Kishore Kumar and Madhubala made a great pair, both on and off the screen. They created magic and madness on the big screen.

While Kishore Kumar’s histrionics are legendary, Madhubala too shared the madness in this fun-filled track. Kishore Kumar has a rope tied round his neck as Madhubala holds the end of it, trying to move her lover like a pooch.

Half Ticket might have been the name of the film, but this track was full-on entertainment. The song was written by Shailendra, sung by Kishore Kumar and Geeta Dutt, and composed by Salil Chowdhury.

8. 'Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya' — Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

One just runs out of superlatives to praise this legendary song, penned by Shakeel Badayuni. As an epic, Mughal-e-Azam remains untouched. And 'Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’ is the anthem of love, a love that cannot be chained by the barbs of caste and creed.

Naushad’s divine score, Lata Mangeshkar’s magical voice, the lavish costumes, grand sets, and the aura of Madhubala, all combined to make 'Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya' one of the greatest spectacles in Hindi cinema.