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5 unforgettable songs filmed on Laxmi Chhaya

On actress-dancer Laxmi Chhaya's 15th death anniversary, we revisit some memorable songs from her film career.

Sonal Pandya

Actress and dancer Laxmi Chhaya, born on 7 January 1948, made her mark as a young woman in Hindi cinema of the 1960s and 1970s but, sadly, the years after that did not bring the talented actress any luck and she retired from films to teach dancing at her own dance school.

Laxmi Chhaya made her debut with the film Talaq (1958) by sheer chance. As a child, she happened to be visiting the sets of the film and was picked by director Mahesh Kaul to be in it. She also appeared in Bada Aadmi (1961) and became known for her dancing talent.

Laxmi Chhaya was cast in a few films as leading lady but, unfortunately for her, they were never released. One was Jahan Jagey Wahan Savera with Dharmendra’s brother Kumar Ajit and there was another with Vikram called Jinki Duniya Mein Roshni Nahin Hoti.

Today, Laxmi Chhaya is remembered for her memorable dance numbers in films like Gumnaam (1965), Raat Aur Din (1967) and Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971).

Over the course of her career, she acted and performed in a number of well-known films such as Teesri Manzil (1966), Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya (1966), Upkar (1967), Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Aya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969), and Patanga (1971).

Here are a few of her unforgettable numbers.

1. ‘Jaan Pehchaan Ho’ — Gumnaam (1965)

This electric, foot-thumping song in the mystery film Gumnaam (1965) got a second life when it was featured in the Hollywood film Ghost World (2001). A masked and energetic Laxmi Chhaya burns up the dance floor at the Princess Club in the song ‘Jaan Pehchaan Ho’ composed by Shankar-Jaikishan.

Mohammed Rafi sings for dancer Herman Benjamin, who is the bandleader in this song. Laxmi Chhaya appeared only in this song in Gumnaam (1965), but the number has been revived by fans of the cult film, inspired by an Agatha Christie novel.

2. ‘Awara Ae Mere Dil’ — Raat Aur Din (1967)

This one is yet another for the dance floor. This time it’s a New Year’s Eve party in actress Nargis’s last film, Raat Aur Din (1967). Laxmi Chhaya’s infectious smile and energy light up the song written by Hasrat Jaipuri and composed, once again, by Shankar-Jaikishan. Lata Mangeshkar’s vocals bring in a hidden layer of melancholy to the heavy drama. But it is Laxmi Chhaya that one remembers most from the song.

Directed by Satyen Bose, Raat Aur Din is a psychological thriller and the actress played an important part in the mystery of Nargis’s character Baruna.

3. ‘Maar Diya Jaye’ — Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971)

Raj Khosla’s dacoit drama Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971) and the iconic song ‘Maar Diya Jaye’ remain the highlight of Laxmi Chhaya’s career. The actress had a substantial role in the film alongside Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna and Asha Parekh as Munnibai, a member of Jabbar Singh’s gang.

Unlike the other films, this drama gave Laxmi Chhaya a chance to show off her dancing skills in three songs, all composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. The most famous of these was ‘Maar Diya Jaye’, penned by Anand Bakshi and sung by Lata Mangeshkar, which has her character determining the fate of the captured Ajit (Dharmendra) and Anju (Parekh).

4. ‘Apni Prem Kahaniyaan’ — Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971)

With the earlier song, two other songs featured Munnibai prominently. One was ‘Aaya Aaya Atariya Pe Koi Chor’ and the other was ‘Apni Prem Kahaniyaan’, both also sung by Lata Mangeshkar. The numbers and their picturization were a key part of the film’s narrative.

In this Laxmikant-Pyarelal composition, Laxmi Chhaya performs at a village fair while Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna’s characters, in disguise, try to get the lay of the land as they look out for each other. 

5. ‘Main Sharaab Bechti Hoon’ — Raaste Ka Patthar (1972)

In Mukul Dutt’s Raaste Ka Patthar (1972), Laxmi Chhaya had a strong role as Shatrughan Sinha’s wife, Tanu. She played an unhappy wife who has to go out to dance for other people to earn an extra income as her husband is unemployed. 

The film also starred Amitabh Bachchan as Sinha’s friend and featured a plot quite similar to Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960). Laxmi Chhaya had a layered and complex role, and also got a few songs featured on her. One of these, ‘Main Sharaab Bechti Hoon’, has her dancing for Ajit’s character. The seductive number by Asha Bhosle was composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.