The Best Of Bollywood: These Signature Songs Will Get Your Groove On!

The Business of  Signature Songs

The silver screen and the tapestry of popular Bollywood films unmistakably thrive on the strength of melodies. A big chunk of money is invested in crafting catchy tunes to arrest the attention of the audiences and to build up the euphoria even before the film actually goes on the floor. The competition, to say the least, is cutthroat.

The latest sound mixing techniques, coupled with voice modulation and tempering a rendition with bass and techno beats, is fast becoming the norm in Bollywood.

The item songs are now a mainstay of films projected to be blockbusters. Earlier, a film and music aficionado looked forward to the best song of the year but these days it is the best remix song of the year which catches the ear and eyeballs.

Eyeballs. Oh! Yes. These songs are as much about lyrics as they are about the video presentation of the same. The stage to shoot a foot-tapping number is decked up to the hilt, nowadays. A variety of flowers, shimmer, and confetti aid to highlight the glam avatar of actors and singers.

Colour is splashed all around the sets and the song is made delectable with sassy dancers. About a decade back, lyrics started becoming relatable and reflecting street swag. Easy going rhythms signaled the arrival of newly woven lyrics of lyricists like Gulzar, Kausar Muni, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Prasoon Joshi to name a few.

Who can forget the trendsetting song Aey! Kya Bolti Tu…Aati Kya Khandala? from the movie Ghulam (1998). It led to a race among male and female actors to sing stand out songs and the nation was hooked.

Today, old signature tunes are given new packaging and are dished out to garner maximum views and likes on social media. Pop stars, like Sukhbir, have become cool with the new packaging of his Bhangra hit, Sauda Khara, Khara, from the movie Good Newwz (2019).

The Bollywood music scene today is replete with experimentation; we have remixes, reprises and a scattering of old-world charm in the presentation of songs. Still, the charm of signature songs is difficult to surpass. Signature songs stand out from the crowd due to an agelessness quality in their lyrics and overall packaging.

Actors of today, and yesteryears, are readily recalled in terms of their star quotient by humming their signature tune. Let us revisit some gems from the Bollywood music scene so far.

1. Salman Khan: O, O Janne Jaana, from Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya (1998)

Who can forget the shirtless song which cajoled the ‘Babalog’ and preening youngsters to make a beeline to gymnasiums and akharas (a place to practice the traditional form of wrestling.)

Suddenly, Salman was all over the place. Hoardings, showroom displays, artwork on auto-rickshaws, paan shop decorations, hair and beauty salon poster art. You name it and he was there and continues to be.

He proved to be a true crowd puller with this crooning number. The title song of his mega-hit, Maine Pyaar Kiya comes a close second in his oeuvre. The film marked the arrival of an evergreen star who continues to go strong with his bumper hits.

2. Shahrukh Khan: Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana Sanam, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

Indian fans weren’t the only ones who enjoyed this romantic hit, but the song proved to be a veritable success overseas, and wooed the audience from different parts of the world. The Punjabi diaspora especially related to the emotions evoked in the film, and Shahrukh, with his checked corduroy shirt, jeans, ankle-high boots, and a strumming guitar, indelibly left a lasting impression in the fashion circuit.

An iconic scene from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge, featuring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol.

Jaadu Teri Nazar‘ from the racy Yash Chopra hit, Darr will be remembered for its freshness and an out-of-the-box appeal. The film famously made the ‘grey layered portrayal’ of the protagonist ultra-cool in Bollywood. Shahrukh has continued to serenade ladies, gents, the old and young people alike since then with his histrionics.

3. Aamir Khan: Papa Kehte Hain, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)

A still from the iconic song Papa Kehte Hain

Exuding old school charm and dapper boyish looks, with a soul-stirring rendition, truly makes this a signature song of Aamir Khan. The song acquired the status of an anthem in farewell parties across universities and colleges.

Aamir remains one of the most unpredictable actors and continues to enthrall audiences with hits like Rang De Basanti, Dhoom, Taare Zameen Par, and Lagaan.

The signature lyrics of Papa Kehte Hain from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak is like a true vintage wine. Mujhe Neend Na Aaye from the movie Dil was a runaway hit with youngsters and became the ultimate love song of its time.

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It would be unfair at this stage if we do not include the smashing signature songs of some of the glamorous queens of Bollywood.

4. Madhuri Dixit: Ek Do Teen, Tezaab (1988)

A master actor of multihued emotions, Madhuri Dixit challenged the status quo of the male actors like no other. The gossip and rumour mills went agog with her powerful screen presence, and it was said that male actors failed to match up to her emotional intensity onscreen.

A still of Madhuri Dixit from the song Ek, Do, Teen.

The effervescent Dhak-Dhak girl set the stage on fire with an amazing number in Tezaab and courted controversy with a suggestive song from the movie, Khalnayak. She made her mark as the penultimate middle-class muse of India.

5. Sridevi: Hawa Hawai, Mr. India (1987)

A still from the song Hawa Hawai.

The spunky Sridevi wooed audiences with this fun-filled hit.

6. Ranbir Kapoor: Sadda Haq, Rockstar (2011)

Ranbir Kapoor in a still from the movie Rockstar.

This song marks a new category of a signature song rooted in rebellious strain and was quite adorable. Ranbir will be remembered for this song.

7. Shahid Kapoor: Bekhayali, Kabir Singh (2019)

Sachet Tandon delivers a power-packed punch in this song sung from the depths of a writhing heart. Cause: Unrequited love. Shahid Kapoor has got his signature song.

8. Hrithik Roshan: Main Tere Kaabil Hoon, Kaabil (2017)

Hrithik Roshan in Ek Pal Ka Jeena. 

Many would root for Ek Pal Ka Jeena from the movie, Kaho Na Pyaar Hai (2000) but he has got a definite classy signature song in Main Tere Kaabil Hoon Ke Nahi, Kaabil (2017). A near-perfect and a soulful score.

Yesteryear’s Signature Hits

It is time to go back in time and check out yesteryear’s signature hits.

1. Guru Dutt: Jaane Woh Kaise Log The, Pyaasa (1957)

Guru Dutt in a still from the film Pyaasa.

A mega project. An iconic film bereft of popular success. By some accounts, it marked the acme of Guru Dutt’s cinematic talent. This song remains an eternal one among lamentation-themed songs.

2. Kishore Kumar: Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)

A still from the iconic song Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si

Another setting; a lady, none other than Madhubala, drenched in the rain. A-shoo!An unforgettable signature song is made.

3. Dharmendra: Main Jatt Yamla Pagla Deewana, Pratigya (1975)

Sung by the legendary, Mohd. Rafi, the song demonstrated the style of the handsome Dharmendra, and it really appealed to the masses. This song denotes his Bollywood presence more than any other song. One also remembers the lilting and silky melody of Main Kahin Kavi Na Ban Jaoon from the film, Pyaar hi Pyaar (1969).

4. Rajesh Khanna: Mere Sapno Ki Rani, Aradhana (1969)

A svelte beauty on a train. A smart man follows her on an iconic jeep. With mouth-organ to give company, Indian cinema gave us one of the most evocative romantic songs ever picturised.

Recently, Anand Mahindra, the industrialist, tweeted about the jeep used in the song and wondered, if auctioned today, how much it would fetch in an auction? Unarguably, some sway this song holds in the collective memory.

5. Raj Kapoor: Pyaar Hua, Iqraar Hua, Shree 420 (1955)

A still from the song Pyaar Hua, Iqraar Hua.

A showman. A businessman. An actor. An entrepreneur. A visionary in film making and a breaker of taboos. Raj Kapoor can be branded with many eponyms. The song keeps buzzing in the background whenever films are discussed. Such is the impact of this signature song Awaara Hoon!

6. Dev Anand: Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya, Hum Dono (1961)

A still from Hum Dono.

This swashbuckling actor was reportedly banned from wearing a black dress in public as women would apparently jump from buildings just for one sighting of him. True to his onscreen image, this song encapsulates his happy-go-lucky and a ladies’ man aura. Ironically, his signature song is without the presence of any female actor in the frames.

7. Amitabh Bachchan: Rote Hue Aate Sab, Muqaddar ka Sikandar (1978)

The filmography for this actor is so long that it is actually quite arduous to pinpoint a signature song for him. We can settle for the dashing Rote Hue Aate Hai Sab and rustic Khaike Paan Banaras Wala from the iconic film Don (1978) and Jumma Chumma De De from the film Hum (1991).

Amitabh Bachchan.

The legendary star continues to awe the audiences with his surprise performances. Who can forget the smoothness of Kabhi Kabhi from the film Kabhi Kabhi, (1976)?

8. Meena Kumari: Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960)

Imagine yourself sitting in the salubrious climes of a hill station. Dusk is slowly engulfing the town and fog is descending. You are sipping a cup of fine tea and your heart goes mellow. The song wafts into the air and lo, behold! The picture frame of life merges with celluloid. A timeless song embossed with Lata Mangeshkar’s magic and charm of Meena Kumari, a signature song to the core.

9. Madhubala: Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya, Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Madhubala in Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya.

An emperor. His lovelorn son. A court dancer. An impossible love story and what do you have?A classic song shot with finesse by K.Asif.

This song shall always be remembered for the exchange of emotions between Prithviraj Kapoor and Madhubala through their eyes and the exquisite court atmosphere. Mughal-e-Azam would not have been Mughal-e-Azam, if not for this song.

One Hit Wonders

There have been notable signature songs of actors who were in the limelight for a short span of time. Divya Bharti is still scorching marriage parties in the northern terrain of India through her song Saat Samundar Paar Main Tere Peeche Peeche from Vishwatma (1992).

Ghar Se Nikalte Hi from the movie Papa Kehte Hain (1996) made both Mayoori Kango and Jugal Hansraj recognisable faces in Bollywood. As per a recent news report, Mayoori was appointed as Google’s India industry head. Rahul Roy has been forever etched as the tragic lover boy pouring his heart out in Tu Meri Zindagi Hai in Mahesh Bhatt’s Aashiqui (1990).

Zingy Hits

Notable mention may be made of Saif Ali Khan’s, Ole Ole from Yeh Dillagi (1994), Sanjay Dutt’s, Nayak Nahi Khalnayak Hoon Main from the iconic Khalnayak (1993). We also cannot forget Govinda’s Kisi Disco Mein Jaayein from Bade Miyan, Chhote Miyan (1998), Raveena Tandon’s Shehar Ki Ladki and Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast from Mohra (1994) and Akshay Kumar’s Chura Ke Dil Mera from the film Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994).

Urmila Matondkar sizzled the silver screen and scorched Bollywood as the industry’s siren, in Ram Gopal Verma’s trailblazer Tanha Tanha from the movie Rangeela (1994).

Over the decades, these signature songs have entertained generations. These songs stand out for their unique presentation. These melodies truly bear the signature imprint of the actors, both male and female.

So, go on and raise a toast once again to these signature melodies. Let the mush, fluff, romance, boyish charm, girlish prance, and charm of the old and new world capture your senses and make your leisure time truly enjoyable.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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