Tomorrow (today already in India) is Rajesh Khanna’s birthday. The PR fiasco that his latest film has become notwithstanding, I think that Rajesh in his prime (i.e. during the 1970s) was more fun to watch enacting songs than most actors. He had a knack for music; he collaborated closely with music directors and with Kishore, who is of course “the voice” of Rajesh, and in almost all his films from that period that I have seen the music is really special.
I haven’t included songs from films I haven’t seen, or songs that have appeared in other lists already (like “Rimjhim Rimjhim Dekho” from Shehzada, which would definitely be here otherwise!). Interestingly (to me anyway!) all the songs that made it here are written by either Laxmikant-Pyarelal, or by RD Burman.
Here are my ten favorite Rajesh Khanna songs—to listen to, to watch, to swoon over (although not all of them are romantic)! And janamdin ki badhai, Rajesh! Thanks for all the hours of viewing pleasure you’ve given me and all your fans!
10. “Bemausam Bahaar Ke” from Bundal Baaz (1975) (sung by Kishore and Lata, music by RD Burman). This is on my list for several reasons. First of all, it’s one of my favorite Rajesh roles, in a film made by my beloved Shammi which never got its proper due. It is a cracktastic good time, and makes me laugh until my stomach hurts. One of the goofiest and funniest Hindi films I’ve ever seen, it made me love Shammi even more than I already did (if that’s possible) and gave me a new appreciation for Rajesh’s talents. And the songs are really fun, especially this one—it’s picturized on Rajesh and Sulakshana Pandit, whose romancing is helped along by Rajesh’s genie!
9. “Yeh Public Hai” from Roti (1974) (sung by Kishore, music by Laxmikant Pyarelal). Rajesh and Mumtaz have discovered miserly Jeevan’s stash of hoarded grains, and gleefully lead the townspeople to it as Rajesh sings this mischievously delightful song about corruption and the consequences of it being exposed to the public at large. Hilarious, but pointed—I think this is one of Manmohan Desai’s most complex and overlooked films.
8. “Yeh Kya Hua” from Amar Prem (1971) (sung by Kishore, music by RD Burman). The film is too sad to be a favorite, but I love this song despite it being quite sad as well. Kishore’s singing of this surpasses even his own high standards, and I can listen to it over and over again—and I think Rajesh probably had quite a good time acting out the drunken picturization with Om Prakash.
7. “Prem Kahani Mein” from Prem Kahani (1975) (sung by Kishore and Lata, music by Laxmikant Pyarelal). Sweet love song with Rajesh and Mumtaz, although their happiness (in this film anyway) is doomed. Sigh. The two of them just always look like they’re having fun together.
6. “Ek Ajanabee Haseena Se” from Ajanabee (1974) (sung by Kishore, music by RD Burman). All of Rajesh’s considerable charm is present in this song as he lets Zeenat Aman know how he feels in front of a crowd of her friends. So romantic! Zeenat herself doesn’t look too shabby. And it’s such a good film too.
5. “Yeh Shaam Mastani” from Kati Patang (1970) (sung by Kishore, music by RD Burman). Rajesh sings about his feelings for Asha Parekh on one of those fabulous Indian picnics where everyone is having way more fun than I ever did on a picnic (ants! too much sun! other bugs! arghh!)…and Rajesh is looking very handsome despite the bright yellow pants handicap.
4. “Main Babu Chhaila” from Chhaila Babu (1977) (sung by Kishore, music by Laxmikant Pyarelal). A lively and fun song, with Rajesh giving Zeenat and jealous, glowering Asrani a ride home in his tonga. Plenty of fun at Asrani’s expense, and the Rajesh-Zeenat magic shines. Gemma loves this one too (the horse)!
3. “Jai Jai Shiv Shankar” from Aap Ki Kasam (1974) (sung by Kishore and Lata, music by RD Burman). Oodles of fun with Rajesh and Mumu in Kashmir before it all went sour (in the film only as far as I know!). Everybody sing along!
2. “Gore Rang Pe” from Roti (1974) (sung by Kishore and Lata, music by Laxmikant Pyarelal). All the songs from this film are so good, but this one is a favorite because of Rajesh and Mumtaz’s superb chemistry. His teasing and her flouncing gradually turn serious as the rain pours down on them (I could do a whole post on my ten favorite Rajesh Khanna rain songs alone!). Lovely!
1. This could not be any song besides “Duniya Mein Logon Ko” from Apna Desh (1972) (sung by Pancham Da himself and Asha, music by RD Burman). It just doesn’t get any better than this: RD and Asha’s voices, and Rajesh and Mumu in disguise! The backup dancers! The swimming pool with fungus-like lighting! FAB-U-LOUS!