My ten favorite “title” tunes

As much as songs from films are part of everyday life in India, it seems to me that one often overlooked but beautiful element are the instrumental tunes: dances, background score, themes which recur throughout, and above all title music. I always notice the title music especially and discovered in writing this post that I have already uploaded at least ten title songs in the posts about the movies they belong to. It sets the tone for the film and if I like the opening music a lot I settle in more eagerly for the rest of it: I was hooked on Teesri Manzil immediately by the music and the visuals behind the opening credits:

(Yes, I also buy wine based on how pretty the labels are. I like pretty.)

Title music is so overlooked that it often isn’t included in soundtrack mp3s available for download. It is more often present on old vinyl LPs, which is one reason to be so grateful for those people like PC who make those original soundtracks available for us (see my sidebar for links to them!). And of course unless the entire film is up there (or the titles roll over an actual song with lyrics) they are hard to find on Youtube and other video sites too. I am sometimes compelled to torture myself technologically to rip title tracks from the DVD, simply because I love them so very much.

One category of title music is the dreaded earworm: a tune with the film’s title repeated endlessly and from which you cannot free yourself for days after hearing it. It does help you retain the name of the movie, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing! I am talking of course about things like “Crook crook crook crook crook crook (internaaaa-tional choooooor)” and “Proooooo-feeeeee-ssor PYARE-lal“. Of course I am partial to “Mem Saab!” from the rather dull film by the same name, and this one from Shammi’s Bluffmaster (“Oh bluff! Oh bluff bluff bluff! Maaaaaster!”):

I love how jazzy the whole thing is too, saxophones and trumpets and all. La la la!

Some title music—like the overture in western classic music—incorporates elements of the songs that are in the film. One of my favorites like this is from Seeta Aur Geeta:

How could you not know after this opening sequence that you were going to love every song in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi?

And one of my very favorites is the lovely and lively title music from Brahmachari:

Sometimes the music is just plain gorgeous: the ethereal opening to Waqt, for example. I like this music from the underemployed (because he was “difficult”) Sajjad Hussain for a film called Aakhri Sajda:

And Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam gives us this appropriately mournful but beautiful title track:

With one exception the themes in this post are from the 1960s or 1970s. The sixties had its “Cha cha cha” sound which just makes me want to dance, while the seventies tore the roof off the sucker with funkadelic grooves and a big orchestral sound appropriate for the sprawling epics of that decade (I will not discuss the eighties and its abysmal disco).

Although I was disappointed by the film, I love the intro to 1968’s Kismat:

Two of my favorite title songs are also for two movies I like very much: Dharmatma and Sholay. The first is as larger than life as the title character is, and introduces “eastern” elements anticipating the Afghani setting.

Sholay‘s titles with its jangly guitars and American West sound puts us firmly in the mood for the saga of frontier justice which follows.

What title music do you particularly remember or play over and over?

While you ponder that I will leave you with another common type of title music: the Ear-Boggling Hollywood Ripoff. Here for your listening pleasure is the Shaitani Dracula Theme (Bond Remix). It’s not technically a favorite; think of it maybe as a…bonus?

Update: Since people seem to like this post, I’m adding links to the three other title songs I’ve posted here before didn’t include above. Those are the title songs from Chhaila Babu, Hawas, and The Train. Enjoy!

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98 Comments to “My ten favorite “title” tunes”

  1. Been a reader here for a while… decided to hop into the commentspace.. !

    I’ve always LOVED the opening credits to the old DON – cracking car chase sequence and brilliant brilliant music!

    • Hi Aaren, I like meeting lurkers (being one myself very often) :) Yes, the original Don titles are incredible! It was a rich decade for title music indeed…

  2. Fantastic topic to discuss.

    I am also easily swayed by title music. (Never claimed to be anything but shallow. ;-)

    Used to hate it when I used to get to a movie late in India and miss the title music.

    I would like to humbly submit one more for your consideration.
    Title music of Wahan Ke Log.

    When I saw the movie (in order to subtitle it), I was totally hooked the moment I listened to the title music. I immediately knew that I was onto a good thing. :-)

    I am actually listening to it right now. :-)

    • Yes, it’s quite fab too :) I could have made this into a very very long post—actually initially was just going to talk about “favorites” and not top 10…but then realized it would never be finished if I didn’t put some limits on myself :D

  3. SHOLAY! SHOLAY! SHOLAY! YAY! oh, thanks for including it on your list, it’s one of my favourite title theme’s of all time. It’s really dramatic but so is the film so it gets me ‘in the mood’
    I feel like a cowgirl riding through frontier lands but with an bhindi spot!!

    Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam is indeed very lovely too! Thank’s for sharing memsaab!

  4. As we both commented when we talked about this subject a week or two ago, the overture variety of title music is particularly wonderful. In opera, the overture serves to introduce each of the musical themes in turn, and since the musical themes reflect the narrative themes of the opera, they tell you a little bit about the range of emotions you can expect from the show. Overture style filmi themes do the same, and of course are far from the only trenchant parallel one can draw between Hindi film and opera.

    One addition to your comment on Sholay – “Sholay‘s titles with its jangly guitars and American West sound” – the Sholay title music also has a tabla-and-flute break in the middle, and so it is a perfect microcosm or reflection of the nearly seamless fusion that characterizes Sholay – frontier western, yet still an Indian story.

    • I’ve been thinking of doing a title songs post for a while, and our conversation finally propelled me into doing it :)

      And I concur with everything you have said!

  5. OOh I love these title “tunes”.
    I especially like waqt, teesri manzil, sholay, seeta aur geeta, brahmachari and bluffmaster. so pretty much all of them.
    strange that I never paid mch attention to Indian film titles as I did to American ones. But then again it’s only recently that I got hooked on to Hermann sequences to Hitchcock films.

  6. Awesome post… I want to make a CD of these tracks now and listen to them on repeat.

    For me, along with Sholay, most definitely Raj Kumar, Kashmir Ki Kali and Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon. There’s more but I can’t think of them right now.

  7. Thanks soo much for this post Memsaab, I’m gonna be blasting this from my room and earn the ire of all the neighbours! But one of my absolute fave title songs is the Jewel Thief dance music, not exactly a title song, but the fabulous music that Faryal dances to! And the most glorious I’d have to say is the funkadelic Shalimar opening music! It sounds like something straight out of a Blaxploitation film!

    • I’m thinking another post just on instrumental dance music will be in order one of these days. There are lots of those too! :) And all the music in Shalimar is funkdelicious :)

  8. A great topic! I would like to mention “Bobby” and ” Yadon ki Barat”. Yes, Shalimar is pretty funky too!

    • I need to see those again—sadly the title music doesn’t seem to be available as an mp3 or similar. The list of songs I need to rip myself grows ever longer….nahiiiiiin! :)

  9. One of my favorites, that definitely falls into the “earworm” category, is the theme from The Burning Train. It just cracks me up. I mean, how many different ways can you sing the phrase “The Burning Train”? Quite a few, apparently. The theme from The Great Gambler is a close second for the same reason.

  10. Title music from Govind Nihalani’s “Akrosh” & “Ardh Satya”

  11. You may want to add Jalwa (1987) directed by Pankaj Parashar and stars Naseeruddin Shah, Archana Puran Singh, Pankaj Kapoor and Tejeshwar Singh.

  12. It is a fantastic fantastic topic. Did you notice that most of these tunes that we so love are created by R D Burman ? What a genius he was.

    I fully agree with “Seeta aur Geeta” (I mean Great and Carla) that “Sholay” title music is just amazing. In fact, I just listened to it when I was supposed to get prepared to go to office.

    This topic has great potential and one can dig up some great stugff on it. I will go through this post again in detail and offer my detailed comments.

    • Would love to see your list Atul! And I was actually surprised at how evenly distributed among different composers title music is. Kalyanji Anandji wrote a lot of good instrumental music, as did Shankar Jaikishan and Usha Khanna as well. And my perennial favorite Ravi too! I think Panchamda really took advantage of title music opportunities to create interesting *sounds*—they don’t always work for me, but provide an interesting look into his influences and focus at the time they were written.

  13. What an unusual topic! Love it, even though I must admit to not paying much attention to title tunes – unless they happen to be accompanied by songs. The type that play as the credits roll. If that were the case, among my favourites would be Garjat barsat saawan aayo re (Barsaat ki Raat), Rangeen bahaaron se hai gulzar Chinatown (Chinatown), Yeh Lucknow ki sarzameen (Chaudhvin ka Chaand) and the title song from An Evening in Paris. Must start paying a little more attention to tunes, too, I think…

    • Yes do :) I love instrumentals, and Hindi cinema is rich with them if you just pay attention :) I think it helps not being so hooked into lyrics since they’re incomprehensible without subtitles…I can just enjoy the melody and the rhythm of instrumental music.

  14. I think shalimar too deserves a place …

  15. OOps, I typed “Great and Carla” instead of “Greta and Carla”, not that I was much wrong.

    • One of my enduring nicknames is “Great One” because it’s a common typo :) Interestingly, I tend to type “greta” instead of “great” when I mean to type “great”…the opposite of most people!

  16. It might have been some song or other that initially piqued my interest in Bollywood sounds, but it was certainly the instrumentals that nailed it. It’s always a plus when soundtrack albums include them, and I get royally pissed off when they don’t and I subsequently find out they’re awesome. Don and Hanste Zakhm spring to mind. Another favourite, which did make it onto the album, is Anita.

    We both know I was bound to, but I love this post!!

    :)

  17. These days the only title tune that’s playing in my mind is ‘Disco Dancer’. :)

  18. Very interesting idea for a post (with some very nice music), and it was a lot of fun starting to think of my own favorites in this area… The first that came to mind was the title sequence to a movie from 1944, Ratan, with that gorgeous music by Naushad… But it wasn’t difficult for me to think of some favorites from the ’60s, either, and I think the prize would have to go to the opening song in Kalpana (1960), which I feel is the best soundtrack by O.P. Nayyar. (Unfortunately, I never got t see the whole movie, but I know all the songs, and I love the music – plus the dancing, of course…)

    • I have Ratan, need to watch it though. And funny that Kalpana just came onto my radar recently, I love the music for it too although the title song isn’t instrumental so wouldn’t have fallen into this list anyway. But it is so very pretty :)

      • Oh, sorry, should have read the guidelines more carefully. And then I took up so much space with a clip – or, rather, WordPress did, as it does this auotmatically, though sometimes randomly (unless you take special steps to stop that)…

        By the way, do you remember the Ghulam Mohammed title music for Shair (1949)? That’s a really nice jazzy, rocking instrumental, which also just showed up on YouTube recently:

        • If it annoyed me I’d change it :) I like the music in it. That is a great instrumental—very orchestral! Would fit the “overture” type very well! Thanks :)

  19. SuperB collection and write up as alwayz Memsaab.

    As front benchers in the days of yore .) we wud never miss out on with the title music, bcos it was just g8, and while this was on, we had to catch up with all the guyz and dollz who made these Goldies.

    The list can be 10 miles long, interesting to see so many folks adding their choices.

    One which comes to my mind right away is the just posted Mohabbat Zindagi Hai 1966, the typical O P Nayyar Sahebs flow of music with REAL instruments, and to back him up we had the very under rated G S KOHLI Pajee and Sebastian bro……as his Assistants .)

    as they say jaisa GURU vaisa Chela/s.

    In fact any movie of OP, mind blowing titles and super duo of SJ, big orchestra and all.

    Really I wud say TOP 100000 from 50s to 70s…. wah wah Ustad and Ustadis .) also as Usha Khanna Ji was another lady who was right on the top. Folks will remember Dil Deke Dekho….her first debut phillum, and what a musical score !

    • I didn’t register the music from Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, or at least not enough to make the effort to rip it…will revisit it :) Usha’s theme from “Hotel” almost made it here though—she wrote great instrumental music. Love her title song from the dreadful Hawas as well, it was the best thing about that film for sure.

  20. I haven’t thought of a favorite but I like Kaajal (1965) a lot. Also Sholay. Dost, Raja Jani and Red Rose are quite nice. Gosh there are so many but Kaajal and Sholay stand out immediately.

  21. Approp Mohabbat Zindagi Hai…..
    O P’S compositions, song or instrumentals were reaaaal SOUL soothers, right from 50’s, a Maestro and yu know I have a collection of his songs as instrumentals, they are so much fun to listen to in the back ground, mean while yu carry on with yr work, these tunes simply ‘lift’ yu up. .)

    Cheers

  22. Great post, memsaab. And thanks for providing the audio clips of your favorites. I also love the jazzy intro from Kismat.

    Another memorable title tune that hasn’t been mentioned and never made it to the soundtrack album is the one for Caravan. It plays during one of the all time best openings, Imo, to a Bollywood movie during which a lovely and shoeless Asha Parekh helplessly tries to drive a runaway car down a steep mountain while RD Burman’s wonderfully eclectic music plays in the background. It also uses a hauntingly wordless vocal by Usha Iyer aka Usha Uthup to great effect. I’ve replayed and enjoyed the opening sequence for Caravan more times than I can remember. :)

    here’s a link for the video @

    http://misternaidu.blogspot.com/2010/01/video-of-week.html

  23. Thats such a smart post, and so true!
    The Shalimar title music always gets me into the mood for a rewatch, as does Sholay. Thats some great psychological analysis u just did :”)

  24. My favourite 10 title tunes (in addition to those mentioned by Greta
    1. Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin
    2. Saagar
    3, The burning train
    4.Shalimaar
    5.Heera Panna
    6.Ghar
    7.Shaan
    8.Deewaar
    9.Azaad(1978)
    10.Don (1978)

  25. (Yes, I also buy wine based on how pretty the labels are. I like pretty.)

    I DO THAT TOO.

    In fact, I buy lots of stuff because of the pretty factor. I mean, how else am I going to wade through all those cheap movies on Nehaflix? Read the titles and look them up? AS IF.

    • I sometimes wonder what wine purveyors are thinking when they slap some boring text-only label on their bottles. Perhaps I have missed my calling and should be designing better ones for them (and convincing them to use them)…

      • Unless it’s shaped like a cat or a bright neon color – I’m not even looking at it. Whenever I go into a liquor store (not often, by the way), I always look at these pretty bottles. There’s one bottle of alcohol shaped like a skull. It’s amazing.

  26. Right on! I can’t think of one recommendation on this thread with which I disagree (including Disco Dancer! ) but I’ll tell you the one title song I’ve come to loathe: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. It was fine in the movie but ever since KJo converted it into the signature song for his company, I get the heebie jeebies every time it flashes on screen. I don’t really get my reaction but there it is.

    Oh and I can’t believe nobody has yet brought up the awesome sauce that is Gunmaster G9!! For shame!

  27. My ear caught this one. It is from Anuradha-Leela Naidu and Balraj Sahni. Have only seen the songs so far.

    • It’s not an instrumental only (or mostly) but it is very pretty…I need to see this film as well, have not yet. I want to see the beautiful Leela Naidu in something!

    • Very nice–now i want to see the movie. Title songs should do that no?

      Memsaab–Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke is a Leela Naidu movie based on the Nanavati case. Haven’t seen it but that song “Yeh khamosiyan” has me curious.

  28. Very cool topic and picks! Sholay is my favourite.
    I think I would probably only add Teesri Manzil, Gol Maal (Hrishida’s version needless to say :) ) to the list.

  29. Memsaab
    for readers who like to hear a rare Title song, it is actually a beautiful song sung by Bhupinder from Bada Kabutar 1973, MD Panchamda and Lyrics by Yogesh then see this link-


    Cast……
    Helen
    Pinchoo Kapoor
    Ashok Kumar… in most unusual and fab role
    Leela Mishra….. ditto this super lady
    Keshto Mukherjee
    Madan Puri
    Rehana Sultan
    Deven Verma

    Directed by Devan Verma, who also stars in this action comedy

    This movie coming up on the other side, sry no Subs but audio/video kwality is 10 on 10, despite a VCD

    and

    another real oldie Goldie Title SONG from Yahudi 1958.

    When it is Shankar Jaikishen composition, I for one have to get it. Movie starred-
    Sohrab Modi ,Dilip Kumar, Meena Kumari ,Nigar Sultana, Nasir Hussain,,, Anwar Hussain Minoo Mumtaz Ramayan Tiwari,Murad ,Indira,Adil, Vikram Kapoor, Kumari Naaz ,Master Romi ,Helen ,Cuckoo ,Kamla Laxma

    Also released a DVD rip on the other side.

    And ofcors the link-

    Enjoii

    Cheers
    p.s. both are in XVID format .)

  30. Hi Memsaab,
    I absolutely agree with you, the title track and the accompanying visuals set the tone for a film. You have mentioned Teesri Manzil, well Vijay Anand, Teesri Manzil’s director is one of my favourite directors. I love the title track from his film Jewel Thief. The music is by S.D. Burman and he is assisted by his son R.D. You see the gloved hand of the thief stealing the jewels. The camera moves from one mannequin to another and then rests on one mannequin –there is a close-up of the necklace on the mannequin’s neck and then the thief—- back to camera—— covers the mannequin, there is the sound of a woman laughing softly almost a mocking laugh (I loved this touch). The thief moves on and you see the mannequin’s bare neck. I loved this whole sequence. You can watch it on you tube; here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFZiZCUynpg

    • Oh that is a good one Shilpi!!!! I need to either rip it myself from the dvd or (better) find it somewhere :) I love how atmospheric it is too. Really really sets the scene for the craziness to follow!

  31. What a fabulous post! You’ve single-handedly salvaged my day, memsaab.

    I love all the title pieces you mentioned and agree that the ones that provide “jhalaks” (glimpses) of a song from the film provide serendiptious pleasure. One favorite in this category, is the title music from Ghar.

    • Ooh, have not seen this film or heard the music. Love it! :) I’m happy to have salvaged your day but sorry it needed salvaging! May today be much much better :)

  32. Great post. Thanks!

    Love Bhupinder. Love RK. And Shabana with RK. And you just know with the soulful title track (Gulzar’s lyrics) how weepy this melodrama is going to be :-) It’s quite my favorite in ‘Thodisi Bewafaii’ which was his much needed big hit at the time.

    And Memsaab, in continuation of a previous conversation, yes, this is RK in the early 1980s and he’s still got what it takes :-D

  33. Great Post, i can’t believe no one has mentioned this, well mentioned, but didn’t link to it

    of all you’ve posted i loved Seeta aur geeta and Sholay the best. The Sholay one is so soothing, perfect way to unwind after a busy day

  34. Lovely tunes! Esp the ones from Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam and Sholay.

    I also liked the one posted by Suhan from Thodisi Bewafai – beautiful.

    One that I find very haunting is the title track from the Bimal Roy classic “Sujata”, sung soulfully by Geeta Dutt – no lyrics, just her ethereal voice.

    Another is the song picturized on Sanjeev Kumar and Waheeda Rehman in the title track of “Trishul” – Aap ki mehki hui zulf ko kehte hain ghata.

    And lastly, the peppy title track of “Tere Ghar ke Saamne”.

    • That song from Trishul is one of my all-time favorites (wouldn’t go here though, not an instrumental!!!) :-) I love it though. I will have to watch Sujata again for the titles…

  35. Hello Memsaab
    I confess, I am a lurker after a friend introduced me to your blog. Great work here, entertaining and educational at the same time. This particular post almost begged me to comment about a wonderful title sequence piece that is my all time favorite, albeit not from a Hindi movie (or a Bollywood movie). It’s from “Bombay Talkie” from the Merchant Ivory house. It’s composed by Shankar Jaikishen and was recently reused in Wes Anderson’s “Darjeeling Limited”. Not only is this wonderfully composed but the picturization is also mesmerizing – I want that Bombay back :-)

    This tune takes me back to a place and time which I cannot put my finger on….uff!
    Thanks!!

    • Oh I do know this sequence, it is wonderful. Love the posters!!!! I am going to get one made someday starring ME! Glad to see you here peeping out from the dark corners :D

  36. :-) and I would get one made with me as the “bad” guy..in the most outrageous Gulshan Grover ‘bad guy’ look…

  37. Guys, check out Johny Mera Naam; the title music was a huge hit in its time

  38. The title music in Chaltee kaa naam gaaDee is great, also because the titles themselves are quite innovative and a joy to watch. I think you should put a video clip of that, as many have done in the replies. I am going to learn how to do that.

    • They might be up there somewhere, I am actually surprised at how many title sequences are. I don’t “do” video though…it’s beyond my limited capabilities and I don’t have time!

  39. IMO, Pancham da liked Sholay tilte track so much that he used the same tune for his another composition “Raju Chal Raju” in Dharmendra Starrer Azaad…I like both versions….

    As you rightly said Memsaab, the title track normally perk you up to watch the whole story in a particular mood….

    I remember there was a lot fanfare created on Shaan’s title track…but i guess it didnt work for the movie…

  40. The title music of ‘caravan’ is the direct rip off of Lawrence of Arabia’s theme music. i heard it in a Roger Moore Bond movie ….. and then read about it , maybe a deliberate reference in a desert scene. how come nobody has found L OF A theme’s variations in the background music of some films in the 70’s.

    BTW,I am from India . this site has made me a Shammi K ,Rajesh K Fan.thankx a lot.

    • Oh goody!!! Then my work here is done :)

      I don’t remember LOA’s music at all, haven’t seen it in years…but there is a lot of that sort of “inspiration” going on!

  41. what about Sunny deol’s Movie Betaab’s Title music Memsaab Plz check you are missing something very spl.

  42. want to download good quality sholay title music audio. anybody knows ?
    Whole blog is good and takes back by 30 years
    Most of us must have been teenagers and twenties then
    Titles of Yadon Ki Barat (Nasir Husain) is also good if I remember right.

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