Mumtaz simply cannot be contained in a list of ten songs only: she had the good fortune to work in an era—and in films—with such great music, that I just find it impossible. Not only that, but because she was often the heroine (first mostly in so-called B-movies of the sixties, then as an A-list star in the seventies) she usually had three or four songs per film, unlike women who were confined mostly to dances or small supporting roles.
Even expanding my list to fifteen, it’s a daunting prospect. So I made two rules (which I then shamelessly circumvented): first, if the song is already here on another favorites list I can’t repeat it (Mumu has been heavily represented on this blog already! Four are here: “Jai Jai Shiv Shankar”; “Prem Kahani Mein”; “Gore Rang Pe”; “Duniya Mein Logon Ko”; and “Tune Jo Samjha” is here). Second, I have to have seen the film (this is where I cheated, and you will see why and forgive me).
I don’t think I need to say much about Mumtaz herself: she is rightly celebrated as one of the best and brightest of her time, and is already much written about online. Starting at the age of 13 or 14 with her sister Malika (who later married frequent co-star Dara Singh’s brother Randhawa) she made the rounds of studio lots and found success working in “B-movies” as a heroine and in mainstream films as a secondary female character and Comic Side Plot Heroine.
With perseverence, talent and hard work she eventually became a bonafide box-office star, appearing opposite all the top heroes of the time.
Her bombshell figure and beautiful face sometimes obscured the fact that she could really act too, but she proved it time and again. And she could dance with the best of them, of course! She is that rare actress and heroine who could make any jodi appealing, and who excelled in whatever material she was given. She was the girl next door, a sexy seductress, a feisty tribal girl, a sophisticated lady.
So here we go, in chronological order because picking only fifteen favorites was hard enough without prioritizing too (plus it’s kind of fun to see the trajectory her roles and songs took). And remember—at the very least “Duniya Mein Logon Ko” and “Gore Rang Pe” would be here if they hadn’t already been taken!
1. “Aaj Koi Pyar Se” from Sawan Ki Ghata (1966) (sung by Asha; music by OP Nayyar, lyrics by Shamsul Huda Behari). I am cheating right off the bat! the shame! by including this because I haven’t seen this film, but it is simply too gorgeous not to include. I love Asha’s singing here, and many of you will appreciate the clinging wet saree aesthetic of it all (you know who you are).
2. “O Meri Maina” from Pyar Kiye Jaa (1966) (sung by Usha Mangeshkar and Manna Dey; music by Laxmikant Pyarelal, lyrics by Rajender Krishan). Mumtaz has had some really fun songs with Mehmood in the CSP Heroine part of her career, and I think this is the best of them. Producer Mehmood (Wah! Wah! Productions) has found his muse! Mehmood hams it up as she channels Laxmi Chhaya and rocks her stirrup pants while a handsome young Shashi Kapoor and disguised Kishore Kumar bob along in time to the music.
3. “Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke” from Brahmachari (1968) (sung by Suman Kalyanpur and Rafi; music by Shankar Jaikishan, lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri). Mumtaz shimmies with her then off-screen love Shammi Kapoor in a sensational orange sari doing its level best to match Pran’s wig. There is just nothing bad about this, and in a movie filled with great songs it’s the tops!
4. “Zindagi Ittefaq Hai” from Aadmi Aur Insaan (1969) (sung by Asha and Mahendra Kapoor; music by Ravi, lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi). This is probably one of her most famous songs (and that is saying something!). She sets out to seduce best friends Dharmendra and Feroz Khan (who can blame her?) and succeeds in seducing the entire audience, which includes my pal Ted Lyons (here’s a little known secret: The Monkees was Ted’s band too!).
Her presence here and also in Apradh‘s cracktastic “Hai Naujawan” makes her the official Queen of Rotating Bars.
5. “Bindiya Chamkegi” from Do Raaste (1969) (sung by Lata; music by Laxmikant Pyarelal, lyrics by Anand Bakshi). I love the peekaboo nature of this, courtesy Raj Khosla and his penchant for windows and dividers of all kinds. The famous Mumtaz-Rajesh chemistry is obvious as well, even though it’s one of their first films together.
6. “Raat Suhani Jaag Rahi Hai” from Jigri Dost (1969) (sung by Suman Kalyanpur and Rafi; music by Laxmikant Pyarelal, lyrics by Anand Bakshi). Jeetendra dreams about Mumtaz in this giant WTF of a song…and I really have nothing more to add to that! Someone had a very fertile imagination and a budget to match, and thank goodness for it.
7. “Aaj Raat Hai Jawan” from Bhai-Bhai (1970) (sung by Asha; music by Shankar Jaikishan, lyrics by Shamsul Huda Behari). Again I’m cheating by including this as I haven’t seen the movie. I am pretty sure the rest of it could never live up to this song (which is not to say I am not dying to see the whole thing). I love the saloon setting and Mumtaz rocks her feathers, plus it’s a great tune. And Pran! And Shetty! And Sunil Dutt and Jagdish Raj! And gora extras! So much to enjoy. It just has to be on this list.
8. “Duniya Mein Pyar Ke” from Sachaa Jhutha (1970) (sung by Asha; music by Kalyanji Anandji, lyrics by Gulshan Bawra). Policewoman Mumtaz entertains party guests (including her colleagues Kamal Kapoor and Jagdish Raj) alongside trumpet-wielding Rajesh Khanna, who is acting as an unsuspecting alibi for his lookalike: thief Rajesh Khanna. The song visuals and choreography are compelling enough, but we also see thief Rajesh—shot by Inspector Vinod Khanna—fleeing home in pain to his lair. It’s intense!
9. “Tumhen Apna Na Banaya To” from Upaasna (1971) (sung by Asha; music by Kalyanji Anandji, lyrics by Indeevar). Mumtaz looks so stylishly mod in this song (blue jeans! a jean jacket! bright red headband! “That Girl” hair!), filmed in one of those huge beautiful gardens that India seems littered with. She cajoles a sulky Sanjay Khan with her saucy moves, and if that can’t cheer him up then nothing will. This is quintessential Mumtaz.
10. “Ho Jai Jai Jal Raja” from Kathputli (1971) (sung by Asha and Mahendra Kapoor; music by Kalyanji Anandji, lyrics by Verma Malik). This is really one of my favorite song picturizations of all time: a plea to the Water Municipality gods to provide the chawl with a trickle of precious H2O from the temperamental community tap. Mumtaz leads her neighbors in their devotions. It’s heartfelt, yes, and hilarious too.
11. “O Maajhi Re O Maajhi” from Bandhe Haath (1972) (sung by Asha Bhosle; music by RD Burman, lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri). Mumtaz (and Amitabh, and everyone else who participated) was wasted in this bad film, but this song is lovely and the picturization superb (and funny). A bright spot in a disappointing movie.
12. “Motiyon Ki Lari Hoon Main” from Loafer (1973) (sung by Asha; music by Laxmikant Pyarelal, lyrics by Anand Bakshi). If I hadn’t already cheated enough, I might have combined this one and the next from the same film into one entry. But I have cheated enough, and I love both these songs equally—and the film too! In fact another all-time favorite song from it (“Aaj Mausam Bada Beimaan Hai”) is pictured on Mumtaz and Dharmendra, but it’s in my favorite Dharmendra list already and is really more of a Dharam song anyway.
As for this one: Mumtaz works her charm on Garam Dharam, who is disapproving but also can’t stop himself from peeping at her. He’s a goner—he just doesn’t know it yet. But we do! I love her go-go boots, her pleather skirt, the furnishings, his dhoti…well, I love everything about this.
13. “Koi Shehri Babu” from Loafer (1973) (sung by Asha; music by Laxmikant Pyarelal, lyrics by Anand Bakshi). Sweet-faced Farida Jalal is getting married and her saheli Mumtaz entertains the assembled ladies with this completely fabulous song and dance.
14. “Keh Rahe Hai Ye Aansoo Baraste Huye” from Jheel Ke Us Paar (1973) (sung by Lata; music by RD Burman, lyrics by Anand Bakshi). This is another I remember vividly in the context of the film. Blind Mumtaz has been “helped” with her party makeup by a jealous Yogeeta Bali, who hopes that by humiliating Mumtaz she can regain Dharmendra’s attention for herself. Instead of fleeing at the ensuing laughter, Mumtaz chooses to remain and sing her song and does so with such dignity and grace that Dharmendra falls head over heels for her instead. The laughing dies quickly, and even Yogeeta feels a little ashamed of herself by the end. Love this scene, love this song.
15. “Phool Aahista Phenko” from Prem Kahani (1975) (sung by Lata and Mukesh; music by Laxmikant Pyarelal, lyrics by Anand Bakshi). This song is an entire story in itself. Her beloved Rajesh Khanna has rejected Mumtaz (without telling her why) and in one of those filmi coincidences she marries his best friend Shashi Kapoor. They meet again when wounded independence fighter Rajesh seeks shelter with his friend and his new bride. When poor unwitting Shashi requests a song, he gets waaaay more than he bargained for as Rajesh and Mumtaz air their feelings and exchange recriminations. It’s lovely (and sad!), and a perfect example of how beautifully a song can move the movie plot along.
Thanks to my friend Tom for prodding me into this post. It was a challenge and a lot of fun—and I look forward to discovering more favorites from the rest of you. Feel the love, Mumtaz!