A lot of westerners (although not me) are introduced to Hindi movies through the fantastic music of the 1960s and 1970s. There are a number of CD compilations out there: Bollywood Funk, Bollywood Funk Experience, Bombay Connection: Funk from Bollywood. You get the picture! If I knew anything about music I would ramble on here about how funk is what happens when you mix rock with Motown and James Brown and then drop too much acid before getting on stage. All I really know for sure is that during the 1970s while I listened to George Clinton and Parliament sing “We Want the Funk” I had no idea that a bunch of music composers in India were listening to them too and incorporating their sound into Indian film songs that I would one day also truly love.
I had no idea either that Indian costume designers were at least as sartorially adventurous as George Clinton, but there you have it!
In any case, it’s not difficult to hear those influences in quite a lot of Bollywood music in the 1970s. Here are ten of my favorites, in alphabetical order by movie because I’m too hot and too tired to otherwise organize them, although I did flog myself by not allowing any repeats from the CD compilations I’ve mentioned above or from other lists I’ve made here previously (Helen’s in particular: I didn’t realize when I put the list together how many of these are Helen songs! Plus it nearly killed me not to include “Ae Naujawan” from Apradh).
1. “Dance Music” from Bairaag (1976) (instrumental; music by Kalyanji Anandji). Helen burns up the dance floor as Leena Chandavarkar burns with envy. It’s been a while since I saw this film; all I remember is that it was sort of insane and Dilip Kumar had a triple role.
2. “Main Kachhe Angoor Ki Bail” from Chori Mera Kaam (1975) (sung by Kishore Kumar, his son Amit Kumar, and Kanchan; music by Kalyanji Anandji). This goofball film is wonderful, and this song is one of my favorite things about it. The Shash’s dreadful wig and Dadamoni are reason enough to watch it (and Zeenat if those two don’t float your boat).
3. “Cabaret Dance” from Dharmatma (1975) (instrumental with gutteral screams, weird laughter, and sundry other strange sounds; music by Kalyanji Anandji). Helen’s lunatic snake dance—possibly her most bizarre ever, and that is saying something—and I just want whatever it is they all are taking. And by the way, I love Feroz Khan.
4. “Ek Se Badhkar Ek” from Ek Se Badhkar Ek (1976) (sung by Runa Laila; music by Kalyanji Anandji). Helen again (this is why she is The Queen of Everything) in this crazy and entertaining film from Brij, irritating Raaj Kumar (he of the Colorful Blouses).
5. “Mohabbat Hi Mohabbat Hai” from Geeta Mera Naam (1975) (sung by Rafi; music by Laxmikant Pyarelal). I don’t much care for the picturization of this song in the film but I’m not sure why. Three stylish people (Feroz, Sadhana and Helen), one drunk person (Keshto Mukherjee) and banyan trees surely ought to be enough but the song somehow still manages to out-pizzazz all that. It needs some flying monkeys or a man in a moth-eaten bear suit.
6. “Tu Kya Jane O Bewafaa” from Haath Ki Safai (1974) (sung by Lata (!); music by Kalyanji Anandji). A classic filmi nightclub song, with Hema Malini shimmying in front of gora extras, men in sheikh outfits, beaded curtains, Vinod Khanna and poor sad sack Randhir Kapoor. I watched this film not that long ago, but don’t remember anything much about it (possibly why I did not review it either).
7. “Samne Ye Kaun Aaya” from Jawani Diwani (1972) (sung by Kishore and RD Burman; music by RD Burman). This film mostly passed by in a haze for me since I could only focus in horror on Jaya Bhaduri’s inexplicably infantilized character: she carried a doll around with her everywhere, even to her college classes. Also, the available dvd/vcd of the film doesn’t include the funkadelic beginning of the song, which is a real pity. But lucky you can get the full song over at Third Floor Music! This particular Youtube video has it too.
8. “One Two Cha Cha Cha” from Shalimar (1978) (sung by Usha Uthup; music by RD Burman). A bad film with great stars and great music…okay so it isn’t that bad a film! (Wait, yes it is. But still, I love it.) Opening credits roll over this song pictured on Aruna Irani conducting dance classes.
9. “O Meri Jaan Main Ne Kaha” from The Train (1970) (sung by Asha and RD Burman; music by RD Burman). Yup—Helen again! I love this film, and especially I love the songs in it. And this is pretty much the best of them, no mean feat!
Oh fuck it!!!!!
10. “Ae Naujawan Hai Sab” from Apradh (1972) (sung by Asha; music by Kalyanji Anandji). I can’t leave this off, I can’t! It should be on every list ever made by anybody!