A theme song for the memsaab!


I have tripped and fallen over a theme song of my very own! There are two reasons, no three many reasons why I cannot resist it:

  1. The lyrics “Lo Memsaab Salaam, Salaam Memsaab Salaam”
  2. Rafi sings it, and I love him; plus, he yodels!*
  3. It’s from Reporter Raju which was made in 1962 (so it’s *almost* as old as I am)
  4. The film is a Wadia Brothers production, and I love the Wadias
  5. Even though Shammi isn’t in it, Feroz Khan does his level best to channel Shammi; and I can close my eyes and pretend it’s Shammi, since it is a very Shammi-like song (Shammi Shammi Shammi!)
  6. It’s lively and fabulous (is there an Indian instrument that sounds like an accordion, or is it an actual accordion? either way, too much fun)
  7. It’s short, like my attention span!

Here it is: “O Chale Ho Kahan Kaho” from Reporter Raju, sung by Rafi, music by S.S. Mohinder:

*Edited to add: My very reliable and informed friend Sunny has informed me that Kishore actually does the yodeling here for Rafi, which makes no material difference to it remaining my theme song, but good to know!

*Edited again to add more: Now more people are on board the it’s-Rafi-yodeling boat, see comments if you are interested! It’s still my theme song, no matter who yodels, even if it’s a Swiss farmer who was imported just for the task.

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48 Comments to “A theme song for the memsaab!”

  1. Congratulations :-)
    PC x

    (I have no idea what memsaab even means…)

  2. Essentially it means “Madame” and can vary in tone from respectful to sarcastic to affectionate :-)

  3. What a perfect song for you!

  4. Nice! I think those probably are actual accordions. They seem to pop up a lot in Bollywood songs of that vintage.

    I’ve only recently become aware of this phase in Feroz Khan’s career, which could be described as the “We couldn’t get Shammi, so you’ll have to do” phase.

  5. Michael: I’ve been singing it all day :-) I like ALL the songs from this movie, but this was fortuitously the only one I could find online. Meant to be!

    Todd: I know you are the Feroz Khan expert around here :-) That seems to be a very accurate summation! I’ve never seen him like this, but he is imitating Shammi perfectly (at least in the songs). It’s one of his first films. And it’s a good film too! Review coming soon…

  6. In Samson, which was made a couple years later, the resemblance was really uncanny.

  7. Yaay, lucky you! Wish they had a PPCC theme song somewhere out there. I can write the lyrics. “Oye oye – post-punk sinema hai, kitna mazaa aaega – oye oye oye!” And I would totally get either Mohd. Rafi or Sukhwinder Singh to sing it, and it would be this mega-awesome filmi qawwali + Hindustani classical blend and…

    Whoa, sorry, got carried away.

    Anyway, on Feroz Khan: in accordance with Anil Kapoor Month (Filmi Girl’s dub), I was re-watching the song Insha’Allah from Welcome (uggh, but yay song) and I thought I saw it say that the scary bald man is Feroz Khan. Same guy?

    Hmm, maybe my theme song could be that: “INSHAAAAA’ALLAH! INSHAAAA’ALLAH!” I so need to hire Anil and Nana to come dance at all my parties.

    On “memsaab”: I looove the term “memsaab”, as I’ve started to use it whenever some of my expat friends act so… memsaaby.

  8. Todd: Well, he does get Shammi’s moves and mannerisms right but….he’s not nearly as beautiful :-) Shammi cannot be duplicated.

    PPCC: Oh, finding a song for you could be lots of fun. I wasn’t looking for one, it just arrived on my lap. It IS the same Feroz Khan that was in Welcome; Fardeen Khan’s papa :-) And yes, being a memsaab means you need to act pricey on occasion ;-P

  9. Mine, for obvious reasons, would be the title music from ‘Teesri Manzil’. Are instrumental theme songs allowed?
    PC x

  10. PC you may have any song you wish. From any time, any where, of any kind! :-)

  11. Wow! What a great find and so apt! :-)

    Never knew Rafi tried his hand at yodeling. Its great, but still… I think he should have left yodeling to Kishore Kumar!

    And is your theme movie going to be English Babu Desi Mem? No, that doesnt sound right. Bollywood is going to have to make something more along the lines of Desi Babu English Mem for you!

  12. bollyviewer: I had to rewind and watch it several times, it was so fun. Feroz Khan is pursuing Chitra, who has no time for him at all; so cute (and as mentioned before and V.V. important, Shammi-like). And it’s subtitled, so I didn’t even have to guess at the words :-) I love the yodeling!

    I think it would be v. hard to narrow down to one film…there’s such variety to choose from (of course the same can be said for music, so you never know!). But I think Shammi would need to be involved in person somehow (not being channeled).

    NS: Hee. Do you have one?

  13. Have I told you about the Bollywood panel discussion I attended where a guy in the audience thought the Feroz Khan cameo in Om Shanti Om was Telly Savalas?

  14. Ha! That’s funny. Except Telly Savalas has been dead for almost 15 years! :-()

  15. Salaam Memsaahib, salaam! :) This is sweet! Couldn’t have come from a better singer! I guess the closest we’ve come to an iconic term in the modern era is with ‘Madam Memsaab’ from Raja Hindustani (1995), which I was referring to earlier.

    Will you be adding this to the soundtrack to your life? It might not have Shammi, but (at least it’s black and white) it might just have to do. Perhaps in the background score, but included in the soundtrack release? =)


  16. Adaab, tBwF! :-) I just loved this song, and Rafi is my favorite. I could probably go on forever adding to the soundtrack of my life. I love all the songs in this movie, and there is a wonderful qawwali which I may post in my review of the film—I can’t find the songs (except this one) in my usual internet nooks and crannies, not even a CD of it for sale. So will have to rip it myself from the DVD, but it’s a real treat.

  17. Ah, I like this :-). Good fun, and yes, it does suit your blog persona at any rate! Am waiting eagerly for your review of the movie – I must admit to not having seen very much of Feroz Khan (Safar, Aadmi aur Insaan, Upasana, Qurbani – and that awful International Crook)… and it strikes me: all of these are movies with him being part of a love triangle. Weird.

  18. You’re right, he does feature in a lot of love triangles! Not in Reporter Raju, though :-)

  19. Ooh, excellent choice! I think mine would be Ajnabi Mujhko Itna Bata from PTHHT, although “O Ajanabee” from Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon is pretty good too. ;-)

  20. Oh for you I might choose “Ek Ajanabee Haseena Se” from Ajanabee, it’s a sublimely beautiful song :-)

  21. Ooh yes Memsaab on Ajanabee! Desert island music…..and Zeenat as said Ajnabee can’t be beat. You’d be in good company ajnabi :-)

  22. The yodelling in this song is by Kishore Kumar.:)

    • Mr Sunny
      This song was recorded in 1957 for a film released in 1959. At that time Kishore Kumar was not really prominent in playback singing. Please upodate your knowledeg base and check with all the records form the recording studios . You are simply overreacting to the fact the Mohd Rafi did yeodle and cpould do it as beautifully as Kishore Kumar. You may even track down the music director to check. Going through the Mohd Rafi Wikipedia you will know that it was he who did yodelling in Bollywoood songs before anyone.You are simply taken by surprise at the fact that he has done it so beautifully.

      Listen to this song with Asha – Hello sweety seventeen Kaisi hai tabbiat’ and would you mind checking form her as to who did the yodelling in that song?
      Please do not spread wrong information and try to enjoy the greatness of the two most talented singers ( Rafi and Kishor) we have had .
      Very recently eben a new singer in the film Savariyan has yodelled. It is something that Kishor did excelllently and in several songs. But therer are others as well who also did it. Rafi has done it in three / four songs and later he did not have to it probably he got into different type of songs.
      If you see the movie and listen to the song carefully you will make out that it is Rafi saab’s voice and you should be able to follow how he rolls over to the other scale and yodells.
      No denying that Kishor was a a better exponent of yodelling but in yodelling to whatever extent Rafi has done – he has also done it better than all the Kishor clones and done a real great job of it as well. Hope you will be gracious enough to withdraw your comment.
      I amy admit that I am a great fan of both Rafi and Kishor and like them equally.

      Kishor had a sonrous Baritone voice and Rafi had a silken melodius mellifluos voice. Both are greats.

      • I don’t think Sunny’s intent was to disparage Rafi! If Rafi did the yodelling then hooray! But honestly speaking it doesn’t matter to me that much who did the yodelling. As you say, they are both GREAT singers and I love them each a lot :) Wouldn’t want to have to do without either one.

        • You are right. I also would not want to to do without any of them. as both are real greats but Sunny’s comment sound quite blatant and gives the impression of his lack of
          knowledge. I am also surprised at your amazement and acknowldegement of his knowledge ( to be precise his lack of knowldege and Pundit like statment that it was Kshor who did the yodelling for Rafi.\
          It is Rafi who did the yoedelling inspite of the fact that it matters really little to you – I would request you to rcetify the post and
          acknowledge the skill of Rafi and withdraw the comment of Sunny. If you
          lsiten to the song carefully you can easily make out that it is Rafi.
          On the contrary if you listen tio the siong Pag Gunghroo from the all time hit Namak Halal you will note that the classical tankarri in the same song was done by some one else.

          • I have known Sunny for some years now, and he is a very nice guy with a great deal of knowledge about Hindi film music (and I am not the only one who thinks so—I am the first to admit that I don’t know anything about it, how could I?). So please don’t make assumptions about people and their motivations here just because you disagree with them.

            I don’t withdraw comments made by people in good faith because I believe that courteous discussion is a fundamental blessing of this blog, I have learned a lot through such conversations. I mean no disrespect to you either when I say that I don’t know you at all, and so what reason would I have to take your word for it? It doesn’t matter to me because I just enjoy the song no matter who is singing—this may be a reflection on me and my cultural ignorance but I have only been listening to Hindi film music for six years or so now, I don’t have a lifetime of knowledge on which to draw. So I depend on those who do to help me out, and I am glad that you stepped up to say that Rafi does yodel—just please realize that I have other things to do besides updating posts that I wrote ages ago. And give Sunny (and me) the benefit of the doubt in terms of meaning well.

          • Well said, Memsaab. No one knows everything and we all learn from each other. Smugness about what one does know is so unseemly.:-D

            With regard to the Reporter Raju song, AFAIK, it is Rafi doing the yodeling. But Kishore wasn’t a bad guess – certainly nothing to get one’s, er, dhoti into a tangle over.:-D Just as getting the release year (it was 1962 not 1959) of “Reporter Raju” is no reason to club Rafi Kishore fan over the head and declare him an ignorant, pompous troll.:-D

  23. Sunny, your knowledge never ceases to amaze me :-) I will update my post accordingly!!!

  24. I WANT A THEMESONG. I can’t believe it’s never occurred to me before to look for one!

    Off the top of my head, I’m chosing “Chale Jaise Hawaien” from Main Hoon Na because 1) I love Vasundhara Das’s singing (and acting), 2) I love the movie, 3) I love the picturization and the spirit it embodies, and 4) it mentions bumblebees.

  25. I never thought about it either until this song spoke to me and said: “Lo Memsaab Salaam! Adopt me, I was written for you!”

    :-) What’s with bumblebees????

  26. Nothing particular re: bumblebees. I just remember laughing out loud when I saw “bumblebees” in the subtitles juxtaposed against Zayed Khan trying his hardest to look super super cool. In my world, “bumblebees” are not something that cool high school boys talk about. Plus “bumblebee” is fun to say, is it not? :)

  27. Bumblebees are fun, in so many ways. Actually, my favorite Halloween costume EVER was a Bumblebee costume. I looked so darn cute! (it was a loonnng time ago, although I was a grownup already) and the antennae and the stinger were oodles of party fun!

  28. Simply great song! I am so glad I heard Rafi sahab’s yodeling for the first time. Sunny’s information is not correct. It is actually Rafi sahab doing yodeling!

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  29. Any chance I could get the mp3 of this song ????

  30. Well Memsaab and Shalini

    Thanks for your posts.
    I dont think that we have any any reason to be unreasonable in any sphere of life. Yes I got the year wrong it is 1962 and not 1959 the song probably was recorded in late 1960.
    The song ‘ Hello sweety Seventen ‘ was from the film Mr Z released in 1959 and recorded probably in mid 1957.
    The link is given below – this is aniothersong where Rafi has yoedled.


    For the information of all I am also giving some excerpts from Wikipedia note on Rafi on this issue :

    ‘In Bollywood, yodeling is generally associated with Kishore Kumar but Rafi introduced yodeling in Indian film as playback singing. Rafi yodeled in some of his old songs, such as “Hello sweety seventeen” (duet with Asha Bhosle), “O Chale ho kaha”, “Dilke Aine main”, and “Unse Rippy Tippy Ho gayee” (duet with Geeta Dutt).’

    The entire writeup can be read if linked through:

    Hope the above will be of some use. I have nothing against Sunny or anyone for that matter – neither have I deviated from the norms of courteousness.

    All I had pointed out was someone should not be judgemental and make a remark for the public to absorb – which is incorrect.
    I thought that there was not any real reason and logic that such a statement be accepted as if it is coming from a Pundit. Hence I made a second reply.
    Well – once again I thank Shalini and yourself for the understanding and hope
    that it will clear any doubts about my intentions – which was never there to malign anyone.

    • Oh, I LOVE the song you linked to!!!! :) “Hello Sweety Seventeen”…who was the composer? And clearly I need to hear a song called “Unse Rippy Tippy Ho Gayee” too, what film is that from?

      Thank you!

      • The ever-reliable Atul has posted this already.
        I loooove this song – it is one of those songs that lingers in your mind (in a very pleasant “Shashikala-Phool Aur Patthar” way and not in a “Professor Pyarelal” way. :-)


        • Of course I should have looked there FIRST! :) Fab. Just fab. Lots and lots of yodeling, too!

          • The music director for Dr. Z was Manohar.

            Agra Road is a decent movie and “unse rippi tippi ho gayi” is a delightful song by maestro Roshan, but that isn’t Rafi doing the yodeling.

            Also, would it be churlish to point out that Wikipedia is not always a reliable or credible source of information, particularly when it comes to luminaries from the sub-continent? I’d like to see (hear) the substantiation behind the claim that Rafi “introduced yodeling in Indian film as playback singing.” I don’t know if Kishore was the first to yodel in Hindi films, but I do know that there was yodeling in Hindi films long before the Dr. Z number in 1959 or even the Agra Road song in 1957. For example, take this song from the 1955 film Baap Re Baap:


  31. Thanks for all the info Shalini.

    I am a fan of both Rafi and Kishor and just do not and can not accept any
    blind supporters of either of them belittling the other.

    Hence I had raised the point.

    Kishor was a natural talent . Manna Dey was a Trained voice and Rafi was natural and trained as well. Some songs of Kishor was just sublime and heavenly and so also Rafi is just from the seventh layer of the eternity in some and let
    us not forget Manna dey who also has proven beyond doubt that, there were many songs only he could render to perfection.

    My observation is, we are indeed blessed that we had such great singers and their versatility is just awsome and unmatched.
    Amongst all of them – Manna da was the best in Classical numbers (acknowledged by all including Rafi saab who liked to listen to Mann Da’s songs), Kishor ji was just fabulous in soulful melodies , haunting numbers and songs of high spirits and Rafi saab was the most versatile and probably had the most mellifluous voice.His voice reflected the great energy and smartness of youth and exuded great skill and craftiness.He could sing slow, fast , semi classical, Bhajans, Qawalis, taranas, Geet, romantic numbers, sad songs – jsut about anything with equal zest and gusto. His voice had the beyond the mountain kind of echo and reach
    Kishor was the the best Indian Yodeller no doubt. Rafi Yodelled well in the few songs he did – in fact better than any one else (including Amit Kumar and Shanu, Abhijeet or other Kishor Clones) other than Kishor.

    There is no quarrel between them and each of them had great feelings of respect and admiration for the other.
    Rafi saab did say – no one could sing ‘ Dukhi man mera like Kishor. Kishor after the death of Rafi in one musical prgram – started the show with the Rafi number – Man re tu kahe dhire bhaye – saying that Rafi was a very clsoe friend more like his elder brother.

    Thanks folks and comrades.

  32. I heard all three songs! The voice is recognizably Rafi sahab’s. I do not understand why Shalini refuse to admit that its not by Rafi sahab! The sheer talent this maestro had, it is not and should not be a surprise!

    FYI: I am a huge fan of Rafi, Kishore, Manna Da, Talat, and Mukesh. These guys were very original and extremely talented. A vain attempt to try and bring anyone down would be a great insult to the whole Hindi Film Industry!

  33. hey,

    Great to have found your blog. Gives me so much joy to read about Shammi Kapoor. Amazing that you know so much about Indian Cinema……

    I too loved Baaz of Guru Dutt……… did not fail to observe the reference to the French Revolution (if no bread, have cake). Love Raj Kapoor’s movies, especially Shree 420.

    Try looking out for Kamal Hassan………..

    • I am not much of a Raj Kapoor fan I’m afraid, but pretty much love the rest of the clan. And it is not Raj personally of course since I never knew him, just his films I don’t care for.

      Kamal Hassan worked in Bombay’s industry in the period I most avoid—the dreaded 80s—so I have not seen much of him yet. But he is on my radar as someone I need to watch more of :)

  34. I have had heard of some of the songs of Rafi from this movie, many have been quite pouplar too.
    Had never herad this.
    Indeed, very difficult to guess whther it is Rafi or Kishor in the yodelling, from the voice that can be heard.
    I am grateful to ‘songs of yore” thru’ which I landed upon this site. A great job done for Hindi film music by someone who cherishes hind film music as hobby.

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