Trivia time #33


The 2001 Hollywood film Ghost World made this song and dance number from Gumnaam famous in the non-Hindi film fan world. Laxmi Chhaya’s verve and enthusiasm coupled with the lively tune and Boy-Wonder-masked backup dancers make for compelling watching. And of course, the singer’s ultra-cool style is the juicy cherry on top of this confection. Much speculation has issued forth as to his identity (is he the eponymous Ted Lyons?).

So today’s trivia question is: who is the manic front man in this wonderful song (the voice of course is Rafi’s)?

You can watch “Jaan Pehchaan Ho” here.


Since I saw this film 4 or 5 years ago (early in my Helen obsession) I have been dying to know his identity. I’ve trawled the web, I even posted the question in my review of Gumnaam here in the hopes that one of my extremely knowledgeable readers could help me out. Well, the day finally dawned where my quest for his name was answered. As I was watching the song on an episode of “Movie Mahal” the words “Rafi sings for Herman” crawled across the screen above his gyrations. You cannot even imagine my excitement. I nearly fainted, seriously!

My pal Asli Jat (who supplies me with these arcane treasures from Hindi film history) informed me that he was in fact the choreographer Herman Benjamin (also known as Harman). He worked on a huge number of films (including Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi)—imdb doesn’t even come close to listing them all. He choreographed a lot of Shammi films in the 60s, including Teesri Manzil (see, I knew I loved him!). AJ’s father met Herman (along with Shashi) during the filming of Jab Jab Phool Khile in Kashmir, too (and incidentally AJ went to school with one of Rafi’s sons).

website statisticsI haven’t been able to find out much more about him; he died in 1969 apparently (*sad* :( he can’t have been that old, surely?). If any of you out there know more about him, please please do tell! He was married to Sheba and had a son, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I am sure he never dreamed that he would become a world-wide cult phenomenon, but hopefully he knows it now.

And yay Bollyviewer! She once again was the only person to get it right. She’s the official Memsaab Trivia Queen!

Update: If you are at all interested in the equally fabulous Ted Lyons & His Cubs, see this post for more information.

68 Comments to “Trivia time #33”

  1. ted lyons! lol bad answer but he looks like his name is ted lyons!

  2. Jan Pehechan Ho!!!! OMG I KNEW ONE!!!!

  3. Oh wait, you already said that. Front man? No idea.


    *mopes away*

  4. *falls off chair laughing, then gets up and hugs the ppcc*

  5. No, indeed Rafi himself looked nothing like this :)

  6. You know TED LYONS real name!! How exciting! I have no guesses for this one… ;D

  7. Is it the choreographer Herman, himself?

  8. Anwar Hussein – brother of Nargis

  9. Memsaab very good song of Mohd Rafi – Jan Pehechan Ho

  10. I want to knoooooow! I hope it is the brother of Nargis – that’s kooky and totally delightful!

  11. I can’t wait to know! Please tell :-)

  12. are you guys serious? I was just wondering who that superstar is and it’s your question of the day? Coincidence? Or is Ted calling to all of us on this, the 14th of December?

  13. please don’t keep the answer to yourself. that is very selfish. it’s like you have the cure for AIDS and you won’t share it with the world.

  14. memsaab please tell us. this knowledge can destroy you if you carry it alone

  15. i know it is not anwar husain! he was way to old at that time. but this chap does have resemblance to anwar husain. But during those times everybody had such a moustache!
    very very curious!

  16. I have a feeling that Rafi sang this song for Shammi, or better said, with Shammi in his mind!

  17. LOL @ ted lyons #1 cub! I was asleep, but had I know you were as desperate for this info as I have been I would have told you instantly for sure :)

    Bollyviewer has done it again!!!! I don’t know if it was a guess, Bollyviewer, but if so, it was the right one!

    And I should add that he does look a little like I imagine a young Anwar Hussain might have looked, so good guess! (and I had no idea that Anwar Hussain was Nargis’ brother, so thanks for that bit of trivia, Anonymous!). I *heart* how much my readers know.

    And since Herman choreographed a lot of Shammi films, perhaps the resemblance is not so strange. Shammi is probably the only actor who could have approximated Herman’s awesomeness in this song!

  18. I’m very impressed! BTW, how did you find out? :)

  19. Sorry, sorry… I’d gone straight to the comments from the home page. Interesting!

  20. I can sleep better at night now :)

  21. Okay true story…

    A couple of years ago two male cousins and myself lip synched to this very song and dance at a family wedding! Yes we did have to go shopping at quite a few goodwill stores to get the look right. My beehive wig was a dime store find. The St Vitus type dancing had us aching for weeks!

    Herman, I genuflect to your obvious genius! You helped us bring the house down. The bride almost fell over into a bowl of Gulab Jamuns from from laughing!

  22. Oh I would love to see those photos!!!! I don’t know how Laxmi Chhaya could possibly have even walked for days after this was shot. She probably needed a chiropractor afterwards.

    Herman was a genius. Check out the movies he did the choreography for! Some of my favorites, with some of my favorite songs/dances too (Helen! Shammi! wooooo-hoooo!)

  23. I am so updating the “Gumnaam” page on wikipedia with this information RIGHT NOW!

  24. I did not even know there WAS a Gumnaam page on Wikipedia :) Thanks, Filmi Girl!

  25. I’ve added your site as a reference in case anyone wants to see the additional information you’ve provided! this is nice to know!

  26. It was just a guess. I’ve noticed that the choreographer for a lot of “Western” dances in movies was Herman Benjamin. Considering how well he was gyrating he had to be a dancer himself (which in those days usually meant choreographer and not actor) so I checked the choreographers for Gumnaam and there was the “Western” dances guy! :-)

    And AJ knew Rafi’s son. Wow! Do any of Rafi’s kids sing? Its so sad that there isnt any Rafi-like voice in Bollywood anymore.

  27. Anon: I will try v. hard to not accidentally delete the page :)

    bollyviewer: It was not a guess, it was a clever deduction. Well played, Memsaab Trivia Queen, well played. And no, I don’t think any of Rafi’s children sing. He had a lot of children, too.

  28. Trivia about Rafi.

    He used to be a cook in the Indian Navy… I guess before or just around 1947. He would sing in the galley and was encouraged by superiors (?) to try his luck at being a professional singer.

  29. Thank goodness they did! Or how deprived we would have been! :-)

  30. I read an interview of Rafi long ago in an Indian Mag in which he recounted how he began his filmi journey. In his teens, he was actually working as an assitant in a local kirana shop (desi store where lentils and other essentials are sold) in Lahore. He used to serve customers and at the same time sing his favourite songs. In pre partition India the film industry was largely based in Lahore (now in Pakistan). One of the flim personalities actually heard him sing at the shop and introduced him to famous music director or KL Saigal who was a famous singer those days.

  31. I would imagine that anyone who heard him sing would tell him he should be in the movies :)

    I love hearing these stories, thanks!

  32. Fun Fun and Pure Fun! Thanks, G for such an awesome quiz. I didn’t know about this and I think the dude totally deserves to get more fame. I love the dance in jaan pehchaan ho and of course Shammi. :)

  33. Herman!!!! Now I am sure I will see his name everywhere. I started watching a film last night, and he’s the choreographer there too :)

  34. Im not sure but I could probably find out. I have lots of film connections since I host a celebrity interview and trivia show. I’ll get back to you.

    Oh, if youre intrested…we tape every Sunday night at 7pm eastern time and folks can log in and ask questions of the celebrity themselves. Check it out.

  35. Hey memsaab… now that I discovered your site… am waiting for the next Trivia…

  36. Hello.. i am jesse benjamin.. Herman Benjamin is my grandfather.. and Sheba Benjamin is my Grandmother… Sheba has also passed away..but not to long me on my email if anything…thanks

  37. also he did not have one son..but had two sons…

  38. Is Pompadour man in the dance sequence? I could not spot him.
    He has a following and I miss his ruffled shirt.

    • Pompadour Man (aka Oscar) is not in this film. Nor is Ruffled Shirt Guy—they are not the same person, although they appear together occasionally, and I think that RSG is Vijay although it has not been confirmed. But Oscar worked as a choreographer with Vijay for a long time and it seems logical (of course many things in life defy logic, which is why I am not sure if RSG is in fact Vijay).

  39. Hi Jessy,I was going through Memsaabspage & I noticed that you said That Herman is your grandfather & shoba [thats the right name] was working in bollywood movies & im Ted Lyons & his cubs,you can send me an email confirming that you recieved,then we can talk further.
    Terence Lyons.

  40. My email address is terencellyons@ &

  41. I saw Gumnaam today and totally loved that opening number, “Jaan Pehechan Ho”. I’m not surprised it became so popular as a “stand alone” piece separate from the film. I actually saw “Ghost World” when it came out, but don’t remember the song being featured.
    I found myself thinking about the dance by Bob Fosse in “Sweet Charity”, and wondering if he was influenced by Herman Benjamin. Or was this just a style that was happening all over at the time?
    Is Suzanne Charney the American Laxmi Chhaya?

    • Now I’m going to have to Google Suzanne Charney! :D If there could be an American Laxmi Chhaya I’d be so happy.

      And actually Herman did not choreograph this particular song, even though he did the lip-synching. It was choreographed by Robert Master (aka Surya), and he’s the one who picked Herman to do the “singing” :)

  42. Memsab, i see that you haven’t yet watched “Intezar” that has a wonderful storyline and much better songs. It was remade in Tamil by K Balachander. Considering your passion (or penchant) for bringing the not-so-popular actors/ actresses in the limelight, Intezar is one movie you should watch. It had an existing Mumbai based politician as a hero. It had names like Rinku Jaiswal, Rakesh Bedi, Padmini Kapila, Vishal Anand … all of them vanished without a trace.

    Any old timers reading this … do you have any clue about Rakesh Bedi, Rinku Jaiswal & VishaL Anand ? Do let me know please.

  43. I am very happy to read about my uncle Herman Benjamin at this site. He had set a trend in the 60’s n was famous. I am his brother’s son (baba) who used to assist him. Hermanji has done a lot of movies with Shammi Kapoor. He passed away at a very young age.

    • He certainly was/is famous—he was one of the first people I noticed in the background of films :) After I saw him in Jaan Pehchaan Ho I began to see him in small roles and dances. Would love to know more about him!

    • Oh that’s great to know this is Percy’s wife how r u

      • Hi! I am good. How are you all? Percy children n u? Its so nice for we family to know people care so much about Hermanji. TC n regards

  44. Herman Benjamin was Jew born in Mumbai. The only other famous Jew of Bollywood was David Chaulkar. Ofcourse Nadira and Sulochana and Pramila (silent era) were famous ladies of Bollywood.

  45. I am Herman Benjamin’s choreographer’s daughter in law.

  46. Dear All who have been writing on this site for some years now about Late Mr. Herman Benjamin. Coincidentally I have recently moved into a flat in Mumbai and learnt that, this flat was originally graced by Mr. Herman Benjamin and his family. As per my information Mr. Herman Benjamin left this world in 1972 and his family continued to leave in the same flat until 1987.
    On moving into this flat I was told about how great a person Mr. Herman Benjamin was and who all visited him at this flat during those days including Ms. Helen whom we all love to watch on the screen even today.
    I will be happy to be in touch with anyone who have been associated with Mr. Herman Benjamin and his family.

  47. This is with reference to para No. 44 Herman Benjamin not only danced in the song the song Jaan Pehchan ho (Gumnaam) but also choreographed the song. This song was not choreographed by Robert masterji.

    With ref. to para 49:
    Mr. Vikram Bhatt, Hermanji passed away on 13th Sep 1969 and not in 1972.

  48. This is a reply to Mr. Vikram Bhatt who has moved in the flat where Herman Benjamin resided.

  49. enjoying reading about herman benjamin, i loved his movements in jan pechan ho, and i am noticing that shammi k. had similar movements in a lot of his movies. more info on herman would be appreciated…would love to know more about him and his life and family.

  50. Herman Benjamin was my uncle(my moms elder bro).
    He has two sons not one.

  51. nice read….the wiki page of Gumnaam mentions his name along with the song

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