Nobody would have thought the year 2020, would be so devastating, depressing and sorrowful. As if the shock of covid 19 pandemic was not enough, the deaths of Hindi film industry stalwarts kept piling up. After Rishi Kapoor, Irfan Khan, Basu Chatterjee, Jagdeep, and Saroj Khan, now it is Kumkum. I was shocked with the sudden news of her sad demise. My humble tribute to the popular dancer actress of the yesteryear with a few of her songs, including dance numbers of course.


Kumkum is one of my favourite actresses of old Hindi cinema. She was not conventionally beautiful by Hindi movie standards, but she had something magical in her personality. Her charming smile and expressive eyes were her weapons. Her lively and energetic presence was enough to attract the audience. Dance was her main strength. She was a part of many popular Hindi films and has a number of popular dance numbers to her credit. Though she couldn’t grab lead roles in big banner films, her dance numbers in those films were immensely popular. I remember Basant Bahar, for Kumkum’s dances than for Nimmi and for me her dances from the movie Ujala score more than the other songs. Along with the dances, she would also be a supporting actress in the movie.

Kali Topi Lal Rumal: Credits

But her charisma was so much that she used to be credited at the end with a tag, ‘And’ Kumkum. Of course it’s there only for a few selected films. Such popularity was experienced only by a few superstars. But Kumkum achieved it, even if she was never at the top.

She was a trained Kathak dancer, a disciple of Pandit Shambhu Maharaj. I think all the Kathak dancers are excellent in facial expressions and Kumkum wasn’t an exception. Born as Zebunissa, in the 1930s, she took the screen name, Kumkum. There is no exact information about her first appearance in Hindi films. She used to agree that she came into limelight in 1954, when Guru Dutt offered her the title track of the movie, Aar Paar. The song sung by Shamshad Begum was a huge hit. The same year saw her acting in Sohraab Modi’s ‘Mirza Ghalib’, where again Shamshad Begum lent her voice to Kumkum.

Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar Laga Teer e Nazar – Aar Paar (1954) Shamshad Begum / O P Nayyar – Majrooh
Kumkum’s first popular Hindi film appearance was with this song. She portrayed a labourer lady working at a construction site. The story goes like this, the song was supposed to get picturised on an actress, but no one was easily available for such a small role. Finally the newcomer Kumkum was finalized and it opened the gates of success for her. Though her role was not credited, she got instant recognition with the song. And then there was no looking back. See how perfect she looks in the simple attire.

Chali Pee Ke Nagar – Mirza Ghalib (1954) Shamshad Begum / Ghulam Mohhamad – Shakeel Badayuni
A good dance number from one of her earlier films.

Afterwards, Guru Dutt offered her small supporting roles in Mr and Mrs 55, C I D, Pyaasa etc. While she played a supporting role in Memsahib (1956), she was opposite Shammi Kapoor in Char Dil Char Raahen (1959). She was also a part of Naya Daur, which became a hit movie.

Ae Dil Hai Muskhil Jeena Yahan – C I D (1956) Rafi & Geeta Dutt / O P Nayyar – Majrooh
Kumkum appears a little late in the song, but she is confident in front of Johnny Walker. Her simple attire does enhance her beauty. And her expressions are spot on.

Reshmi Shalwar Kurta Jali Ka – Naya Daur (1957) Shamshad Begum & Asha Bhosle / O P Nayyar – Sahir
A stage performance in a Nautanki. Meenu Mumtaz and Kumkum sing and dance on a typical Punjabi tune. Both the ladies do a fantastic job as apparent from the responses of the audience, which goes completely crazy about them. With her good expressions Kumkum steals the show.

I’ve already mentioned the films Basant Bahar and Ujala. Kali Topi Lal Rumal and Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere can also be cited as her popular films in the late 1950s.

Ja Ja Re Ja Balamwa – Basant Bahar (1956) Lata Mangeshkar / Shankar Jaikishan – Shailendra
Kumkum plays a court dancer in the movie (or so I think), and the song showcases her Kathak talent. Fortunately the camera has captured closeups of her facial expressions, which seem apt. Full marks to her dancing, and of course to the tune and Lata Mangeshkar.

Tera Jalwa Jisne Dekha – Ujala (1959) Lata Mangeshkar / Shankar Jaikishan – Shailendra
As I said already, the songs picturised on Kumkum are more popular than the ones picturised on the lead actress of the movie. Her graceful dancing, smiling face and innocence capture your mind. She’s in full swing in the song.

Daga Daga Wai Wai Wai – Kali Topi Lal Rumal (1959) Lata Mangeshkar / Chitragupt – Majrooh
Kumkum played a simple village girl who sells toys. Her energetic and pleasant screen presence makes the film more crisp. She helps Shakila gain entry into Chandrashekhar’s home by distracting the guards and other servants. All of them fall prey to her luring expressions and easily enter the house. The song has an infectious rhythm and Kumkum dances exactly to the beats.
The song was extremely popular and continues to be. It was one of the major highlights of the film,which was otherwise forgettable.

Chhed Na Sajna Kuchh to Samajhna – Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere (1960) Suman Kalyanpur & Chorus / Kalyanji Anandji – K L Pardesi
Kumkum in typical Maharashtrian Sari (नऊवारी साडी) dancing on a tune sounding somewhat like a लावणी. She looks good and of course dances good. I think for most of her songs, she was dressed up in a simple Saree or Ghagra.

Kohinoor (1960) added a feather to her cap when she showcased her dancing talent in a couple of songs from the movie.

Madhuban Mein Radhika Nache – Kohinoor (1960) Rafi / Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni
Jugalbandi between the singer, Dilip Kumar and the dancer, Kumkum. Kumkum’s training in Kathak dance can be well appreciated in the song. Her facial expressions on the lyrics are superb! I wish there were more closeups of her in the song, than Dilip Kumar’s face.

Mehboob offered her a supporting role opposite Rajendra Kumar in Mother India and later offered her a main lead in Son Of India in 1962.

Dil Todanewale Tujhe Dil Dhoondh Raha Hai – Son Of India (1962) Lata Mangeshkar & Rafi / Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni
I have loved the song since school days, and though Kumkum doesn’t dance in it, her expressions of anguish are perfect.
I think at least some of the readers would expect Diya Na Bujhe Re at this position. But I remember it more for the set, and the music and Lata’s rendition, than for Kumkum.

But for most of her career, she was a supporting actress, though she always remained popular.
In the films, Ganga Ki Lehren and Mr X in Bombay, her pairing with Kishore Kumar was very popular and both the films are still remembered for songs and Kumkum’s dances.

Machalti Hui Hawa Mein – Ganga Ki Lehren (1963) Lata Mangeshkar & Kishore Kumar / Chitragupt – Majrooh
Though not a romantic song, it’s one of the most popular songs in the movie. It talks about the playful waves of the river Ganga, which is considered a sacred river. The music also exudes cheerfulness. Kishore Kumar and Kumkum travelling on different boats, salute the river. A thoroughly enjoyable song.

Khubsoorat Haseena Jaan e Jaa – Mr X in Bombay (1964) Lata Mangeshkar & Kishore Kumar / Laxmikant Pyarelal – Anand Bakshi 
And for a change, Kumkum appears in chic outfits in the song. No simple Saree or Ghagra Choli! She looks glamorous and beautiful. Look at her expressions of joy and astonishment when the car flies in the air. Also look at the disappointment on her face, when Kishore Kumar says, तू नहीं तू नहीं वो हसीन तो सनम कोई और ही हैं.
The song is very catchy and melodious. The journey of Laxmikant Pyarelal in the 1960s is very interesting, I should think of it as a topic for future posts.

She did act as main lead in B grade movies, but despite her successful career, she was unfortunately never considered a top heroine.

Zulfen Ulajhi Hai Mere Kangana Se – Burma Road (1962) Lata Mangeshkar / Chitragupt – Majrooh
The song has appeared on one of my earlier lists. Under the influence of alcohol, Kumkum tries to seduce Suresh Kumar. The expressions in Lata’s voice and on Kumkum’s face match so well. There is a sensuous aura about the song, but it never turns vulgar.

Mera Naam Hai Chameli – Raja Aur Runk (1968) Lata Mangeshkar / Laxmikant Pyarelal – Anand Bakshi
Kumkum lays a trap for daroga babu, who very easily falls for it. Kumkum and the team achieve the ultimate aim to free Sanjeev Kumar from jail. It all appears too easy, but it’s a film after all. Kumkum’s expressions are good as usual.

With her good facial expressions, she was a good actress as well. She was acclaimed for dancing and acting both.
In addition to Hindi films, she also acted in Bhojpuri films. In fact she featured in the first ever Bhojpuri film, Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo (1963). She worked in a couple of films more in Bhojpuri films.
She acted in a few of the movies by Ramanand Sagar, Aankhen, Geet, Lalkaar, Jalte Badan are a few of the examples.

I’ll end the list with a devotional song from Aankhen, in contrast to her usual bubbly, happy characters in other films, we see a sad Kumkum requesting help from Lord Krishna. Her facial expressions are good in the song as well. She played the character of Dhamendra’s sister.

Meri Sun Le Araj Banwari – Aankhen (1968) Lata Mangeshkar / Ravi – Sahir

In 1973, Ek Kunwari Ek Kunwara was also successful. Her last film, Bombay By Night was released sometime in the late 70s, where she was opposite Sanjeev Kumar. But the film is now forgotten.

After her marriage in 1975, she settled abroad and lost touch with the industry for nearly two decades. In 1995 she came back to Mumbai with her family. She was very happy with her husband and only daughter. She was totally away from the glamour world.
She had a huge fan following and she was adored for memorable dance numbers and her natural acting. I am sure her fans still remember her bubbly, lively screen image in their souls.

We will miss you Kumkum. Rest in peace.

Please share your favourite songs or dances by Kumkum.

Disclaimer –
Mehfil Mein Meri, claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. Images on this blog are posted to make the text interesting. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube, only for the listening convenience of music lovers. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

27 Replies to “‘And… KUMKUM’”

  1. Oh! Anup ji,
    You are super fast! Admirable.
    Catchy title, very apt.
    Will get back after a proper perusal of the post.


  2. Anup ji,
    “Apt title” was what I had in mind before scrolling down to the comment box and see that the other doctor has already arrived with his comment.

    I can never get tired of watching tera jalwa jisne dekha…

    Thanks for the post.

    RIP Kumkum.


    1. Thank you Mahesh ji.

      All of the songs I included on the list are my personal favourites. And I never get tired of those songs either. Kumkum was magical. It’s because of her aura that the originally good songs become very good after picturization.


  3. Anupji,
    A timely, apt tribute to the simple, charming actress with expressive eyes.
    My first film of Kumkum was ‘Aankhen’. She did not have any dance number in that film. You have posted the song Meri Sun Le Araj Banwari – Aankhen (1968). That image of her is still etched in my mind. She appeared in Ramanand Sagar’s films.

    I would like to post another song, picturised on Kumkum, which is once again not a dance song. A melancholic song,; we remember the male version picturised on Dharmendra. But few would recollect that the female version was picturised on Kumkum. You have posted a duet, a dance number from the film.
    Here is the link

    Mujhko Is Raat Ki Tanhai Mein, Lata Mangeshkar, Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere

    I too join you in paying my tributes to Kumkum. RIP


    1. Thank you N Venkataramanji for the appreciation.
      She was a favourite of all. Actually Mujhko Is Raat Ki was there on my list, but I suddenly remembered the Lawani song, which was a part of my Suman Kalyanpur Post. So I changed it at the last moment.
      Very nice to see you adding it in the comments.


  4. You seem to be an avid follower of the maxim – Strike while the iron is hot. There cannot be a more apt occasion that now to post this brief writeup on this delightful looking danseuse, in honour of her memory while it is fresh. Time is a great destroyer. While she will be in cine lovers mind now, a few months hence it will be submerged among other events, perhaps to be resurrecgted on the anniversary of her birth or death. Since she was not a front line actress anyhow, she chose right time to exit in full limelight and take a bow from the cine world into one of happy connubialty.

    The song selections are superb showcasing her dancing talents in full and except for one song – Ched na sajna – I am familiar with all the rest and have heard them over radio in days begone.
    Mother India was a great retake of “Aurat” and probably a better one. Naushad had put his rubber stamp and the songs are immortal. I am reproducing one song from the film – Ghunghat nahi kolongi – to which you had referred in your post. It is entirely cast in a rural setting and Kumkum is really a butterfly flitting from frame to frame. It is a signature tune of Naushad with the inimitable Lata Mangeshkar to add lustre to it.

    Accept my compliments on this illustrative post on her.


    1. Thank you Ranganji for the appreciation.
      Kumkum was loved and adored by all. She was a very good dancer indeed, she was a trained Kathak Dancer, but in films she danced to the western tunes as well. And she used to have a small but memorable supporting role in the film. And she played all types of characters, from a simple village girl to a somewhat grey shaded character in Kohinoor. Her lively screen presence was a delight.
      Thanks for sharing the song from Mother India. It’s my favourite too!
      Kumkum really looks like a dancing butterfly.


  5. Anup,
    Very timely tribute to one of the unique dancing actors of our films. She could not be a A-list star but she had the lead role in many B-grade films. In big star films she had important roles. But whether A or B grade roles, she always had superb dance songs. She could also emote serious scenes as we seen ‘Mori sun le araj Banwari’.


  6. I was waiting for this one when the news came about. Applaud for this timely and comprehensive tribute.
    There was so much beauty and talent back in those days, producers and directors must have been confused. So actresses like Kumkum and Minu Mumtaz were given what only they could do. Dance up a way that is befitting to the tune. At least I feel so.
    Here is my addition, “Kanha jaa re, teri murli ki dhun” from “Tel Malish Boot Polish” or is it vice-versa. Well you will know.


    1. Thank you Aditiji for appreciation.
      “So actresses like Kumkum and Minu Mumtaz were given what only they could do”

      Yes, well put!
      And, thanks for adding one of my favourites from , Tel Malish Boot Polish (you got that correct)
      Let me add the link as well,


  7. Anup ji ,

    The moment I read news of sad demise of Kumkum , the very first thought that came to my mind was that of U Anup ji .

    U r such a gr8 fan of Kumkum that resulted in this grand tribute .

    U hv very well drawn her career – sketch nd selected nice songs .

    I wud like to add one from कोहिनूर where she had danced very nicely .
    ” ढल चुकी शाम ए ग़म ”
    a prayer – dance from गंगा की लहरें
    ” जय जय हे जगदंबे माता ”

    Kumkum was one of that class of artists who may nt hv huge fan – followers but was nt disliked either .

    यहीं दुआ करता हूँ की
    खुदा कुमकुम जी को जन्नत बक्ष करें 💐

    Anup ji ,
    I m so sorry for Ur loss ,
    a loss of a die – hard fan of Kumkum.


    1. Thank you Pramod ji for the appreciation. I really like her a lot. She was really very magical.

      Let me add the link,
      The Kohinoor song, which is much less known than the other prominent songs from the movie.

      Dhal Chuki Sham e Gham

      Jai Jai He Jagadambe Mata
      I had the song on my list of Lata Mangeshkar Chitragupt combo.

      May her soul rest in peace.


  8. Anup ji,
    A very interesting post on Kumkum.
    Kumkum was born on 21-12-1935 and died on 28-7-2020
    Aarpaar-54 was certainly NOT her first film. At best, it was her first most popular film appearance.
    She came to Bombay in 1952. She knew Naushad, as he too was from Lucknow, where Kumkum had learnt the dance. Through him, she got a dance assignment in film Sheesha-52. That was her Debut film. This is also mentioned in HFGK,if one wants to check. In 1954, she did Noor Mahal and Mirza Ghalib. Then came Aarpaar song. This song was originally shot on Jagdeep, but Censors objected and suggested to shoot the song with a girl, due to its lyrics. Guru Dutt called Kumkum and the song was reshot on her. That became her most popular song to start with. A point to note is that She had to pass Guru Dutt’s Screen Test before the shooting !
    Thought this little known information on Kumkum will be of interest to you.


    1. Thank you Arunji for the information.
      As all the information on the net is not always true, I wasn’t sure about her first appearance in Hindi films. With your confirmation, now the things rest settled.


  9. Anup ji,
    Net information has to be checked with HFGK or other documents for confirmation. Not everything on Net is wrong. HFGK clearly says about her first appearance in print.


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