(Part 1) Female Dance Duets

(Dances in the Royal Court)

I am sure I am not alone when I say one of the interesting aspects of Hindi film music is female dance duets. The segment seems very fascinating. In the 1950s – 60s, it was at the peak. Historical films, B grade action movies, and fantasy films almost always featured such dance numbers. Of course many social films and other films also have a fair share. Such female duets would include dances, Mujra songs, stage performances, or songs between the friends etc.

But I always get attracted to the dances in a Royal Court. These songs are in the praise of the ruler, but more commonly the songs focus on the dancer herself and her beauty. Her beauty has magical effects on the audience and they fall for her adaayein.
So today’s post focuses on the duets dance songs picturised at a राज दरबार, which can be a King’s or a Queen’s Court.

A number of costume dramas were based on a fictitious story of a Kingdom where the King rules happily unless one of the Wazir or chief of the army decides to rebel for personal gain. The King obviously has a beautiful princess who’s in love with a handsome man, usually not from a Royal family. Such movies used to have a dance performance in the beginning of the movie, or towards the climax when the dancers try to lay a trap for the villain or help others lay a trap by distracting the villain. The movies from the Naag – Naagin series usually have such a song. Some action movies, mainly the Dara Singh ones, also had a similar story, or some of the films based on historical characters also had such a song as a part of celebration or a similar situation.
The songs were shot on huge and beautiful sets with good light effects. Of course when the Hindi films turned into colour from black and white, the minute details of the sets became more apparent.

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Usually the sets had good colour combinations and used to leave an impression on the minds of the audience.

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Along with it, good costumes and jewellery designs added a bit more panache. The dancers used to have graceful movements and apt expressions. So it used to be a ‘A grade’ song in a so-called B grade movie.

These songs were melodious and usually sung by singers from the second or third rung. Occasionally first rung singers would also sing the duet with the former. So along with Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhosle, female playback singers like Kamal Barot, Suman Kalyanpur, Mubarak Begum, Usha Mangeshkar used to sing the songs. The tunes used to be catchy, and perfect renditions by the singers carried the song to a next level. These films usually have composers like S N Tripathi, Sardar Malik, Shivram, G S Kohli, or some of the other lesser known composers, though some of the first rung composers have also composed for historical films. A few stalwarts have composed for these films in the early years of their careers or in the late years of their careers, as the case might be!

The dancers performing on the songs, could itself be a separate topic. Helen, Meenu Mumtaz, Cuckoo were obviously one of them, especially in the 1950s.

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But some of the other known or lesser known dancers have also contributed. The prominent names among them are Madhumati, Jeevankala, Rani, Laxmi Chhaya, Bela Bose, etc. The names would be familiar to some of the readers who are deeply interested in the subject. It was good that on most of the occasions the dancers were credited in the titles even though their contribution was small. But at times though the song was good, it used to be overshadowed by the other popular songs picturised on the main lead. We can’t blame anyone for that of course. Destiny! Rarely the dance number used to be equally popular, as in the case of Parasmani. In fact we can call it the most popular song of the movie.

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And I must say, the choreographers should also be credited along with the cinematographer for the visual treat. Some of the songs with special effects also need a mention. Though now the vfx appear amateur, we must remember that the technology wasn’t advanced five decades back. So a salute to their efforts as well!

So without a further ado, let’s start our journey from one of the Royal Courts. A collection of ten female dance duets which are picturised at a Royal court.
I must admit that I had a long list of songs which I thought to be fitting the theme. It had a number of popular songs, but ultimately many songs on the list were discarded for not being songs at the Royal Court. I have left out some of the songs, because even if the songs are recorded as duets and picturised in a Royal Court, the picturisation involved either three dancers, or a singer and two dancers.

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I didn’t include some of the songs, which were not strictly falling in the category, and in the process had to decline a number of popular songs. I of course had to drop solo dances too, because the theme was of duet dances. Solos some other day!
As usual the songs are from the pre-70s Hindi films and are in no particular order.

1. Hansta Hua Noorani Chehra – Parasmani (1963) Lata Mangeshkar & Kamal Barot / Laxmikant Pyarelal – Asad Bhopali
It was the first song I remembered. Jeevankala and Nalini Chonkar dancing to the melodious tune. The song has been popular since its release. Paras (Mahipal) is in search of Parasmani, which he finally gets closer to. It’s in possession of a sorceress, who falls in love with Paras. He also pretends to be in love with her. The Queen calls for a celebration for her achievement. She has been searching for an eligible young man for 200 years and is actually quite old. But the Parasmani makes her look young.
The film was L P’s first commercially successful film. All the songs were very popular and boosted the otherwise average film. Look at the choreography and the top angle shots of the dancers, when all of them dance in a circle. For the special effects, the actions are played in rewind to get a vivacious effect. In fact the song opens with the scenes when the supporting dancers dance with their dupattas in reverse motion. The sets are big though the one with a blue head is not so attractive. But the main dancers, Nalini Chonkar (who also plays Mahipal’s sister’s character) and Jeevankala do a wonderful job. Their movements are graceful and synchronous. Incidentally both acted in a number of Marathi films as well. And Jeevankala did a number of dance songs in Hindi films. Enjoy the iconic song. The song was also a part of the film, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, where it was played in the background during one of the game sequences. I am sure many of you remember that.

2. Nigahon Se Dil Ka Salam Aa Raha Hai – Cobra Girl (1963) Suman Kalyanpur & Mubarak Begum / S N Tripathi – Prem Dhawan
The song is picturised on Rani and Madhumati, both of whom play princesses of a Naag kingdom and are sisters to the Naag Rani, played by Ragini. Shigali, the villain attacks the kingdom to get hold of Naag Mani, which is the ultimate power. He imprisons the two sisters, while Ragini escapes to get help from outside. The sisters, Madhumati and Rani try to kill the enemy, who has now conquered the Kingdom and got himself crowned as the King.
The sets are much superior to the ones in Parasmani. So are the jewellery and the costumes. The song is melodious, has a catchy rhythm and great orchestration. The dancers are excellent, choreography is good. Their facial expressions are good. Mainly Rani’s smiling face is charming. Look at their steps and expressions while singing, ये वो आ रहे हैं ख़रामा ख़रामा. Just apt and enjoyable.
It’s certainly one of the best dance numbers.

3. Na Na Na Re Na Na – Taj Mahal (1963) Suman Kalyanpur & Minoo Purushottam / Roshan – Sahir
Helen and Madhumati dancing in the Royal Court of Mewar, where Rana Karan Singh rules. The dance is to welcome Prince Khurram (Shahjahan) played by Pradeep Kumar and Arjumand Banoo (Mumtaz Mahal) played by Bina Ray. I couldn’t get a good video, though I selected one which was available. A good dance with notable choreography. Madhumati was said to be Helen’s look alike, but except a superficial resemblance, they are not so similar. This is of course my personal opinion.

4. Tadpale Jitna Chahe – Char Darvesh (1964) Asha Bhosle & Usha Mangeshkar / G S Kohli – Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
A lyrically good song, but not so much appealing visually. Char Darvesh was a fantasy action movie, that revolves around the story of a princess (Sayeeda Khan) and her beloved, played by Feroz Khan. There is another princess (Naaz) in the story as well. She is dancing in protest against the villain, whom she tries to attack at the end. The song is played during the climax of the movie.
The set depicting the jail is not so appealing, the other one’s good in comparison. Jeevankala and Naaz dance nicely. Naaz looks more elegent. And I couldn’t help noticing Usha Mangeshkar has a very few lines of her own.

5. Yoon Na Akadiye Yoon Na Bigadiye – Sunehari Nagin (1963) Lata Mangeshkar & Kamal Barot / Kalyanji Anandji – Indeevar
What an excellent catchy rhythm the song has! You just start tapping your feet automatically. And it has a good tune as well. Madhumati and Bela Bose are the dancers, who do a very good job in the foot tapping number. Though the sets are very average, the overall impact of the song is impressive. It’s not exactly a Royal Court, but a sort of I guess! The ones sitting on the throne belong to a Mayanagri, the lady is in love with the man, who very diplomatically avoids her suggestions. When she throws tantrums, he asks her अकडना छोडीए.

6. Akeli Mohe Chhod Na Jana – Madari (1959) Lata Mangeshkar & Kamal Barot / Kalyanji Anandji – Faruq Kaiser
Kalyanji Anandji again, with a popular duet. After the grand success of the Been (Sapera) dhun from Nagin, Kalyanji Anandji made it popular again with the songs from the movie, Madari.
An interesting song picturised on Sheila Vaz and Kanchalmala, the steps are good and they dance nicely. I don’t remember off hand any other song pisturised on Kanchanamala. Kanchalmala has worn a man’s attire, a thing commonly seen in the dances. One of the female dancers enacting male’s part. I remember an excellent post by dustedoff on the topic.
We can’t appreciate the details of the set because of black and white. But in all it appears to be a low budget film.

7. Dil Hai Zalim Nigahon Ka Mara – Awara Abdullah (1963) Asha Bhosle & Usha Mangeshkar / N Datta – Asad Bhopali
Dara Singh had a number of releases in the 1960s. Those stunt / adventure films had a similar storyline with Mumtaz accompanying him. Their pair was a hit. Awara Abdullah however featured Helen opposite Dara Singh and Chandrashekhar was perhaps the villain. The song shows Dara Singh is enchained, while Helen and Parveen Choudhari are made to dance in front of Chandrashekhar. It is taken care that both the ladies get equal footage, something that’s not always followed in duet dances. Mainly if the leading lady is dancing, she gets more footage. The dancing is good. But I think Helen’s facial expressions are better than that of Parveen’s. And of course, the former looks more lively and beautiful.
The song is melodious, the accordion pieces in the opening music and first interlude are good too.

8. Ek Deewana Aayega Ek Mastana Aayega- Jantar Mantar (1964) Asha Bhosle & Kamal Barot / Sardar Malik – Hasrat Jaipuri
In the early 1960s, so many of the so-called B grade movies were released. Though very few of those must have been memorable, the songs were good. The mentioned song, for example! I haven’t ever heard of the movie, but the song is melodious. I think Sardar Malik composed for a large number of fantasy / costume drama / mythological movies. In contrast to the other songs, which are usually fast paced, this song has a bit slow tempo with a typical dholak/ tabla rhythm. Vijaya Choudhari and Jeevankala (oh! Majority of the songs on the list feature either Madhumati or Jeevankala) dance nicely on the tune. Such songs usually talk about the beauty of the dancer and its mesmerizing effects on the men, but the mentioned song is different in that way too. It’s more or less two friends dreaming and talking about their love story. Vijaya Choudhari gives an impression that though she is dancing there physically, but her mind is daydreaming about her beloved. In the absence of the video, it’s difficult to guess that it’s a dance number.

9. Din Beete Ladakpan Ke – Jahan Sati Wahan Bhagwan (1965) Asha Bhosle & Kamal Barot / Lala Asar Sattar – Madhukar Rajasthani
A typical religious / mythological movie. We see Anita Guha in bridal wear and a groom sitting elsewhere awkwardly in a chair with a Sehra tied to his face. Is it her स्वयंवर going on? Or about to start? Madhumati and the other dancer (who is she?, can someone identify?) dancing and talking about the early days of youth. Sweet childhood is over now and dreamy days of youth are on the way.

10. Aayi Re Aayi Re Aayi Re – Sati Sulochana (1969) Suman Kalyanpur & Krishna Kalle / S N Tripathi – Bharat Vyas
Here we have a typical mythological background. Prithviraj Kapoor and Prem Nath sitting on the dias with two dancers performing in the court. Looks like an average set up, though the dancers do the job well. One of the dancers is Jayashree T (or is it Meena T, her sister?), I couldn’t at all identify the other dancer. After fifty years down the line, such songs have become rarest. So even if the song is not A grade, it still appeals. The dancers perform the dance steps gracefully, though choreography isn’t spectacular in my opinion.
For me it’s not a great song, though Suman Kalyanpur was awarded with the Miya Tansen award for the rendition in 1970.

Would you add a song?

I’m planning to extend the series with female duet dance songs based on different styles of songs or different scenarios. So while adding songs please keep in mind the theme for today, dances in the Royal Court.

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.

16 Replies to “(Part 1) Female Dance Duets”

  1. Anupji,
    This is a good subject for an in-depth research. You have done a fairly good job in exploring the subject.
    The first song that I could recall was a very popular dance number from A-grade film picturised on the two lead female actors. It was a iconic number and should have been at the top of the list.

    Aaja Tu Raja Aaja Mausam-E-Bahar Hai, Lata mangeshkar & Sudha Malhotra, Raj Tilak (1958), Pyarelal Santoshi, C Ramchandra

    Like

    1. Thanks for the appreciation Venkataraman ji.
      I know I haven’t been into the depths of the subject. But as I was going to limit the post to Hindi film songs, I didn’t include any information about the Royal Court and the court dancers. I was thinking of focusing on the dancers, who perhaps couldn’t get appreciation they deserved.

      Coming to the Raj Tilak song. It was there on my list of course. But when I checked it for Royal Court, it wasn’t so. It’s a stage performance and the audience including the Queen are sitting in front of the stage enjoying it. It would be there on the list of the third part of the series. So I didn’t include it on today’s list. It is not shot at a royal court.
      Hence I included a few lines about the selection of songs and I dismissed a good number of songs because those were not strictly royal court dances.
      It’s otherwise a very good song and excellent dance performance by Vaijayanti Mala and Padmini.

      Like

  2. Anupji,
    The last one was based on Bharathanatyam or what was known as ‘Sadir’ in Tamil. The Choregraphy was by Hiralal and the performers were Vyjayantimala and Padmini, both accomplished Bharatanatyam dancers.

    I would present a Kathak number from the film Mayur Pankh (1954).
    A few words about the film and the song, I believe, will not be out of place.

    Famous British author Joan Davis (Odette Ferguson) on her visit to India meets Ranjit Singh (Kishore Sahu). They fall in love but Joan comes to know that Ranjit is married. They meet again in Jaipur at Ranjit’s palace, during Ranjit’s sister’s wedding and Joan meets his wife Shanti (Sumitra Devi). This dance sequence was picturized on this occasion.

    The choreography of the Kathak dance was by Shirin Vajifdar, a pioneer Parsi dancer. Shirin Vajifdar (died 29 September 2017) was an Indian classical dancer and Choreographer. She was one of the first Parsis who took up Indian classical dance. Her choreography in the film Mayurpankh (1954) came in for appreciation. Shirin Vajifdar married Mulk Raj Anand in 1950.Her sisters, Roshan and Khurshid, also acclaimed dancers, performed in the sequence.

    Yeh Barkha Bahaar, Sautaniya Ke Dwaar by Lata Mangeshkar & Asha Bhosle, Mayur Pankh (1954), Shailendra, Shankar-Jaikishan

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    1. It’s an excellent song, I like it a lot. I had thought of it, but Ranjit Singh is not a king in the movie, so I didn’t include it on the list. It’s one of my favourite Lata Mangeshkar – Asha Bhosle duets.
      But thanks for the information about the choreographer, I had no idea about it.
      The songs from Raj Tilak and Mayurpankh seem obvious enough, though strictly speaking, the songs are not picturised at a royal court. The song from Mayurpankh would feature on the second part of the series, which would have Mujra songs in female dance duets series.

      🙂

      Like

      1. Anupji,
        From your replies it is quite evident that you have done a thorough leg work.
        The two song that I posted apparently seemed to fit the post.
        Although a couple songs were in my mind, after two mishits I would wait for the other parts.
        thanks you once again

        Like

        1. Yes,
          Both the songs were high up on my original list. I took them for granted. But then I decided to cross check and tried watching the movie skipping scenes in between. Then I realized about my fault. It was very difficult to find songs. And I’m continuing the series further.
          🙂

          Like

        2. Dear Venkatramanji,
          Anita Rupavataram, here. Like Anupji, I also occasionally write on old Hindi film music. it would be a pleasure if you could find the time to read my posts. My blog is called Trivia – the spice of life. The link is anitamultitasker.WordPress.com

          Like

  3. Anup,
    Female dance duets are extremely delightful. They are so many, it is good you have taken a sub-set of such duets in royal courts. Your list had a sharp division for me: #4, 7, 8, 9 and 10 are new to me and the remaining are my great favourites. I would have replaced three of the unknowns with ‘Aji chale aao’ (‘Halaku’), ‘Bechain dil khoi si nazar’ (‘Yahudi’) and ‘Kaahe tarasaaye jiyara’ (‘Chitralekha’). From the picturisation I think all of these would qualify to be in your post.
    AK

    Like

    1. AKji,
      Thanks for the appreciation. As you may know, I am poor at shortlisting songs, I have to divide a topic in several parts, till I get satisfied. So the sub-set.
      I’ve included a screenshot of the song, Kahe Tarsaye Jiyara in the write up with an explanation that though it’s a duet technically, it has picturised on three singer’s and dancers, so I’ve skipped it.
      I love the other two songs as well.
      A screenshot of Yahudi song is also incorporated in the write up. It’s not a royal court song. It seems like a road or a building with a central square where people are watching and enjoying it. The same is the case with the song from, Halaku. Both these songs were there on my original list, but dropped later.

      Like

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