(Part 2) Female Dance Duets

(Dances presented as Mujra songs)

I’m back with the second part of the series based on female dance duets. In this part, I have compiled Mujra songs.
I was a little apprehensive as the first part was quite an exercise for me. I had to exclude a number of popular songs, as those were not a perfect fit for the post. So when I started collecting duets for this post, I got palpitations. And on the top of it all, I could only think of solo Mujra songs which are obviously a lot more than the duets. But once the initial panic was over, I could recollect the songs comparatively easily. What a relief!! And this time I’ve been lenient, allowing myself to bend the rules a bit.

mujra 1

The history of courtesans is very intriguing and interesting. Though, entertaining the employer was the primary purpose, they eventually became a prestige symbol when the Mughals ruled the country. However with the invasion by British East India company and their ultimately taking over the management, turned the situation from bad to the worst for the artists. The courtesans even supported the 1857 revolutionary war. It’s way beyond the scope of my post to go into the details of it, but here is one of the articles that throw light on the topic if anyone is interested.

Mujra originated as a dance performance by women for the elite class including the Mughal emperors and local rulers like the nawabs, for their entertainment at night. It combines the elegance of the Kathak dance with the captivating lyrics of traditional Thumris and Ghazals. The voice is full of expressions and so is the face. Facial expressions form a very important aspect of the Mujra. All the Mujra songs have a basic श्रृंगार element, and a certain amount of sensuality that goes with it. But it’s usually away from vulgarity.
Mujra was traditionally performed at mehfils and in special houses called kothas. During Mughal era, the tradition of performing mujra was a family art and often passed down from mother to daughter. The families were considered prestigious due to their propinquity with the elite class.
This scenario however changed with time, and the tawaifs were considered fallen women, and their families suffered. Originally places for relaxation in the evening, the kothas unfortunately turned into meeting spots for criminals and drug suppliers. That’s another aspect of the story.

I could remember quite a few Hindi films that revolve around the lives of courtesans or similar scenarios like Devdas (1955), Mehendi (1958), Adalat (1958), Mamta (1966), Pakeezah (1972), Umrao Jaan (1981) etc. Of course, these are just a few examples. Besides these films, a number of old Hindi films have Mujra songs, as per demand of the situation. Mostly the mujra song takes place at the villain’s adda or at the kotha. The song may be used to strengthen the bad guy image of the villain or some times the song would be a distraction so that, the hero & co. can enter his premises and carry out the plan. But sometimes the song would just be there for entertainment as such, without a specific motive.

As I said earlier the majority of the songs are solos, but on a few occasions we come across duets. Usually there is a main dancer and a supporting dancer, but many songs on the list have both main dancers.
As with the songs of the first part, there is a first rung singer along with another singer. But the main difference between the two lists is that, the first part was essentially revolving around B grade and mythological movies, while the present part has a mixture of socials and costume dramas. So unlike the first part, mostly first rung composers are making appearances on the list. Still second rung composers are there too.
A Mujra song usually has Sarangi, Harmonium, and Tabla along with Ghungroo. Occasionally Sarod, Mandolin also make an appearance. Sarangi especially has a pivotal role in a Hindi film Mujra song. In general it’s a must for a Mujra song.

As far as the dancers are concerned, Helen, Madhumati, Rani, Laxmi Chhaya, Minoo Mumtaz, Cuckoo are the usual suspects. Some songs have special dancers which I intend to discuss with the song. Most of the dances have good choreography and vulgarity is conspicuous by its absence. Also the majority of the songs on the list are known with a couple of obscure ones.

Let’s move on to the song list, ten of the Mujra duets, a mix of my favourites and some of the newly discovered ones. As usual the songs are from the pre-70s films and are in no particular order.

  1. Mehfil Mein Aap Aaye – Mohobbat Isko Kehte Hai (1965) Suman Kalyanpur & Mubarak Begum / Khayyam – Majrooh
    Rani and Laxmi Chhaya dance for a very handsome looking Shashi Kapoor. They look mesmerized by his charm. Though the film is BnW, the dancers wearing entirely contrasting costumes look good and do their job well, so do the singers. I revisited the song while I was compiling the Mubarak Begum song list, and as the idea of the posts was there already, the song instantly got a position on the list.
    If the link doesn’t open on the page, please follow the instructions.
  1. Jab Jab Tumhen Bhulaya – Jahan Ara (1964) Asha Bhosle & Lata Mangeshkar / Madan Mohan – Rajendra Krishan
    One of the popular duets by Mangeshkar sisters. Minoo Mumtaz and a young Aruna Irani dance to it. The song opens with the couplets from ‘Main Teri Nazar Ka Suroor Hoon’. The part is beautifully sung by Lata Mangeshkar without any supporting rhythm. Later both the sisters sing in different octaves, performing neck and neck. In contrast to the other songs on the list, the song has a different theme. Generally Mujra songs revolve around beauty and the beautiful, but this one talks about a failed love. He is completely heartbroken and has lost interest in life, to the extent that he calls himself a living corpse. The more he tries to forget her, the more he remembers.
  1. Saqiya Ek Jaam Woh Bhi – Neend Hamari Khwab Tumhare (1966) Asha Bhosle & Mubarak Begum / Madan Mohan – Majrooh
    The song is picturised on the dancers, Madhumati and Bela Bose. The song was also on Mubarak Begum’s song list, making an instant entry on this list too. It’s a good composition, though it’s not very popular. Asha Bhosle is the main singer for the movie, but she joins Mubarak Begum for the Mujra, which features early in the song. Madan Mohan has experimented with the tempo, making it a little fast and slow at required places. Also the lines of the verses are presented in two different styles and the variation brings a lot of freshness.
    The song is presented at Shashi Kapoor’s birthday party, a thing not commonly found even in the films. But if you want to find the reason, watch the film.
  1. Yeh Barkha Bahar – Mayurpankh (1954) Asha Bhosle & Lata Mangeshkar / Shankar Jaikishan – Shailendra
    It’s an absolutely wonderful song great to listen to, and the excellent Kathak performance by real sisters, Roshan and Khurshid Vajifdar makes it a visual treat too. What a performance by all four ladies, the singers and the dancers. For me, it’s among the best classical based songs by S J. Excellent use of Sarangi, Tabla, in a tune that has been captivating me for years. I don’t get enough of it. bliss!
    The song was choreographed by Shirin Vajifdar, who was the elder sister of the dancer duo, was perhaps the first Parsi to go for Kathak dance. Not only Kathak, she was also trained in other Indian classical dance forms. (For more information about the Vajifdar sisters, please refer to the comment by Richard S)
    I’ve just one confusion. The song is performed during the marriage ceremony of Kishor Sahu’s sister, in his palatial home. Then instead of reciting a happy song of celebration, why did the dancers opt for a song that suits the host’s personal life? I mean, the song actually talks about the love triangle between Kishor Sahu, Sumitra Devi and Odette Ferguson. The twist in their lives is the main subject of the film.
  1. Aankhon Aankhon Mein Kisi Se Baat Hui – Janwar (1965 ) Asha Bhosle & Lata Mangeshkar / Shankar Jaikishan – Hasrat Jaipuri
    Madhumati and Rani dancing fabulously on SJ’s tune. The opening music is so wonderful and the dance is at a fast pace. A treat for eyes and ears. The song is actually my most favourite from the movie. I’m not a fan of the trio Shammi Kapoor, Rafi, and SJ.
    I always took it for granted as a duet because the audio song usually available is a duet. But the film version is a trio, with Manna Dey singing the last verse for Shammi Kapoor. I must confess, I didn’t know about it. But the dance by Rani and Madhumati is so fabulous, and their facial expressions are so good, I decided to go with it. I’m otherwise strict about including a song. Anyways, how many remember the song as a trio?
  1. Ja Ja Re Ja Sajna – Adalat (1958) Asha Bhosle & Lata Mangeshkar / Madan Mohan – Rajendra Krishan
    This is the third duet by the Mangeshkar sisters on the list. It’s also different from the other songs on the list. Only one of the ladies is dancing, while the other is engaged in soulful singing. It’s very commendable that the same lines if sung in a different mood convey something different. A lady singing in sorrow, because her beloved is not with her, the other has a faux anger. She is more or less adoring him than cursing. And just look at the way various moods are amalgamated flawlessly by Madan Mohan. A very interesting composition! The happy part that Asha Bhosle sings, sounds so much like O P Nayyar’s. Excellent use of Sarangi in the song as well.
  1. Hum Tumhare Hai Zara – Chalti Ka Naam Gadi (1958) Asha Bhosle & Sudha Malhotra / S D Burman – Majrooh
    Cuckoo and Helen dancing wonderfully on Burman da’s tune. The song has all the elements of a good Mujra song, but I guess it’s been on the backfoot because of the other popular songs from the movie. Though Cuckoo and Helen both are good dancers, for me, Helen appears a bit more graceful and much more expressive. Her facial expressions are superb. The lyrical part is a bit slow, but the interludes have a very fast paced tabla and very energetic dance.
  1. Nikla Hai Gora Gora Chand Re Sajanwa – Guest House (1959) Usha Mangeshkar & Suman Kalyanpur / Chitragupt – Prem Dhawan
    Cuckoo and Sheila Waz dancing to a Chitragupt tune. Though the song is presented as a Mujra, it sounds more like a regular dance. Good dance steps by the dancers. Again the other popular songs from the movie have overshadowed the song.
  1. Koi Nazar Ashiqana To Dekhe – Naujawan (1966) Asha Bhosle & Usha Mangeshkar / G S Kohli – Anjaan
    G S Kohli is known for female dance duets. So I was sure to find a song befitting today’s theme among his films. And I found Madhumati and Bela Bose dancing for Madan Puri. It’s of course not a well known song, but it’s a typical Mujra. You will find Sitar, Harmonium and Sarangi along with Tabla. The print is of average quality, but it’s the only available thing at present.
  1. Dilbar Nazar Mila le – Pyar Ki Baazi (1967) Suman Kalyanpur & Kamal Barot / Jimmy – Akhtar Romani
    It’s time now to visit an obscure song from an equally obscure movie. Vijaya Choudhari and Laxmi Chhaya (?) dancing with Jagdeep playing Dholak in the background. Looks like a trap for the villain. The song has dholak, accordion and saxophone as well. It’s picturised in Mujra style though the composition doesn’t sound like one. The composer Jimmy is also a lesser heard one.

Would you add a song?

I’m planning a couple of parts more in the series, which would be published in due course.

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.

28 Replies to “(Part 2) Female Dance Duets”

  1. Nice collection of songs! The first two-women mujra that came to my mind was Jhanak-jhanak tori baaje payaliya since that features Madhumati and Laxmi Chhaya, but I don’t think that will qualify, since it’s the song that must be a duet, right?

    Like

  2. Anup ji ,
    Namaste

    Njoyed the post .

    I liked the narration about d history of _mujra_ nd about song जब जब तुम्हें भुलाया .

    U hv created enough curiosity about d movie निंद हमारी ख्वाब तुम्हारें .. !!!

    Dancer Madhumati is d main star of this post nd I liked all her dances included by U .
    I think d dancer in प्यार की बाज़ी is nt
    Laxmi Chhaya .

    It is good that U hv selected Madan Mohan’s experimental song of अदालत
    ” जा जा रे जा साजना ” nd U hv narrated it nicely .

    Overall , in spite of all that ‘panic ‘ nd
    ‘ palpitations ‘ , U r 100 % successful in giving a very interesting nd enjoyable post .

    After enjoying d राजदरबार nd मुजरा dances , looking forward for the next part of female dance duets

    I m adding a mujra from सौतेला भाई , picturised on रानी nd जीवनकला , both singing in voice of Lata only .

    With best wishes ,
    Pramod Godbole .

    Like

    1. Thank you Pramodji for the appreciation.
      The last part also had a number of songs by Madhumati. She has been quite a popular dancer of the era and I think a post on her dance numbers and her career as such would be an interesting thing to do! Let me see.
      The song from Sautela Bhai is a gem, but for inclusion on the list, the song should be a duet.
      Sorry! Can’t include strictly speaking. But as I have included a trio, may be I can grant this too. and the song is so excellent. Though it has less of dance, the Mudrabhinay by Jeevankala and Rani is excellent.

      Like

  3. Anupji,
    Nice sequel to the first part and nice selection of songs.
    Good that you have touched upon the history and origin of Mujra. It is an interesting subject. Has its parallel in the Devadasi culture of south India. Like Kathak is to Mujra/ Tawaif culture, there dance and music are based on an ancient from ‘Sadir’.
    ‘Jab Jab Tumhen Bhulaya’ and ‘ Ja Ja Re Ja Sajna’ ; good Mujra duets from Madan Mohan’s inventory.
    Glad to find ‘Yeh Barkha Bahar’ from ‘Mayur Pankh’ in this part.

    Posting a Mujra duet;
    The song is picturised on Nutan and Minu Mumtaz. Only Minu Mumtaz is dancing and Nutan only joins her in singing and is engaged in ‘Bhav Prakash’ and ‘Abhinay’. Johnny Walker, on the Tabla, exudes great spirit. You can find a melancholic Pradeep Kumar, Yakub and Ompraksh in the scene.
    Badi Mushkil Se Hum Samjhe , Shamshad Begum & Asha Bhosle, film Zindagi Ya Toofan (1958), lyrics Nakhshab Jaavarchi, music Nashad

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    1. Thanks Venkataramanji for the appreciation.
      Yes, the history of Mujra and courtesans was very interesting. But that would need more deep research, so I just touched it.
      And thanks for the song from Zindagi Ya Toofan. I wasn’t aware of it. And Nutan singing a mujra is certanly an interesting thing. I’m now intrigued. Do you know if the film is watchable?
      Anyways, may be I can try it, Nutan looks beautiful in BnW films.

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      1. Dear Anup ji,

        To the best that I know, this Film “Zindagi Ya Toofan”, although made in India, was never put up for Certification, nor released in India. Instead, it was taken across the Border when the Producers migrated and it was released in Pakistan as an Urdu Film.

        It has a song in Nutan’s voice as part of an all-female Mushaira.

        You may like to cross check.

        With warm regards

        PARTHA CHANDA

        Like

        1. Thanks Partha ji for the information.
          It was directed by Nakshab Jarchavi, who left India in the late 50s, and he perhaps released it in Pakistan.
          The film is available on YouTube, so may be I’ll watch it someday.

          Like

  4. Anupji, enjoyed reading the post. I found three more mujras which are duets. You could check them out. They are from Saawan Ki Ghata, Suhaag Raat and Pyaar Mohabbat.



    I hope they are in sync with the theme of your post.

    Like

    1. Anitaji,
      Glad you enjoyed the post.
      Thanks for sharing the songs. Except the last one from <pyar mohabbat, the other two fit in perfectly. If I would have known those two, I would have incorporated them in the post.
      The last one is a very good classical based song, but It’s not a Mujra.
      It will perhaps fit in the last part of the series, the fifth one. (till yesterday, I had only four parts in mind, now I have one more)
      🙂

      Like

  5. Dear Anup ji,

    I wonder whether this dance number from NAUSHERWAN-E-ADIL would qualify

    And what about these two?

    a) from YAHUDI

    b) from HALAKU

    With warm regards

    PARTHA CHANDA

    Like

    1. Partha ji,
      I think the first song, Mere Dard E jigar Ki sounds like a Mujra, though it’s picturised in a different way. Not quite typical of a Mujra. But I think I should be saying Yes to it. But I couldn’t recognize Asha’s voice, though I was able to identify Zohrabai. I was wondering, Why three singers for two dancers?
      The songs fromYahudiand Halaku would feature in the fourth part of the series.
      You will come to know about the parts later. Let it be a secret for a while!
      🙂

      Like

  6. Anup,
    How mujara songs have vanished from our films! Someone will have to make a period film of nawabs and zamindars. There was one side of the courtesans, respected for their art. Some of them enjoyed high reputation among classical musicians. Another aspect of them was their ‘tahzeeb’. They were like Finishing Schools for youth of aristocratic family. They were sent to them for learning social graces and good manners. But ‘kotha’ got associated with loose morals, it was a place where fallen women lived. Bollywood created several narratives – one was where dejected persons went to drown their sorrows; another where courtesan was the principal character, she was the wronged woman by her lover who had been forced into this shady surroundings. The more you learn about them the more fascinating it becomes.

    You have rightly expressed reservation about #8, 10 belonging to mujra. But you have made a nice division of the female duets. They are so huge, they need to be put in convenient compartments. I guess one could be cabaret duets?

    Well done, Anup.
    AK

    Like

    1. “Well done, Anup.”

      Thanks for the appreciation AKji. I am so delighted. It’s feels so good when someone appreciates your efforts! You forget all the troubles you faced to collect the information/songs etc.

      The female duets picturised as dances is a huge collection of songs. Hence I decided to go for a division based on a certain criteria. I thought of various situations and scenarios. I’m coming up with three more parts. I hope it would be interesting.
      The courtesans and Tehzeeb is be a very interesting topic, and more you read about it, more fascinating it gets! I agree.

      Cabaret Duets? Oh my! I haven’t thought of it. Let me think over it. The 4th part of the series can cover club songs/cabarets/or similar. Oh! then that would add one more part.

      Ok. No problem. Let’s see. Thanks for the suggestion. I had completetly forgotten about this subset of female duet dances.

      🙂

      Like

  7. Dr. Anup,

    An interesting series on Female duets!! You took a great start with the first post and now you have raised the bar with a second excellent post beginning with an informative note on Mujra and a nice choice of songs.
    Normally, solo mujra songs are recollected easily. But, with your post, one realizes that there are many equally enjoyable and popular mujra duets.

    Glad to see my favorite numbers from Jahan Ara, Mayur Pankh and Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi in your list.

    And yes, the excellent face-off song from Suhaag Raat in the comments section!!

    Here’s one post-70s mujra song sung by Lata & Minoo Purushottam for Chunaoti 1980 – Har subah tumhari mehfil mein

    I am already looking forward to the next subsets of female duets, which you have mentioned – Classical songs, cabaret/club songs.
    Wondering if Aplam Chaplam would fit in classical songs…..

    Hope there will be posts on songs at a villain’s den, two friends in a garden or on picnic, dances in outdoors/ gatherings etc.
    ..

    Like

    1. Dr Rajesh,
      Thanks for the appreciation. I’m glad readers are finding the series interesting.
      The song you shared fits perfectly.

      “Hope there will be posts on songs at a villain’s den, two friends in a garden or on picnic, dances in outdoors/ gatherings etc.”

      Yes,
      some of the scenarios are already there, I will think of the others. Thanks for the suggestion.

      🙂

      Like

  8. I have come to this post a little late; I need to look at your blog more regularly, because there is so much good stuff here!

    I love this post. There is hardly anything I like more than a mujra duet. 🙂

    I am also very glad that you included my favorite one, the dance from Mayur Pankh.

    I posted that dance (and two others from this film) about ten years ago, and I was delighted to receive a lot of information about the dance and about the Vajifdar sisters in a comment from Jeroo Chavda, who is the daughter of Khurshid Vajifdar, niece of Roshan and Shirin. Here is the link to that:

    https://roughinhere.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/outstanding-songs-from-mayur-pankh-1954/#comment-4508

    Like

    1. Richard,
      Welcome to Mehfil and thank you for joining the comments on this post.
      I’m glad you found my blog interesting.
      I went through the link shared by you, and I must say, I gathered all the information about the Vajifdar sisters and I also have to correct that Shirin Vajifdar wasn’t the choreographer for the Mayurpankh song, but it was Krishnan Kutty. I will update the post. And I have seen the song, mohabbat ki dastan aaj suno many times, but wasn’t able to recognize Helen. She looks very young and cute. Thanks for the information. Also I wasn’t aware of the third song in your post, a dance by Cuckoo.
      Thank you so much Richard for adding new information to my knowledge.
      And do visit again.

      🙂

      Like

  9. Anup,

    You are welcome, and thank you for the nice words!

    I am not absolutely sure, though, that Shirin Vajifdar was not the choreographer for this particular dance. After watching this beautiful dance again (thanks to your post) and after our exchange, I was inspired to do a little more reading about the Vajifdar sisters today. I happened upon some obituaries for Shirin Vajifdar, who died three years ago Tuesday (sad to see that), and one written by a Dr. Sunil Kothari, who says he knew her well, mentions that Shirin Vajifdar actually was brought in to choreograph that dance.(The source of this obit is Narthaki, which is pretty reliable, and a few other sources confirmed this.) Krishna Kutty (billed in this film as “Krishan” but also in other places as “Krishnan”) is credited as the dance director for the film, but maybe he did not specifically choreograph this dance? (Jeroo Chavda’s comment also mentions that he was dance director for the film, but from the way that her mention is phrased, she was not necessarily referring to him as the choreographer of that dance.) I hope that I have not caused you to change the information in your post from something that was correct to something that is wrong! 🙂

    Here is a link to the obit:

    https://narthaki.com/info/profiles/profl207.html

    Like

    1. Oh!
      I had edited the post yesterday, but after reading the article by Dr Sunil Kothari, I corrected it again to the original version.
      My God!
      Thank you so much for taking efforts and posting the article. I’m so touched you took the efforts so that any wrong information would not get published on my blog.
      Thank you Richard.

      🙂

      Like

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