(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.
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.
- 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.
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- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.