Nine decades of Hindi film music

Cinema in the subcontinent started off with a bang and a dash of royalty with Dadasaheb Phalke’s silent film, Raja Harishchandra, in 1913. Two decades later, the first “talkie,” or sound film, was released: Alam Ara (1931). Since then, movies from the subcontinent’s vast and varied film industries have married the visual with the audio in exciting and creative ways. Imitating Hollywood musicals, Hindi films took it to the next level with dream sequences, intricate classical music compositions — -singers had to record live and in one take! — -and horrible 1980s choreography aside, beautiful dancing. South Asian films integrated music and movie, essentially redefining the medium to suit subcontinental sensibilities. I grew up listening to some of these songs because my mum adores old Hindi music. This list of ten musical numbers from the last ninety years or so of “talkie” films, starting in pre-Partition South Asia and ending in the 2010s (since I would hate to classify the entire decade with songs from 2020).

“Dukh Ke Ab Din” from Devdas (1935)

“Chand Mere Aja” from Mirza Sahiban (1947)

“Tadbeer Se Bigdi Huyee” from Baazi (1951)

“Aake Seedhi Lagi” from Half Ticket (1962)

“Ek Chatur Naar Badi Hoshiyaar” from Padosan (1968)

“Sa Re Ga Ma” from Chupke Chupke (1975)

“Yamma Yamma” from Shaan (1980)

“A B C D” from Hum Saath Saath Hain (1998)

“Ay Meri Zohrajabee” from Phir Hera Pheri (2006)

“Zor Ka Jhatka” from Action Replayy (2011)