I was having a (heated) discussion with a friend about song picturizations today; and about how the meaning of the word ‘erotic’ or ‘sensual’ has changed from what it originally meant to be vulgar, raunchy, and in most cases, just involves getting the heroine wet. Hot does not equal ‘erotic’ in my opinion, nor is ‘erotic’ synonymous with exposure. Our heroines from the not-so-permissive age were able to smoulder with just a flirtatious glance and a toss of the head (Waheeda in Jaane kya tune kahi, for instance) or twinkling eyes and a full-blown smile (Madhubala as she crooned Acha ji main hari chali).

One of the most erotic scenes in Hindi films involved a fully-clothed Madhubala and Dilip Kumar and a white feather. So also the train sequence in Pakeezah While Rajendra Kumar only needed to see Sadhana’s eyes to write a romantic ode  

Maine ek baar teri ek jhalak dekhi hai, 

Meri hasrat hain ke main phir teraa deedar karoon

Tere saaye ko samajhkar main haseen Taj Mahal, 

Chaandni raat mein nazron se tujhe pyar karoon.  

Similarly, it’s not only Guru Dutt who swooned over Waheeda‘s beauty with Chaudvin ka chaand ho ya aaftaab ho

Raj Kapoor and Nargis heated up the screen just looking at each other. Shammi Kapoor only needed to quirk an eyebrow to evoke goosebumps, and Dev‘s lopsided grin coupled with Nutan‘s megawatt smile lit up not only the screen but also the audience. 

I agree that this is very subjective and that one man’s ‘erotic’ is another’s ‘raunchy’. Perhaps I err on the old-fashioned side of the meaning of the word ‘sensual’ – appealing to the senses – without it having to be explicit.  To me, sensuality lies in what is concealed, not what is revealed. It lies in the mystery, the implied promise, the hint of what is to come. It is very much a part of love and romance and I will separate it from songs of seduction, which, to me, are a completely different genre altogether. So, based on my description of what ‘erotic’ or ‘sensuous’ mean, here are my selections.

1) Dum bhar jo udhar munh phere (Awara/Lata Mangeshkar-Mukesh)

Dum bhar jo udhar munh phere_Awara_Lata Mangeshkar_Mukesh_Bollywoodirect

This is definitely one of the it has to be seen to be believed songs. The romance between the characters, the chemistry between the actors, the lyrics, music, picturization – if you want raw sensuality that sets the screen on fire, well, you got it. Without as much as a kiss or the heroine dropping her clothes. It is amazing how much can be said, or not, as the case may be, with just a look. The lyrics hint at, It, though, when she pleads Dum bhar jo udhar munh phere, o chanda, main unse pyar kar loongi. Yet, it is not the ubiquitous – and to me, personally, rather icky – a shot of two flowers waving in the breeze. The passion is hinted at, not caricatured; it is barely contained, yet it is not on outright display. 

2) Aaj sajan mohe ang laga le (Pyaasa/Geeta Dutt)

Aaj sajan mohe ang laga le _Pyaasa _Geeta Dutt_Waheeda Rehman_Bollywoodirect

Just when you think song picturizations cannot get any better, Guru Dutt comes along to show you how wrong you are. This song is, on the face of it, a bhajan, sung by an itinerant mendicant. On one level, it is the love of Meera for her Krishna Bhagwan. On the other hand, it also exemplifies the yearning of Gulabo, a prostitute, for Vijay. 

Take a look at the expressions that flit past her face as she is drawn, almost unwillingly, to the man she has come to love above all else. Listen closely to the lyrics, and see how it could fit both ituations. Each step Gulabo takes upwards, each breath she draws as she comes closer to her dream – it’s an amazingly powerful performance. And yes, she, too, is quite decorously clad. 

3) Aaiye meherbaan (Howrah Bridge/Asha Bhonsle)

Aaiye meherbaan_Howrah Bridge _Asha Bhonsle_Bollywoodirect

She is a nightclub singer, crooning to make patrons spend more than they can, or should. Madhubala smoulders in a ghagra choli, but it is her dazzling smile and exquisite ada that make the difference. She is uninhibited, lost in her own song, as she stands in front of the microphone, moving almost languidly – just a few steps, and all the while, one can hardly take one’s eyes off her. From the first notes of the instruments, (music by OP Nayyar), the lyrics (Qamar Jalalabadi) and Asha Bhonsle providing the vocals, the stage is set for Madhubala to work her magic.  And she matches up to expectations and more, making every member in the audience feel she is singing for him alone. Amazing.

4) Aur kuch der thehar (Aakhri Khat/Mohammed Rafi)

Aur kuch der thehar_Aakhri Khat_ Mohammed Rafi_Bollywoodirect

One of Chetan Anand‘s lesser-known films, this certainly deserves much more attention than it has garnered. The film also saw the debut of the man who went on to become the first ‘superstar’ of Hindi films – Rajesh Khanna. And you realise how much talent this man really had, and just how much his mannerisms overshadowed, and later killed his performances.

This song is much more explicit than the others I have listed so far, in that the lyrics (Kaifi Azmi, music by Khayyam) and the picturisation make it very clear that they have just made love. He doesn’t want her to leave yet – Raat ab baaki hai – and he hasn’t had his fill –Paake tujhko tujhe paane ki hawas baaki hai He doesn’t shy away from lust (though it embarrasses him too, a little bit), as honest an emotion as love, but then the Anand brothers definitely did not back out from showing passion in all its hues.

5) Dil jo na keh saka (Bheegi Raat/Lata Mangeshkar)

Dil jo na keh saka_Bheegi Raat_Lata Mangeshkar_Bollywoodirect

For the mindblowing picturisation. It’s not just Pradeep Kumar who will find his scarf a tad tight around his neck. Meena Kumari looked absolutely stunning, mingling mischief and sensuality, and her character does not shy away from saying exactly what her feelings are, even if in verse. (Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri, Music: RoshanAb tak dabii thi ek mauj-e-armaan, lab tak jo aayi ban gayii hai toofaan… Dil jo na keh saka, wohi raaz-e-dil kehne ke raat aayi Lata Mangeshkar‘s voice had just the right tinge of seduction, and the fire in the scene had nothing to the flames of passion that are ignited between the leads. 

6) Tumhe yaad karte karte (Amrapali/Lata Mangeshkar)

Tumhe yaad karte karte_Amrapali_Lata Mangeshkar_Bollywoodirect

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that Lata Mangeshkar was so tired of being told that she couldn’t sing sensuous songs like her sister, that she asked (forced) Laxmikant-Pyarelal to compose a ‘seductive number‘ to prove she could match and even beat Asha at her own game. (It is one of her rare cabaret numbers.) However, this was one song that beat the cabaret number hollow when it comes to sensuousness, and the picturisation of the latter bore no comparison to Vyjayanthimala at her seductive best.

Caught in the throes of love for a man she rescues after the war, she sings of separation and yearning. Birha ki is chitaa se tum hi mujhe nikaalo / jo tum na aa sako to mujhe swapn mein bulaa lo / mujhe aise mat jalaao meri preet hai kunwari / tum le gaye ho apne sang neend bhi hamari…  Shankar-Jaikishen‘s music used Lata voice and minimal instrumentation to great effect to capture the sensuality inherent in love.  

7) Roop tera mastana (Aradhana/Kishore Kumar) 

Roop tera mastana_Aradhana _Kishore Kumar_Rajesh Khanna_Sharmila Tagore_Bollywoodirect

It’s the lure of the forbidden. Somewhat similar in picturisation to Dil jo na keh saka, the most important difference perhaps was that this was not an expression of yearning, but a desperation almost, to stop from giving into feelings that are as yet nascent. Rok raha hain humko zamana / Door hi rehna paas na aana / aise magar koyi dil ko samjhaaye Their rising desire, the hesitation to give in to it, the storm outside mirroring the storm inside, the faceless singer… all add to give us one of the finest erotic song sequences ever filmed. 

While it is from a period later than I usually choose for my songs, the picturisation of this song is brilliant. RD‘s music (yes, I know it was Burman da who was credited for the score, but this is RD), Kishore Kumar‘s vocals, and the simmering intensity between Sharmila and Rajesh made this an absolute winner.

8) Tumse kahoon ik baat (Dastak/Mohammed Rafi) 

Tumse kahoon ik baat_Dastak_ Mohammed Rafi_Bollywoodirect

A much more explicit song – both lyrics and picturisation – than any of the others, including Roop tera mastana, it is still shot aesthetically, and by today’s standards, almost conservatively. A rare gem, this had Mohammed Rafi at his sensuous best; soft, erotic, and complemented by the tune from a master musician. Dastak won Madan Mohan his first (and only) award – the National Award for best music director.  It’s an incredible song, musically, and the lyrics matched the ‘adult’ theme of the film. 

Hain bheega sa jism tumhara in haathon mein

Baahar neend bhara panchhi bheegi shaakhon mein

Aur barkha ki boond badan se dhalki dhalki

Tumse kahoon ik baat paron se halki halki

9) Hum aur tum aur yeh sama (Dil Deke Dekho/Mohammed Rafi)

Hum aur tum aur yeh sama_Dil Deke Dekho_Mohammed Rafi_Shammi Kapoor_Bollywoodirect

Who better than Shammi Kapoor to put the innocence back into sensuality? A lift of his eyebrow, a shake of his head, a glance, and Mohammed Rafi‘s soft vocals – which girl can resist?  It’s romantic, it’s innocent, it’s playful, it’s sensuous. The picturisation, early in the morning, with swirling mists, a handsome Shammi and a tremulous Asha Parekh— if I do not stop now, I will gush. For some reason, I cannot find a video with the full song. The film version was longer with a verse in the middle:

Beqaraar se ho kyun hum ko paas aane bhi do

Gir pada jo haath se woh roomal uthane bhi do

Ban-te kyun ho jaane bhi do

Hum aur tum aur yeh sama kya nasha nasha sa hain

Boliye na boliye sab soona soona sa hain  

10) Yeh raat yeh chaandni phir kahan (Jaal/Hemant Kumar)

Yeh raat yeh chaandni phir kahan_Jaal_Hemant Kumar_Bollywoodirect

It seems impossible to make a list like this and not include Dev Anand. Just as impossible as it is not to have Shammi. This is one song, at once sensuous and seductive, that has made many of my lists. It is, quite possibly, one of the most erotic song picturisations ever. The hero, the heroine, a guitar, the beach, a storm. And Hemant da‘s voice. The camera lingers on her face ashe sings, capturing her inner struggle as she wavers between ignoring him as she knows she should, or giving in to her heart’s desire. He doesn’t make it easy for her, either.

Is haseen aag mein tu bhi jal ke dekh le, 

zindagi ke geet ki dhun tu badalke dekh le, 

sun le ab dil ki dhadkano ki zubaan, 

sun jaa dil ki dastaan he sings.

The tempest outside is nothing compared to her inner turmoil; the screen crackled with the intensity of her emotions and the camera captured the sexual awakening of a young girl, without a hint of vulgarity.

To me, these songs were far more erotic and sensuous compared to heroines in the skimpiest costumes mouthing lyrics which drip with innuendo. Which songs would you  add to this list?

Written By:- Anuradha Warrier, is a writer, editor, film and music buff. She writes for pleasure, edits for a living, and indulges in watching films, listening to music, and writing about both on her blog Conversations Over Chai as and when time permits.

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