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Friday, February 18, 2011

The haunting: my 10 favourite ghost songs

Updated (links): 26 Nov 2022

There is nothing like a good ghost song to brighten up a warm and sunny day (or a cold and sunny day, as it often is in Calgary). What would you like - a real live ghost? A funny pretend ghost? A real person mistaken for a ghost? Would you like him/her to be evil or benign? No matter what your choice, Bollywood can supply a ghost for every mood. I personally prefer pretend ghosts - of the benign kind - but I am not so picky when it comes to ghostly melodies. Ghosts, it turns out, know their melodies and how to haunt hauntingly. They’ve sung some of my favourite filmi songs. So without further ado, here are ten of my favourite filmi ghosts singing their haunting melodies (or "hunting melodies" as one of my audio cassettes called them!):

10. Har tukda mere dil ka (Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi, 1966)

Featuring the sentimental, heartbroken ghost, singing in my favourite singer’s voice (Asha Bhosle). Every piece of her (Sharmila Tagore) ghostly heart cries out to him (Biswajit) for not paying attention to the sound of her breaking heart! Lady, perhaps you should’ve sung this song a few centuries earlier. Bet no one, least of all your beloved, could’ve torn himself away from this hauntingly lovely voice. But then, you wouldn’t have had the chance to go rafting with your ghostly boatman. Haunt away…

9. Main bhookha hoon (Bhoot Bungla, 1966)

This isn’t really much of a song, and I would not even call it particularly tuneful. The video though, is something else altogether. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "a twist in the [ghostly] tale"! This is an amazing bunch of spirits who believe in keeping up with the times. No haunting songs, no scary noises – just simple skeletons doing the twist. How perfectly straightforward! Wonder if they’d have performed a skeleton disco if this was filmed in the 80s.

8. Aayega aanewala (Mahal, 1949)

The first and the most famous of all singing spectres in Bollywood’s hall of haunting fame. "He who has to come will come" sings our spectre (Madhubala), and indeed her Gothic hero (Ashok Kumar) does arrive. Not only is this the ghost that launched a thousand songs (Lata Mangeshkar’s and Madhubala’s!), she is also a very unusual ghost. There are no floating white dresses and no flickering candles to warn us of her other-worldliness. She simply relies on  her haunting voice and swinging chandeliers to bring on the spookiness.

7. Janam janam ka saath hai (Tumse Accha Kaun Hai, 1969)

While the ghost business in Bollywood is clearly dominated by womenfolk, that does not mean that the stray male does not make his presence felt in the other-world. In this case though, the ghost in question (Shammi Kapoor) is more intent on making his presence felt in this world. And being Shammi, he isn’t content to sing a lovely, haunting song and draw his heroine (Babita) into a spooky ruin. He must show her his cool dance moves, as well. Looks like she is beginning to wonder if this ghost isn’t a tad too substantial to be a spirit, haunting song notwithstanding.

6. Tujhko pukare mera pyar (Neel Kamal, 1968)

An artist (Raj Kumar) is buried alive for the offence of loving a beautiful princess (Waheeda Rehman), and comes back centuries later to haunt her contemporary incarnation – a downtrodden housewife in the 60s. Poor woman! She is reduced from riches to rags in just a few lifetimes, and then stuck with Manoj Kumar. No wonder her centuries old lover’s Rafi-like singing draws her to him, over and over again.

5. Yaara sili sili (Lekin, 1990)

This ghost (Dimple Kapadia) seems to be haunted by ghosts of her own! Why does she walk around singing her lovely "hunting" melody? Can she lay her ghosts only by becoming one herself? I’d love to know the answer to these questions, and so, it appears, would Vinod Khanna. The two of us have so much in common!

4. Mere mehboob na ja (Noor Mahal, 1965)

Bollywood’s very own woman in white! I was so fascinated by the slow moving lady in white and her flickering candle that it took years for me to grasp that she (?) was haunting Jagdeep! A haunted comedian? That is quite an other-worldly side to his comedy! Or did he take to comedy in order to forget his err… haunting past?

3. Naina barse rim-jhim (Woh Kaun Thi, 1964)

A lovely spectre (Sadhana) sings of how her eyes just won’t dry. Perhaps she should try an anti-histamine. That usually takes care of streaming eyes for me! Wait… it never occurred to me, but are there doctors in ghost-land?  Or maybe there is another explanation for her tears. She is sad that she is fated to haunt the man (Manoj Kumar) who launched a thousand Bharats, each a lot worse than it’s previous avatar.

2. Sau baar janam lenge (Ustadon Ke Ustad, 1963)

The romantic ghost! He (Pradeep Kumar) sure knows how to lure with lyrics and music. And boy, can he sing! “You and I will be together, even if we need to be re-born a hundred times” So much romance, so much feeling, it tugs at your heartstrings and brings out the gooseflesh. Why, Mohammed Rafi himself couldn’t have done better on a good day! She (Shakila) must find the source of this haunting voice, she must…

1. Kahin deep jale kahin dil (Bees Saal Baad, 1962)

It is official. Biswajit is the most haunted man on the face of this earth. How many others can claim to be followed by so many lovely ghosts? And they all sing so beautifully, too. This spirit wants him to think carefully where he is going, because his path is lit, not just with burning lamps, but also with burning hearts! Is she warning him or enticing him? He needs to investigate. That is why he is following her voice. It has nothing to do with the the fact that this is probably the loveliest of all spectre songs sung by a spirit in Bollywood!


  1. Ahhh... you beat me to it! I'd been meaning to do a 'ten most haunting songs' post, but now I don't think I will - I couldn't possibly beat the brilliance of this list (or rather, of your fabulous commentary on each song!) Aayega aanewala and Naina barse rimjhim rimjhim were on my list too, though that one would also have had Jhoom-jhoom dhalti raat (Kohra) and Akele hain chale aao from Raaz.

  2. I really love this compilation and especially like a countdown you saved your best for the last. Though for me Naina Barse is like the most ethereal :) And yes, Sadhana would do very well haunting Sunil Dutt :) Me thinks they make a brilliant pair :)

  3. I don't if a) counts a ghost song (because Vidya was "possessed" by the spirit, and b) its not old, but... it was really nice, nonetheless. From Bhool Bhulayyan (2007)

  4. What a post! Dil khush hua! Made me comment a lot and here it is:

    Is that boatman in 'har tukda mere dilka' also a ghost. How cool to be able to afford a personal boatman even while being a ghost! On the other hand if she can afford the jewels why not a personal attendant as well!

    "skeleton disco"
    Wow, just imagine, a skeleton dancing to 'I'm a disco dancer' or dancing to 'pyaar ka tohfa tera'

    aayega, aayega, aayega, aayega aanewala = he will come, he will come, he will come, will come the coming one ;-)

    I didn't know janam janam ka saath hai is a ghost song! Well-fed ghost!

    Between a ghost Raaj Kumar and a living Manoj Kumar, poor Waheeda doesn't have much of a choice, eh?!

    Although I loved Lekin and adored Dimple and Vinod, the ghost got a bit on my nerves. Never really understood, why she just didn't take a train, of which she is completely capable of!

    Poor Jagdeep! Poor song! Like many of Hindi cinema songs, I love the song but despise the picturisation!

    "she should try anti-histamine"
    maybe she is immune to it like me!
    I pitied this ghost a lot! Poor thing has to wander through snow jsut wearing a white sari!
    I always wonder if the she-ghosts have a shop of their own, where the buy the white apparels.

    "Why am I so popular with spirits? Is it my lipstick?
    I would say it is his his chikna, clean-shaved, made-up cheek. They are urging him to grow a stubble and become a man!

  5. @ dustedoff: make a list all the same!
    would love to read yours as well!


    Top 2 are exactly as mine. Both of them and 'Yara sili sili' and 'aayega aanewala' keep haunting me since childhood.

  7. would like to add a 'today's song : Yeh Sard aahein [Bhoot]

  8. @harvey: I will! Someday. Promise! :-)

  9. I love this post! esp bhoot bangla and mahal- big fan! I'd think honirable mentions would also go to Jhoom Jhoom jalti raat from Kohra- desi rebecca :B

  10. dustedoff, I second Harvey. You MUST do a 'ten most haunting songs' list! There are so many haunting songs that have nothing to do with ghosts - like Tum pukar lo, for example. Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat was on this list too, till I realised that my list was too Lata-heavy and I needed my ghosts to sing in some different voices!

    Sharmi, Sadhana and Sunil Dutt make a great pair and they look so good together, too. I might have found Woh Kaun Thi a whole lot more bearable if only it had Sunil Dutt...

    dishoomdishoom, thanks for that. I have only seen the Malayalam version of the song (and film) before, and this seems even better because I can actually understand the lyrics! Who is the male dancer with Vidya? He is very good.

    harvey, a skeleton dancing to I am a disco dancer would either make a cheesy song cheesier or a lot cooler, and I'm still not sure which it would be!

    "Between a ghost Raaj Kumar and a living Manoj Kumar, poor Waheeda doesn't have much of a choice, eh?!" That is exactly what I was thinking, too - a choice between the devil and the deep sea! Poor poor Waheeda Rehman. No wonder she takes to walking in her sleep.

    Do you honestly think a stubble would increase Biswajit's macho appeal? Methinks he would just be hirsute...

    dunkdaft, Yara sili sili does have a certain ring to it, does it not? It's certainly not as good as any of the other songs in the list (it's from the 90s, after all), and yet, it is no less memorable, in an equally good way!

    Shweta, Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat lost out to Kahin deep jale kahin dil and the fact that I like my ghosts to sing in voices that are not always Lata Mangeshkar!

  11. @ bollyviewer: re: biswajeet; hirsute is a good thing to start with, I would say!
    I am a disco dancer can only get better!

  12. Great post, really enjoyed all of it !!!.
    Did not know that Shammi Kapoor "Janam Janam Ka Saath hai" was a ghost song.
    And the classic Lata songs fit like glove, and although as you said "too many Lata songs" --- What about "Aaje Re Pardesi" ?

  13. Thanks for posting another splendid list, Bollyviewer! I love the way that Waheeda and Raj Kumar pose as living statues in "Tujhko pukare mera pyar." Plus, I've never seen Waheeda looking so glam. All this plus Mohd. Rafi? Fabulous!

  14. Tu jahaan jahaan rahega. Mera saaya saath hogaa...

    * shivers * ;)

  15. Bollyviewer, this looks like a very interesting list... I admit I don't know most of these, except for my favorite...

    Speaking of which, I hesitate at this point to offer up more Lata ghost songs, but I must! :) I am kind of fond of the Mahal ripoff sequences in Nagina (1951)...

    And there's this Lata-Talat song from V. Shantaram's Parchhaiyan... It appears first as a dream that Shantaram's character has, but it foreshadows the scene at the end, when we find out that Jayashree's character had been murdered and is now a ghost (notice the cemetery)... I found this to be one of the most moving sad/tragic endings ever...

    And then Lata's old mentor apparently did a little of her own haunting- ghost-type playback singing up in Pakistan. (I watched this movie, Mousiqar, without subtitles, which means I didn't know exactly what was going on, but it sure looked like a haunting to me)...

    There's also this other Pakistani movie (Hamraaz) with Noor Jehan doing playback that came out a few years later... Once again I don't know if there are actually any ghosts in this story (Dishoom, would you happen to know, if you're still reading comments here...?), but this song has got one of the best haunted-house kinds of scenes that I have ever seen. (Meanwhile, Dustedoff should recognize this as my recent "birthday card." :) And Dustedoff, let me add to the requests for you to do a list too! )

    I hope it's not inappropriate for me to (once again) reach outside of Bollywood to share Pakistani favorites too... But I suppose that you will at least understand the lyrics in those. :)

  16. It is perfect haunting weather indeed, and maybe you have finally spurred me to watch Bees Saal Baad :) Lovely, funny post!

  17. harvey, even through the beard, the lipstick would show! Instead, I think that a little less foundation+powder and a more natural colored lipstick would work better. ;D

    samir, Shammi Kapoor is not a ghost in Janam janam ka saath hai. He is merely pretending to be one to get Babita to fall for him! Aaja re pardesi is pretty haunting, but I thought Madhumati does not give up the ghost till after the song.

    Pessimisissimo, you should try Guide. Waheeda Rehman looks even more glamorous there. And yes, a ghost plus Rafi is exactly what a good haunting song should have! If I ever have a ghost haunting me, he better be singing in Rafi's voice. :D

    dunkdaft, agreed. Tu jahan jahan rahega is goose-bump-inducing great!

    Richard, thanks for those songs! Love Tune haye mere zakhme jigar ko chho liya. Had I heard it before, this would definitely have made it to my list. The film has been in my to-watch pile forever. I really need to watch it now, at least for the songs! Parchhayiyan is another one with extremely lovely songs.

    I am not sure about the Mousiqar song having ghosts, either. The singer sounds and looks too happy to be a ghost!

    memsaab, I have never watched Bees Saal Baad either. Maybe it's time I did it, too! It's sunny and warm enough to watch a ghost tale, now.

  18. Great list, but isn't sau baar janam lenge (one of my top 5 filmi songs period) a bit of a cheat, since neither party was ACTUALLY dead?

  19. Old songs is well written compared to to this generation style of composition. You can see artistic involved in the old songs.


  20. Absolutely agree with Bees Saal baad at #1. Just love the gothic touches. The songs plays at different points in the movie and they have all the tropes--swinging chandelier, banyan tree, woman in white... that I love.

    Two other songs I like are Mere Mehboob Qayamat hoge from Mr X in Bombay and Akele Hain Chale Aao from the Rajesh Khanna movie Raaz.

    Oh...Mere naina sawan baadhon (Mehbooba) counts as old song too. The Lata version is pretty scary. Indian ghosts are the best! because they are the most haunted creatures.

  21. Ahh, someone just beat me to it. Mere naina saawan bhado much n (from Mehbooba) is one of Kishore's most loved songs, though the Lata version is pretty popular too.

  22. maxnqz, if I remember correctly, Shammi Kapoor is a pretend ghost in Sau baar janam lenge. So it totally makes it to a list of ghost songs in the "pretend ghosts" section!

    Anonymous, old songs had the kind of poetry that is completely extinct from the songs of today!

    sophy, I had Mere mehboob qayamat hogi on my list but discarded it because it was more "invisible man" than "spirit"! And Mere naina saawan bhaado is the major reason (along with Chingari koi bhadke) why Kishore Kumar will never be my favorite singer - I HATE that song!

    AKM, sadly for me, Mere naina saawan bhado IS a very popular song. Used to turn up on radio and TV all the time. I don't think I'll ever forgive RD Burman and Kishore Kumar for that song's constant assault on my ear drums!

  23. i also like this songs, i didn't found these songs, plz help me shweta , give me send hunting melody vol7 which webs site, plz my Email ID :, this is satya from bhubaneswar,my ph no. 09583205209

  24. you forgot Mr.X in Bombay.

  25. Great list of spooky melodies.. would make good campfire songs, especially when the embers are dying away :)
    Btw, there's a campy Ramsay horror movie called Veerana which has an eerie song the possessed girl sings from time to time: "saathi, o mere saathi, us duniya se is duniya tak tujhko dhoondhti ayi"
    youtube should have versions.. methinks it deserves at least an honorable mention..