I was thinking about this post for a very long time. All of us are, in general, fond of listening to Hindi film Qawwalis for their vibrant presentation, the captivating rhythm and a typical way of repeating the verses. Though the original Qawwali and filmy Qawwali are not the same, the latter must have contributed to its popularity in the general public.

This time, I actually had a few posts up my sleeves. But somehow when I started reading those song lists, I couldn’t enjoy the songs. I was unable to think over the themes. So I decided to look for another theme. So I thought of giving this theme a try and the result was good. The Qawwalis cheered me up!

When I went through the history of Qawwali, it was very interesting.

Qawwali is the Sufi-Islamic devotional music that is performed outside the Dargahs. The Chistiya Tarriqa of Sufi Islamic heritage contributed to the inception and shaping of Qawwali music. In the 13th century, Amir Khusro, a disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, blended the ideologies of different countries like Persia, Turkey, India to lay a foundation for Qawwali music.

Qawwali is usually performed by a team of vocalists and instrumentalists. There is one lead singer accompanied by a team of supporting vocalists who repeat the couplets after the lead singer. Typically there are a few side singers, who sit near the lead singer and a group of chorus singers occupies the back row, who also clap during the recitation.
The accompanying instruments include harmonium, and/or Sarangi, usually in the front row with tabla, dholak in the back row. But Hindi film Qawwalis don’t follow it regularly.

A typical Qawwali starts with a prelude played mostly on the harmonium (it’s said that sarangi was used earlier, but later harmonium was used more frequently, as the former needed retuning) , which is followed by an aalap by the side singers. The lead singer then opens with a preamble that is not usually a part of the main song, but belongs to the theme. The main song starts later with the introduction of percussion instruments and hand clapping to aid the percussion rhythm.

The final result is phenomenal!

Though the Hindi film Qawwalis are portrayed differently, the essence of the original style is maintained to an extent. However there have been all female Qawwalis in Hindi films right from the 40s, a feature that is not yet seen commonly even in mainstream Qawwali.

When I started recollecting qawwalis from Hindi cinema, I could gather a good number of songs and (as usual) had to divide it into multiple parts, making it a series rather than a single post. And the easiest way to the division was to go decade wise.

So today’s post focuses on the Hindi film Qawwalis from the 40s and 50s.

Usually the Hindi film Qawwalis are presented as a muqabla between two groups where the opponents try to score over each other. On rare occasions, a qawwali like composition is presented as a light hearted fun song. I observed a few songs that though composed in a qawwali style, are a bit atypical. I’ve incorporated a couple such songs on the list.

Let’s begin… … …

1. Aahen Na Bhari Shikwe Na Kiye – Zeenat (1945) Kalyani, Noorjahan, Zohrabai Ambalewali & Chorus / Hafiz Khan – Nakshab Jarchavi
It is quite obvious that I am going to start with the first popular Hindi film qawwali. Perhaps it was indeed the first onscreen Hindi film qawwali. And it’s all female qawwali. I was a little curious to read Noorjahan in the singer’s list, but her absence in the video. As she was the female lead of the movie and sang the song too, I was looking for her. When I asked about it to Mr Arunkumar Deshmukh, he added that she was to participate in the song, but ultimately couldn’t. And that means inadvertently, she became a playback singer for this qawwali.
When I watched the song carefully, except for Cuckoo and Shashikala, I couldn’t find any other familiar faces. Even though Shyama is often mentioned, I couldn’t recognise her. Quite an enjoyable Qawwali telling about the saga of Love in general.

2. Zara Sun Lo Hum Apne Pyar Ka – Bazaar (1949) Rajkumari, Lata Mangeshkar & Chorus / Shyam Sunder& Husnalal Bhagatram – Qamar Jalalabadi
We see Nigar Sultana and her team reciting qawwali on stage. She’s a singer dancer at Khanna theatres, who’s on an All India tour. The team travels the main cities across India including Delhi, Calcutta (now Kolkata) and also Lahore. The qawwali is good and rhythmic, but there’s no hand clapping at all in the audio and hence in the picturisation. If you listen carefully, there’s one more female voice at 03.33. It doesn’t sound either like Lata Mangeshkar or Rajkumari. Listen to the part ‘Mohabbat Karne Wale Ko’, it’s certainly not Lata’s singing. If anyone has any information about this, please add to your comment.
If you have watched the movie, the titles mention Shyam Sunder and Husnalal Bhagatram both as music composers. There’s a story that goes like this. Shyam Sunder who unfortunately was a drunkard, didn’t make it to a song recording one day. His then assistants, Husnalal and Bhagatram, recorded this beautiful qawwali for the movie. And I think hence the duo is also credited in the titles.

3. Khabar Kisi Ko Naheen – Beqasoor (1950) Rafi, Mukesh, G M Durrani & Chorus / Anil Biswas – Ehsaan Rizvi
Beqasoor also features a qawwali when Ajit, who plays a police inspector, arrives at a suspicious place, that of villian’s den, for a raid. He is in disguise and his crew is outside waiting for his signal. The song is sung excellently by the singers and follws a typical course. G M Durrani, who was a very popular singer of the 40s, got sidetracked with the entry of a new generation of male playback singers.

4. Meri Duniya Loot Rahi Thi – Mr & Mrs 55 (1955) Rafi & Chorus / O P Nayyar – Majrooh
Here, not the leading man, but a street singer sings the qawwali. A sad but silent Guru Dutt walks down the street and the song unfolds as if the singer is telling Guru Dutt’s own tale to the world. The song is supported by very good lyrics and a typical qawwali tune. But I guess the song is somewhat underrated, it is overshadowed by other popular songs from the movie.

5. Marna Bhi Mohabbat Mein – Azaad (1955) Raghunath Jadhav & Chorus / C Ramchandra – Rajendra Krishan
Yet another gem of a qawwali! Again the song is not as popular as the other songs from the movie. Rajendra Krishan has nailed the lyrics, which makes us utter ‘Wah wah!’ as the verse ends. The on screen singers are Balam and Master Nissar as per various discussions on the internet. I kept on getting the impression that there were two singers. And that was not due to two actors lip-synching to the song. The mystery will be unsolved forever now.

6. Aankhon Mein Tumhare Jalwe Hain – Shirin Farhad (1956) Rafi & Chorus / S Mohinder – Saba Afghani
The song is picturised outside a dargah, a place where a qawwali was originally sung. A wonderful qawwali with the typical orchestration and tune. Still all the qawwali spell a mesmerizing effect on the listeners.
The song seems to portray the despair faced by the couple, Madhubala and Pradeep Kumar. Pradeep Kumar and a few other actors lip sync to Rafi’s voice, still Madhubala recognises it as Pradeep Kumar’s voice. I had a good laugh at it, but then it’s a film! We tend to overlook such things, don’t we?

7. Humen To Loot Liya – Al Hilal (1957) Ismail Azad Qawwal & Chorus / Bulo C Rani – Shewan Rizvi
One of the best known and the most popular Hindi film Qawwalis. Ismail Azad Qawwal was a very celebrated qawwal of the 40s-50s. He has sung many popular qawwalis written by Anwar Masroor. He is famous for singing qawwali with lyrics having sheer meanings and lessons in them. His qawwalis and singing style has been copied by other qawwals.

8. Jalwa Jo Tera Dekha Humne – Gateway of India (1957) Asha Bhosle, Shamshad Begum, Usha Mangeshkar & Meena Mangeshkar / Madan Mohan – Rajendra Krishan
Madan Mohan, known for his ghazals, has also composed a few qawwalis for Hindi films. This lesser known one from the 50s, nevertheless highlights his mastery over this genre as well.

9. Aaj Kyon Humse Parda Hai – Sadhana (1958) Rafi, Balbir & Chorus / N Datta – Sahir
Sadhana was one of the few movies that I watched after starting the blog. I liked the theme and the overall treatment of it. It was surely ahead of its time. Vyjayantimala plays a courtesan called Champa, who enacts a decent girl. Slowly she realises the futility of her life and she’s just an object of gratification. One day she decides to dress up like a decent bride, but is made fun of by her ‘customers’. They sing a qawwali in her praise that has good lyrics, apt to the situation. Finally Champa comes in her usual avatar. The qawwali has a touch of Mujra as well in my opinion, mainly the prelude gives an impression like that. The clapping of hands creates a great rhythm.

The year 1960 was a turning point of the decade, as it not only marked the end of the decade of the 50s, but also brought a wave of successful qawwalis in Hindi films. It had an influence on the 60s as well. I’ve listed four songs from 1960.

10. Na To Karwan Ki Talash Hai – Barsaat Ki Raat (1960) Manna Dey, S D Batish, Asha Bhosle, Rafi, Sudha Malhotra & Chorus / Roshan – Sahir
Roshan was declared the King of Qawwalis after the grand success of this movie. The film featured a number of popular songs including qawwalis. Some consider Na To Karwan Ki Talash and Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai as one song, others separate songs. Nevertheless it enchants the listeners in either case. A Qawwali competition in the film features these songs. The song portrays unconditional love and the saga of Love. It merges all the boundaries of religion with the mention of Radha Krishna, Quran and Allah, Gautam Buddha in a single song spreading the message of love.

11. Teri Mehfil Mein Kismat Azamakar – Mughal e Azam (1960) Lata Mangeshkar, Shamshad Begum & Chorus / Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni
Another Qawwali Muqabla, between Anarkali (Madhubala) and Bahaar (Nigar Sultana). They are supposed to impress Prince Salim by winning the argument. A good qawwali with a lot of clapping, aalaps etc. Madhubala, who sings in favour of love, gets a thorny twig of rose while Bahaar gets the rose.

12. Apni Ulfat Ko Khushiyon Ki Kahani – Basant (1960) Rafi, Balbir & Asha Bhosle / O P Nayyar – Qamar Jalalabadi
Shammi Kapoor in disguise attends Nutan’s birthday party and sings the beautiful Qawwali. He’s helped by Johny Walker. Quite an enjoyable song, though not popular! The song maintains O P Nayyar touch in the interludes. The lyrics also have a touch of humour, mainly the verses sung on screen by Johny Walker.

13. Sharmake Ye Kyun Sab – Choudvin Ka Chand (1960) Asha Bhosle, Shamshad Begum & Chorus / Ravi – Shakeel Badayuni
Rehman is fascinated by the beautiful Waheeda Rehman. He watches her secretly during a function at home, unaware of the fact that she’s his best friend’s wife. Yet another all female Qawwali, that is all fun and leg pulling as well. The ladies praise the अदाएं of beautiful women and also talk about the generosity of the men. It’s because of their appreciation of the ladies’ beauty that makes it worthwhile. I find it very interesting that one group of ladies take men’s side.

There are a few songs which have a tune and instrumental arrangements that are very similar to a qawwali, though use of clapping sounds or chorus singers are missing in the song. I think, the two part song from Khidki (1948), Kismat Hamare Saath Hai also falls in the category. It sounds like a qawwali, but no clapping sounds.
I’ve added a couple of songs that fit the category.

14. Haseenon Se Mohabbat Ka Anjaam – Albela (1951) Chitalkar / C Ramchandra – Rajendra Krishan
Quite an enjoyable fun song! Chitalkar’s voice suits Bhagwan so well! There is a lot of bitching, though all fun and in a lighter vein. In the last verse he even declares a bedbug to be better than a beautiful lady. The former bites you only when you’re asleep, but a lady will be ever ready for it. All in qawwali style, but without a chorus support and hand clapping.

15. Apna To Zamane Mein Bas Itna – Naya Andaaz (1956) Kishore Kumar / O P Nayyar – Jaan Nisar Akhtar
The song appears to be a street song with a large audience listening to it, including a very beautiful and gorgeous Meena Kumari enjoying it in her car.
In complete contrast to the song from Albela, this song is in praise of ladies and portrays a loyal devotee of the beloved lady. Kumkum and Johnny Walker on dholak and tabla respectively, assist him. Again, no chorus singers or hand clapping at all. The song still has a touch of qawwali to it in my opinion. The presentation does remind me of one.

Please add your favourite Qawwali keeping in mind the timeline.

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.

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