Recently with a few films trying to explore a rare genre of female bonding in Hindi cinema, it got me excited to explore how has this genre shaped up in the past years through cinema.. Come to think of it, forget cinema centered around female bonding, even good and impactful female duets have been few and far in between, although Bollywood is blessed with the two of the most enchanting voices ever in the two legendary sisters!
So given that it is a relatively rare genre, here are my favorite picks of the best female duets and in no particular order… (And I did not want the space to get crowded with the likes of relatively mediocre ‘Hastaa huya noorani chehra‘, ‘Mere mehboob me kya nahi‘, ‘Reshmi shalwar‘ or the more recent ‘Dola re‘, ‘Pinga‘ and their likes, which may be popular but not impactful to my musical sensibilities!)
1. MAN KYON BEHEKA | Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle | Laxmikant Pyarelal | Utsav (1984) – What a gem of a song and how beautifully rendered by the fantastic sisters! An amazing example of how music can bring in so much serenity and peace to fairly sensuous intonations.. Some great leverage of different voice textures between the sisters.. And yes, Asha clearly scores significantly over Lata on this one by adding so much more feel and emotions to her parts of the song, although rendering the voice for the second fiddle.. One song that has played in loop for hours on my playlist so many times..
2. JAANU JAANU RI | Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle | S D Burman | Insaan Jaag Utha (1959) – A very ‘happy’ duet with all elements of classic SD Burman composition, with an awesome capture of friendly emotions and free spirit through the evocative tonal quality of both the voices, helping to further build the chemistry and tinkering between two friends.. How I wish this pair was leveraged far more heavily to create such refreshing evergreen duets..
3. NA MAIN DHAN CHAHOON | Geeta Dutt and Sudha Malhotra | S D Burman | Kaala Bazaar (1960) – Another SD Burman underrated classic, but with a completely different mood and feel that indeed evokes the intended divinity.. And Sudha Malhotra does a brilliant job matching up note by note to the impeccable Geeta Dutt.. Just love the song! Another one of the play in loop songs!
4. HUM TO AISE HAIN BHAIYYA | Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal | Shantanu Moitra | Laga Chunri me Daag (2007) – I know this selection may not be as much a `classic’ as the rest, but somehow this song has stayed with me from the first time I heard it! Its spunky nature just brightens me up even from the worst of my moods! Here again, the composer brilliantly uses the different voice textures of Sunidhi and Shreya to create a vibrant canvas.. Refreshing!
5. DULHAN MAIKE CHALI | Mangeshkar Sisters Lata, Asha, Usha and chorus | R D Burman | Manoranjan (1974) – A brilliant song from a disastrous movie! And one of those rare ones that has not two but three of the Mangeshkar sisters coming together and creating a blast of harmony! This is vintage Pancham at his western best with a composition that brings in surprise with every twist and turn! What brilliant use of the gifted voices to create that happy go lucky camaraderie on screen! And yet again the brilliance of Asha Bhosle stands distinctively tall and well differentiated in this one too… This one’s really got a zing to it!
6. TERI MEHFIL ME KISMAT | Shamshad Begum & Lata Mangeshkar | Naushad | Mughal-e-Azam (1960, released in colour again in 2004) – The battle of words, of love, of pride in a royal court and the brilliant undercurrent between two of the most beautiful actresses on screen was perfectly captured in the voices of two legendary singers and the challenge that they keep throwing at each other in all grace. Shakeel Badauni’s lyrics also makes it an all time great!
7. MAIN CHALI MAIN CHALI | Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle | R D Burman | Padosan (1968) – This breezy duet picturized on a group of friends perfectly captures the mood of friendship and thrill of a bunch of young girls. Both the Mangeshkar sisters are in a tremendous playful mood here and perfectly complement a happy composition by Pancham
8. MAUSAM KE SARGAM KO SUN | Kavitha Krishnamurthy and Shraddha Pandit | Jatin-Lalit | Khamoshi: The Musical (1996) – Khamoshi is possibly the best album of Jatin-Lalit, and Mausam ke Sargam is one of the most underrated songs of the album. Kavitha Krishnamurthy is sensational in the song, and Shraddha Pandit matches her on every note to beautifully project the innocence of a young girl. This song is all goose-bumps!
9. I LOVE YOU | Asha Bhosle and Usha Uthup | R D Burman | Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971) – This foot tapping song from Pancham will find a place in the best of lists just based on the sheer vocal range displayed by both Asha & Usha, its mind-boggling! It is unthinkable for any other two singers to repeat this and sing anywhere close to this!
10. MORNI BAGA MA | Lata Mangeshkar and Ila Arun | Shiv – Hari | Lamhe (1991) – Two completely different voice patterns brilliantly contrasting each other on the premises of an ethnic folk! And then brilliantly shot right in the desert, with the sensational Sridevi. How much more beautiful can it get?
11. CHHALKA CHHALKA RE | Richa Sharma, Mahalaxmi Iyer, Vaishali | A R Rahman | Saathiya (2002) – A brilliantly remade song of a beautifully remade film. The chemistry between all the voices perfectly syncs in with the chemistry and fun on the screen. The colors on the screen reflect in the voices too!
12 AYE KAASH KISI DEEWANE KO | Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle | Laxmikant – Pyarelal | Aaye Din Bahaar Ke (1966) – A lovely composition from the house of Laxmikant Pyarelal, and the sensational sisters again delivering another beautiful number with a lot of feel and wonder for tomorrow
13. AYE SAKHI ULJHAN | Madhushree, Chinmayi, Vaishali and Aanchal Sethi | A R Rahman | Raanjhanaa (2013) – A lovely semi-classical composition by Rahman and beautifully rendered by a bunch of talented singers. Unlike the other female duet of the film (Banarasiya, which is also lovely), this one ensures that all the singers come together equally without anyone trying to dominate the other! And how good is Madhudhree! A beautiful experience overall!
14. JAB JAB TUMHE BHULAYA| Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle | Madan Mohan | Alam Ara (1964) – Always wondered why Madan Mohan has not composed more of such stunning female duets and got Lata and Asha to sing them together. The richness of this composition is amazing and both the sisters complement it so wonderfully with their different singing styles.
15. IMAN KA ASAR | Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan | Salim – Suleiman| Dor (2006) – That we don’t have too many good stories and films on female bonding is also validated by the fact of the limited number of times composers have brought together Shreya and Sunidhi to create such lovely songs. But when they come together on a beautiful composition, they always create magic!
16. THANDI THANDI HAWA | Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle | O P Nayyar | Johnny Walker (1957) – This is vintage OP Nayyar at his best with a terrific composition and so beautifully rendered by Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt. The softness of the song astounds you, and makes it a very soothing experience.
17. BALMA | Sunidhi Chauhan and Rekha Bhardwaj | Vishal Bhardwaj | Pataakha (2018) – The rustic rivalry between the bitching sisters so beautifully captured by the both Rekha and Sunidhi in this spectacular song. It takes a little time to grow on you, but once it does, it stays and plays on loop for long!
18. GARJAT BARSAT SAAWAN AAYO RE | Suman Kalyanpur, Kamal Barot | Roshan | Barsaat Ki Raat (1960) – A unique song that was also rendered by Lata Mangeshkar earlier in Malhar, and then Roshan reused his own song with minor changes to create the exceptional classic duet. The song flows like rain, and creates its own beautiful aura!
19. HUMRE GAON KOI AAYEGA | Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle | Shankar – Jaikishan | Professor (1962) – The song flourishes on its beautiful folk composition, and is then strengthened by the playful vocals of the dynamic duo of Lata and Asha. The entire song reverberates just like the opening alaap by Lata.
20. MAIYYA YASHODA | Anuradha Paudwal, Kavitha Krishnamurthy, Alka Yagnik | Ramlaxman | Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999) – A vibrant and colorful melody perfectly capturing the mood of the film that is all about a large happy family in love. The song interestingly takes the Radha, Krishna, Yashoda analogy and weaves it a lovely relationship story! A happy happy song!
We only hope that the days to come add many more to this list. That will only mean that more and more stories will be told about women, hopefully in the more modern times. We would surely aspire for a female only version of ‘Koi kahe kehta rahe’ some day, in all its fun and energetic bonding! Musically looking forward!
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