Daughter of actress Shobhana Samarth and sister of Nutan, heroine Tanuja rose to fame in the early 1960s while still in her teens. For almost 15 years, her films had great songs, as she was paired opposite leading heroes.
In these 10 songs we have chosen to celebrate her 79th birthday on September 23, the most have been filmed on Dharmendra and Rajesh Khanna. Even the others were big hits in their time. The order is chronological.
1 Kabhi Tanhaiyon Mein – Hamari Yaad Aayegi (1961)
Tanuja was only 18 when this film was released. It was a huge hit for singer Mubarak Begum who was said to have been chosen by music director Snehal Bhatkar after Lata Mangeshkar expressed her unavailability. Lyrics were by Kedar Nath Sharma. The words began, “Kabhi tanhaiyon mein yun hamari yaad aayegi, andhere chaa rahe hongi, ke bijli kaundh jaayegi”. Anand Kumar also appeared.
2 Aapke Haseen Rukh Pe – Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966)
This one could well be a continuation of last week’s piano theme, as Dharmendra was shown playing the instrument with Tanuja and Mala Sinha in the house. Mohammed Rafi sang impeccably, and the tune was composed by O.P. Nayyar. Lyricist Anjaan wrote, “Aapke haseen rukh pe ek naya noor hai, mera dil machal gaya toh mera kya kusoor hai”.
3 Raat Akeli Hai – Jewel Thief (1967)
This was a sensuous dance number where Asha Bhosle sang for Tanuja. Dev Anand also appeared on screen. Majrooh Sultanpuri wrote, “Raat akeli hai, bujh gaye diye, aake mere paas kaanon mein mere, jo bhi chaahe kahiye, jo bhi chaahe kahiye”. S.D..Burman’s jazz-inspired music went perfectly with the situation and words.
4 Yeh Dil Tum Bin – Izzat (1968)
This was a wonderful duet by Lata and Rafi, and was filmed on Tanuja and Dharmendra. Sahir Ludhianvi wrote, “Yeh dil tum bin kahin lagta nahin, hum kya karein; tasavvur mein koi basta nahin, hum kya karein; tum hi keh do ab ae jaan-e-wafa hum kya karein”. The melodious tune was composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
5 Sunn Ja Aa Thandi Hawa – Haathi Mere Saathi (1971)
In a unique sequence, Rajesh Khanna and Tanuja were shown singing this entire song swinging in their respective hammocks. Kishore Kumar and Lata were the playback singers, with Laxmikant-Pyarelal giving the music. Anand Bakshi wrote, “Sunn ja aa thandi hawa, aaha thamm ja ae kaali ghata, kuch pyaari-pyaari baatein hamaari, aa jaate jaate tu bhi sunn ja”.
6 Beqarar Dil – Door Ka Rahi (1971)
This was one of the biggest songs for singer Sulakshna Pandit, who lent voice to Tanuja. It was a piano-driven song also featuring Ashok Kumar and Kishore, who sang and composed the music too. Lyricist Irshad wrote, “Beqaraar dil tu gaaye ja, khushiyon se bhare woh taraane, jinhe sunke duniya jhoom uthe aur jhoom uthe dil deewane”.
7 Meri Jaan, Mujhe Jaan Na Kaho – Anubhav (1971)
Towards the end of her life, the late Geeta Dutt sang three songs for Tanuja in Basu Bhattacharjee’s Anubhav, which had music by Kanu Roy. Sanjeev Kumar was the hero. ‘Meri Jaan’ was the biggest hit, with Gulzar writing, “Meri jaan, mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan, meri jaan, meri jaan”.
8 Chahe Rahe Door – Do Chor (1972)
This Kishore-Lata duet was picturised on Dharmendra and Tanuja on board a ship. Majrooh’s lyrics were, “Chahe raho door, chahe raho paas, sun lo magar ek baat, ek dor se bandhogi sanam, kisi din hamaare saath”. The tune was composed by R.D. Burman.
9 O Mere Dil Ke Chain – Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972)
Tanuja looked gorgeous in pink as she was serenaded by Rajesh Khanna in waistcoast. This was a mega-hit for Kishore, with R.D. Burman composing the music, and Majrooh writing, “O mere dil ke chain, chain aaye mere dil ko dua keejiye”.
10 Roz Shaam Aati Thi – Imtihaan (1974)
Laxmikant-Pyarelal composed this song sung by Lata. It was filmed in open terrain on Tanuja and Vinod Khanna. Majrooh’s words were, “Roz shaam aati thi magar aisi na thi, roz roz ghata chaati thi, magar aisi na thi, yeh aaj meri zindagi meìn kaun aa gaya”.
Tanuja took a short break in the mid 1970s following the birth of her daughters Kajol and Tanisha, but returned to play supporting actress. She was seen earlier this year in the OTT series ‘Modern Love Mumbai’, playing the grandmother of a gay man.