While the Big B has played some truly iconic roles in Indian cinema, he is also famous for immortal songs picturised on him. Narendra Kusnur does a roundup
When Amitabh Bachchan took over as the publicly-acknowledged Superstar from Rajesh Khanna in the mid-1970s, industry watchers had one doubt. They wondered whether the ‘Angry Young Man’ would appear in as many memorable songs. After all, Rajesh had a string of hit tunes between 1969 and 1974, and musically, Amitabh’s career had got off to a slow start.
In two of his biggest films Zanjeer (1973) and Deewaar (1975), Amitabh had not lip-synched to any major songs. Barring Abhimaan in 1973, he didn’t have any musical blockbusters in the first five years of his career. In Anand (1971) and Namak Haraam (1973), Rajesh Khanna had the songs, even though both had equal footage in ‘Diye Jalte Hain’ from the latter film.
Yet, superstardom had its own side agenda. By 1975, Amitabh began getting the hit songs, and though fans knew him more as the rebel with a cause, they slowly started humming songs filmed on their new idol. Over the next decade, he had many songs that seemed tailormade for him. Nobody could imagine anybody else doing ‘My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves’ in Amar Akbar Anthony, ‘Khaike Paan Banaras Wala’ in Don or ‘Mere Angane Mein’ in Laawaris.
Interestingly, Amitabh’s biggest songs were sung by Kishore Kumar. And they represented different moods, from romantic and comic to sad and philosophical. Yes, Mukesh’s voice suited Amitabh, but he passed away in 1976, six months after Kabhi Kabhie was released. Rafi was perfect in the songs from Suhaag, but did few numbers overall. There were also songs that Amitabh sang himself.
Naturally, choosing 20 Amitabh songs is not an easy task. But here, we have tried to include a mix of styles, with many songs representing the quintessential Amitabh. Thus, you’ll find a friendship song, a drunken number, a children’s song, a devotional song and some great tunes which deserved greater commercial success. We start with his early career, go chronologically, and round off this list in 1984, thus covering the peak of his success as a hero.
1. Dekha Na Hai Re Socha Na – Bombay To Goa (1972)
One of Amitabh’s early hit songs, it showed him dancing away in a bus scene on a Bombay-Goa journey, with Aruna Irani and Mehmood also in the cast. It was a fast number, with a ‘Dole dole dole’ catch-phrase, and Kishore Kumar did full justice. Music was by R.D. Burman and lyrics were by Rajendra Krishan.
2. Meet Na Mila – Abhimaan (1973)
Dressed in a checked coat, Amitabh sang this in an auditorium setting. Kishore’s voice suited him, as Majrooh Sultanpuri wrote, “Meet na mila re man ka, meet na mila re man ka, koi toh milan ka, karo re upaay.” Music was by S.D. Burman, who made remarkable use of guitars and accordion. In the film, Amitabh had hit songs with Jaya Bhaduri, including ‘Tere Mere Milan Ki Yeh Raina’.
3 Tum Bhi Chalo – Zameer (1975)
Kishore was in his element on this song, composed by Sapan Chakraborty. Amitabh and Saira Banu were picturised on a horse-ride. Sahir Ludhianvi wrote the lyrics, which began, “Tum bhi chalo, hum bhi chale, chalti rahe zindagi, na zameen manzil, na aasman, zindagi hai zindagi”. The song was a rehash of the standard ‘Autumn Leaves’.
4 Badi Sooni Sooni Hai – Mili (1975)
One of Amitabh’s marvellous sad songs, it was another hit for Kishore. Lyricist Yogesh wrote, “Badi sooni sooni hai, zindagi yeh zindagi, main khud se hoon yahaan, ajnabi ajnabi”. Music was by SD Burman, who went into a coma after rehearsing this song, before passing away on October 31, 1975. Jaya Bhaduri appeared on screen too. Kishore also sang ‘Aaye Tum Yaad Mujhe’ in this film.
5 Yeh Dosti – Sholay (1975)
Dharmendra and Amitabh were on a motorcycle ride, filled with comic scenes and harmonicas. Most important, it’s one of the most popular friendship songs ever, coming a couple of years after ‘Diye Jalte Hain’ in Namak Haraam. Sung by Kishore and Manna Dey, it was composed by R.D. Burman, with Anand Bakshi writing, “Yeh dosti, hum nahin todenge, todenge dam magar, tera saath na chhodenge.” Kishore sang the sad version for Dharmendra.
6. Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Hoon – Kabhi Kabhie (1976)
An iconic song written by Sahir, it showed Amitabh in a hall with Raakhee in the audience. Mukesh sang, “Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon, pal do pal meri kahaani hai, pal do pal meri hasti hai, pal do pal meri jawaani hai”. Music was by Khayyam. The title song by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar was a huge hit too.
7. My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves – Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)
Coming out of a giant Easter egg in tuxedo and hat, Amitabh excelled in this comic song, where his spoken voice was merged with that of Kishore’s singing. After a barrage of nonsensical English phrases, Bakshi’s words went, “My name is Anthony Gonsalves, main duniya mein akela hoon, dil bhi hai khaali, ghar bhi hai khaali, ismein rahegi koi kismet waali”. Music was by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, and Parveen Babi was cast opposite Amitabh.
8. Chaand Akela – Alaap (1977)
Though Yesudas didn’t sing much for Amitabh, this song proved how well his voice suited the star. It was a light classical piece composed by Jaidev, with Dr Rahi Masoom Raza writing the words, which began, “Chand akela, jaaye sakhi ri’. In this film, Yesudas also sang ‘Koi Gaata Main So Jaata’, written by Harivanshrai Bachchan.
9. Khaike Paan Banaras Wala – Don (1978)
Music directors Kalyanji-Anandji had some huge hits with Amitabh, and this was one of the biggest. Featuring Amitabh and Zeenat Aman dancing in a crowd, it had Anjaan’s lines “Khaike paan Banaras wala, khul jaaye band akal ka taala, phir toh aisa kare dhamaal, seedhi kar de sab ki chaal, o chhora Ganga kinare waala”. The song was a rage in the north, specially in the smaller towns and villages.
10 O Saathi Re – Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978)
Prakash Mehra’s film was known for many good songs, including the title track and ‘O Saathi Re’, sung by Kishore. In the latter, Amitabh sang at an auditorium, reminding Raakhee of the past. Vinod Khanna also appeared. Music was by Kalyanji-Anandji, with Anjaan beginning, “O saathi re, tere bina bhi kya jeena”.
11. Mere Paas Aao – Mr Natwarlal (1979)
This was Amitabh’s first song as a playback singer, though he had spoken parts within some songs earlier. It was also one of his most popular children’s songs, and came three years after ‘Luk Chhip’ in Do Anjaane. In ‘Mere Paas Aao’, he was joined by a group of children, as he narrated a story. Music was by Rajesh Roshan and lyrics were by Bakshi.
12. O Sheronwaali – Suhaag (1979)
In this film, Laxmikant-Pyarelal decided to take Mohammed Rafi for Amitabh. This song was well-received and played at religious functions. Asha Bhosle sang for Rekha. Bakshi wrote, “He naam re, sabse bada tera naam, o sheronwaali, oonche deronwaali, bigade bana de mere kaam.. naam re”. The temple setting added to the song’s charm.
13. Chal Mere Bhai – Naseeb (1981)
No Amitabh list would be complete without a drunken scene, and he was in his element in this song. While Mohammed Rafi sang Rishi Kapoor’s parts, beginning with “Chal mere bhai, tere haath jodta hoon, haath kodta hoon, tere paaon padta hoon”, Amitabh produced a mix of dialogues and sung portions. Music was by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and lyrics were by Bakshi.
14 Mere Angane Mein – Laawaris (1981)
This one was totally for the masses, as Amitabh acted as different kind of women – tall, fat, dark, fair and short. The song was set in a large gathering, with Amjad Khan in the cast. Amitabh sang it himself. Music was by Kalyanji-Anandji, and Anjaan began, “Mere angane mein tumhara kya kaam hai, jo hai naam waala wahi to badnaam hai”. Again, the song was a craze in the interiors.
15. Neela Aasmaan So Gaya – Silsila (1981)
Amitabh featured in many hit songs in Silsila, including ‘Yeh Kahaan Aaa Gaye’, ‘Dekha Ek Khwab’ and the Holi song ‘Rang Barse’. He had a beautiful love song in ‘Neela Aasmaan’, which he sang himself. On screen, he appeared with Rekha against the backdrop of santoor and flute used effectively by Shiv-Hari, whose composition was in raag Pahadi. Lyrics were by Javed Akhtar.
16 Ke Pag Ghungroo – Namak Halaal (1982)
In the early 1980s, Bappi Lahiri had been very prolific, and this as one of his better songs. Sung brilliantly by Kishore, with a classical part by Satyanarayan Mishra, it featured a lively dance by Amitabh, who was dressed in white sherwani and pink pagdi. Smita Patil appeared in the song. Prakash Mehra is credited with the lines.
17 Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain – Khud-daar (1982)
The film was released when Amitabh was seriously injured while shooting for Coolie, and this song immediately caught on because of the humorous way it described ‘I Love You’ is said in Gujarati, Bengali and Punjabi. Amitabh and Parveen Babi played the lead pair. Sung by Kishore and Lata Mangeshkar, it was composed by Rajesh Roshan and written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.
18 Jaane Kaise Kab Kahaan – Shakti (1982)
One of Amitabh’s most successful love songs, it showed him in outdoor shots with Smita Patil. Kishore and Lata teamed up again, and R.D. Burman gave the music. Bakshi wrote the lines, “Jaane kaise kab kahaan, iqrar ho gaya, hum sochte hi reh gaye, aur pyaar ho gaya”. The film was known for the performances of Dilip Kumar and Amitabh, playing a clashing father and son.
19 Saari Duniya Ka Bojh – Coolie (1983)
It was while shooting this film that Amitabh had a serious injury during a fight scene with Puneet Issar. In this film, Shabbir Kumar sang for Amitabh. This song became an anthem for coolies, who identified with Bakshi’s words, “Saari duniya ka bojh hum uthaate hain… log aate hain, log jaate hain, hum yahan pe khade reh jaate hain”. Music was by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
20. Manzilein Apna Jagah Hain – Sharaabi (1984)
One of the most emotional songs picturised on Amitabh, it reflected a completely different side of Bappi Lahiri. Beautifully sung by Kishore, it was written by Prakash Mehra (though some websites credit Anjaan, who has written the other songs). The lines began, “Manzilein apni jagah hain, raaste apni jagah, jab kadam hi saath na de toh musafir kya karein”. The film had other big hits like ‘Inteha Ho Gayee’, ‘Log Kehte Hain’ and ‘De De Pyaar De’.
While these songs show different sides of the Amitabh playlist, there were many other huge hits till the release of Sharaabi. After that, he went through a lean phase, and only a few songs clicked, with Shabbir Kumar, Mohammed Aziz and Suresh Wadkar becoming his new voices. Musically, the decade between 1975 and 1984 remains his most melodious phase.