Hindi cinema has always been fascinated by the damsel in white serenading her lover on a moonlit night and taking him to his doom. This gave music composers a great opportunity to compose haunting songs, which became extremely popular and were replete with orchestration that suggested suspense and fear. Let us look at the most successful ones.
Words: H. S. Billimoria
Aayega Aanewala from Mahal (1949)
Aaja Re Pardesi from Madhumati (1958)
This movie starring Dilip Kumar and Vyjayantimala had music by Salil Chowdhury. Lata Mangeshkar sang the song with aplomb and also won a Filmfare award. Shailendra provided the lyrics.
Jhoom Jhoom Jalti Raat from Kohraa (1964)
Kohraa followed Bees Saal Baad but was not as successful. Lata Mangeshkar’s haunting number, however, made it to the charts. Hemant Kumar provided the music.
Koi Door Se Chale Aao from Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam (1962)
This Guru Dutt film had fantastic music by Hemant Kumar and a strong star cast consisting of Meena Kumari, Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman and Rehman. This Geeta Dutt number remains fresh and haunting even today and is one of her best songs.
Saathi Re from Poonam Ki Raat (1965)
Manoj Kumar and Kumud Chhugani played the lead in this Kishore Sahu film, which had music by Salil Chowdhury and lyrics by Shailendra. This haunting number by Lata was the highlight of an otherwise average film.
Naina Barse from Woh Kaun Thi (1964)
Madan Mohan’s music was the star attraction of this hit film starring Manoj Kumar with Sadhana. Naina Barse is amongst Lata’s best.
Gumnaam Hai Koi from Gumnaam (1965)
Inspired from Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Gumnaam was the first Hindi suspense film in colour and was a huge box-office hit. Manoj, Nanda, Helen and Mehmood shared the credits and Shankar Jaikishan provided the hit music. This title song has shades of the background score of Hollywood film, Charade.
Akele Hai from Raaz (1961)
GP Sippy’s Raaz had the new pair of Rajesh Khanna and Babita. Kalyanji Anandji provided the music for the film. This Lata number has also been sung separately by Mohammed Rafi.
Aaja Thujko Pukare from Neel Kamal (1968)
Rafi’s rendition of this song puts it in a different league altogether. Picturised on a dying Raj Kumar, this is the only haunting song in this list sung exclusively by a male. Ravi provided the music.
Sumsaan Raaton Mein from Sannata (1981)
Horror specialists, Ramsay Brothers produced this film starring Vinod Mehra and Sarika. This title song, sung by Lata and tuned by Rajesh Roshan is faintly reminiscent of the title track of Gumnaam.
Tere Bina Jiya Na Lage from Parde Ke Peechey (1971)
This Vinod Mehra-Yogita Bali film was a surprise hit and Shankar Jaikishan’s music was good. Lata, of course, sang this haunting number written by Rajinder Krishnan.
Main Ek Paheli Hoon from Ek Paheli (1971)
Usha Khanna provided the music for this suspense film with Feroz Khan and Tanuja leading the cast. Suman Kalyanpur’s melodious voice complements the haunting tune.
Mere Mehboob Na Ja from Noor Mahal (1965)
This film starring Chitra and Jagdeep had some haunting music by Jani Babu. Suman Kalyanpur lent her voice to this song.
Mera Saaya from Mera Saaya (1965)
Sadhana, after Woh Kaun Thi, became a favourite of choice for directors making suspense films. This Sunil Dutt-Sadhana starrer had Lata Mangeshkar croon the title song to Madan Mohan’s music.
Mere Naina Sawan Bhadon from Mehbooba (1976)
This Rajesh Khanna-Hema Malini starrer dealt with reincarnation and Mere Naina was the pivotal song. The track has been sung separately by both Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar to RD Burman’s music.
Suspense films involving ghosts went out of fashion in the late Seventies. For a start, haunting melodies always ‘looked’ better in black and white and in the 1970s, Hindi cinema was all colour. Old, dark mansions became fewer and far between and electricity reduced the charm of a haunting song. To our knowledge, the last effort was in Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi (1992) with the song, Aa Bhi Jaa Ke Raat Hai Baaki by Asha Bhosle with music by Rajesh Roshan. The film, however, was such a damp squib that even Rajesh Roshan does not remember it!