Holi is incomplete without its music. Besides colours and dance, an accompaniment that best embodies the spirit of the festival and makes it more celebratory is the music that is played during the day.
From classic hits such as Rang barase to Balam Pichkari, DJ’s and music lovers are aware of that special Holi playlist and juke-box that features all those Holi-songs we all groove to. The Hindi film industry has always celebrated the festival, with almost a new song to go by every year. There are a few misses here and there, depending on the content and context of the film, but Holi is celebrated with the songs that release around the festival.
Here is a list of Holi songs from the 40s to this year’s Holi song, Bajaa Bajaa, from Rakesh Omprakash Mehra’s Mere Pyare Prime Minister.
Jamuna tat shyam khele horee and Aaj Holi Khelenge Saajan Ke Sang from Mehboob Khan’s Aurat (1940), which was later made into the iconic film, Mother India, had two Holi songs which arguably could have been the first typical Holi songs of Hindi cinema. The music was composed by Anil Biswas.
Daaro re rang daaro re rasiya, in Dilip Kumar-Nargis starrer Jogan (1950). Sung by Geeta Dutt when she was only a teenager with music by Bulo C Rani, this Holi song is must to listen to. Jogan’s Meera bhajans in Geeta’s Dutt’s voice are said to be the finest bhajans rendered in Hindi film music.
Khelo rang hamare sang from India’s first technicolour film, Aan (1953). Directed by Mehboob Khan, it was shot in 16mm Gevacolour and was blown up in Technicolour. It also went on to become the highest grossing Indian film of that time.
Holi khele Nandalal biraj mein, a song quite different in style from the archetypical Holi song from the film Rahi (1953). Anil Biswas who brought the influence of music of Bengal and Eastern India in his music compositions used Assam’s folk music and dance in this song.
Holi aayi pyaari pyaari bhar pichkari, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd Rafi from the film, Pooja (1954). It was composed by Shankar Jaikishan.
Mar maro shyam pichkari, a romantic Holi song from the film Durgesh Nandini (1956), composed by Hemant Kumar. The song has a touch of classical elements which makes its music even more memorable.
Holi aayi re kanhai rang barse, from India’s first submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Mother India (1958). This song is sung by Shamshad Begum, one of the best singers of the 50s.
Are jare natkhat from the legendary filmmaker V Shantaram’s film, Navrang. The song has a solo dance performance by Sandhya (V Shantaram cast his wife for the role of female lead actor-Jamuna in the film), in which she plays both Radha and Shyam.
Tan rang lo ji aaj man rang lo, a ‘royal’ Holi song from the film Kohinoor (1960) which had Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari in the lead.
Holi khelat nandlal, a song from the critically-acclaimed film, Godaan (1963). The song which is rooted in the folk music of rural India was composed by Pandit Ravi Shankar and sung by Mohd Rafi. This Holi song also has only men in it, no women.
Bam bam bam lahiri lehar lehar nadiya gehree, from a lesser known Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, Do Dil (1965). Composed by Hemant Kumar and written by Kaifi Azmi, it was sung by Manna Dey and Usha Mangeshkar.
Layi hain hazaron rang holi showcases the deepening relationship between a widow (Meena Kumari) and a vagabond (Dharmendra) from the hit film Phool Aur Patthar (1966). The film was directed by O P Ralhan.
Aaj na chhodenge, from the cult classic Kati Patang (1970). RD Burman’s music, Anand Bakshi’s lyrics, Kishore Kumar’s voice and, above all, Rajesh Khanna’s enactment captures the playful mood of Holi.
Holi aayi re, from the film of the same name, Holi Aayi Re (1970). The song picturised on Mala Sinha was sung by Mahendra Kapoor, Lata Mangeshkar and Usha Khanna.
Nandalala, Holi khele biraj mein dhoom machi re, in Mukesh, Mohd Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar’s voice on a Laxmikant-Pyarelal composition from the film Mastana (1970). The lyrics were penned by Anand Bakshi.
Phagun aayo re, filmed on Waheeda Rehman in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar from Phagun (1973). The song was composed by SD Burman and the lyrics were by Majrooh Sultanpuri.
Nadiya se dariya, a rather thoughtful Holi number written by Anand Bakshi from the film, Namak Haraam (1973). Sung by Kishore Kumar, this RD Burman composition has some deeper meaning lyrically.
Holi ke din from one of the greatest Hindi films, Sholay (1975). With Gabbar Singh growling, “Holi kab hai…kab hai Holi!” to Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar singing the song, this RD Burman composition is a go-to every Holi.
Holi aayi re mastano ki toli, a rather dark Holi song with Sunil Dutt swearing vengeance against those who wronged him. The song is from the film, Zakhmee (1975).
Kar gayi mast mujhe from the romantic comedy, Dillagi (1978), directed by Basu Chatterjee. The song sung by Kishore Kumar and Suman Kalyanpur becomes an expression of love between two teachers, played by Dharmendra and Hema Malini.
Rang barse bheege chunarwali, one of the most famous songs of all time from another cult classic Silsila (1981). The lyrics written by Amitabh’s father, the poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, along with and Shiv Hari, and had the actor singing the song.
Mal de gulaal mohe aayi holi aayi re, from the film Kaamchor (1982). Directed by K Vishwanath, the film was a remake of his own Telugu film, Subhodayam. The music of the film was composed by Raajesh Roshan who also starrs in it.
Holi aayi Holi aayi, from the film, Mashaal (1984) captures the mood of Holi celebrations of people who live in the chawls and bastis of Mumbai. Composed by Hridayanath Mangeshkar with lyrics by Javed Akhtar, the song was sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mahendra Kapoor.
Saat rang main khel from the film, Akhir Kyon (1985). Written by Indivar and composed by RD Burman, this track was sung by Amit Kumar and Anuradha Paudwal.
Ang se ang lagana, a rocking Holi number which a stalker uses to get close to his prey in Yash Chopra’s Darr. The music was by Shiv Hari and the film starred Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla and Sunny Deol in lead roles.
Soni soni from another classic Mohabbatein (2000) at the turn of the century. The music of the film was composed by Jatin-Lalit and lyrics were penned by Anand Bakshi.
Holi khele Raghuveera Awadh mein from the film, Baghban. Aadesh Shrivastav composed music for this song, which was sung by Amitabh Bachchan, Alka Yagnik, Sukhwinder Singh and Udit Narayan.
Dekho aayi Holi, from Ketan Mehta’s Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005).The music of the film was done by A.R. Rahman.
Do me a favour lets play Holi, captures the Holi mood perfectly, from the film Waqt-The Race Against Time (2005). Anu Malik did the music of the film which was directed by Vipul Shah.
Madhubala, from Ali Abbas Zafar’s rom-com, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (2011). The song though not a Holi song, uses the Holi celebrations as a pretext to celebrate the song. There is lots of Bhanng and colour in the song.The soundtrack composed by Sohail Sen and sung by Ali Zafar, Sreeram Chandra and Shweta Pandit is as groovy and a peppy Holi song.
hann ke mohalla, from the science fiction romantic comedy film, Action Replayy (2010), the soundtrack from the film became an instant hit when it was released. Composed by Pritam and penned by Irshad Kamil, this recreated 70’s track, sung by Sunidhi Chauhan and Ritu Pathak is a definite go back to.
Balam pichkari, from the film, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (2013) has gone on to become this decade’s go-to Holi song. Vishal Dadlani and Shalmali Kholgade voice the song with music composed by Pritam.
Lahu Munh lag gaya, in the backdrop of Garba, from the film Ram Leela (2014). The music of the film was composed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali who also directed it. The song was sung by Shail Hada and Osman Mir.
Rang se hui, from the crime drama, Gulaab Gang (2014), that centred around the struggle of women in India, starred Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla in the lead. The song sung by Kaushiki Chakrabarty, composed by Soumik Sen and penned by Neha Saraf, is a soothing Holi song.
Holi Khelein, from the National Award-winning, Srijit Mukherji’s Begum Jaan (2017). The film was a remake of a Bengali film, Rajkahini (2015). With music composed by Anu Malik and lyrics by the acclaimed Urdu poet, Rahat Indori, the song in the voice of Shreya Goshal and Anmol Malik is a different beat altogether.
Badri Ki Dulhaniya, though not a typical Holi song, used Holi as a backdrop to film its title track from the film, Badri Ki Dulhaniya (2017). The romantic comedy directed by Shashank Khaitan, with music for the track composed by Tanishk Bagchi, and sung by Dev Negi, Neha Kakkar, Monali Thakur and Ikka has become the pop-culture Holi anthem since its release.
Go pagal, from the Jolly LLB 2, a 2017 black comedy drama film, directed by Subhash Kapoor. The track is an off-beat Holi track with an EDM twist, is sung by Raftaar and Nindy Kaur and music composed by Manj Musik and Nilesh Patel.
Bajaa Bajaa, from Rakesh Omprakash Mehra’s latest release Mere Pyaare Prime Minister (2019), is a recreation of the iconic Are Ja Re Hat Natkhat from V Shantaram’s film, Navrang, that Holi song is also featured in this list. The track recreates the iconic melody from the 50s and is sung by Shankar Mahadevan, Divya Kumar, Asha Bhosle, Rekha Bhardwaj, Neela Mulhekar and Shrinidhi Ghatate. With music composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy, the lyrics have been penned by Gulzar.