Punjabi Film Music: Nothing Paindu About It

Posted on April 17, 2008
Filed Under >Fawad, Culture & Heritage, Music, TV, Movies & Theatre
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Having grown up in Lahore in the 70′s and 80′s, the strains of lilting Punjabi melodies were always a warm and familiar presence.

Even though in middle class upwardly mobile urban families Punjabi had sadly come to be associated with rural backwardness, Punjabi music with its deep cultural roots continued to exert an influence. Even in homes where children were discouraged from all things Punjabi lest they give off a whiff of the “paindu” lower classes, times of celebration such as mehndis remained incomplete without the girls on the dholki singing a repertoire of Punjabi wedding songs.

Traditional melodies such as “Mathe Te Chamkan Waal”, “Saada Chiriyan Da Chamba Ve”, “Raat De BaaraN Wajje Aape Meri Neendar Khule”, “Mehndi TaaN Sajdi Je Nache Munde Di MaaN” sung at these functions at least familiarized young boys and girls with the music of their native soil.

I was particularly fortunate to grow up in a family where I was amply exposed to both the Punjabi language and music but many years abroad had served to obscure many of those fond memories. It is only after the internet revolution that I have rediscovered much of that music. In this post I want to share some of my favorite Punjabi singers and their music and provide a guide to some excellent sources for further enjoyment for those who may want to explore further. This is the first in a series of three planned posts and here I will focus on Punjabi Film Music.

Few now remember that until the 1970′s Pakistan had a fairly thriving film industry based in Lahore. Noor Jehan’s masterful voice so dominated Pakistan’s film music singing that it overshadowed other unjustly forgotten talents. I am particularly fond of Zubaida Khanum’s singing. Here’s a wonderful song by her composed by “Baba” G.A. Chishti from the 1957 film “Yakke Wali” in which Musarrat Nazir played the title role. The song is Resham Da Lacha Lak We. These old black & white films evoke a simpler, more innocent time and place. I feel that in many of these songs the Punjabi film heroines are portrayed as less demure figures than their contemporaries in Bombay’s films of that era. Many of these women seem to exude a rugged self confidence even within the confines of their traditionally assigned roles.

Zubaida Khanum sang some of the most popular Punjabi film songs of the 50′s and 60′s. Some of my other Zubaida Khanum favorites include AssaN Jaan Ke Meet Lai Akh Way” from the 1955 film Heer, Bundey Chandi Dey and from the film Chan Mahi.

Khawaja Khurshid AnwarMaster InayatRasheed AttreInayat Hussain Bhatti
Inayat Hussain Bhatti who hailed from Gujrat is another forgotten name today but many of his songs in the two decades after partition were enormously popular. A glance at his biography shows Bhatti’s impressively versatile personality which bucks any stereotype of a Punjabi film hero. The video below is one of my favorite Inayat Hussain Bhatti songs called Bhagan Waleo from the 1953 film Shehri Babu. This song was composed by Rashid Attrey (who along with Master Inayat Hussain and Khawaja Khurshid Anwar comprises the holy trinity of Pakistani music directors). Bhatti himself is the actor in this clip:

Some other of my Inayat Hussain Bhatti favorties include Chan Mere Makhna (popularized more recently by Shazia Manzoor) and a nice duet with Zubaida Khanum called Goray Goray Hath Kali Wang Mundaya.No post on Punjabi film music can be concluded without including a sampling from Noor Jehan’s legendary career in Punjabi film singing. Many of her songs (courtesy of singing at Mehndis) are so deeply rooted in West Punjab’s culture that they are intimately familiar even to those who have never set foot in a Pakistani cinema. Here is a personal favorite titled Chan Mahi Aa from the 1970 film Heer Ranjha composed by the master tunesmith Khurshid Anwar.

Heer Ranjha had a phenomenal soundtrack and virtually all the songs were superhits including Mein Cham Cham NachaN, Wanjhli Walarea, Rabba Wekh Laya, Kadi Aa Mil Ranjhan We and Irene Parveen’s lovely, chirpy number TooN Chor Mein Teri Chori. Here are some other Noor Jehan songs I like: Weh Sonay Deya Kangna Sauda Iko Jaya, (a wonderful song in which Anjuman truly makes Noor Jehan’s voice come alive), Tere Mukhre Da Kala Kala Til We , Jadon Holi Jai and countless more.

Fawad blogs at Written Encounters where this post was first published.

31 Comments on “Punjabi Film Music: Nothing Paindu About It”

  1. Hassan says:
    April 17th, 2008 2:47 am

    What a wonderful selection of songs. I will comment properly later. Right now I am just enjoying the songs!

  2. April 17th, 2008 3:03 am

    thanx for sharing these beautiful songs!
    i just dont know wats gone wrong with or punjabi cinema now, we have such a beautiul past….and there’s definitely nothing paindu about celebrating our traditions.

  3. Jeemar says:
    April 17th, 2008 9:05 am

    A lot of classic lollywood songs including a big collection of Punjabi Movie songs are at :


  4. Aik Pakistani says:
    April 17th, 2008 9:17 am

    Fantastic songs, i wonder why they don’t make them like this anymore!!!

  5. faraz Waseem says:
    April 17th, 2008 9:57 am

    I think from last era I can see return of Punjabi. You will find many urdu speaking Karachities listening to Punjabi songs. My favourite is “Bohey Baria” by Hadiqa Kyani.

    Well I think this passion is fired by Indian movies and singers like Baba Sahgal. You will find some punjabi character and some punjabi song is most of Indian movies.

    Now remember urdu/hindi are languages of center of old Hindustan( Mughal Hindustan)

    I think it is good that two groups of sub-continents seems to be melting with each other.

  6. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    April 17th, 2008 10:49 am


    very good start, please continue

    ” nothing paindo about it ”

    par definition, pain-do !!, i.e. a constant, monotonous
    repetition of painful, re-do, of backward funny naivety,
    its speciality of sub-conti, usualy the “urban” panjabi
    taunt, for rural punjabi peasants, adopted later by general
    “Babu” panjabi jiyalas but remains a punjabi term as
    Pinde, dhok, jhok, chakk, deh, kulan, Gharhi, waal etc.

    I.H.Bhatti’s songs were very popular, a folkloric voice,
    his other songs like ” Sahnon sajna de milan di tang e ”
    (if I am right )

    Zubaidah Khanum’s voice was and is the most beautiful,
    fine, melodious and unique on the sub-conti.

    Firdous & Aijaz’s Heer Ranjha was not the only one,
    there was later another version of Heer Ranjha, in late
    70s (?) which impressed me so much.
    Firdous, what a huge mass of charm and a jatti’s beauty.

    Bakhsha hay tujhko fitrat nay,
    ik wajood-e-paiker-e-Firdous

    Ankhein Ghaz’zalan hein,
    to muskan qasza-o-quass
    (Rafay Kahsimiri)

    Punjabi songs on bongos congos, ( wanjli waleria )
    total horror.

  7. ATIF says:
    April 17th, 2008 5:04 pm

    I think you are right. Unfortunately too many Punjabis themselves consider their own language ‘paindu’ even though if you read the poetry or hear the music in Punjabi you realize what a lyrical and beautiful language it is (I think all languages are beautiful). I think we should all take pride in all languages of Pakistan

  8. Fawad says:
    April 17th, 2008 6:06 pm

    ATP Team: Thanks for cross-posting this. I particularly appreciate the excellent photographs you have added to the original post.

  9. readinglord says:
    April 17th, 2008 7:34 pm

    Thank you Fawad for introducing ‘urban’ advanced and so called ‘civilized’Punjabies about the ‘Paindu’ backward music. But I am sorry you mention ‘Paindu’ in a derogatory tone forgetting that Punjabi is basically a paindu culture having deep relation with the ‘mitti’ (earth) of this beautiful land of Punjab. I was born in a small village of the west Punjab, but lived there only a couple of years in my childhood while passed all my long life in the major cities of Punjab ( I hate using ‘the’ with Punjab as the British did treating it just an adjective and not a proper noun) mostly in Lahore. But I believe ‘once paindu always paindu’ as even while in London whenever home-sickness ever overtook me it was my village which I remembered. In fact a Punjabi, being inherently a ‘Paindu’, has such a deep relationship with the land of his birth which I found none else. This recalls to me an old Punjabi film song:

    “Pindaan diaan ajab bahharan ne
    Jattaan pehliaan de wich ral behnrhaan
    Dukh wand leine sukh wand leina
    Shehraan de jameaan paleaan noon
    Ki ehnaan gallaan diaan kaaraan ne”

    (I wish I could have written this Urdu rasmulkhat)

    Btw, there were some beautiful films produced at Lahore in early 40′s before Partition (A horrible word for Punjabies associated with their carnage as a result of hatred born of politico-religious fanaticism) like

  10. sidhas2000 says:
    April 17th, 2008 9:22 pm

    Thank you Fawad for good post.

    I have heard my Punjabi friends express the same experiences and feeling about how Punjabi language was abandoned in favor of Urdu.

    First time when I heard this, I was quite surprised and somewhat confused.

    There are may be many factors that probably contribute to this behavior.


    1. Pre-partition: Urdu was considered a Muslim language and in Punjab medium of instruction was Urdu. Even my Hindu/Sikh friends’ father write Urdu.

    2. Urdu was adopted as a national language. A bad decision but in the context of political thought that was prevalent, it was not a bad idea because all the nation building theorists right down from Mills favored a nation based on common thread and didn’t vision of democracy was for a Nation-State not a multi-ethnic Nation.

    3. Forget about the what the political theorist thought, the biggest problem with us at the time was that we were just coming out of a colonized society with colonial mindset.

    4. Not wanting to let people know who you truly are is our own social problem that I think could emante from our caste driven society and after modernization of India Urban and Rural divide came about in open. Today in Karachi, Urdu is being abadoned in favor of English. Not a single person speaks Urdu without inserting one english word and I would say we are so used to speaking in that manner that I bet we can’t speak without utter few Urdu words.

    Anyways, good post. We should have a language policy that respects and supports all the languages in Pakistan. There is no reason why we can not have many official languages. At least we should agree on the principle that languages spoken by people of Pakistan must be respected and government should not favor one over the other or in other words favor all the languages.

    How we implement this principle of freedom and respect for spoken languages is different matter.

  11. Fawad says:
    April 18th, 2008 12:58 am

    @readinglord: Actually I do not think of

  12. faraz Waseem says:
    April 18th, 2008 9:47 am

    Urdu is becoming extinct in North India in favour of Hindi. Bollywood songs are last frontier for urdu in India.

    In Karachi Urdu is literally dead. After Ibne-Safi, I dont remember any famous faction writer from Karachi. Ishtiaq Ahmed, Safdar Shaheen, Mazhar Kaleem all are from Multan.

    As for “Punjabi” it seems like getting fate of “bhoojboli”. Bjoohbooli is a language which is spoken in parts of Bihar and U.P. Imatabh Bachan is bhoojbooli speaker. It is similar in grammar to hindi but not the same language. Today it is spoken only in villages and descent of bhoojboli speakers in cities called themself “hindi speakers”.

  13. faraz Waseem says:
    April 18th, 2008 10:25 am

    sorry the regional language I was talking is “Bhojpuri”not bhojboli.

    Think Bjojpuri and Hindi as different as “Sarieki” and “punjabi”

    The strong support for Punjabi in India come from Sikhs community as it is also language of their religion.

  14. readinglord says:
    April 19th, 2008 7:11 pm

    @Fawad: Thank you dear for the explanation. Verily all the mischief was done by the heading ‘Punjabi Film Music: Nothing Paindu About It’ which is definitely derogatory, or what you called ‘pejorative’ about ‘paindu’ and was quite uncalled for.

    Btw, I am related to Sialkot by my, what is called pejoratively ‘suthan saak’ (Pent relationship) as my in-laws belonged to Kotli Loharaan, a well known village in the suberb of Sialkot.

  15. ShahidnUSA says:
    April 20th, 2008 11:37 am

    Looks like Waheed Murad and Noor Jahan took the pakistani culture with them after their demise.
    They both knew how to change with the time and still keep their originality.
    Punjabi writers need to learn few tips (be creative) and directors (be decent) without being INSECURE.

    And Yes you can make the “hans” walk like you even if you are a”kawa”.

  16. HARINDER says:
    April 20th, 2008 12:12 pm

    Very nice selection. I think Punjabi music is still thriving. Not in film but n Pop. If you look at the great hits in Pakistan, in India and in UK they are all Punjabi and Pakistani singers have been producing great Punjabi hits. Even many non-Punjabi singers sing in Punjabi because it is teh dominant language of music in much of south asia and Pakistan is still the leading force in Punjabi music.

  17. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    April 21st, 2008 4:51 am

    @ Harinder,

    the fact is that Pakistanis speak, write and
    understand a very cultured but folkloric Punjabi,
    civilized punjabi is spoken only in Pakistan,
    the rich variety of punjabi that we find in Lahore, Pindi
    Karachi, Multan, Peshawar etc is linguistic advancement of a very popular communicative instrument accompanied by excellent poetry and prose. I learned Punjabi in Karachi at
    the age of 16, I remember skipping many punjabi words
    e.g. laure was replaced by zarorat, Karachi’s punjabi is
    more ‘civilized’ and easy than Punjab’s, with a bit of Urdu
    accent. Any way all urdu speakings have somewhere a
    punjabi accent and expressions as well, ! its nice, charming and romantic.
    I can imagine, a beautiful Lahorian lady speaking
    to me in Urdu with ” Halka sa punjabi tallafuz “, I bet,
    I would’nt mind !!

  18. April 22nd, 2008 8:45 am

    @readinglord – I have the song Ud Ja Bholeya Panchhi (Mangti – 1942) which I can email to you if you send me your email address. I also have four songs from Zamindar (1942). I just wish to add a correction. Noor Jehan did not star in Zamindar, the film had Shanta Apte. Noor Jehan first appeared as a leading lady in the Urdu film ‘Khandan’ also from 1942. Her hero was Pran. Choudhary (1941) was a Punjabi film starring Baby Noor Jehan, this had songs such as ‘bas bas wey dholna’

    You will probably be surprised to know that I am British born Pakistani under the age of 30 but my mother and father have always kept a sense of our cultural roots alive.

  19. readinglord says:
    April 22nd, 2008 9:32 pm

    @Jamal Akbar: Oh dear I am so glad and thankful for your offer. My email address is as under:


    I stand corrected about Noor Jehan’s first appearance. I remember now that you are correct. This is the fault of my memory which is failing. No wonder I have just crossed my 78th year. I read on WEBMD that listening to old songs can help revive one’s memory. So I would be so thankful dear if you send me the song ‘Ud Ja Bholeya Panchhi (Mangti – 1942) ‘and other old Punjabi songs you mentioned. I wonder a young man like you born in England knows all this which who had seen al this had forgotten it.

    I had seen the film ‘Khandan’ when I was a young boy. I have its super hit songs ‘Mere lie jahaan mein chen nah qaraar he’ and ‘tu koun si badli mein mere chand he aa ja’, both song by Noor Jahan. It was the first social film which had impressed me so much when previously I used to see only stunt films of JonKaoos and Nadya(?), etc..

  20. Jamal Akbar says:
    April 24th, 2008 5:44 pm

    I have emailed you the song from Mangti and the ones I have from Choudhry.

    I seem to be quite a rare breed these days. My interests in music are akin to my grandparents and this is all down to my parents and grandparents. Even being in the UK they have always reminded us of where we have come from – what our culture is. Punjabi was and still is widely spoken in our family but I have always spoken either English or Urdu.

    I really love the Punjabi language and have no shame admitting it. It has its own beauty and simplicity that can not be expressed in even the most flowery urdu (In my opinion!) and the funny thing is my wife is from Faisalabad and can not stand the language ! I have found that many young people from Pakistan associate Punjabi with backwardness – it is such a shame. For the children of Punjab it is their heritage.

  21. shreemann says:
    July 26th, 2008 7:39 pm

    It was a treat to read this article and it would be a bigger treat to watch all the great films and enjoy those legendary songs mentioned in your article. I am a Punjabi youth, separated by manmade borders, in what they call India. Partition has done considerable damage to Punjabiyat, especially on our side of the border. Your Punjab is our Punjab and ours as much yours. So what if borders can’t melt, hearts can!

  22. vic says:
    September 18th, 2008 1:28 pm

    jamal akbar i was wondering whether you have a song called something like ‘aaja ve shorma’? i think it is from mangti and i have been looking for it for ages…cant find it anywhere and would really appreciate your help…please email me on v51ngh@hotmail.com if you can help. many thanks

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  25. M.Farooq Joyia Adv. says:
    November 17th, 2008 9:46 am

    i will just say that how mr. Edhi serving the humanity,
    he deserve the nobile prize

  26. Manav says:
    December 8th, 2008 1:56 pm

    I know what you mean, Fawad, but its not something that is limited to Pakistan. As an Indian growing up in Delhi (I’m 21 now), I see Punjabi banished from conversations. The older generation still uses it, but only among themselves.

    And at Indian weddings, Matthay te chamkan waal and Kala doria are rapidly giving way to choreographed bollywood dancing. It’s something I’ve seen with great dismay.

  27. Gabaroo says:
    December 16th, 2008 3:26 pm

    Pakistanis and Muslims of Bihar and UP (who say urdu is their mother tounge) have been abandoning their native culture for a long time since Mughal times. The Bihari/UP muslims somehow took their native Bhojpuri language and someohow abandoned the devangari script that the other people of the area used and adapted persian script for hindi/bhojpuri and named a new language for the muslims called urdu which is just an excuse to show they are superior to hindus and closer to the Mughals or Persians. The persian script does not even make sense for writing in hindi first off, many words can be written incorrectly and misinterpreted. Anyways later on the people of Pakistan adopted this non-native language for the people of all of Punjab, Sindh, NWFP, etc. The children of all these places except I beleive Sindh MUST have their education in Urdu but not in their mother tounge which creates this inferiority complex. The child will grow up thinking that the language spoken at home isnt even taught in our schools at all so obviously Urdu is better since it will give me opportunity to succeed in this society, furthermore if I adopt English and lessen Urdu I can be even more successful! The British adopted Urdu back in the 1800s for Punjab and we still have to live with this mistake till this day except in Indian Punjab where the people took back the pride of their culture and use Punjabi for education and government functions. A perfect example of the non necessity of the persian script is by looking at Bangladesh or even Indonesia which have majority muslim populations yet their use their native scripts for their languages (The Bangladeshis still use the same bengali script the West Bengalis do for their communication, a sanskrit based script). Point being Pakistanis are ashamed of anything related to India or even their own regional culture so they will continue to differentiate themselves by using a language and foregin script for their society.

  28. January 7th, 2010 2:50 am

    We are proud of our veteran music directors for their immortal melodies . They are the herritage of pakistan film industry

  29. Hina says:
    July 11th, 2010 11:50 am

    Very nice. Its time we appreciated this.

  30. Watan Aziz says:
    September 13th, 2010 9:43 pm

    I never really knew that she could dance like this
    She make a man want to speak Punjabi

    Kthay hun tunn? Sona, mera ghar, ghar
    (Firdaus, Noor Jehan)

    Oh baby when you talk like that
    You make a woman go mad
    So be wise and keep on
    Reading the signs of my body

    And I’m on tonight
    You know my hips don’t lie
    And I’m starting to feel it’s right
    All the attraction, the tension
    Don’t you see baby, this is perfection

    Hey girl, I can see your body moving
    And it’s driving me crazy
    And I didn’t have the slightest idea
    Until I saw you dancing

    And when you walk up on the dance floor
    Nobody cannot ignore the way you move your body, girl
    And everything’s so unexpected, the way you right and left it
    So you can keep on taking it

    Tere naal mein layian akhian (Noorjehan – Punjabi song)






    And the best

    Sun Wanjhli Di Mithri Daan Heer Ranjha Noor Jehan song

    Folks, the Punjabi movies and music has enthusasim!

    I do not know why Sultan Rahi frowns during songs. I would be smiling mile to mile if someone danced like that for me.

    I never really knew that she could dance like this
    She make a man want to speak Punjabi

    OK, that was from Shakira, my new favorite. Big fan of waka waka.

    To Youtube!

  31. Watan Aziz says:
    November 23rd, 2010 11:01 pm


    On days like this, you want to say,

    I never really knew that she could dance like this
    She make a man want to speak Punjabi

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