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 responses to “Punjabi Film Music: Nothing Paindu About It”

  1. Jamal Akbar says:

    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.

  2. readinglord says:

    @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..

  3. Jamal Akbar says:

    @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.

  4. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    @ 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 !!

  5. HARINDER says:

    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.

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