India has the world’s largest film industry, releasing thousands of productions yearly. Hindi cinema, widely known as Bollywood, rakes in billions of dollars worth of box office sales every year. Classic Bollywood cinema is famous worldwide for its lavish sets and grandiose dance spectaculars, matched with brilliant soundtracks. Here’s a few of the best songs you should have on your playlist.
Ghagra (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, 2013)
If this upbeat banger doesn’t make you want to learn Bollywood dance, then I’m afraid I can’t help you. This coming-of-age romantic comedy stars Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, and its award-winning soundtrack has propelled the film to cult status. The slow number Kabira is also a highlight.
Maahi Ve (Kal Ho Naa Ho, 2003)
In Kal Ho Naa Ho, studious MBA student (played by Preity Zinta) falls for her happy-go-lucky new neighbour (Shah Rukh Khan) who charms her troubled family, but hides a secret of his own. Maahi Ve features during an engagement scene and it’s an absolute tune. The addictive hook will be in your head for hours.
Tattad Tattad (RamLeela, 2015)
Ranveer Singh makes an extravagant entrance as charismatic star-crossed lover Ram in RamLeela. Tattad Tattad (sung by Aditya Narayan) is a brilliant production with whip-smart choreography and driving rhythms to match. But its general silliness had some critics raising a cynical eyebrow when it was released, with one writing that: Tattad Tattad means “the sound made when the Hindi language weeps at Munshi Premchand’s grave.”
Desi Girl (Dostana, 2008)
Feverish drumming rolls alongside funky dance synths in this fun number written by acclaimed Bollywood lyricist Kumaar. Desi Girl (meaning Indian Girl) is a feel-good love song, written half in English, half in Hindi and sung by Shankar Mahadevan, Sunidhi Chauhan and Vishal Dadlani.
Pinga (Bajirao Mastani, 2015)
Priyanka Chopra is a true Bollywood icon and gives an exceptional performance in this scene. Pinga is based on traditional Marathi folk music, it leads with an enchanting vocal hook and the beat of the dholki drum. The epic historical drama is a cinematic masterpiece and the film holds the title of the 29th highest grossing Indian film of all time.
Discowale Khisko (Dil Bole Hadippa!, 2009)
Infectious Bhangra beats guaranteed to get you on your feet, Discowale Khisko thrums with colour. In Dil Bole Hadippa!, Veera (Rani Mukerji) dreams of playing cricket for the big leagues, so she dresses as a man, earning her a spot on Rohan (Shahid Kapoor)’s team.
Tune Maari Entriyaan (Gunday, 2014)
Priyanka Chopra stars alongside Arjun Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and Irrfan Khan in this film about love triangles and outlaws. The film won the Best Action at the 60th Filmfare Awards and Tune Maari Entriyaan was nominated for Best Choreography. The thumping beat and dance routines in this scene are on another level of Bollywood epic.
Gallan Goodiyan (Dil Dhadakne Do, 2015)
Comedy drama Dil Dhadakne Do centres around a dysfunctional family who go on a cruise trip with their friends to celebrate the parents’ wedding anniversary. Impressively, the whole scene was filmed in one take. Another big party tune, the way Gallan Goodiyan just takes it up that extra notch with a chorus key change is *chef’s kiss*. Divine.
Naatu Naatu (RRR, 2022)
Naatu Naatu is an electrifying number, opening with a thundering beat and rising to a break-neck speed. When the song was released, it kickstarted a viral dance craze breaking YouTube records to become the most popular Telugu-language song on the platform.
Ishq Shava (Jab Tak Hai Jaan , 2012)
In Ishq Shava, the dreamy reverb and swirling hooks make for a hypnotic listen. The song is based on the Hindi proverb that translates as “love and fragrance cannot be hidden”. Here, the lyrics say we should be open to love and not shy away from expressing our feelings.
With thanks to Azedah Yunus and Andrew Tinker for all their help and advice on this piece.