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DDLJ: Classic film track voted best 90s Bollywood song

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Sarika Unadkat,BBC Asian Network

Reuters A shot of a scene in a cinema, from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, a Bollywood fiIm. In the foreground of the image the heads of audience members are just visible in silhouette.Reuters

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge

A legendary track has come out top in a vote for the UK’s favourite 90s Bollywood song.

BBC Asian Network invited listeners to choose The Ultimate 90s Bollywood Song from a list of 50 contenders.

A panel made up of the station’s presenters Haroon Rashid, Nikita Kanda, Gagan Grewal and Nadia Ali, plus industry experts Asim Burney, Amrita Tanna, and Karan Pangali chose the shortlist.

It included song and dance numbers such as Ole Ole from the film Yeh Dillagi, to ballads like Bahon Ke Darmiyan, from Khamoshi: The Musical.

But there could only be one winner – Tujhe Dekha To, from the 1995 blockbuster Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

A man in a dark blue sparkly jacket stands on a stage holding a microphone close to his mouth. His free hand is out in front of him, palm turned up, as if holding a note.

Kumar Sanu, who provided vocals for Tujhe Dekha To, says he’s not surprised it came top

Known as DDLJ, it’s Bollywood’s longest-running film and still shows every day at the Maratha Mandir Theatre in Mumbai.

It tells the story of Raj, played by legendary actor Shah Rukh Khan, and Simran, played by actress Kajol.

The two are Indians living in London who meet and fall in love against Simran’s family’s wishes.

Tujhe Dekha To plays over a scene featuring the couple dancing in a field full of yellow mustard plants.

The song, featuring vocals by Kumar Sanu and the late Lata Mangeshkar, who died in 2022, shares a special place in many people’s hearts.

Both singers recorded their parts separately, and Sanu tells BBC Asian Network he was so busy at the time that he recorded his half “in hardly half an hour”.

But he says he knew the song would be a hit when he recorded it.

“Whilst singing we felt that kind of vibration,” he says. “And I was sure this song would do something.”

Reacting to the news that his song had taken the coveted number one spot in the station’s vote, Sanu, says he’s “pleased” and thanked fans who had voted for it.

He says he isn’t surprised, though, based on the reaction he gets whenever he performs it live.

“I’ve travelled everywhere and it is always the number one song to the audience,” he says.

Getty Images A stall displaying a large collection of CDs and casette tapes laid out face up, displaying their covers based on Bollywood film posters. A tattered neon yellow sign stands in the middle of the collection with the words "CDs, 6 for £10, £1.99 each" written in large black letters.Getty Images

Bollywood films are strongly linked to their soundtracks

Why the 90s?

Bollywood movies are renowned for mixing epic tales with song and dance numbers.

The 90s were a particularly special era as it was the decade which saw the rise of actors such as Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who are all considered household names today.

Musically, 90s Bollywood soundtracks were incredibly exciting as they not only blended traditional Indian melodies with western orchestras, but audiences began to hear more electronic instrumentation and contemporary pop blends.

It was driven by the rise of composers like Anu Malik, Jatin-Lalit and A R Rahman.

Today Bollywood movies reach a global audience, and it’s easier than ever for fans to connect with tracks from the films via streaming services.

‘A very catchy song’

A glamourous woman in a pinstripe suit stands next to a younger man in a navy suit with an open-necked white shirt. To the right of them another man in a white shirt and black waistcoat wears sunglasses and rests his hand on the other man's shoulder. In the background a microphone hangs from the ceiling, telling the viewer the trio are in a studio of some sort.

Actress Kajol (left) and actor Shah Rukh Khan (right) discussed the lasting appeal of DDLJ with Asian Network’s Haroon Rashid in 2015

As with Hollywood, it’s not unusual for songs to become hits in their own right after featuring in a popular film.

Singer Kavita Krishnamurthy, who worked with Lata Mangeshkar, says Tujhe Dekha To is “a very, very catchy song and the film was tremendous”.

“It had every commercial ingredient and Lata Ji who is phenomenal,” she says.

And there’s a long history of those working in the industry name-checking the song to show how deep the love for it runs.

In 2014 actress Kareena Kapoor told Desi Island Discs Tujhe Dekha To would be her first pick to take with her to a desert island.

“I’m kind of a romantic at heart and I love the mushy movies,” she said.

Singer Raghav, who is known for sampling Bollywood songs in his music, called the song “the ultimate dream love sequence”.

Actor Ayushmann Khurrana also called the film “his favourite film of all time”. He remembered watching it while he was at school, but said it remained “amazing” today.

Getty Images A woman with her hair in an updo wears dangly gold earrings and a backless, shimmering dress, looks over her shoulder at the viewer. Behind her a red carpet hoarding with the BAFTA logo can be seen.Getty Images

Actress Deepika Padukone says DDLJ had a big effect on a younger generation of viewers

Speaking to Asian Network in 2015, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol reflected on the success of the film.

Kajol said “it’s become what it has become because of the people who have been watching it, who have made it theirs. I don’t even think it belongs to us any more”.

Khan said: “Nobody could have imagined the longevity of it. The greatness of the art only follows when the audience appreciates it.”

But actress Deepika Padukone, who called DDLJ “the most romantic film of all time”, might have the best theory behind the enduring appeal of DDLJ and its most famous track.

“I think I belong to that generation where that film impacted a lot of young minds and hearts,” she said.

“We are all Simrans hoping for a Raj to come into our lives”.

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