Britainologist’s Top Ten Bollywood Dance Numbers

Lists, the casual reader will observe, are not greatly beloved of this blog (being as I am not attempting to SEO my way up the google results in order to send traffic to my ads for baldness cures).

However, Bollywood songs are … and my youtube playlist runneth over. Herein, ten of the dance numbers that I like best.

* this list will periodically change as I discover new songs. 

Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya

From Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Nothing beats this. It is lush and gorgeous, moving from a staccato beat to Lata Mangeshkar’s dreamy trill (apparently the vocal recording was done in a bathroom for the acoustics). Above all, there is Madhubala … who gradually takes over until she radiates from every mirrored panel. There is also Prithviraj Kapoor’s amazing expanding face. Classic.

Piya Tu Ab To Aaja

From Caravan (1971)

No list of Bollywood dance numbers would be complete without a spot from the greatest item dancer of them all: Helen. (Although this clip also proves that Helen is the all-time greatest exponent of the dance style known as ‘awful’.) The costume change from 3:56 deserves its own hall of fame star.

Yeh Ladka Hai Allah

From Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)

It’s Shahrukh Khan. It’s Kajol. It’s flirty and cute. Would someone shower Farah Khan with awards? Or at least M&Ms?

Dola Re Dola

From Devdas (2002)

Not just one, but two superstar actresses share space in this one. Madhuri Dixit (stealer of this blog’s heart) is surely the greatest dancer of her generation. Aishwarya Rai is a great big showoffypants. And because this is a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, it’s all done with fairytale spangle. (PS. spot the bad guy.)

Kajra Re

From Bunty aur Babli (2005)

Give old showoffypants her due, she elevates this one from Bachchan father-son bromance (also a really fun part of the number) to pure specialness.

Kya Kare Kya Na Kare

From Rangeela (1995)

My love for Rangeela is no secret … and this is my most loved among the songs. What would you get if you put Michael Jackson’s Thriller in a blender with Kate Bush’s interpretive dance and fed Aamir Khan and Urmila Matondkar the smoothie? This. Totally this.

Bhangra Paale

From Karan Arjun (1995)

This is an unexpected ear worm. One listen, then next thing it’s Bhangra Paale round the house, in the office, on the tram. Salman and SRK get the brotherly love going (with added swords). Mamta Kulkarni, where did it all go wrong?

Chaiyya Chaiyya

From Dil Se (1998)

Shahrukh Khan and Malaika Arora Khan dance on top of a train. A moving train. To a song that keeps asking to be sung and danced to.

Lahu Munh Lag Gaya

From Goliyon ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (2013)

Ram-Leela is one of my favourite films and I love all the songs: from Priyanka’s item dance, to Deepika and Ranveer’s hip-hop in a gun shop. But this is a little bit magical. This is Romeo and Juliet meeting during Holi.

In Aankhon ki Masti

From Umrao Jaan (1981)

This is a little different from the other songs on the list: it’s not an all-dancing showstopper. It’s Rekha, quietly and gently willing us to fall in love with her.