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10 Movie soundtracks of the 90s that Bollywood can be proud of

Bartender's warning : This post is best read with ear-phones plugged in.

Though I was born in the 80's, I am essentially a 'kid of the 90s'. They were the formative years of my life and as any teen will tell you - the movies of that age tend to hold a special place in our hearts. That being said, the 90's weren't a particularly great period in Bollywood - till '93, our country's biggest box office grosser was a movie involving 2 Govindas, 2 Chunkey Pandeys, 2 Kader Khans and a monkey ( though some dearly wished there were more of the latter and less of the former. )

Like the movies, the music soundtracks too were generally formulaic. Yet, there were a few diamonds that emerged from the rubble. These were albums that were instant hits when they arrived and now, even decades later, have weathered the test of time pretty well. 

Before we dive into the top 10, it's important to acknowledge those albums that were in the running but didn't make the final cut, isn't it ? Here they are :

Hum Aapke Hain Kaun,     Rangeela,     Hum,     Dil,     1942: a love story,
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar,     Deewana,     Baazigar,     Bombay,     Sadak,    Yes Boss
Pardes,     Jab Pyaar Kisi Se Hota Hai,     Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya,     Gupt.

In addition to the above list, there were umpteen one-hit wonders ( Criminal, Papa Kehta Hain, Parinda, Phool aur Kaante, Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke ). 
A funny coincidence to note in the list above and below is the Khan-centric nature of musical hits. I didn't do that on purpose - it's just the way it was back then. Luckily, the decade that followed would change that trend for good.
Now, shall we see the top 10 soundtracks of the 90s in Bollywood ?

10. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam  
Ismail Darbar's first stint as a music composer. It would also end up being the best he could ever do. This magnum opus love story featuring Salman, Ajay and Aishwarya was a huge hit for it's time even by Bollywood standards and cemented Sanjay Leela Bhansali's place as a director to bank upon. 

Instant classics : Chand Chupa, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Dhola Re, Aankhon Ki Gustakiyan, Tadap Tadap

9. Khamoshi : the Musical
Before Sanjay Leela Bhansali had unlimited funds to spoil himself with ventures like Devdas and Guzaarish, his first tale was of a simple love story between a girl born to deaf-and-dumb parents and a young lad, set against a poor economic background. What I still remember from nearly 2 decades ago is that after dominating the charts ( Philips Top 10, anyone ? ) for months, the moment the movie reviews came out cold, the songs of this Jatin-Lalit album disappeared off the charts. I always wondered about that logic - letting worse songs come to the top just because the movie tanked.

Instant classics : Bahon Ki Darmiyan, Aankhon Mein kya, Yeh Dil Sun raha Hai, Aaj Mein Upar

8. Aashiqui
One of only two non-Khan films in this countdown. Rahul Roy and Anu Agarwal had a dream debut in this very sweet first-love tale that had some very romantic numbers interspersed right throughout the narrative.

Instant classics : Dheere Dheere Se, Tu Meri Zindagi Hai, Bas Ek Sanam Chahiye,  Main Duniya Bhula Dunga

7. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge
Okay. Put on your seatbelts. The Shah Rukh Khan juggernaut begins. DDLJ was, is and will always remain, one of Bollywood's biggest hits. The combination of a loveable pair with great on-screen chemistry, a setting that we can all connect with ( you know - a millionaire college-flunking kid taking a trip to Switzerland and falling in love with a desi girl and running with his equally insane dad all the way to Punjab to elope with her. ) and some great songs yielded phenomenal results.

Instant classics : Tujhe Dekha , Mehndi lagake rakhna, Mere Khwabon Mein, Na Jaane Mere Dil ko Kya

6. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
DDLJ maybe the bigger hit, but KKHH would wow the crowd with the same combo in a totally different setting two years later. Truth be told : I personally liked this movie better than DDLJ.

Instant classics : Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Koi Mil Gaya, Yeh Ladka Hai Deewana
Fun fact : Javed Akhthar turned down the opportunity to pen down the lyrics for this movie because he found the title 'suggestive.'

5. Dil to Pagal Hai
The SRK train rolls on. This was a phase where Yash Raj films could do no wrong. They had the whole 'cool-dude teenager falls in love' hit formula stashed in their pocket. And DTPH was the best example of that - 'kids' with no back stories, involved in a pretty mundane stage play, fall in love.

Instant classics : Are re Are, Dil to Pagal Hai, Bholi si Surat, Le Gayi
Fun fact : After featuring the love triangle of SRK, Karishma and Madhuri heavily in the promos, having Akshay Kumar play the hero of the title song proved to be a pleasant surprise. It would also prove to be the turning point in his career.

4. Dil Se
Mani Rathnam. A R Rahman. And then Shah Rukh Khan. This tale of a guy falling in love with a suicide bomber had a lot going in it's favour but would ultimately collapse under the weight of it's own expectations. Still, there is a lot to be thankful for - strong performances by the leads, a vivacious debut by 'Liril' girl Preity Zinta and of course, the magic of A R Rahman.

Instant classics : Chaiyya Chaiyya, Aee Ajnabi, Dil Se Re

3. Dil Hai ki Manta Nahin
Much like in his yearly professional life, there's just a single Aamir Khan movie in this list - but oh - what an album it is that can leap-frog over the more technically superior Yash Raj-ShahRukh-Swiss Alps bandwagon ! 

 Instant classics : Dil Hai ki Manta Nahin, Tu Pyaar Hai Kisi Aur se, Adain Bhi Hai, Kaise Mizaaj Aapke Hai.
Fun fact : All the 11 songs in this album are sung by Anuradha Paudwal. Respect. 

2. Saajan
Lawrence D'Souza used to deliver simple but sweet movies back in the early 90s and the best of the lot is the eternal Bollywood love triangle between the  handicapped poet with a heart of gold ( Sanjay Dutt - yes kids, he wasn't a don in every film he played ), the fan in love with this person she has never met ( a gorgeous Madhuri Dixit in her prime ) and the spoilt brat ( Salman Khan v.01 at his best ) who loves her. Back then, Ooty was the 'Swiss Alps' of dream sequences but with songs like these, that was all our generation needed.

Instant classics : Bahut Pyaar Karte Hai, Dekha Hai Pehli Baar, Jeeye to Jeeye Kaise, Tumse Milne Ki Tamanna Hai

And the best Bollywood movie soundtrack of the 90s is....

1. Roja
You can say 'But it's dubbed!'. Doesn't change the fact that this was a game changer in Bollywood music. Composers realised that there were more wonderful instruments than a organ, a synthesizer and a jazz / drum set. They also realised that this unknown kid from down under ( Chennai ) was gonna be a major name in the days to come. And boy, did A R Rahman prove them right. Songs like 'Yeh Haseen Wadiyan', 'Tu Hi re', 'Choti Si Asha' and 'Roja Jaaneman' don't just showcase the finesse of Chitra and SP Balasubramiam, they almost instantly transfer us back to our younger 90's self and you feel the memories flood in of how enamoured you were by these songs back then.

As with any countdown list, there will be a difference of opinion. That's fine - but be honest : While reading these songs, you were mentally humming them in your mind, weren't you ?

That's enough for me :)
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