An era that belonged to Arijit Singh but the underrated KK and Mohit Chauhan, too, left their impression. Shreya Ghoshal still the top female playback singer, but gen-next voices Nikhita and Jonita Gandhi hold great promise
By Mayur Lookhar
How time flies by quickly. Another decade goes by as the world stepped into 2020. A decade is a long time and there’s plenty that happens in this period. The old guard strives hard to hold onto to their position, while the new generation takes a forward stride.
In terms of playback music, gone are the days of decades of dominance by singers. This decade has exposed us to various talents. Mohit Chauhan rose to fame with Rockstar . One thought he would rule for years, but for whatever reasons that didn’t happen. Instead, a former reality TV show find came and conquered the Bollywood music industry. Arijit Singh’s sensual tone struck a chord with the audience at large. Music composers didn’t look beyond Singh for romantic songs, ballads. That’s not to say Singh’s predecessor faded into oblivion. The likes of Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghosal and KK gave timely reminders that they are far from done yet. This was a period dominated by Pritam with the many of his compositions derived from soulful lyrics by the likes of Amitabh Bhattacharya and Irshad Kamil.
This Valentine’s Day, there’d be no reviewing, no rating. We simply want you to enjoy 30 of the most memorable love songs of the decade [2010-2019]. We hope they are worth dedicating to your beloved. Also, please note we haven’t taken sad songs and so popular ballads like Bekhayali from Kabir Singh , Daryaa from Manmarziyaan  and a Channa Mereya from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil miss out. Valentine’s Day is a day to rejoice. We only want to spread happiness this day. These joyful love songs have the power to melt hearts.
1 Sajde Kiye -Khatta Meetha 
A sweet bitter title, but Pritam’s romantic composition tasted like fine cherry. Irshad Kamil’s beautiful lyrics came alive through the mesmerising tone of KK and Sunidhi Chauhan. Shahid Mallya, provided the additional vocals. Remarkably, the average film version was crooned by Roop Kumar Rathod and Harshdeep Kaur. We didn’t find the KK, Chauhan version in the film’s original soundtrack. Thanks to keen YouTubers who didn’t let this beautiful melody be lost in history.
2 Chori Kiya Re Jiya – Dabangg 
Often the first film in a franchise garners the maximum appreciation. It’s not just romance or action, but the music of Dabangg  could never be replicated in the subsequent films. The late lyricist Jalees Sherwani left behind his most memorable song in Chori Kiya Re Jiya. Sajid-Wajid’s fine score was backed by joyful singing by Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghoshal.
3 I love you – Bodyguard 
Forget Salman Khan’s silly antics in the song but then again, love can make you do crazy things. The Neelesh Misra-penned song played through a delightful soft score by Pritam. Singers Ash King and Clinton Cerejo did the rest. The mouth organ is an instrument that’s not often used in Bollywood songs, and this lyrical proposal was as pleasant as it gets.
4 Saibo – Shor in The City 
Devoid of stars, Shor in The City  was an underrated gem. And so too was this [lyricist] Sameer Anjaan, Priya Panchal co-written track. Shreya Ghoshal chipped in with another one of her mesmerising songs. Let’s not forget the psychedelic tone of Tochi Rana too. All made possible through the fine Sachin-Jigar composition.
5 Tum Ho – Rockstar
In the 1990s, he gave few memorable private albums. Mohit Chauhan enjoyed his finest hour in Bollywood as the voice of the rockstar JJ [Ranbir Kapoor] in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar . There’s a languid elegance in Chauhan’s tone that came through so beautifully in this soft romantic A.R Rahman composition. Rockstar was also coming of age for Irshad Kamil. And it’s arguably, one of A.R. Rahman’s best songs of the decade.
6 Phir Le Aaya Dil – Barfi 
2012 was a crucial year in the career of Arijit Singh. Pritam offered him a romantic track Phir Le Aaya Dil, that was penned by Sayeed Quadri. Shafqat Amanat Ali sang it too but the Arijit Singh reprise was simply majestic. The music and the singing had a ghazalesque touch to it. It’s hard not to get nostalgic when tuning into this melody.
7 Ishq Wala Love – Student of the Year 
Karan Johar’s Student of the Year  introduced us to Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra. The film is not that memorable, but this Ishq Wala Love gave an altogether different meaning to love. Credit to lyricist Anvita Dutt and music composer duo of Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani. The light but sensual tone of Salim Merchant, Neeti Mohan came like a breath of fresh air. Ravjiani, too, did his part in the singing. Ishq Wala Love, that’s the biggest lesson learnt from Student of the Year.
8 Teri Jhuki Nazar – Murder 3 
In an industry obsessed with face value, wonder how many would associate hunk Randeep Hooda to be part of a delightful romantic number. The song is a reflection of emotions that one experiences in a budding relationship. Another gem by lyricist Sayeed Quadri, while Pritam got Shafqat Amanat Ali to do full justice to the lyrics.
9 Kaise Bataaoon – 3G 
3G, no that’s nothing to do with cellular phone technology, but this weirdly titled horror film had Neil Nitin Mukesh and Sonal Chauhan in the lead. It didn’t scare us much, but this KK crooned romantic song simply melted your heart. Mithoon and Amar Mohile were the architects of this composition. Why there is no lyricist credit in the original video? Whosoever wrote it, Kaise Bataaoon is simply a breath-taking melody.
10 Sawaar Loon – Lootera 
Lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya and composer Amit Trivedi collaborated to give a fine album in Lootera . Though a period film, but this beautiful song cuts through all eras. Monali Thakur’s sweet innocent tone leaves you overwhelmed with joyous emotions.
11 Tum Hi Ho – Aashiqui 2 
Perhaps the finest album and many lovers would rate Tum Hi Ho as the romantic song of the decade. Written and composed by Mithoon, Tum Hi Ho is arguably the song that made Arijit Singh a singing superstar. The over 200 million views on YouTube only reflects its global appeal.
12 Maahi Ve – Highway 
Irshad Kamil’s simple lyrics was turned into a lyrical encore by composer, singer A.R. Rahman. While the music had a standard rhythm, but the variations in singing, the change in notes in virtually every line of the song is the hallmark of the Maahi Ve track and it also proved why there is no one like Rahman.
13 Banjaara – Ek Villain 
While the world went gaga over Teri Galiyan, it was this Banjaara [gypsy] that traversed to the inner depths of our heart. Truly an underrated gem by Mithoon. Arguably, it is unheralded singer Mohammad Irfan’s most defining track of the decade.
14 Samjhawan – Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhani 
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Punjabi track from the Indo-Pak production Virsa  was given a new, more melodious spin by the composer duo of Sharib Toshi and Jawad Ahmed in the Varun Dhawan-starrer Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania [ 2014]. Lyricist Kumaar tweaked Ahmad Anees’ original lyrics to suit the Hindi speaking audience, but the core Punjabi lines remained intact. There was no Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, but it was Arijit Singh who made the remake his own with another soulful performance. Shreya Ghoshal’s contribution was limited to a bridge but it was endearing.
15 Moh Moh Ke Dhaage (female) – Dum Laga Ke Haisha 
Never write anyone off. Veteran composer Anu Malik gave a blissful composition in Moh Moh Ke Dhaage. Its beauty stems from its enchanting lyrics by Varun Grover. The words have the power to mend broken bonds. There was a male version by Papon, but it is the female version by Monali Thakur that charmed us more.
16 Tu Kisi Rail Si Hain – Masaan 
Inspired by iconic poet Dushyant Kumar’s ghazal Main Jise Odhta Bichata Hoon, Varun Grover penned a heartening romantic number Tu Kisi Rail Si Guzarti Hai. The words typify the anxieties that one goes through the moment when you see your crush. Often a person is left speechless. The endearing music by Indian Ocean and Swanand Kirkire’s deep baritone made you relive the anxious moment when you bumped into your beloved.
17 Agar Tum Saath Ho – Tamasha 
Perhaps some would question why we’ve picked this song in a romantic song list. The guy [Ranbir Kapoor] doesn’t believe in love. But it is persuasion by the woman that made us pick this brilliant unrequited love track. Who else can write such a persuasive track but Irshad Kamil. ’90s singing star Alka Yagnik made a welcome return, chipping in with a glorious performance while Singh emoted the sullen tone of Ranbir Kapoor to a nicety. Arguably, Rahman’s finest composition of the decade. Agar Tum Saath Ho (If you are with Me). Well, just give it a try.
18 Pashmina – Fitoor 
The word cashmere is an anglicisation of Kashmir that is famous for its Pashmina shawls made from the finest cashmere wool. Swanand Kirkire used the famous Pashmina shawl to stitch the tender romantic number from Fitoor . The lyrics were so good that composer Amit Trivedi couldn’t resist to croon it himself.
19 Bolna – Kapoor & Sons 
Lovers make vows, promises in a relationship but the one thing that we yearn the most is eternal companionship. These emotions are brought out wonderfully in lyricist Dr.Devendra Kafir’s Bolna track. Remake king Tanishk Bagchi gave an joyful original composition, while Arijit Singh and young Asees Kaur turned it into a fine lyrical melody.
20 Sab Tera – Baaghi 
They are brothers – Amaal and Armaan, but the former chose to add an extra ‘L’ in the surname. The Malik brothers produced this soothing romantic number from Baaghi. Amaal taking care of the composition, while Armaan delighting us with his sweet tone. Lead actress Shraddha Kapoor also made an impression as a singer too here. All of it though wouldn’t have been possible without the fine, simple lyrics by Sanjeev Chaturvedi. Sab Tera, it’s all yours to enjoy.
21 Ae Dil Hai Mushkil title track 
Obsession is not a healthy thing, but often the most heartening love songs tend to originate out of obsession. The passion, obsession was written large over Ranbir Kapoor’s face in the Ae Dil Hai Mushkil title track. The simple yet captivating words by Amitabh Bhattacharya had a magnetic effect on listeners. Though not a sad song per se, but the ballad-like score by Pritam struck an instant chord. Do we need to even mention that it is the genius Arijit Singh at work here? If you are a looking for song to propose then, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is your track.
22 Sahiba – Phillauri 
Think of Punjabi music in Bollywood and it often beats to pop or rap tunes. The period drama in Anushka Sharma’s Phillauri took us back to the pre-independence era where there was no pop but soothing Sufi music. The soulful lyrics by Anvita Dutt especially the outtro was simply magical. Punjabi pop artiste Romy Khan stunned all with his powerful tone. Phillauri’s music also exposed us to the prowess of rising composer Shashwat Sachdev. Sahiba would easily count among the finest love songs of all time.
23 Maana Ke Hum Yaar Nahi – Meri Pyaari Bindu 
Another one-way romance. Technically, it may not fit the love song criteria, but there’s beauty in the way two individuals want to suppress their feelings within. Sometimes reluctance all the more brings two people closer. That was so finely brought out in lyricist Kausar Munir’s Maana Ke Hum Yaar Nahin. Sachin-Jigar’s ghazal-like score was made all the more enjoyable in the enchanting tone of Sonu Nigam, while Parineeti Chopra, too, gave a decent account of her singing abilities.
24 Hawayein – Jab Harry Met Sejal 
When Pritam, Arijit Singh and Irshad Kamil come together, there’s bound to be magic. The Hawayein track was every bit of fresh air. Arguably, the finest track of 2017, and perhaps among the top songs of the decade. The outtro music, singing was simply majestic. We enjoyed his performance and Arijit Singh seemed totally lost to the soulful lyrics.
25 Dil Diyan Gallan – Tiger Zinda Hai 
Post the Uri terror attack, hurt Indians called for a total boycott of Pakistani artistes in Indian cinema. Their actors couldn’t come, but the singers apparently recorded their songs from United Arab Emirates. Atif Aslam has his critics, but there’s no denying that his voice has a strong appeal especially with youth across the two countries. Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif’s Tiger Zinda Hain  saw a soothing romantic number in Irshad Kamil’s Dil Diyan Gallan. What does one desire the most? A simple heart-to-heart to conversation with your beloved. Kamil’s simple Punjabi-cum-Hindi lyrics reflected this desire. And it played finely to Vishal-Shekhar’s soft desi score.
26 Aahista- Laila Majnu 
An Ahista Ahista would be akin to Dheere Dheere of Aashiqui . Same meaning but two totally different eras, two totally different songs, and two totally different experiences. Another fine gem by Irshad Kamil with Jonita Gandhi and Arijit Singh creating magic through the soft rock duet, composed by Niladri Kumar.
27 Chonch Ladhiyaan – Manmarziyaan 
From Bhangra to Sutlej, Amritsar to Jalandhar to tumbi, lyricist Shellee incorporated all that’s Punjab into the Chonch Ladhiyaan song. How beautiful to describe a budding love to that of crossing of beaks (Chonch Ladhiyaan]. Seldom do we come across such wonderful lyrics in these times. Harshdeep Kaur and Jazim Sharma did full justice to Amit Trivedi’s gripping joyful score.
28 Qaafirana –Kedarnath 
2018 was a good year for Bollywood playback music. Manmarziyaan and Kedarnath, the two most fine albums. Kedarnath’s inter-faith love story moved the audience. The Urdu word Qaafirana means a nonbeliever in god. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s qaafirana is a non-believer of love. A poor Muslim man [played by Sushant Singh Rajput] confused about what to make of this friendship with the Hindu girl [played by Sara Ali Khan]. The soothing music, a desi-western fusion [by Amit Trivedi] seeps into your heart like a pure river. Arijit Singh was as still as a lake, while Nikhita Gandhi a bustling river.
29 Tujhe Kitna Chahne Lage Hum – Kabir Singh 
Kabir Singh, arguably, the most talked about film of 2019. No debate though over the quality of its music. Perhaps, the best film album of the year. A story about a possessive, heartbroken lover. Who better than Arijit Singh to sing this romantic number. Mithoon’s lyrics trigger the 1990s nostalgia. Simple but captivating lyrics, and easy to hum. The music though is vastly different. Bollywood ballads/romantic numbers are increasingly playing to soft rock tunes.
The music of Tujhe Kitna Chahne Lage Hum perhaps has a sense of déjà vu to it, but who cares. It is so addictive. The rest is simply vintage Arijit Singh. Passion, pain, joy, Singh makes you experience these emotions each time. Enough said, just play it in loop.
30 Kalank title track 
Penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya, the Kalank title track is the lovers defence of their relationship. In their eyes, Zafar [Varun Dhawan] and the married Rukh [Alia Bhatt] have committed no sin. In fact, they equate themselves to Heer Raanjhna [legendary lovers]. Well, all great love stories have faced stiff opposition from society. Morality doesn’t approve it, but the sincere straight-from-the-heart lyrics make you not just accept but respect the Zafar-Rukh relationship.
Pritam produces a musical masterpiece while Arijit Singh gave another virtuoso performance.