Kumkum – Tribute to a great dancer

Hindi cinema has featured some great exponents of classical dancing during the golden age. When one thinks of classical dancers to have graced the cinema scene, images of Vyjyanthimala, Padmini, Raagini etc flow in.

This post examines the graceful dancing abilities of Kumkum, who has several classical pieces picturised on her, and some non-classical hits. Kumkum was an excellent actress too.

Born Mehrun nisa from Hussainabad in Bihar, she was trained in Kathak


Nainan Me Kajra Laga Ke (Madhuban me Radhika – Kohinoor)

It is quite difficult to maintain grace while being  swift in dance, and she was excellent at that.

One of the critical aspects of Kathak dancing is abhinaya. abhinaya is the dancer’s ability to interpret words set to music, and the  presentation of meaning through gesture. This is clearly evident in her on-screen performances as a dancer, as seen the headpage poster above, where she is seen performing abhinaya for “Kajra Lagake”.

Madhuban Me Radhika – Kohinoor-Naushad


We start with the obvious choice, Madhuban Me Radhika, a milestone song in Hindi cinema, with Kumkum as the Rajnarthaki. The above image is the abhinaya of “Ghunghta Mukh pas daalke“.

 Kanha Ja Re – Tel Malish Boot Polish-Chitragupta


A superb score by Chitragupta in Kedar, this song has a lot of close-ups and there are several moments of delight. It has some interesting lyrics by Prem Dhawan, “Log kahe tu tan ka kaala, main janoon tu man ka kaala”. Watch the facial expression for “Man Ka Kala, the knowing gesture and smile. 

 Jaya Jaya He Jadagambe – Ganga Ki Lehren-Chitragupta

jjayajayaheAnother great song with superb music, using off Kumkum’s dancing skills. It is only during the course of research on the topic that I realized how many lovely songs were picturized on her.

Zulmi Hamari Sawariya  – Mr.X in Bombay-Laxmikant Pyarelal 

kaiseguzregiA beautiful song by LP, Lata’s voice is so sweet. Kumkum in full flow here. Very entertaining show.

Daga Daga Vai Vai  – Kali Topi Lal Rumaal – Chitragupta

dagadagavaivaiKumkum has taken the song several notches high. Superb expressions, every closeup is so arresting. I love this song for Chitragupta’s music, Lata’s sweet voice,  and Kumkum’s lively performance.

Diya na Bujhe Ri  – Naushad-Son of India

diyanabujheThis one is an absolute classic. Great Bhairavi by Naushad, good lyrics By Shakeel, spot-on execution by Lata. Kumkum has carried off the song very well with lot of dignity.

Rang Rangeela  – Khayyam-Barood


This song was a real surprise for me when I heard it for the first time. as I had not heard this aspect of Khayyam’s music. Based on Punjabi folk, it has a lilting tune and the song rests squarely on the actress’s shoulders and she has pulled it off very well. The above image is the abhinaya for “Nainon Ki Do Bhanwre Oopar“.

I certainly enjoyed posting this, I hope that my readers enjoy it too, and I am sure there are many more songs that used her dancing skills!



  1. dustedoff said,

    January 25, 2013 at 4:37 am

    Welcome back, Karthik!

    Madhuban mein Radhika naache re is one of my absolute favourite songs, so any post that begins with that is bound to appeal to me. 🙂 But, even otherwise, these are some lovely song and dance sequences. I do like Kumkum a lot; she was so pretty, such a fine dancer, and a good actress too.

    I hadn’t come across the Barood song before, and had never seen Daga daga vai vai, so had no idea it was picturised on Kumkum. Oh, and thank you so much for Kanha jaa re – I love that song!

    Here’s another song of hers that I like a lot, Tera jalwa jisne dekha from Ujala; it was one of the highlights of an otherwise lacklustre film:

    And this one, quintessential Kumkum. 🙂 Mera naam hai Chameli:

    • January 25, 2013 at 5:32 am

      Thanks DO! :-). I had shortlisted the Ujala song, but forgot to add it :(. It is such a beautiful song indeed, very simple and very nice, with the usual Kumkum swiftness

  2. Anu Warrier said,

    January 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Welcome back, Karthik. It’s been a long time. Great songs, Madhuban mein Radhika naache is an absolute favourite, as is Kanha jaa re and Madhu posted my other favourite Tera jalwa jisne dekha. She certainly was a graceful dancer.

    I like this one a lot; less of a dance, certainly, but a very folksy number with lots of opportunity for abhinaya.

    You’ve posted Zulmi hamari sawariya from Mr X in Bombay; I also like this song from the same film.

    • January 25, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Thanks a lot Anu! Yeah, it has been a long time!
      I simply adore that Mother India song.I did consider Chali Chali too, but decided in favour of the other, with no specific reason 🙂

  3. February 5, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Remembering Kum Kum for her dances is one of the most appropriate tribute to an artist who remained so underrated .

    Here are few more dance song on Kum Kum –

    Jaa Jaa Re Jaa Balamwa – Basant Bahar (1956) – SJ- Lata Mangeshkar – http://youtu.be/k0pPnXY4TYE

    Banke Piya Kaho Dagaabaaz Ho – Burma Road – Chtragupt – Lata Mangeshkar and Usha Mangeshkar – http://youtu.be/V93GDpOetac

    And a few sweet mujras:

    Badnam Ho Gaya Dil Bus Aapki Badaulat – Aan Baan (1972) Shanker Jaikishan – Asha Bhosle http://youtu.be/DSMi1BYzuYc

    Luk Chhip Kajara me – Ganag Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadibo – http://youtu.be/ziVkUDk7lf4

    • February 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks a lot Ashokji! Glad that you liked it. 🙂

      Excellent selections by you too. The abhinaya in ‘Jaa Jaa Re Jaa’ is superb!The mujras are very sweet too, with some swift moments in Luk Chhip.

    • February 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks a lot Ashokji! Glad that you liked it. 🙂

      Excellent selections by you too. The abhinaya in ‘Jaa Jaa Re Jaa’ is superb!The mujras are very sweet too, with some swift moments in Luk Chhip.

    • February 10, 2013 at 7:19 am

      And while reading , and trying to remember songs for ‘small business’ songs on Harvypam’s blog, I landed upon a song that has Kum Kum performing a song while gayfully dancing:

      Mera Naam Hai Chameli – Raja Aur Rank – Laxmikant Pyarelal – Lata Mangeshkar- http://youtu.be/hnGmOUX8rCI

  4. February 24, 2013 at 3:58 am

    […] in Bihar, popularly known as Kumkum, a trained Kathak dancer by Chitrapatasangeet. The post – Kumkum – Tribute to a great dancer – has presented several classical dance pieces, as well as a few non-classical pieces filmed […]

  5. harveypam said,

    February 26, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    daga daga vai vai is one song, which comes to my mind as soon as I think of Kumkum!
    tera jalwa jisne dekha is also such a Kumkum number!
    Love her dance and expressions! A full blooded dancer!

    My fav song of her is also her first one: kabhi aar, kabhi paar from Aar-Paar

  6. vijayseth said,

    March 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    ‘Kabhi aar kabhi paar’ was the song Kumkum faced the for the first time and was introduced to Bollywood.

  7. Laxmi said,

    July 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Luk Chhip Kajara me – Ganag Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadibo and Mori kalaiya sukumar from Lagi nahi chhute rama…..I think their is no comaprison with these two dance , God bless KUMKUM .

  8. Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam said,

    July 23, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Kumkum also did “Jalte Badan” with a much younger looking Kiran Kumar and performed some wonderful snake dances. Honestly I did not know she was a great dancer. Even in Jalte Badan, she had a pivotal role though she was close to 40 at that time. Other actresses like Padma Khanna and Neena Jalan paled out in comparison. Neena later quit movies, married Tolaram Jalan and became the proud owner of Filmistan studios. Kumkum also had a devotional song in “Ankhen”. Incidentally she played heroine to Dharmendra in the latter’s 1st film and after 8 years, ended up becoming his sister.
    To the best of my knowledge, she was a Sindhi and actor Govinda’s aunt. I am surprised to see her original name. Is this information correct?
    I also recollect a song – Ai Dil Hai Musjkil hai jeena yahan… did it feature Kumkum Ahuja?

  9. lata said,

    September 18, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    One of my favourite actresses…but where is she ? I donot know ..she was a superb dancer with innocent expression…

  10. lekha said,

    January 27, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Like to know if Kum Kum is alive & her whereabouts…Does she have any children who are in the industry?.

    • Aniket said,

      November 21, 2015 at 11:39 pm

      She is very much alive . She is happily married and has a lovely daughter . If you need more info do email me .

  11. Neeru said,

    January 31, 2015 at 12:24 am

    Lovely post. I landed here through conversations over chai. Kumkum is a great dancer. For years I had listened to “rang rangeela saanwaria” on audio and pictured Helen in the song. When I finally found it on youtube, I was surprised it was Kukkum dancing on the screen. Her expressions are sooo good.

  12. Murtuza said,

    April 10, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Interesting information on Kumkum ji’s acting and dance talents. Her contribution to the film industry had been of high quality and will always be remembered. Her teaming with Minoo Mumtaz in the number “reshmi shalwar kurta jali ka…” was a treat to watch. Few of her beautiful performances in some qawwali numbers also deserve a mention. May she live long and a healthy life.

  13. Mani Menon said,

    May 29, 2015 at 2:17 am

    I’d read somewhere that Kumkum is actor Govinda’s ‘mausi’. Is it true?

    • S.R. kamde said,

      July 19, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      You can get information available on IMBD

  14. kamlesm said,

    November 13, 2015 at 9:59 am

    very informative post and your blog… Kumkum was superb dancer. i was trying to write something on similar lines, but after reaching your website i think you have already achieved…. keep updating us with more such informative posts thank you for your efforts….
    i am trying to write also.. swayamkatha.wordpress.com

  15. February 26, 2016 at 3:22 am

    Kumkum will be remember for her outstanding performance in Ganga Maiya to he piyri charhibo.

  16. February 26, 2016 at 3:38 am

    Kumkum will be remembered for her outstanding performance in Ganga Maiya to he piyri charhibo.

  17. Dr. Madhav Kusekar said,

    March 14, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    Yeah 2 Ujwala numbers Tera Jalwa Jisne Dekha and Mora Naadan Balmain are very sweetly performed by Kumkumji!

  18. Ravindra said,

    March 16, 2016 at 10:48 am

    KUmkum was best actress as well as dancer.
    but full biography is not mentioned.

  19. Prakash said,

    April 22, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    Kum Kum married a Muslim man and spent 35 years in Saudi Arabia, wearing burkha. She later returned to Mumbai but is living the life of a recluse.

  20. syed hasibur rahman said,

    April 24, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Mara gao Ki hai who Mai unsa milna chahta Hu.

  21. January 22, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    […] in Bihar, popularly known as Kumkum, a trained Kathak dancer by Chitrapatasangeet. The post – Kumkum – Tribute to a great dancer – has presented several classical dance pieces, as well as a few non-classical pieces filmed […]

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