“Pari Hoon Main” – Sunita Rao: Now this was one of the earliest of the pop songs and remains supremely popular even today especially in the Dandiya circuits. Sunita Rao’s most popular number by far, it was used for fashion shows, dance shows, dandiya nights and more! Even after more than 15 years, it is still hip, cool and retains a certain appeal.
“Pal” – K.K.: My absolute favourite pop song of the time, “Pal” is just perfect. Beautiful lyrics and a haunting tune make it one of the finest love ballads in Hindi ever. It is one of those evergreen songs which never seems to age. A powerful debut by K.K., there were other songs in the album like “Aap Ki Dua” which were also very popular. However, “Pal” remains his best song. It is powerful and resonates for a long time after it is over.
“Afreen Afreen” – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Javed Akhtar: Now, I know it is blasphemous to include Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in this list and call his music pop. However, many of his songs were given a new sound and released to great success. Of them, this was one of the most popular collaborations of the 90s. The song and the album were super successful and made Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan a household name in India.
“Roop Tera Mastana (Remix)” – Shaan: One of the earliest remixes, well before the idea took to the mainstream, Shaan’s version of the sensuous original R.D. Burman composition from “Aradhana” was surprisingly…cute! The video was one of the funniest and sweetest ever. In retrospect, (especially with all the raunch that dominated the pop scene in the remix phase particularly) it still retains a distinct appeal primarily because of the soft vocals of Shaan and the adorable video.
“Made in India” – Alisha Chinai: A super chic and hip song for its time, it is amazing how badly this song has aged! The video is insanely funny today and absolutely ridiculous. However, this is not to take away from the fact that it is one of the most iconic songs of the 90s. Everyone remembers the video: the tiger, Milind Soman, the princess Alisha etc. etc. Time has not been kind to the song or the video. But that is something to be thankful for.
“O Sanam” – Lucky Ali: This one had a video which was as exotic as it was inscrutable. Lucky Ali’s breakthrough album “Sunoh” was embellished with one stunning song after another. My personal favourites included “Sunoh,” “Pyar Ka Musafir” and “Milegi Milegi.” However, the most popular of them was “O Sanam,” a tale of unrequited love and heartbreak. The video was perhaps the most popular of the lot here featuring pyramids, an archaeologist and a strange love story in ancient times. Even today, the song is popular and is arguably the best Lucky Ali had to offer, at least as an album.
“Deewana Tera” – Sonu Nigam: Sonu Nigam has really worked the ropes to achieve all that he has from the “Achcha Sillaa Diya Tune” days to pop albums to become the voice of actors like SRK and Hrithik Roshan. “Deewana” was perhaps a career defining move as the album demonstrated his range and quality of voice quite well. “Deewana Tera” was a wildly popular song from the album. A typical pop song, it’s a great song largely because of the vocals as Sonu Nigam belts it out for all its worth. A solid song from a wildly successful album, it is still remembered as one of the iconic songs of the 90s.
“Saare Sapne Kahin Kho Gaye” – Alka Yagnik: This is a relatively less known pop song from the time. It was a part of the album “Tum Yaad Aaye” which was the result of the collaboration of Alka Yagnik of Javed Akhtar. I added this here as it was a beautiful song with a lilting tune and is sung really well by the Melody Queen. The album also had some other wonderful songs including “Tum Yaad Aaye” and “Zaraa Zaraa Si Baatein.”
“Chhapan Chhuri” – Ila Arun: The album “Chhapan Chhuri” gave a huge jumpstart to Ila Arun’s career. It also was iconic as it mainstreamed Rajasthani folk music dramatically. All of a sudden, it became cool and trendy to listen to folk music. Daler Mehendi’s “Bolo Ta Rarara” did the same for Punjabi folk music.
"Yaad Piya Ki Aane Lagi" - Phalguni Pathak: The undisputed queen of Gujarati dandiya made quite a splash in the pop scene with this song which was the starting point of a short lived career which spanned many hits. An amusing video with an unknown Riya Sen as a school girl going for a Dandiya night with her friends, the song was an instant hit at the time and remains one of the more popular songs of the 90s.
There were many others as well. The Models with their "Bollywood" and "Mehendi Ki Raat," Jagjit Singh and Gulzar with "Marasim" and other albums, Colonial Cousins and many others. However, pop has died a quiet death subsequently with a limited market remaining only for Sufi pop music like that of Kailash Kher and the ghazals of Jagjit Singh. But the 90s was a time when pop was at its peak and delivered some fine music, some of which remains in the minds of people till today.