Its absolute infectiousness has made it a favourite of participants on reality TV talent shows and a smash with ad filmmakers, both Indian and foreign. Such is the global familiarity with the song that British music writer Peter Culshaw once suggested it as an alternative National Anthem for India. Most recently, we heard it three times on three consecutive days at an event that isn’t typically associated with Bollywood tunes – the Bacardi NH7 Weekender festival in Pune last month.

Twice, it was performed in full–first by US pop-rock band Goldspot, who played it after repeated requests, and then by Mumbai-based Kiwi composer Mikey McCleary’s ensemble The Bartender, which does jazz-flavoured reinterpretations of Hindi film classics. When the chorus popped up as part of Alo Wala’s cut Ace Of Space, the Denmark-based electro-pop trio delighted the audience who marvelled at how well it worked among their bass-heavy club bangers.

Over the last five years, Eena Meena Deeka, that vintage gem of rollicking rock n’ swing composed by music director C. Ramachandra for the 1957 movie Aasha, has become the go-to song for musicians of Indian origin looking to pay homage to their heritage. Apart from versions by Goldspot, fronted by first-generation Indian-American Siddhartha Khosla, and and Alo Wala led by Chicago-born Shivani Ahlowalia, Eena Meena Deeka has also been covered by the genre-meshing Rupa and the April Fishes, helmed by San Francisco native Rupa Marya; and by German indie-pop group Timid Tiger, led by singer Keshav Purushotham. Closer home, it has found a well-received place in the set lists of Mumbai-based punk-pop outfit The Lightyears Explode.

Goldspot’s reworking of the 1957 classic reimagines it as being composed a decade and a half later – frontman Siddhartha Khosla seems to have channeled the spirit of George Harrison for the track, slowing it down and giving it a light psychedelic rock feel. 

What makes it so popular with indie acts? For one, it’s fun, the most common adjective used by the aforementioned musicians to explain the tune’s appeal for both them and their fans. Khosla said he decided to remake Eena Meena Deeka after he was asked to score the 2010 US indie comedy film Today’s Special. “There was a scene where we were trying to figure out what song could work,” said Khosla. “The producers were really, really keen on putting together something that was funny and had some sort of a silliness to it. We felt that Eena Meena Deeka could work.”

For Ahlowalia and Marya, the track has a deeper, family connection. Both said that their grandparents introduced them to the tune when they were kids. “Regardless of whether you’re [an] Indian abroad or [an] Indian in India, it’s kind of timeless,” said Ahlowalia. Saurabh Roy, lead singer of The Lightyears Explode, believes that Eena Meena Deeka has an edge over other hits from the same era. “I think since a part of our childhood was pre-internet, our solution to boredom was aimlessly watching Zee Cinema,” he said.“[As a result] we have a nostalgic connection to all things old Bollywood. Why that song? It had an energy…a sense of stop what you're doing, forget about what your problems are and just dance stupidly kind of feeling.”

Indeed, the chorus’s nonsensical lyrics are easy to sing along and dance to no matter where you’re from. Perhaps the track’s easy appeal can also be attributed to the legend that it was inspired by a popular children’s counting rhyme. “I interviewed the daughter of [trumpet player] Chic Chocolate, one of the musicians who played on the original version,” said McCleary who travelled to Goa to record his remake of Eena Meena Deeka for the Fox Life music television series Sound Trek. “She said that this idea came to them when they were taking a break in practice [and] the children were singing ‘Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo'. Honestly, I don’t know whether that’s true.”

Horns and claps, two features of the original, lead the Cologne-based quartet Timid Tiger’s synth-pop reinterpretation that includes English lyrics about leaving behind “the daily grind”,

According to this article, Chic Chocolate’s colleague and fellow Goan arranger John Gomes added Konkani phrase “maka naka” to the tune. “It's a classic example of that jazz rock thing that the Goan musicians brought into Bollywood,” said McCleary. That might just be Chic Chocolate playing the trumpet as part of the Rock Lovers band in the clip for Asha Bhosle’s rendition of Eena Meena Deeka.

However, the Kishore Kumar version is better remembered probably because it is faster – with an almost rap-like segment and a Jerry Lee Lewis-esque piano interlude – and funnier. Though it’s unlikely that Ramchandra or lyricist Rajinder Krishan were aiming to make any kind of socio-political statementwith the song, it has taken on a deeper significance for the artists who have interpreted it. Eena Meena Deeka, according to Marya, “symbolises a comic musical punch in the face to colonialism, a bastardisation of British nursery rhyme and US swing.”

Here are some other reimaginings of the tune.

Rupa and the April Fishes

This video recoding of a performance for a New York radio station doesn’t quite do justice to the energy with which the band infuses their jazz-up version, which got diners and drinkers off their seats and on to their feet when they played it at Mumbai club Blue Frog back in 2012.


Indi-Yarn, a medley of Eena Meena Deeka and Shayad Meri Shaadi ka Khaya from Souten (1983), was the debut single by the British group that features vocalist Saira Hussain and marries Bollywood sounds with electronic dance beats.

 Alo Wala

She’s frequently compared to MIA, but Shivani Ahlowalia’s shrewd use of Eena Meena Deeka for the chorus of Ace Of Space is a canny idea that’s entirely her own. “It just lends itself real easy to this double-time, fast rap thing I do,” she said.