When Lata Mangeshkar passed away earlier this month, I wrote a tribute post in which I listed ten songs, all solos, that Lata had sung for ten different composers. Naturally—given Lata’s record number of songs—there were many, many songs and many composers that didn’t get covered in the list. Blog readers helpfully suggested other great songs that could have been part of the list, or which they especially liked; some wondered why I had not listed this song or that. Or why so-and-so composer had not been included.
Even when I had been compiling that post, I’d been thinking, there really ought to be a sequel to this. A post, at least, to include some of the other great music directors for whom Lata sang some exceptional songs. As well as the music directors who may not have been very famous, but who were nevertheless very talented.
So, here they are: ten more composers, ten more solos. Note that, the sheer volume of composers, both great as well as relatively obscure, means that there will be some who have still not been listed. There are more sequels coming up.
In the meantime, these songs. As before, these are all from pre-1970s Hindi films that I’ve seen. Also, I have not included in this list any songs that I listed in my very first Lata Mangeshkar song list. In no particular order:
1. Bahaaron mera jeevan bhi sanwaaro (Aakhri Khat, 1966): With Khayyam. A young village woman, in love with the city artist who’s come into her life, serenades the spring—and not just the spring, but him. Like the spring, he has brought brightness and beauty and happiness into her life. She welcomes him, invites him to adorn her life, make him his. A lovely, gentle song that is somehow both shy as well as bold (a sentiment further accentuated, I think, by the fact that Indrani Mukherjee’s character is blissfully unaware that Rajesh Khanna’s character is watching her as she moves about, under the flowering tree).
Despite having composed music for only a handful of films in the 50s and 60s, Khayyam worked with quite a few female singers, with Asha Bhonsle a frequent choice, in films like Phir Subah Hogi and Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain. But this song with Lata Mangeshkar is, I think, one of Khayyam’s best solos for a female voice.
2. Kabhi toh milegi kahin toh milegi (Aarti, 1962): With Roshan. Roshan composed the music for two of my absolutely favourite Lata solos: the defiantly dignified Jurm-e-ulfat pe from Taj Mahal for one, the embittered Rehte thhe kabhi jinke dil mein from Mamta for another. But he did create other standout tunes too, both solo as well as duet, featuring Lata’s voice.
Here is another of my favourites: a melodious, uplifting song of hope: of the comfort that better times lie ahead. Somewhere, sometime, there will be the land of our dreams. The lyrics are great, but so is the music, and the way Lata’s voice moves, up and down the scales, now almost echoing in its sweetness, now clear and bell-like.
3. Na dir dim (Pardesi, 1957): With Anil Biswas. When Richard posted his list of Lata Mangeshkar songs, I was very happy to see Na dir dim there, and admitted to Richard that this was a song that had been on my shortlist. Since I did have it in the back of my mind that I would do a sequel to my Lata song list, I didn’t harbour too many regrets about leaving the song out of that post.
Here it is, therefore: Lata singing for the very accomplished Anil Biswas, in a song that’s a superb showcase of how good Lata was at classical music too. Na dir dim, I personally feel, should be listened to separately to appreciate Lata’s singing: while watching it, I at least find myself so absorbed in Padmini’s dance (and her beauty; she looks like she stepped out of a Raja Ravi Varma painting) to pay much attention to the song.
4. Kaise aaoon Jamuna ke teer (Devta, 1956): With C Ramachandra. Lata Mangeshkar was famously C Ramachandra’s muse, the singer for whom he composed many of his best tunes, including some duets that they sang together too, such as the ebullient Shola jo bhadke (which never fails to surprise me; Lata sounds so different from her usual self in that) and the romantic Kitna haseen hai mausam.
Among the many C Ramachandra-Lata tunes that I love is this one with a classical lilt. Anjali Devi, as the princess aching to go out to meet her lover, finds herself constrained to stay at home and entertain her father, who demands a song. Naturally, distressed and impatient, she sings of what she feels. I love the immaculate control Lata has in her voice in this song: every note is perfect, every nuance just in the right place.
5. Jaa re baadal jaa (Kailashpati, 1962): With Avinash Vyas. A music director who is not as well-known in Hindi cinema as he should be, Avinash Vyas was feted more in Gujarati cinema, for which he composed many songs. In Hindi cinema, he seems to have got slotted into composing for mythologicals: Shri Vishnu Bhagwaan, Ram Lakshman, Ram Bhakti, Waman Avtar and Kailashpati among them. It says a lot for Vyas’s talent and dedication, as also that of Lata, that between them they produced this lovely song for a film that was otherwise pretty average. I actually watched Kailashpati just for this song, so you can imagine.
6. Aaja aaja bhanwar (Rani Rupmati, 1959): With SN Tripathi. One of several composers (Hemant was another, as were Kishore Kumar, and, earlier, Pankaj Mullick) who donned many hats, SN Tripathi didn’t just compose music, he also wrote and directed films. And he acted in them. Most of the films SN Tripathi directed were mythologicals or historicals, but he composed music for a rather more varied lot of films. Historicals and mythologicals still dominated his oeuvre, and SN Tripathi’s skill at composing classical, raga-based songs meant that he created some of the most enduring songs of this type in Hindi cinema.
Aaja aaja bhanwar is the second song of a two-song set, the first one being Ud jaa bhanwar, sung by Manna Dey. The scenario is of a ‘competition’ of sorts; Tansen (?) sings a song urging the bhanwra to fly away, to flee the prison of the lotus; Rani Rupmati (Nirupa Roy) counters him by enticing the bhanwra back into the embrace of the lotus. Both songs are beautiful, and while Lata’s song is much shorter than the longer piece Manna Dey sings, her singing is as skilled, as controlled, as nuanced.
7. Sab kuchh lutaake hosh mein aaye (Ek Saal, 1957): With Ravi. For me, most of Ravi’s best songs have been sung by Asha Bhonsle; but, now and then, there is a Lata song that really appeals to me. There is, for instance, the misery of Lo aa gayi unki yaad from Do Badan, which conveys the woe and exhaustion of a woman whose last hope of seeing her lover is now nearly dead. And there is this, another song of pain: the pain of betrayal, of realizing that the loved one is two-faced, unfaithful, a lover not of oneself but of one’s wealth. Talat Mahmood sang one version of this song, and Lata another; both are wonderful songs. Lata’s voice is so restrained, so deliciously slow and controlled in the beginning of this song, and crescendoing so beautifully further on.
8. Mile nain gaya chain (Private Secretary, 1962): With Dilip Dholakia. One of the reasons for my love of the music of 1950s-60s films is that there were almost no songs that were outright painful to the ears. Some may not have been as melodious or memorable as others, but offhand, I can’t think of any songs that have made me want to block my ears and shut out the song. That may have been because almost everybody composing music back then was so good. Even obscure music directors, now forgotten, often composed songs that outlived the films they appeared in. Dilip Dholakia (or D Dilip, as he was credited in Private Secretary) seems to have always worked as an assistant to the music director (mostly Chitragupta), except in this one film, for which he created some lovely tunes, including the delightfully infectious Pyaar ka maara hoon main Julie.
And there’s Mile nain gaya chain, the music so lilting and happy, Lata’s voice infused with the same ebullience. There’s a joyousness here, a shyness along with the celebration as this young woman exults over her newfound love.
9. Mushkil hai bahut mushkil (Mahal, 1949): With Khemchand Prakash. I was torn about this one, because for me, the one Khemchand Prakash-Lata Mangeshkar song is the one that is so iconic, it pretty much symbolizes Lata’s entry into the world of Hindi cinema, the aalaap of what was to become the most dominant female voice of the industry for the next several decades. But Aayega aanewaala had been covered in my very first Lata Mangeshkar list, and my self-imposed rule meant I couldn’t reuse it here.
But, while Aayega aanewaala is the quintessential Mahal song, there are other great songs in the film too, including this one. Mushkil hai bahut mushkil has also that quiet, controlled singing that Lata excelled in, and her voice fits Madhubala so well. By the way, my uncle Verni is the one who played the guitar for this song.
10. O ghata saanwari thodi-thodi baanwari (Abhinetri, 1970): With Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Laxmikant-Pyarelal came into their own only during the late 60s (which means my blog doesn’t feature too many of their films), but given that they were so prolific, and Lata, of course, still ruled female playback singing, it’s not surprising that she sang a number of songs for them, not just in this decade, but through the 70s and into the 80s as well. This one, on the cusp, for example: picturized on a young and very pretty Hema Malini, who’s going about, doing exercises, having a bath, pampering herself as it pours outside. Lata’s voice matches what’s happening on screen perfectly: slightly out-of-breath (she’s been doing calisthenics, after all), but gamely singing on; happy, contented.
And yes, I still have other songs, other composers, I haven’t covered. There will be at least two more posts about those. In the meantime, please feel free to share Lata songs from the composers who appear on this list (or, really, others as well). I’m looking forward to seeing your choices.