Another melodious SJ composition, this song is heart-rending in its yearning. Inexplicably jilted by her lover who has since vanished without a trace, she cries out her longing and her heartbreak, her loneliness intensified by the deepening night. When the wind rustles the leaves, it startles her. The path on which he should have come is disappearing; he never came, but the seasons came and went a hundred times. And now, as she weeps at night, holding his memories close to her, the moon and stars weep for her.
Lata Mangeshkar shared a close and often fractious friendship with Jaikishen; she fought with him often and sometimes, fiercely, but they always made up. They met for the first time when Raj Kapoor sent Jaikishen over to Lata Mangeshkar’s house to ask her to record some songs for Barsaat. She had seen Prithviraj Kapoor in Kolhapur, and had met Raj Kapoor just a few days previously. When Jaikishen came, Lata told her sister Meena, “Raj Kapoor had sent someone over; perhaps it was his office boy. He was so handsome – maybe the people who work for the Kapoors are as good-looking as the Kapoors.” Imagine her embarrassment when she went to RK’s office and was introduced to the ‘office boy’!
Naina barse is the more popular song from this film, but Lag jaa gale is achingly, hauntingly sweet, an effect heightened by the allure of Lata’s voice. It is ethereal, enticing, dare I say, seductive? There is also the sense of something ephemeral, here today – a wish to snatch some moments of happiness from the fates. What if tomorrow never comes?
Humko mili hai aaj yeh ghadiyaan naseeb se, Ji bhar ke dekh lijiye humko kareeb se, Phir aapke naseeb mein ye baat ho na ho, Shayad phir is janam mein mulaqaat ho na ho… There is also an underlying sense of loss.
Lata first met Madan Mohan when he recorded a duet with her for the film Shaheed under Ghulam Haider’s baton. But the song was never used in the film and it was deleted from the disc as well. Madan Mohan was one of Lata’s favourite composers, and after an initial misunderstanding, he asked her to tie a rakhi on him. After that, he was always Madan-bhaiyya to her, while Madan Mohan called her beta.
I don’t usually like bhajans, I don’t usually like Nanda, and the combination should have put me off completely. Yet this is a song that quietly crept into my favourites and stayed there.
Wives praying for their husbands’ safety, and at the same time appealing for peace, it was shot beautifully by Vijay Anand. Composed by Jaidev (so under-rated a composer), Allah tero naam just flowed with the story. Lata rendered it so beautifully, I can understand how a bhajan can be a spiritual experience. Nanda’s reaction to the song, the sweetness of her expression, just added to its overall attraction.
Tum Na Jaane Kis Jahaan Mein
Music: S D Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Now this is one song that I cannot bear to watch. Beautiful, beautiful melody, lovely lyrics but murdered onscreen by Nimmi making faces. (I truly wish she wouldn’t; she was quite pretty.) But I love the song so much, I will listen to it with my eyes closed.
A few years later, Burmanda and Lata Mangeshkar had a disagreement that led to a five-year rift between the two. That rift was a boon to Asha Bhosle, who, along with Geeta Dutt sang most of SD’s compositions during the period. The warring pair reunited for Bandini (1963).
Recording a song brings back so many memories of happier times. What is one to do when on the one hand, the memories of a lost love burn inside, and on the other, the moon fans the flames? Ik to balam teri yaad jalaaye, Dooje chanda aag lagaaye, Aag lagaaye teri preet jagaaye re neend na aaye, Saari saari raat teri yaad sataye…
Roshan preferred using Indian musical instruments and was proficient on the dilruba himself. The song, though composed by Roshan, was recorded by Naushad. Roshan was recording the song at Mehboob studios when Naushad arrived. Holding his colleague in high esteem, Roshan requested him to record the song for him; Naushad complied, instructing Lata and the musicians without changing a single note of Roshan’s composition.
Back when Lata first started her career, she was strongly influenced by reigning songstress Noor Jehan. Not only that, many music directors also wanted her to sing that way, considering her voice too thin (patli) for a heroine. In fact, Shashadhar Mukherjee even rejected her citing her voice as unfit for Kamini Kaushal, who was the heroine in Shaheed. Master Ghulam Haidersaab was irritated; taking the young girl with him, he stomped off, promising her that she would sing for Majboor, a film he was doing for Bombay Talkies. He also prophesied that producers would one day crawl on their knees to have her sing for them. How true he was!!
While they waited for the train, he tapped a tune on his cigarette case, and asked her to sing Dil mera toda mujhe kahin ka na chhoda after him; pleased with her rendition, they recorded the song after a two-day rehearsal. It turned out to be the first ‘hit’ song of Lata’s career. There is an edge of rawness to her craft still, but one could see the talent and the skill that was waiting to be honed.
Lata considers Ghulam Haider saab her mentor. He is the person who taught her to pay attention to the lyrics, to enunciate them clearly, and to consider the actress who would be enacting the song on screen.
It might seem strange that I like this song for its silences as much as for its music and for Lata’s rendition, which is beautiful, as for the way Khayyam incorporated those silences into the song – they are long pauses, lasting almost 5 seconds each. The first is at the very beginning after the first line – Ae dil-e-nadaan. The long pause after, allows Razia (Hema) to pay attention to her inner turmoil. The next set of pauses come quicky, and deliberately, one after the other: Zindagi jaise khoyi khoyi hai hairan hairan hai… (long pause) Ye zameen chhup hai… (longer pause) Aasman chhup hai…
Ae dil-e-nadaan was recorded in 1976, though the film would only release in 1983. So impressed was Amitabh Bachchan when he heard the song that he sent wife Jaya to borrow the tapes from Khayyam.
Lata sang very few songs for Khaiyyam, but the ones that she did were incomparable. Khaiyyam first met Lata when she was recording for Ghulam Haidersaab for Majboor. He was fascinated by the new singer. According to Khayyam, Lata’s greatest merit was in understanding the need of each individual music director, and moulding her voice according to the character on screen.
One sighs for the days that were, when music filled the air. Today, without music, the strings of her veena are silenced as well. The frustration of a neglected wife (the complete cluelessness of her hardworking husband having brought them to this pass), finally breaking out in song. Her dreams have withered; as she sings, the pathos in her voice breaks her husband’s heart. Is it too late for them? Lata moves from the low notes to the high ones, staying there awhile before falling back with hardly a pause to caress the low notes once again.
Pandit Ravi Shankar had already composed music for films like Dharti ke Lal, Neecha Nagar, and Satyajit Ray‘s Apu trilogy. Before he came on board as music director, the film had been offered to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. This was Ravi Shankar’s first ‘commercial’ score.
Who would have thought that a hero twirling the heroine’s curls, or she running her hand through his hair as she sings him to sleep could be so sensuous? Fingers clasp and unclasp, trail over faces and wind themselves in tresses; smiles flash as he plays with her bangle… there is laughter, there is love, there is a mild flirtation. Above all, there is an innocent sensuality that is in keeping with the character of a village girl who finds herself swept off her feet by the sophisticated city doctor.
This is a very sensuous romantic number, and the first time Madhubala and Dilip Kumar starred together. It is said they fell in love during the making of this film; whether that be true or not, they definitely set the screen on fire. Their chemistry was unbelievable, and lent a certain charm to a straightforward love song. Anil Biswas’ music played languorously in the background, complementing the softness of Lata’s voice.
He was one of the earliest composers that Lata worked with. He was a sociable soul and singers, including Lata, and musicians seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time in his house. Lata credits him with teaching her how to breathe while singing; how to inhale and exhale between words so that it wouldn’t interrupt the song. He also taught her how to modulate her voice, and how to ensure clarity before the microphone.
Lata soars effortlessly in this Na`at (poetry that specifically praises the Prophet), her voice rising fluidly as Anarkali, chained and thrown into the dungeon for her audacity in falling in love with the prince, appeals to a higher power. Naushad was all praise for Lata’s range as she effortlessly scaled an octave and a half.
The first song that Lata recorded for the maestro was a duet Haaye chore ki jaat badi bewafa with GM Durrani for a film called Chandni Raat. In his own way, Naushad was as hard a taskmaster as Sajjad. Lata confessed that when they finished recording, Naushad would say, “Excellent, Lata. Very good. Once more.”
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These are not necessarily her ‘best’ songs, but they will definitely rank among some of the best songs from the period.
I confess one does not know when to stop when it comes to Lata. As Shakespeare said, “Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety. Other women cloy the appetites they feed, but she makes hungry, where most she satisfies!!”