What a treasure trove of songs Lata Mangeshkar has given us! Here is my pick of a few favorites:
1. We obviously start where it started. The first song here is Paa lagun kar jori re de Aap ki Sewa Mein, his first playback song, composed by Datta Davajekar.
2. Next comes Bedard tere dard ko seee se laga ke by Master Ghulam Haider of Padmini. After that, Ghulam Haider returned to Lahore. He died shortly afterwards.
3. Tumhare bulane ko jee chahta hai by Laadli by Anil Biswas is one of Lata’s early hits. Anil Biswas taught him to breathe while recording. He also taught him the importance of words (Sahithya), where to emphasize and where to pause. In these early songs, the influence of Noor Jehan is evident. It was Anil Biswas who helped Lata find her own voice. At Kahan tak ham uthaen gham of Arzoo you can see the whole formation of Anil Biswas. Every word, every expression is chiselled. Man men kisi ki preet basa le from Araam, Woh din kahan gaye bata from Tarana, O mere Ranjhana from Heer, Rooth ke tum to chal diye from Jalti Nishani, Na dir deem from Pardesi and Allah bhi hai mallah bhi hai from Maan show how she matured under the mentorship of Anil Biswas.
4. Mahal was a landmark film in Lata’s career. The three acts Lata Ayega ayega, Dil ne phir yaad kiya and Mushkil hai bahut mushkil firmly established his reputation. Mahal was the swan song of Khemchand Prakash. He didn’t live long enough to see the success of his great score.
5. Naushad mistook Lata for Andaaz for the first time. Andaaz was a hit film and cemented Lata’s success. Tod diya dil mera is taken from Andaaz. Other Naushad numbers for Lata included here are, Lo pyar ki ho gayee Jeet and Nadaan mohabbat walon ko by Jadoo, Ai dil tujhe Kasam hai by Dulari, Marna teri gali mein and Jogan ban jaoon gi by Shabab, Bachpan ki muhabbat ko by Baiju bawara. They all have the characteristic sweetness of naushad.
6. Raju Bharatan, in his biography of Lata, quoted Surayya as saying how thoroughly Husn Lal worked on her and taught her. Nirmala Devi, wife of Pandit Husn Lal, graciously overcoming any past bitterness, told me, “Panditji was a worshiper of Saraswati. In Lata’s voice, he saw Saraswati. That was the allure. Dil hi to hai tadap gaya from Aadhi Raat, Kahan hai tu mere sapnon ke raja, Abhi to main jawan hoon, Woh paas bhi rah kar paas nahi and Aaj kuchh aisi chot lagi hai from Afsana, Chale jana nahin and Jo dil mein khushi bankar aaye by Badi Bahen, Dil bhi diya à kisko diya by Meena Bazaar, Pi pi ki boli by Aan Baa, Thehar o jaane wale by Birha KI Raat, are memorable compositions by Husn Lal Bhagatram for Lata Mangeshkar.
7. Arguably the best combination of composer and singer in Hindi film music was that of C Ramchandra and Lata Mangeshkar. What a cornucopia of melodies they gave us. Here are some of those unforgettable melodies: Chanda ki chhaon mein, Dard-e jigar, Katate hain dukh mein yeh din, Naina laga ke from Parchhain, Mehfil mein jal uthi shama, Aisi muhabbat se ham baaz aye, Majboor meri aankhen from Nirala . Aankhon mein sama jao, Ab woh baaten kahan, Muhabbat mein pehla kadam rakhne walo, Mujh pe ilzam-e-bewafai hai de Yasmin, Muhabbat aisi dhadkan hai, Mujh se mat poochh, O asmaan wale, Dua kar gham-e-dil de Anarkali. Tere dar se khushi maangi from Hungama, Woh paas aa rahe hain from Samadhi, Ishq men jo kuchh na hona tha from Saqi, Ai chand pyar mera from khazana, Ji chahata hai ab to from Jhaanjar, and above all, Tum kya jano from Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo.
8. Sajjad Hussain was called the composer of composers. C Ramchandra said of him: “We compose for you, Sajjad composes for us.” Some of Lata’s most complex songs were composed by him. Here are some of them: Jaate ho to jaao by Khel, Aaj mere naseeb ne by Hulchul, Woh to chale gaye ai dil by Sangdil, Tera dard dil men basa liya by Rukhsana, Ai dilruba by Rustom Sohrab, Tumhen dil diya ye kya kia Maine, Woh raat din and Kaali kaali raat from Saiyyan. When Sarod Pandit maestro Rajeev Taranath heard this song, he was intrigued by how the song starts with Meend, which is unusual. Sajjad Hussain told me: “God created only two singers, Noor Jehan and Lata. After that, he stopped creating singers.
9. Roshan composed some of the sweetest songs for Lata. In the 1950s, Lata decided to produce a film, and his choice of musical director fell on Roshan. The film was never made. Some of Roshan’s compositions are: Woh paas nahi majboor hai dil, Kahan hai tu kahan hai, Dekho ji mera jiya churaye liye jaaye, from Naubahar, Bahe akhiyon se dhaar from Hamlog, Is dil ki halat kya kahiye from Anhonee, Mohabbat ki kismat banana se pahle from Malhar, Vikal mora manwa from Mamta and Dil bhi tera hum bhi tere from Taksaal.
10. Madan Mohan was Lata’s Rakhi-bandh bhai and this relationship led to many melodious songs. Here are some of them: Tum ho saath from Mohar, Tum chand ke saath chale aao from Aashiyana, Preetam meri duniya mein from Ada, Guzre hain is tarah se from Bahana, Woh chup rahe to mere dil ke dagh from Jahanara, Lag ja gale from Woh Kaun Thi, and finally, Hamare baad mehfil mein afsaane byan honge / Baharen ham Ko dhoondengi na jaane hum kahan honge from Baaghi.
11. Hemant Kumar was as good a composer as he was a singer. Some of his songs for Lata are: Ai mere chaman and Meri taqdeer ke maalik by Shart, Jahan mein aayi diwali by Taj. Mujhe nazar se utar kar bhi from Lagan, Mera dil ye pukare aaja and Teri yaad mein jal kar dekh liya from Nagin, Kahan le chale ho, Chand niklega jidhar from Durgesh Nandini, Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat from Kohra, Kuch dil ne kaha from Anupama.
12. After Ghulam Haider, it was another Lahori, Shyam Sundar, who gave a boost to Lata’s career. Lata listed his Saajan ki galiyan chhod chale from Bazaar as one of his top favorite songs. Some other unforgettable compositions by Shyam Sundar for Lata are: Bahar aayi khili kaliyan and Tujh ko bhulana mere bas mein nahin by Alif Laila. Tute hue armaanon ki ek duniya and nazar se dur jaanewale from Lahore, Ai dil unko yaad na karna from Bazaar.
13. Shankar Jaikishan’s career has been intertwined with Lata’s since their debut film Barsaat. Here are some of their songs: Bichhde huye pardesi from Barsaat, Tu ne haye mere zakham-e-jigar ko and Yaad ayi hai from Nagina, Ab raat guzarne wali hai and Ik bewafa se pyar kiya from Awaara, Chandrama mad bhara from Patrani and Maan bhi le ai dil of Baghi Sipahi.
14. Gulam Mohammed composed memorable songs for Lata. A few are: Hum pyar tumhi se karte hain, Dil de ke sanam and Tootegi na pyar ki dor from Amber,
Shikayat kya karoon from Kundan, Chalte chalte, Thare rahiyo and Aaj ham apni duaon ka asar from Pakeezah.
There are other composers, other songs; the list can go on and on. This random list includes Lata’s solo songs only. There are equally memorable duets and choruses. These songs are a unique gathering of great talents. It was a rare event in the history of music. A new form of music had been created and the excitement of creation, of excellence, was in the air. One can only listen to Guzra hua zamana aata nahin dobara/ Haafiz Khuda tumhara by S Mohinder by Shirin Farhad in the poignant voice of Lata and reflect on what a musical treasure has been bequeathed to us.
Let me end with an incident that Master Hansraj Behal related to my friend Vijay Naphade. Lata had to come and rehearse before recording a song, she was late and Hansraj Behal was waiting. After three four hours, she entered hastily. As soon as she entered, the strings of the instruments spontaneously began to play. Who knows if it was a miracle or the imagination of Hansraj Behal. But here is one of Lata’s first songs composed by him: Dil-e-nashad ko jeene ki hasrat ho gayee from Chunariya (1948) to remember Lata’s miracle.