Mumbai: She is the diva of Indian playback who symbolises honour and success. Lata Mangeshkar turns 90 on September 28, with the buzz gathering that she is getting ready to record a new song. Reportedly, Prasoon Joshi has penned the song.
Joshi is among rare people from among the music fraternity who get to work with Lata nowadays. However, there was a time in her active years, when they fell over each other for her dates. Truth be acknowledged, while her hard work and unmatched talent matters above all, the creative efforts of Bollywood’s numerous composers with whom Lata collaborated with over the decades cannot be glossed over.
You cannot talk of Lata, for instance, and not mention Madan Mohan. “Lag jaa gale” , “Aap ki nazron ne samjha” and “Mera saaya saath hoga” are but a few chosen gems among hundreds of priceless ones that Madan Mohan created for Lata.
Madan Mohan’s rich repertoire, which also gave classics such as “Naina barse rimjhim rimjhim” and “Milo na tum toh hum ghabrayein”, remains one of the definitive collections that a Lata fan would choose from, when it comes to picking numbers that define her nuanced vocal prowess and range.
It was Lata, actually, who had named Madan Mohan the “Ghazal ka Shehzadaa” or the Prince of Ghazals. At a concert in the nineties, speaking of challenging assignments in her career, Lata had spoken about how tough it always was, to master a Madan Mohan number.
By the fifties, of course, every top composer in Bollywood reserved their best songs for Lata. The duo of Shankar-Jaikishan was among the industry’s top draws, among prominent filmmakers who frequently collaborated with them was Raj Kapoor. By his own admission, RK couldn’t imagine a soundtrack of a new film without Lata’s voice in it.
The songs Shankar-Jaikishen created for RK’s films were mostly like the Showman’s cinema itself — simplistic yet classy, and created to stand the test of time without getting too complex. “Pyaar hua iqraar hua”, “Yeh raat bheegi bheegi”, “Ab raat guzarnewaali hai”, “Aaja sanam madhur chandni mein hum”, “Main kya karoon Ram” and “Raja ki aayegi baarat” are but a few Lata hits Shankar-Jaikishen created for Lata in Kapoor’s films.
But the duo excelled with Lata compositions even in films outside the RK banner. “Ajeeb daastan hai yeh”, “Gumnaam hai koi”, “Yaad kiya dil ne”, “Sayonara”, “Ehsaan tera hoga mujh par” could be random picks to describe the sheer diversity of Shankar-Jaikishen’s music, duly brought to life by Lata’s voice.
Lata marvelled rendering these songs, just as she was at home with the intricate idiom of Naushad or Salil Chowdhury. She was unstoppable by this time, having proved it all for a host of composers with a variety of USPs. She belted out the cabaret number “Main ek ladki” for Laxmikant Pyarelal in “Nirmaan” with the same prowess as she had belted out ‘Aye maalik tere bande hum” in “Do Aankhen Barah Haath” for Vasant Desai.
With S.D. Burman, Lata got to prove her prowess at playing with authentic earthy notes. Bollywood’s king of folk created tunes as unforgettable as “Ab ke sajan saawan mein”, “Teri bindiya re”, “Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai”, “Tere mere milan ki yeh raina”, “Chupke chupke chal re purvaiya”, “Gaata rahe mera dil”, “Rangeela re”, and “Piya tose naina laage re”, among numerous other hits.
C. Ramchandra, Hemant Kumar, Khayyam, Anil Biswas, Ravi, Sajjad Hussain, Roshan, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Kalyanji-Anandji, Vasant Desai, Sudhir Phadke, Hansraj Behl and Usha Khanna were other prominent composers who are credited with a vast gamut of songs that have gone onto creating the Lata impact on Indian cinema.
There were the lesser known names, too. The likes of Husnlal, Bhagatram and Amarnath who may have delivered a few films, but their contribution cannot be negated. Bhagatram, particularly, is recalled even today, for his score in films like “Meena Bazaar”, and “Afsana”.
The scene started changing from melody to beat in the seventies. It was an era when Asha Bhosle zoomed to prominence as never before. Bollywood was learning to experiment with unconventional voices as Usha Uthup, Nazia Hassan and Preeti Sagar. Music was changing, with western influence creeping more than before.
Even love songs needed melody, by the time R.D. Burman and Rajesh Roshan made it to the scene.
If Lata managed to survive, it is owing to her sheer power of perfection as a singer, and unique qualities.
The versatile R.D. Burman — Pancham to the industry and his fans — was ever-ready with that special tune for Lata in his films, despite his known preference for Asha Bhosle. He crafted tunes as diverse as “Baahon mein chale aao”, “Tere bina zindagi se koi”, “Gum hai kisi ke pyar mein”, “Tujhse naaraz nahin zinbdagi”, “Naam gum jayega”, “Chadhti jawaani meri chaal mastani” and “Dekho maine dekha hai” to celebrate the genius of Lata.
Few later-day composers have lived up to the legacy of Lata Mangeshkar. One can think of A.R. Rahman. The song “Jiya jale” in “Dil Se” automatically comes to mind. Indeed, only a handful of songs that she has sung in recent decades measure up to the compositions of the past. Jatin-Lalit’s numbers in “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayege” — particularly “Tujhe dekha to yeh jaana sanam” — have stood the test of time for their romantic mellifluence. Ramlaxman scored their greatest hit ever with the Lata-voiced “Didi tera dewar deewana” in “Hum Aapke Hain Koun”.
BY VINAYAK CHAKRAVORTY