Copyright 2016, Forbesindia.com

80 for Lataji

To mark Latajiís 80th birthday, AV Max magazine selected 80 songs from her Hindi film repertoire; compositions that exploited her enormous range, melodies no other singer could do better justice to.


Aayega Aanewala, Mahal (49)
Composer: Khemchand Prakash
Lyricist: Naqshab
Under a master composer, a 20-year-old Lata envisioned and executed a pioneering haunting song, a genre she was to rule with authentic ominous tones.

Lara Lappa, Ek Thi Ladki (49)
Composer: Vinod
Lyricist: Aziz Kashmiri
Note the effervescence of a diva on the rise that makes this song survive when its creators and the film have been almost forgotten!

Hawa Mein Uddta Jaaye, Barsaat (49)
Composer: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri
Shankar-Jaikishen modernised film music for good with this score, and the thin-voiced Lata took over as Singer Supreme.

Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi, Awara (51)
Composer: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyricist: Shailendra
India’s first dream sequence with a dream voice. Note her languor especially when she moves back to the mukhdas from the antaras.

Dheere Se Aaja Re, Albela (51)
Composer: C Ramachandra
Lyricist: Rajendra Krishan
Acknowledged as the mother of Hindi film lullabies. She suffuses this sensitive composition with pure maternal warmth.

Shola Jo Bhadke, Albela (51)
Composer: C Ramachandra
Lyricist: Rajendra Krishan
The mercurial heroine is brought into vocal life by the rather dismissive tenor of Lata’s lines.

Vande Mataram, Anand Math (52)
Composer: Hemant Kumar
Lyricist: Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
This popularity of this powerful version of India’s original National Anthem has surpassed that of every other.

Who Toh Chale Gaye Din, Sangdil (52)
Composer: Sajjad Hussain
Lyricist: Rajindra Krishen
A breathless song, layered with intricate tricky notes. She makes it seem effortless as she glides through the composition.

Yeh Zindagi Ussiki Hai, Anarkali (53)
Composer: C Ramachandra
Lyricist: Rajendra Krishan
A surrender to love that may not come to fruition. Her intonation conveyed this perfectly.

Man Dole Mera, Nagin (54)
Composer: Hemant Kumar
Lyricist: Rajendra Krishna
There was no genre Lata could not handle. And whoever the actress —Vyjayantimala, Reena Roy, Sridevi — their sinuous nagin roles always needed Lata’s vocals.

Aplam Chaplam, Azaad (55)
Composer: C Ramachandra
Lyricist: Rajendra Krishan
Low-key froth, as per the times, was a Lata strength. Here, she and younger sister Usha seem to be having a whale of a time under C Ramachandra, one of the many maestros who reserved their best for her.

Rasik Balma, Chori Chori (56)
Composer: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri
How many songs showcase the pain of betrayal as well as this one? And how many voices can convey it so well?

Ae Maalik, Do Aankhen Barah Haath (57)
Composer: Vasant Desai
Lyricist: Bharat Vyas
From bhajans to cabarets and more, Lata’s all-encompassing range ensured excellence. Humble piety suffuses this evergreen masterpiece.

Bichhua, Madhumati (58)
Composer: Salil Chowdhury
Lyricist: Shailendra
Heady rural beats merged with lyrical erotica enhance a love fable, No one understood compositions as well as Lata did, and few composers understood her as well as Salil Chowdhury.

Ajeeb Dastaan, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (60)
Composer: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyricist: Shailendra
A magnificent melody, its understated, lingering sorrow enhanced as much by the conception of the sequence as by her skill.

Mohabbat Ki Jhoothi, Mughal-E-Azam (60)
Composer: Naushad
Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni
Feel the sheer force of lovers turned asunder in this unparalleled lament on lost love. The gentle percussion accentuated her emotion-laden vocals.

Jab Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya, Mughal-E-Azam (60)
Composer: Naushad
Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni
This resolute defiance in love peaks as Lata intones Shakeel Badayuni’s masterstroke: Parda nahin jab koi Khuda se, bandon se parda karna kya? (When we do nor fear God, why fear his creations?)
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Do Hanson Ka Joda, Ganga Jumna
(61)
Composer: Naushad
Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni
Lata visits the hinterland of Uttar Pradesh to amass a Bhojpuri bounty of Naushad creations in this film, led by this song.

O Sajana, Parakh (60)
Composer: Salil Chowdhury
Lyricist: Shailendra
For simple songs, Lata was the first choice and also for layered creations, there was no one else.

Jyoti Kalash Chhalke, Bhabhi Ki Chudiyan (61)
Composer: Sudhir Phadke
Lyricist: Pt Narendra Sharma
Who would not like to wake up to the haunting strains of Lata singing this masterpiece in Raag Bhupali?

Prabhu Tero Naam, Hum Dono (61)
Composer: Jaidev
Lyricist: Sahir
Complete surrender is considered the acme of devotion to God. And this stunning gem is the acme of Lata’s works with Jaidev.

Kahin Deep Jale, Bees Saal Baad (62)
Composer: Hemant Kumar
Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni
Among Lata’s post-Mahal haunting serenades, none had the potency of this melody, whose riff is as well-remembered as the song.

Kabhi To Milegi, Aarti (62)
Composer: Roshan
Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri
The evocative quality of Roshan’s work in the 60s was highlighted once again by this song that Lata tailored to Meena Kumari’s will-o’-the-wisp persona.

Ruk Jaa Raat, Dil Ek Mandir (62)
Composer: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyricist: Shailendra
A song picturised on Meena Kumari once again, this demanding composition could not have been envisaged without Lata.

Aap Ki Nazaron Ne, Anpadh (62)
Composer: Madan Mohan
Lyricist: Raja Mehndi Ali Khan
The great songs she sang for Madan Mohan form a chapter for Lata fans, and the sweet simplicity of this one stood out.
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Ae Mere Dil-E-Nadaan, Tower House (62)
Composer: Ravi
Lyricist: Asad Bhopali
This composer’s balance tended to be tilted towards her sister Asha. But Lata usually got the cream, and the mature interpretation she gave this unusual litany illustrates why.

Raat Bhi Hai Kuchh Bheegi Bheegi, Mujhe Jeene Do (63)
Composer: Jaidev
Lyricist: Sahir
The intricate, shimmering cadences of this beauty craved for Lata’s expertise. And got it.

Mora Gora Ang Lai Le, Bandini (63)
Composer: SD Burman
Lyricist: Gulzar
SD Burman patched up with Lata after six years (because his son, RD Burman, wanted to record his career’s first song with her), and the Eastern aroma of their professional reunion drove away all bitterness.

Pankh Hote To Udd Aati Re, Sehra (63)
Composer: Ramlal
Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri
The composer Anandji recalls how, in the hinterlands of South Africa in 1964, a local who was asked about Lata’s photograph on his shop’s wall began to sing this song. That says it all.

Lag Jaa Gale, Woh Kaun Thi? (64)
Composer: Madan Mohan
Lyricist: Raja Mehndi Ali Khan
Passion mixed with a strange despair. Lata and composer Madan Mohan seemed to excel in this song as if there would be no tomorrow.

Gudiya Hamse Roothi, Dosti (64)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Lata’s 697 songs with Laxmikant-Pyarelal may be unbeaten in quantity, but their joint oeuvre is more about quality, depth and variety. This stunner illustrates how she understood their needs.

Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna, Guide (65)
Composer: SD Burman
Lyricist: Shailendra
The liberation of a woman bonded in spirit needed all the abandon that could be packed into a few minutes. Lata delivered.

Piya Tose Naina, Guide (65)
Composer: SD Burman
Lyricist: Shailendra
Once again, Lata showed that no one could grasp and execute the on-screen and compositional demands of songs from any genre as well as she could.

Dil Ka Diya, Akash Deep (65)
Composer: Chitragupta
Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Awesome, is the word to describe the way Lata has enhanced an unusual love song. Mere recall of the song gives one gooseflesh; the actual listening experience is plain mesmerising.

Yeh Samaa, Jab Jab Phool Khile (65)
Composer: Kalyanji-Anandji
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
Lata provides potency to this classy song of yearning. Note the husky flavour that heightens the screen visuals and feelings tenfold; an artless Lata habit.

Bedardi Balmaa, Arzoo (66)
Composer: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri
Lata fine-tunes the forlorn quality so that the song does not sound like a typical sad number, since it isn’t one.

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Tumhe Yaad Karte Karte, Amrapali
(66)
Composer: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyricist: Shailendra
Erotica, contrary to her branding, has been Lata’s fiefdom too. And there are few better examples than this ultra-sensuous song she rendered for an on-screen courtesan.

Tadap Yeh Din Raat Ki, Amrapali (66 )
Composer: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyricist: Shailendra
And here we are, in the same film, looking at a woman in love unable to fathom what is happening to her. Yet again, Lata emotes with matchless skill.

Nainon Mein Badraa, Mera Saaya (66)
Composer: Madan Mohan
Lyricist: Raja Mehndi Ali Khan
A classy and classical expression of physical yearning, this is arguably Lata’s best-ever for Madan Mohan.

Rahe Na Rahe Hum, Mamta (66)
Composer: Roshan
Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri
This one has a rare understated pathos, and Lata’s vocals linger long after it is over because of the sheer sensitivity she imparts to it.

Sayonara, Love In Tokyo (66)
Composer: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri
The lightweight song was another Lata domain. Here, she tweaks a teaser love song with a Japanese intonation.

Aisi Bhi Baatein, Anupama (67)
Composer: Hemant Kumar
Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi
Lata takes this musical and lyrical masterpiece to the pinnacle of perfection with perfect poignancy.

Dheere Dheere Machal, Anupama (67)
Composer: Hemant Kumar
Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi
A song with few equals in the sub-genre of intezaar (awaiting the loved one), this one packs a wallop with its rare blending of feelings and melody.

Dil Vil Pyar Vaar, Shagird (67)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Laxmikant-Pyarelal came in when Lata was 35, but they seemed to have conspired to make her sound half that age. This 1968 Binaca Geet Mala topper had a rare zing, even in Lata’s output.

Honthon Mein Aisi, Jewel Thief (67)
Composer: SD Burman
Lyricist: Majrooh
SD Burman recorded this song after the film’s unit had left for the location, promising a great creation. Lata helped him keep his word, and those conspiratorial overtones were just amazing!

Yeh Parbaton Ke, Vaasna (68)
Composer: Chitragupta
Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi
Few Lata-Mohammad Rafi collaborations match this dreamy duet that takes you straight to the misty mountains with such synergy of melody, lyrics and singing.

Main To Bhool Chali, Saraswatichandra (68)
Composer: Kalyanji-Anandji
Lyricist: Indeewar
Another prime example of the her all-pervading range is this garba number straight out of Gujarat. You can almost smell the provincial aroma!

Aaja Piya, Baharon Ke Sapne (68)
Composer: RD Burman
Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Her sister Asha Bhosle always complained that even her husband RD Burman gave Lata his best. And she was right, as this dulcet song shows.

Na Jaa O Mere Humdum, Pyaar Ka Mausam (69)
Composer: RD Burman
Lyricist: Majrooh
Possibly the finest solo Lata sang for RD Burman. And what a punch she packed in this song, imploring her man to return to her and junk the past.

Nisultana Re, Pyar Ka Mausam (69)
Composer: RD Burman
Lyricist: Majrooh
Effervescence unlimited was another Lata hallmark whenever the song demanded it. The innovative structure of the duet only emphasised this.

Aa Jaan-E-Jaan, Intequam (69)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Rajendra Krishan
Though Lata had sung good cabaret numbers earlier, this is by far the best Lata-Helen combo. Note Lata’s unique western inflection in particular.

Bindiya Chamkegi, Do Raaste (69)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
This saucy seductive serenade justifies the Nightingale tag as few other Lata numbers have done, with the folk tenor fluidly blending with an urban young woman’s romantic dreams.

Do Dil Toote, Heer Ranjha (70)
Composer: Madan Mohan
Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi
Pathos in an intense Madan Mohan melody; Lata’s artlessness once again comes to the fore.

Rangeela Re, Prem Pujari (70)
Composer: SD Burman
Lyricist: Neeraj
Among the most challenging songs SD Burman gave his favourite singer, this tour de force stole the show in the Kishore Kumar-fest that this album otherwise was.

Hum The Jinke Sahare, Safar (70)
Composer: Kalyanji-Anandji
Lyricist: Indeewar
The sheer emotional voltage of this stunner took the breath away. As the lyrics and Lata unwrap the bounty, we get to understand the sock-in-the-jaw impact of this Kalyanji-Anandji humdinger.

Dilbar Dil Se Pyaare, Caravan (71)
Composer: RD Burman
Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Possibly, the zingiest of all RD creations for Lata, this folk number amalgamates naughtiness and sensuality in its heady beats.

Mai Ri Main Kaase Kahoon, Dastak (71)
Composer: Madan Mohan
Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri
This film had three Lata beauties, but this one surpassed the others. Hear it for Lata’s technical perfection:this composition separates a diva from mere singers.

Accha To Hum Chalte Hain, Aan Milo Sajna (71)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi with Kishore
Even while it was being filmed in Kashmir, this conversational song had become a rage. And Lata (like Kishore Kumar) had a huge share in the final outcome.

Inhi Logon Ne, Pakeezah
(72)
Composer: Ghulam Mohammed
Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri
What can one say about the exquisite Lata nuggets from this film? Lata gave the mujras an elitist dignity while retaining the ethos of the kotha.

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Chalte Chalte, Pakeezah (72)
Composer: Ghulam Mohammed
Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi
Even today, the film is as synonymous with Lata as it is with Meena Kumari.

Raina Beeti Jaaye, Amar Prem (72 )
Composer: RD Burman
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
Lata was prime choice for RD Burman’s semi-classical songs. The many nuances with which she embellishes this song shows why.

Ek Pyar Ka Naghma Hai, Shor (72)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Santosh Anand
Yet another spellbinder from Lata and Laxmikant-Pyarelal, with Mukesh forming the potent third force, this is a classic that will never die.

Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein, Bobby (73)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
Erotica mixed with teenage innocence — can there be anything more intoxicating? At 45, Lata sounded even younger than the 16-year-old Dimple and her young co-singer who was 21!

Yeh Dil Aur Unki, Prem Parbat (73)
Composer: Jaidev
Lyricist: Jan Nissar Akhtar
The twists and turns in scale could have been intimidating, but Lata sailed through them. Let’s just say that Jaidev could not have even conceived this one without Lata.

Main Na Bhoolunga, Roti Kapada Aur Makaan (74)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal Film: Roti Kapada Aur Makaan
Lyricist: Santosh Anand
This is yet another song that could not have seen the light of the day if Lata did not exist. One of those rare songs that Lata was born to sing.

Roz Shaam Aati Thi, Imtihan (74)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Majrooh
A subdued vocal radiance illuminates this truly modern song.

Yeh Raatein Nayi Purani, Julie (75)
Composer: Rajesh Roshan
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
The unforgettable aura of a night of passion. Rajesh Roshan never surpassed this early diamond in his many future delights for Lata.

Aao Manaaye Jashn-E-Mohabbat, Doosara Aadmi (77 )
Composer: Rajesh Roshan
Lyricist: Majrooh
Rajesh Roshan did match the Julie song with this magnificent ballroom waltz that ranks among Lata’s finest moonlit serenades.

Din-Ba-Din Woh, Trishna (78)
Composer: Kalyanji-Anandji
Lyricist: Anjaan
Lata makes the pain tangible with her husky rendition of this paean to pathos about a soul-mate drifting apart for unfathomable reasons. For equally unfathomable reasons, this song has never got its due.

Satyam Shivam, Satyam Shivam Sundaram (78)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Pt Narendra Sharma
When the film is inspired by your persona, and you get to sing in it, how can you not give your best? And with Lata’s best, plus composers and a filmmaker devoted to her, it can be nothing less than magnificent.

Yashomati Maiyya Se, Satyam Shivam Sundaram (78)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Pt Narendra Sharma
One version for a child, the other for a nubile woman with a hint of sexuality: the magic lay in how Lata and everyone connected with this song gave contrasting colours to both.

Main Tulsi, Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (78)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
When the composers, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, term it one of their top favourites from their icon, what else is left to be said?

Dafliwale, Sargam (79)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
A mute heroine sings in her dreams with her lover-boy: Lata’s vitality is palpable in this song, and she was over 50 when she recorded it!

Neela Aasmaan, Silsila (81)
Composer: Shiv-Hari’s
Lyricist: Javed Akhtar
Hopelessness and loneliness — Lata effortlessly conveys the desolate emotional pitch of the song.

Yeh Galiyan Yeh Chaubara, Prem Rog (82)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Santosh Anand
A celebratory song with a poignant twist: the heroine is celebrating her forthcoming wedding and teasing her childhood buddy that she will soon go away, unaware that he loves her. Only Lata could have got the nuances so right.

Ae Dil-E-Nadaan, Razia Sultan (83)
Composer: Khaiyyaam
Lyricist: Jan Nissar Akhtar
Lata took on the convolutions of this ethereal song as to the manner born.

Man Kyoon Behka, Utsav (85)
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Vasant Deo
Easily, the most nuanced of their 75 duets together, this Lata-Asha combo saw both sisters singing individual and combined lines that seemed to be, incredibly, tailored for them.

Bada Dukh Deena, Ram Lakhan (89 )
Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
One allegation that the Lata / Laxmikant-Pyarelal combination faced was of being completely mass-oriented. Here was proof to the contrary: this song won the Sur-Singar Samsad award for the best classical music-based song of the year.

Yaara Seeli Seeli, Lekin (91)
Composer: Hridaynath Mangeshkar
Lyricist: Gulzar
One listening is all that it takes for this song to be imprinted forever. This is brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar’s foremost pushing-the-envelope gem with Lata.

Tu Saawan Main Pyaas Piya, Parampara (93)
Composer: Shiv-Hari
Lyricist: Lata Mangeshkar
This stunner underscores the tragedy that from the 90s even Lata’s vocals could not make some truly beautiful songs get attention.