The 80s in my opinion represent the worst decade for Hindi film music. In fact, the worst decade for Hindi films per se. Add to that Lata Mangeshkar's rapidly deteriorating voice quality. Her voice had shown signs of deterioration in the 70s as well, but a few composers like Jaidev, Khaiyyam and Salil Chowdhury composed some outstanding songs for her. 80s were dominated by Laxmikant Pyarelal, whose output ranged from really good to sheer noise (especially in the second half of the decade), R D Burman, who thankfully continued to compose melodious tunes for Lata, and Bappi Lahiri who, in the words of Baradwaj Rangan, "was doing to Hindi film music what the villain usually did to the hero’s younger sister". For some strange reason even in the 80s, most composers continued to make Lata sing at a very high pitch, which was once her forte, but now ended up making her sound shrill. She would have effortlessly sung these compositions a decade or two back, but now seemed to struggle once too often.
Ironically, my obsession with Lata Mangeshkar's voice started in my growing up years in the 80s, when my exposure was mostly to atrocities like Jaate Ho To Jao (Desh Premee, Laxmikant Pyarelal), Mara Thumka (Kranti, Laxmikant Pyarelal), Chal Chameli Baagh Mein (Krodhi, Laxmikant Pyarelal), Humka Le Chal Yaara (Painter Babu, Uttam Jagdish), Chal Bhag Chalein (Kalyug Aur Ramayan, Kalyanji Anandji), Disco 82 (Khuddar, Rajesh Roshan), etc. It is only now that I call them "atrocities". At that time, however, I found these very songs interesting (!!!) and was fascinated by the 'sweetness' of Lata's voice even though she was well past her prime.
If one were to look at Lata Mangeshkar's output in the 80s, it is evident that from 1980-85 the quality of her songs was much superior to those from the 1985-89 period. And I'm not talking only about how she sounded. The compositions themselves were quite ear-unfriendly in the post 1985 period. Of course, there were a few exceptions, but the songs in the post 1985 period were in general quite unbearable.
1980: Irrespective of the quality of their compositions, Laxmikant Pyarelal were the kings when it came to churning out hits. In 1980, they had Lata croon two of their biggest hits of the year – Sheesha Ho Ya Dil Ho (Asha) and Tu Kitne Baras Ka (Karz). Kitna Aasan Hai (Dostana) was also popular but that song leaves me pretty cold.
Bappi Lahiri was yet to launch a full fledged assault on the ears of the listeners with his bizarre compositions for Jitendra-Sridevi-Jaya Prada films from the south and the noisy disco-influenced songs, and composed some really good songs for Lata like Dooriyan Sab Mita Do (Saboot), Baithe Baithe Aaj Aayi (Patita), and of course the lovely Jaane Kyun Mujhe (Agreement).
Rahul Dev Burman continued to use Lata for melodious compositions like Bhor Bhaye Panchhi (Aanchal), Aaja Sar-e-Bazaar (Alibaba Aur Chalis Chor), Bindiya Tarase (Phir Wohi Raat), and the delightful duet where Lata gave perfect expression to Gulzar's lyrics – Thodi Si Zameen (Sitara).
Rajesh Roshan's collaboration with Dev Anand in Lootmaar and Manpasand resulted in songs like Paas Ho Tum Magar Qareeb Nahin and Sumansudha Rajni Chandha respectively. But what I consider his best song for Lata in 1980 is a duet with Rafi – Mujhe Chhoo Rahi Hain (Swayamwar). Madan Mohan's compositions for Chaalbaaz were released 5 years after his death and included two Lata gems – Raat Ujiyari Din Andhera Hai and Jaiye Hum Se Khafa Ho Jaiye.
In my opinion, it was Khaiyyam who composed the two best Lata songs in 1980, both duets. The first one is a duet with Kishore Kumar – Hazaar Rahein Mud Ke Dekhi (Thodi Si Bewafai). The other, which is my pick for 1980, is Simti Huyi Ye Ghadiyan from Chambal Ki Kasam. The reason why I pick this song is neither the beautiful words penned by Sahir nor the melodious tune by Khaiyyam. I have a very deep sense of nostalgia associated with this song. It was shot at the place where I spent my childhood, and I remember how excited we kids were when we learnt that a film crew had come to shoot there.
Simti Huyi Ye Ghadiyan (1980 – Chambal Ki Kasam - Khaiyyam – Sahir Ludhiyanvi)
1981: I am not sure if 1981 was the year when Lata was the most prolific in the 80s, but this is the year from which I have the maximum number of songs. And the list of songs I like also runs quite long. Hridayanath Mangeshkar had Kale Kale Gehre Saye (Chakra), which was unmistakably Hridaynath; Ye Ankhen Dekh Kar (Dhanwan), which had a slight Khaiyyam touch; and Kuchh Log Mohabbat Ko (Dhanwan), which lay in the L-P territory in terms of orchestration.
Khaiyyam's Dard had two Lata numbers – Na Jane Kya Hua and the moving Ahl-e-dil Yun Bhi, while Nakhuda had an above average Lata-Nitin Mukesh duet – Tumhari Palkon Ki Chilmanon Mein.
Some of the Laxmikant Pyarelal songs which were popular and I like from this year include Hum Ko Bhi Gham Ne Mara (Aas Paas), Aap Ka Khat Mila (Sharda), Mere Naseeb Mein (Naseeb), Megha Re Megha Re (Pyasa Sawan), Zindagi Ki Na Toote Ladi (Kranti), and Solah Baras Ki Bali Umar (Ek Duje Ke Liye).
Rahul Dev Burman's output included regular love songs like Kya Yahi Pyar Hai (Rocky), Dekho Maine Dekha Hai (Love Story), Apne Pyar Ke (Barsaat Ki Ek Raat) and Tune O Rangeele (Kudrat). However, the songs I absolutely love are Jahan Pe Savera Ho (Basera), which is a wonderful composition despite signs of Lata not being completely at ease with the impossibly high scale in places, and the lovely Tere Liye Palkon Ki (Harjaee).
In 1981 there were a few other composers who created decent Lata songs. These include Usha Khanna with Chand Apna Safar (Shama) and Raamlaxman with Har Ek Jeevan (Bezubaan). And then there is Bappi Lahiri's Thoda Resham Lagta Hai (Jyoti). I don't care much about this song and don't even recall having heard it till the Truth Hurts controversy and the subsequent remix version.
The soundtrack of the year was Shiv-Hari's Silsila. This was a typical Yash Chopra score, with a wedding song, a holi song, love ballad, et al., but was steeped in melody. Dekha Ek Khwab is definitely more popular, but I prefer Neela Aasman So Gaya, Jo Tum Todo Piya and the best of the lot, Ye Kahan Aa Gaye Hum.
Now comes my pick of the year. I have always had a soft corner for Salil Chowdhury's compositions for Lata. So I must pick what was among their last collaborations. Aaj Koi Nahin Apna from Agni Pariksha. This is a song which, if composed in the 50s, would have had a lot of scale variations Salil Chowdhury specialized in. In the 80s, however, was wise enough to mould his composition to the degraded vocal capacity of his singer. This becomes very evident in the antara where you suddenly expect the tune to take much sharper jumps across octaves. Yet this doesn't take much away from the beauty of this tune.
Aaj Koi Nahin Apna (1981 – Agni Pariksha - Salil Chowdhury – Yogesh)
1982: Some of the songs I like from this year include Dard Ki Ragini (Pyaas, Bappi Lahiri), Ab Chiraghon Ka Koi Kaam Nahin (Baawri, Khaiyyam),Chandni Raat Mein (Dil-e-Nadaan, Khaiyyam), Tum Se Hi To Shuru Hai (Adhura Aadmi, Rahul Dev Burman), Ae Ri Pawan (Bemisal, Rahul Dev Burman), Jaane Kaise Kab Kahan (Shakti, Rahul Dev Burman), Kabhi Kabhi Bezubaan (Johnny I Love You, Rajesh Roshan). Laxmikant-Pyarelal's Prem Rog was popular, but none of the songs hold much appeal for me, except for Ye Galiyan Ye Chaubara. Ditto for Rajesh Roshan's Kaamchor, which had Tujh Sang Preet Lagayi (Kaamchor, Rajesh Roshan).
Talking of L-P, they produced one of the best soundtracks of the year, which unfortunately belonged to one of the biggest flops of Indian cinema – Deedar-e-Yaar. With songs like Sarakti Jaye Hai, Tumko Dekha To, and the exquisitely composed and orchestrated dance number – Aaye Wo Phoolon Ke Rath Pe. I would have surely picked Aaye Wo Phoolon Ke Rath Pe as my favourite song from this year, had Khaiyyam's Bazaar not released in the same year. How could I ignore a gem like Dikhayi Diye Yun Ki Bekhud Kiya?
Dikhayi Diye Yun Ki Bekhud Kiya (1982 – Bazaar - Khaiyyam – Mir Taqi Mir)
1983: In the 80s, it was almost a norm that if a star-son was to be launched, Rahul Dev Burman would score the music and Lata would be the lead female singer. After Love Story and Rocky in 1981, it was Betaab in 1983, where Jab Hum Jawan Honge became instantly popular. RD also composed some other romance flicks like Lovers and Romance which had Lata duets like Aa Mulaqaton Ka Mausam and Dil Ke Aasman Pe. The best RD compositions for Lata this year were Humein Aur Jeene Ki (Agar Tum Na Hote), Tujhse Naraaz Nahin (Masoom), Kahin Na Ja (Bade Dil Wala) and Jeevan Ke Din (Bade Dil Wala), which was probably Udi Narayan's first break as he got to sing a brief line at the start of the song. RD's assistants, Basu-Manohari, got a break as independent composers in Chatpatee where they composed a hummable Lata-Kishore duet – Aa Humsafar, which seemed like a curious mix of RD's and Rajesh Roshan's styles.
The LP hit machine churned out Likhnewale Ne Likh Dale (Arpan), which was once extremely popular on Chitrahar on DD; Din Maheene Saal from Avtaar, which revived Rajesh Khanna's career after an endless series of flops; Pyar Karnewale (Hero), which I personally find quite unbearable; and Nindiya Se Jagi Bahar (Hero), a nice tune that would have sounded nicer if Lata had sung it maybe a decade earlier. The thickening of her voice was becoming quite evident now. Usha Khanna's Shayad Meri Shaadi K Khayal (Souten) was probably the biggest hit of her career. Zindagi Pyar Ka Geet Hai from the same film was popular as well, but I remember getting so badly put off by the film that it was difficult for me to develop any liking whatsoever for the songs. Usha Khanna's Sweekar Kiya Maine had a couple good Lata songs, but for some unexplained reason there was a huge Khaiyyam influence in those songs. On first hearing, it's easy for anyone to mistake Ajnabi Kaun Ho Tum and Chaand Ke Paas for Khaiyyam's creations.
One of the best songs from this year is Hridaynath Mangeshkar's Tum Aasha Vishwas Hamare from Subah, but when we have Khaiyyam's Razia Sultan, where is the possibility of any other song to outshine Aye Dil-e-Nadaan. Ostensibly a solo, I consider this song to be a duet - the santoor passages almost follow Lata's vocals note to note, thus imparting a unique character to the song. And when all the music stops except for a deep thump on the tabla, it's very goosebumpy. Razia Sultan had other good Lata numbers like Jalta Hai Badan and Choom Kar Raat, but they fall short of the excellence of Aye Dil-e-Nadaan.
Aye Dil-e-Nadaan (1983 – Razia Sultan - Khaiyyam – Jaan Nisar Akhtar)
1984: There are just a handful of good Lata songs from this year. I have heard a lot about her song in Tarang, composed by Vanraj Bhatia, but I haven't heard that song. The songs that I like from this year are: Mujhe Tum Yaad Karna (Mashaal, Hridaynath Mangeshkar); Rahul Dev Burman's Gehre Halke (Duniya), Kaisi Lag Rahi Hoon Main (Jhoota Sach), Jaane Kya Baat Hai (Sunny) and Aisa Sama Na Hota (Zameen Aasmaan); and Khayyam's songs from Lorie – Bhar Lein Tumhe Bahon Mein and Aaja Nindiya Aaja.
My pick from 1984 is from Laxmikant Pyarelal's Utsav. No, not the well known Man Kyun Behka, but Neelam Ke Nabh Chhayi (the same tune as Saanjh Dhale sung by Suresh Wadkar). I like this song for two reasons – one, Vasant Dev's poetic lyrics (neelam ke nabh chhayi pukhraji jhaanki....how often do you get to hear such words in Hindi films?) and secondly, the expression Lata lends to this song, especially when in the antara she covers the sapt swars in just one word.
Neelam Ke Nabh Chhayi (1984 – Utsav - Laxmikant Pyarelal – Vasant Dev)
1985: After 1981, this the year with the maximum number of Lata songs in my collection. By now Laxmikant Pyarelal were clearly getting stale. Noise became the hallmark of their music and it was fairly evident that little effort was being expended in creating the basic tunes. What else can one say about cringe-worthy songs like O Dilbar Janiye (Pyar Jhukta Nahin). Some of the not-so-bad songs from this year were Tum Se Mil Kar (Pyar Jhukta Nahin), Zu Zu Zu (Sanjog), Zindagi Har Qadam (Meri Jung), and Baith Mere Paas (Yaadon Ki Kasam), which was not an original tune anyway. There were two films, however, where Laxmikant Pyarelal composed relatively better songs. One was Ghulami, which had Zeehale Miskin and a multi-part Mere Pee Ko Pawan. Then there was Sur Sangam, a film based on classical music. Though the songs from this film (sung mostly by Rajan & Sajan Mishra) would rank nowhere in the list of best classical songs from films, but given the era when it was created, it was quite a brave effort and fairly decent at that. This film had two Lata numbers - Maika Piya Bulave and Jaoon Tore Charan Kamal Par Vaari, both of which I like. Interestingly, the situation of Maika Piya Bulave demanded that Lata went besur towards the end but my untrained ear finds her going off-key right in the first line.
R.D Burman's downfall had also started by this time. Somehow, the innovative nature of his compositions disappeared somewhere. Most of his songs from 1985 are easy on the ears, but they don't have a stand-out quality in them. A few of his Lata songs from this year: Tum Dilwalon Ke Aage (Sitamgar), Ek Baat Dil Mein Aayi Hai (Rahi Badal Gaye), Hum Tum Dono (Lava), Is Jeevan Ki (Alag Alag), Machal Machal Jata Hai (Ram Tere Kitne Naam), Bhuri Bhuri Aankhon Wala (Arjun), and of course Sagar Kinare (Sagar).
Rajesh Roshan had already lost his uniqueness by this time and his songs started sounding more like LP's. Dushman Na Kare (Aakhir Kyun?) is one such example. Debutante music director Vijay Singh produced, directed and composed for cricketer Sandeep Patil's (and Kirmani's) film debut in Kabhi Ajnabi The. While the film sank without a trace, it had a few good songs like Geet Mere Hoton Ko, Kabhi Ajnabi The, and Is Dafa.
Shiv-Hari's second collaboration with Yash Chopra in Faasle resulted in some melodious tunes like Hum Chup Hain and Janam Janam. Though the best songs from this film were sung by Asha Bhosle, my favourite Lata number from this film is In Aankhon Ke Zeenon Se, a composition that's sparse in orchestration, high on melody and excellent in terms of lyrics (Shahryar). This film also had the popular Sun Le Ye Sara Zamana.
I know a lot of people feel otherwise, but my favourite soundtrack of 1985 is Ram Teri Ganga Maili. After LP's sonorous compositions in Prem Rog, Raj Kapoor switched to Ravindra Jain, who brought in a certain Pahadi-influenced freshness to this score. Although Ravindra Jain's tunes were mostly high-pitched, I still love them. I remember the craze Sun Sahiba Sun became in those days, but I prefer Ek Dukhiyari, Husn Pahadon Ka and Ek Radha Ek Meera. And, of course, my favourite song from this year - Tujhe Bulayen Ye Meri Baahen. I like the structure of the mukhda that changes pace after the first line.
Tujhe Bulayen Ye Meri Baahen/ Suno To Ganga (1985 - Ram Teri Ganga Maili - Ravindra Jain - Ravindra Jain)
1986: It is tough to pick any good song from this year. Most of Lata's song from this year were with Laxmikant Pyarelal, and I don't find anyone of them worth a second listen. They follow almost the same template - over-orchestrated, high-pitched sub-standard tunes that had Lata at her shriekiest best (or should it be worst?). Let me list down these songs and you will know what I mean - Jind Le Gaya (Aap Ke Saath), Vairiya Ve (Naam), Aaj Subah Jab Main Jagi (Aag Aur Shola), pretty much everything from Naache Mayuri, which includes Sadhna Aradhna, Paijaniya Bol, Main Tose Boloon Na, and Jhoom Jhoom Naach Mayuri, and probably the biggest hit of this year Main Teri Dushman (Nagina)
The only songs from 1986 that are somewhat bearable are Mora Roop Rang (Qatl, Laxmikant Pyarelal) and Ae Sagar Ki Lehron (Samundar). Since I have started this exercise of listing down one favourite song per year, I would do so, knowing very well that the song I pick up for 1986 would not figure even in my list of 1000 or 2000 best Lata songs of all time. The song I pick up is Rahul Dev Burman's Din Pyar Ke Aayenge from Savere Wali Gaadi.
Din Pyar Ke Aayenge (1986 - Savere Wali Gaadi - Rahul Dev Burman - Majrooh Sultanpuri)
1987: Another lousy year. Lata songs released this year include Rajesh Roshan's Tu Vaada Na Tod (Dil Tujhko Diya); LP's Jhan Jhanan Jhan Payal (Nazrana), Tujhe Itna Pyar Karein (Kudrat Ka Kanoon), and Naam Saare Mujhe (Sindoor); and Anu Malik's Tere Pyar Pe Bharosa (Hawalat). Among the relatively better ones were Rahul Dev Burman's Wo Teri Duniya Nahin (Dacait), and my selection from this year - Patjhad Sawan Basant Bahar (Sindoor).
Patjhad Sawan Basant Bahar (1987 - Sindoor - Laxmikant Pyarelal - Anand Bakshi)
1988: For a change let me first list down the worst Lata songs from this year. The top runners for this would be Nachegi Saraswati (Ganga Jamuna Saraswati, Anu Malik), Hoga Thanedar Tu (Shahenshah, Amar-Utpal). In the bad category would be Sajan Mera Us Paar Hai (Ganga Januma Sarawati), Pati Parmeshwar (Ganga Jamuna Saraswati) Jaane Do Mujhe (Shahehnshah), and Ungli Mein Angoothi (Ram Avtaar, Laxmikant Pyarelal). In the OK category would fall Mere Pyar Ki Umar (Waaris, Uttam Jagdish) and Badal Pe Chalke Aa (Vijay, Shiv-Hari). The only song that I find good among the releases from 1988 is Kiran Kiran Mein Shokhiyan (Ek Naya Rishta, Khaiyyam).
My choice from this year will have to be from a film that never got released. I'm putting it under 1988 only it was meant to be released that year, although the soundtrack was actually released 6 years later, and the film, never (I consider myself to be lucky for having watched this film at a film festival in 1991-92). I'm referring to Libaas, which saw the Gulzar-Pancham combination come up with yet another classic. All the songs from this film were sung by Lata - Kya Bhala Hai Kya Bura with Pancham, Khamosh Sa Afsana with Suresh Wadkar, and two solos Phir Kisi Shakh Ne & my pick for this year - Seeli Hawa Chhoo Gayi.
Seeli Hawa Chhoo Gayi (1988 - Libaas - Rahul Dev Burman - Gulzar)
1989: Naushad returned from a virtual retirement with an above average score in Teri Payal Mere Geet. It was difficult for both Naushad and Lata to recreate the magic they had created together more than 3 decades back, yet songs like Mohabbat Ka Ek Devta, Duniya Ke Mele and Kya Kahein Aaj Kya were better than the noise we were being subjected to in those days. Bappi Lahiri's Jaiyyo Na (Guru), Usha Khanna's Hum Bhool Gaye Re (Souten Ki Beti) and Laxmikant Pyarelal's Ye Isak Dank Bichhua Ka (Batwara) were some of the other Lata songs released this year. However, the three biggest hits of this year were Maine Pyar Kiya, Ram Lakhan and Chandni. The success of these soundtracks had a huge role to play in reviving HMV's fortunes and also led to a lot more producers clamouring to get Lata sing at least one song for their films.
Raamlaxman's music in Maine Pyar Kiya became a nation-wide craze, but I never really developed much of a affinity towards it. I found songs like Dil Deewana, Kabootar Ja, and others strictly OK. Blame it on my Sridevi fascination, but I really took to Shiv-Hari's Chandni soundtrack in those days, literally wearing off the cassette by playing it in endless loops. Mere Haathon Mein, Aa Meri Jaan and Shehron Mein Se Shehr don't hold the same appeal for me now as they did in those days, but the simple melody of Tere Mere Hoton Pe is something I still like.
My pick for this year might seem like an unusual choice. Laxmikant Pyarelal's O Ramji Tere Lakhan Ne from Ram Lakhan. I personally feel that this was LP's best composition for Lata since Aaye Wo Phoolon Ke Rath Par in 1982. The orchestration got rid of the noise factor and the chorus really added to the song, unlike in other LP songs from the 80s where the chorus played the role of making the song even more unbearable.
O Ramji Tere Lakhan Ne (1989 - Ram Lakhan - Laxmikant Pyarelal - Anand Bakshi)