Finally, I enter into the current decade i.e. the 2000s. Lata Mangeshkar has not sung very many songs in this decade. Between 2000-2007 not more than 35 Lata Mangeshkar songs were released, and I have possibly heard every single one of them. This makes my task much simpler.
If there's anything noteworthy about Lata songs in this decade, it is her collaboration with A R Rahman. Unlike other music directors who for some strange reason continued to make Lata sing romantic songs that just didn't suit her aged voice, Rahman continued to compose songs for her that suited her age (barring one exception).
2000: Two Lata Mangeshkar songs were released this year. The first one was a typical Yash Chopra romantic duet composed by Jatin-Lalit for Aditya Chopra's Mohabbatein. In my opinion, Humko Hamise Chura Lo (a duet with Udit Narayan) was the only good song in an otherwise tepid soundtrack.
The other song, which is my pick of the year, was a prayer picturised on Lata Mangeshkar herself in Raj Kumar Santoshi's Pukaar. Though Lata appeared clearly uncomfortable on screen, it worked well in the film because her voice was at least not being forced on 20-somethings. Composed beautifully by A R Rahman and rendered with feeling by Lata Mangeshkar I just love the overall feel of Ek Tu Hi Bharosa. I particularly like the way the composition is structured, starting off with Lata singing a passage with minimal instrumentation, which makes way for a lovely piano piece, which then merges seamlessly into the chorus section and finally back to Lata's voice underscoring the chorus. The song is light on instruments, with just a few simple notes on the piano comprising the interludes. Javed Akhtar's lyrics were also quite good.
Ek Tu Hi Bharosa (2000 - Pukaar - A R Rahman - Javed Akhtar)
2001: This was the most prolific year for Lata Mangeshkar in the 2000s, as around a dozen of her songs were released this year. At one end you had a few insipid duets composed by music directors like Adesh Shrivastava and Uttam Singh. Adesh Shrivastava composed a Lata-Udit duet - Pehli Nazar Mein - in Uljhan, while was wrongly credited as the composer of another Lata-Udit duet - Sare Sheher Mein Charcha in the Doosra Aadmi remake Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya - which was actually an Uttam Singh composition. Uttam Singh's compositions for her in Farz were quite ordinary as well. Dekhein Bhi To Kya Dekhein (a duet with Udit Narayan) was like any other Uttam Singh composition in terms of the tune, chorus and arrangement, whereas Har Subah Yaad Rakhna had an interesting tune but something seemed amiss.
Jatin-Lalit came up with two songs for Lata in 2001. The title track of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was a nice song but Lata didn't seem in form and went distinctly off-key while singing the work khushi in the middle of the song. It is my belief that some young music directors are possibly so much in awe of Lata Mangeshkar, and feel obliged when she agrees to sing their composition, that they do not insist on corrections or retakes. And there are others who probably don't shy away from it. That probably explains that even with highly degraded vocal capacity, Lata's singing for some music directors is better than the others. The other Jatin-Lalit song this year was a decent (but typically JL) tune from Dev Anand's awful Censor - Mere Dil Mein Tum Nazar Mein Tum.
In 2001 Lata Mangeshkar sang 4 songs composed by A R Rahman in 3 films. Khamoshiyan Gungunane Lagi, a duet with Sonu Nigam from One Two Ka Four, seems like a routine romantic song at first, but has intricately layered orchestration, especially the wonderful use of flute and sitar in the first interlude. Then there was a prayer O Paalanhaare from Lagaan. In the film, a large portion of this song (passages picturized on Gracy Singh) was sung by Sadhana Sargam whereas Lata sections were on Suhasini Mulay, which was a good thing to do given the ages of the characters, but a big disappointment for Lata fans like me who could not hear enough of her in the film. However, the CDs and cassettes had all the female portions sung by Lata. Then there were the songs of Zubeida, which I count among the best Rahman has composed for Hindi films, including the beautifully worded (Javed Akhtar) Door Kahin Ek Aam Ki Bagiya, and two versions of the theme song So Gaye Hain.
In the late 80s when we were being subjected to Lata singing some horrendous compositions in Hindi films, Lata had collaborated with the maestro Ilaiyaraja in a few Tamil films, which resulted in melodious as well as popular songs. The first time I heard Engirundho Azhaikum (En Jeevan Paduthe, 1988), which had both a solo as well as a duet version with Mano, I couldn't get the tune out of my head for days. Then there were Aararo Aararo (Anand, 1987) and Valai Osai (Satya, 1988), which are certainly not among Ilaiyaraja's best, but definitely very good songs. It was many years later in 2001 that Lata Mangeshkar and Ilaiyaraja worked together for a Hindi film. And we got Kaun Dagar from Lajja, which is my choice for this year.
Kaun Dagar (2001 - Lajja - Ilaiyaraja - Prasoon Joshi)
2002: Santoor maestro Shiv Kumar Sharma's son, Rahul Sharma made his debut as a composer with YRF's Mujhse Dosti Karoge. His compositions for the film were just about average. The film included two Lata songs - Andekhi Anjani Si (with Udit Narayan) and Jaane Dil Mein Kab Se Hai Tu (with Sonu), which included a brief 'sad' version as well.
There was just one more film with Lata songs in 2002. Lal Salaam did not even get a proper release and it's soundtrack was also not distributed properly. The soundtrack included Hridaynath Mangeshkar's characteristic compositions, penned by Gulzar. In my opinion this is one of Hridaynath's lesser works, yet it is quite listenable on the whole. It includes Humkara Jaage, Chaand Gufa Mein, Mitwa and my selection for this year - Beeta Mausam. The mukhda of Beeta Mausam is a variation of the matla of a ghazal by Gulzar, which was made popular by Jagjit Singh in the album Marasim:
एक पुराना मौसम लौटा याद भरी पुरवाई भी
ऐसा तो कम ही होता है वो भी हों तन्हाई भी
Beeta Mausam (2002 - Lal Salaam - Hridaynath Mangeshkar - Gulzar)
2003: For the first time since her debut, Lata Mangeshkar did not have even a single release in 2003.
2004: Yash Chopra decided to use Madan Mohan's unused tunes for his directorial venture after a gap of 7 years. Madan Mohan's son, Sanjeev Kohli, took his father's tunes for Veer-Zaara and arranged them with modern orchestration to create 9 Lata Mangeshkar tracks. Lata's vocals in 2004 were inadequate for Madan Mohan's compositions, and one missed the magic the two had created more than three decades back when their collaborative effort resulted in gems in films like Dastak, Heer Ranjha, Dil Ki Rahein, Hanste Zakhm, Hindustan Ki Kasam and Mausam in the 70s. Not only that, even the tunes selected by Yash Chopra, though melodious, were not a patch on Madan Mohan's earlier tunes. Hum To Bhai Jaise Hain was just not suited for Lata's vocals, while Lodi and Aisa Des Hai Mera were clearly below average. Do Pal Ruka and Kyun Hawa were high on the melody quotient. The soundtrack of the film included three songs that were not included in the film - Ye Hum Aa Gaye Hai Kahan was shot, but left out at the editing table and released later as a DVD extra, while Jaane Kyun and the Lata-Jagjit duet Tum Paas Aa Rahe Ho were bonus tracks just for the CD. Incidentally, Yash Chopra had toyed with the idea of calling the film Ye Hum Aa Gaye Hain Kahaan, before he finalized Veer-Zaara as the title just a month or two before the release. Jaane Kyun showed how the amazing breath control that Lata Mangeshkar was always known for, was losing its battle with age, as Aur Main Hoon sounded like Haur Main Hoon in the song.
My pick for this year is Tere Liye Hum Hain Jiye, a duet with Roop Kumar Rathod. This was the only tune in this film that had flashes of Madan Mohan's brilliance as a tunesmith.
Tere Liye Hum Hain Jiye (2004 - Veer-Zaara - Madan Mohan - Javed Akhtar)
2005: This year saw the release of Lata Mangeshkar second song with Nadeem Shravan in Bewafaa (the first one was almost 18 years back in Hisaab Khoon Ka). Kaise Piya Se Main Kahoon was a typical Nadeen Shravan tune, with nothing great about it. She also recorded her first song under Adnan Sami's baton for Lucky - No Time For Love - Shayad Yehi To Pyar Hai, a duet with Adnan Sami. It was good that the song played in the background instead of teenager Sneha Ullal lip-syncing to it. That would have sounded really weird!
Her song with another new composer, Shamir Tandon, is my pick for 2005. Kitne Ajeeb Rishte was the theme song of Page 3, and played in the background through the film.
Kitne Ajeeb Rishte (2005 - Page 3 - Shamir Tandon - Sandeep Nath)
2006: Although Jai Santoshi Maa, released in 2006, included three Lata songs, I don't count them as this year's releases because they were released as a devotional album called Jagrata way back in 1995. Surinder Kohli had composed Lal Choodiyan, Aisa Vardan and Na Chitthi Aayi in 1995, but when they were included in the soundtrack of Jai Santoshi Maa they were strangely credited to Anu Malik.
A R Rahman's Rang De Basanti was the soundtrack of the year, and his duet with Lata Mangeshkar - Lukka Chhuppi - my favourite Lata song from this year. Lata's voice just seemed right for this song about an old woman remembering her dead son. The evocative composition culminating in a sort of sargam jugalbandi between Lata and Rahman (which wasn't used in the film), and the Gulzar-esque lyrics by Prasoon Joshi made this song a great song.
Lukka Chhuppi (2006 - Rang De Basanti - A R Rahman - Prasoon Joshi)
2007: It was just a few months back that I found out that one Lata Mangeshkar song was released in 2007. Jaane Thi Kaisi Raahon Mein was a duet from the film Strangers. Vinay Tiwari was the co-singer as well as the composer for this song. It is a nice composition, which sounds very much like a Jagjit Singh composition, but is quite good nevertheless.
Jaane Thi Kaisi Raahon Mein (2007 - Strangers - Vinay Tiwari - Javed Akhtar)