If there is any artiste I absolutely worship, it's Lata Mangeshkar. As she turns 79 this weekend, I'm wondering how I can pay a tribute to her on her birthday. Earlier this year, I did a series of posts on my favourite Lata Mangeshkar songs from 1946-2007.
This was a very effort-intensive exercise, but ultimately very satisfying. What can I do differently on her birthday this year? Why not talk about some of her collaboration with less famous music directors? That should be a good tribute on her birthday.
When we talk about her famous songs, around 15-20 music directors come up as the usual suspects. But Lata Mangeshkar has sung songs for more than 180 music directors, many of whom have composed great songs for her. I thought it would be a great idea to talk about some of those music directors, who might not have been very prolific or terribly under-rated or maybe not so consistent, but did some good to great work during their time.
Before I talk about these music directors, let me emphasize that the songs I list below are just meant to give a peek into their compositions, and in no way represent their best work with Lata Mangeshkar.
Chitragupta: This may seem like a controversial choice among less-famous composers. Connoiseurs of old Hindi film music surely know about him, but his name gets kind of lost amidst more popular names. Chitragupta Srivastava, in my opinion, is one of the most under-rated music composers of Hindi film industry. Despite having composed from close to 140 Hindi films and numerous Bhojpuri films, he was never counted among the A-list music directors. Most of the films he composed for were not very successful, but he never compromised on the quality of music. It might come as a surprise to many that Lata Mangeshkar sang around 240 songs under Chitragupta's baton, which is more than what she sang for Madan Mohan, or Sachin Dev Burman, or Naushad, or Roshan. I pick two Lata songs by Chitragupta as a sample of his output.
Haye Re Meri Zulfein from Burmah Road is a sensuous number, rendered beautifully by Lata in a style one doesn't normally associate with her.
Haye Re Meri Zulfein (Burmah Road, 1962, Majrooh Sultanpuri)
The other Chitragupta number I pick is a classical Tarana from Shiv Bhakt.
Kailashnath Prabhu Avinashi + Tarana (Shiv Bhakt, 1955, Gopal Singh Negi)
Shri Nath Tripathi – Like Chitragupta, his mentor S. N Tripathi composed music for a lot of films (90+), but he was never considered in the big league thanks to the fact that most of his films were B-grade historicals and mythologicals. His compositions were mostly based on classical music. His most famous film is Rani Roopmati, which had the popular Aa Laut Ke Aaja Mere Meet as well as the beautiful classical-based Rafi-Lata duet, Jhananana Jhan Baaje Payalia, which I like for Lata's effortless taans towards the end of the song.
Jhananana Jhan Baaje Payalia (Rani Roopmati, 1957, Bharat Vyas)
Bulo C. Rani – Best known for his compositions in Dilip Kumar's Jogan (1950), Bulo C. Rani is hardly a known name now. He was not very prolific but his compositions were steeped in melody. Lata Mangeshkar sang around 22 songs for him, most of which are quite rare and hard to find. Surprisingly, I found a youtube clipping of a Lata Mangeshkar song from his last film, Sunehre Qadam. Listening to this melodious composition will give you an idea of what his other songs would be like.
Na Baaz Aaya Muqaddar (Sunehre Qadam, 1966, Mahendra Pran)
Sunhere Qadam also had another gem by Lata - Mangne Se Jo Maut Mil Jaati sung with loads of pathos by the legend.
Jamal Sen – Hailing from Rajasthan, Jamal Sen was given his first break by Kidar Sharma in the film Shokhiyan (1951). The film was a commercial disaster, but it has some really great song. Being a Suraiya film, majority of the songs were sung by Suraiya. There was, however, a Lata gem that I would probably include among Lata's best of all time – Sapna Ban Saajan Aaye.
Sapna Ban Saajan Aaye (Shokhiyan, 1951, Kedar Sharma)
While Jamal Sen demonstrated his grip on classical music in the above song, he turned to folk music for another song from the same film. The rambunctious percussion and the catchy chorus in Door Desh Se Aaja Re make it one of my favourite chorus songs of all time. This song is also noteworthy in that it is one of the only 5 Lata-Suraiya duets.
Shaukat Dehlvi 'Nashad' – Given the phonetic affinity of his name to that of the much more popular composer, Nashad's most famous compositions are wrongly credited to Naushad in sections of media. He did not do too many films, and later migrated to Pakistan. Baradari is his most famous work in India, where there is a folksy Lata number that I love.
Ab Ke Baras Bada Julm Hua (Baradari, 1955, Khumar Barabankvi)
Dilip Dholakia – Dilip Dholakia worked as an assistant to Chitragupta, S N Tripathi and Laxmikant Pyarelal. In 1962 he worked as an independent music director for a film called Private Secretary. It had a few Lata solos, my favourite being Ja Ja Re Chanda, which starts with a charming piano piece.
Ja Ja Re Chanda (Private Secretary, 1962, Prem Dhawan)
This was just a random list of a few music directors about who probably are not very famous, but who created some great compositions for Lata Mangeshkar to sing. I will try to talk about more such music directors in subsequent posts. Any suggestions are welcome.