The Lata-Shankar Jaikishan association that produced such delectable melodies in the 50s, continued to remain strong, at least till the mid sixties. Of course the melodies paled in comparison to the 1950s, but that was true of the music scene in the 60s as a whole. At least in the earlier part of the 60s, there are many Lata-SJ songs that are popular till date.
In 1960 came Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi, a Kishore Sahu directed Meena Kumari starrer tearjerker that had some nice Lata songs. My favourite from this film is the evergreen Ajeeb Dastan Hai Ye, a ditty that I like as much for Lata’s voice as for the preludes and interludes, and of course the excellent choral use.
The other Lata-SJ song that I love from 1960 is O Basanti Pawan Pagal from Raj Kapoor’s Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai. This tune is a classic example of how SJ used some pieces of melody from the background score of their films to create a full-fledged song. The tune of this song came from the background music of Awaara.
It was at this time that SJ also started a trend of sorts by making Lata sing tandem versions of songs that were originally composed for a male singer (in most cases, Mohd. Rafi). This meant that she had to sing at an impossibly high-scale. Her tremendous vocal range was instrumental in her doing full justice to the songs (except in a few stray cases where her voice clearly showed signs of strain), but she is on record for not being too happy about this.
One such song is Ehsaan Tera Hoga Mujh Par from Juglee. In Lata Mangeshkar’s own words, “it was a difficult song because it has many high notes. The range of a male voice is much higher - and no one could sing as well in higher octaves as Rafi Sahib - so it was difficult to sing.” (Source: Lata Mangeshkar ... in her own words by Nasreen Munni Kabeer)
Some of my other picks from the early 60s include:
Saiyan Na Chhedo Dil Ke Taar - Krorepati - A light number reminiscent of the Lata-SJ beauties from the 50s.
Tum To Dil Ke Taar Chhed Ke - Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja - Though essentially a Lata solo, the film version includes some humming by Talat Mahmood in the beginning.
Jhanan Jhanjhana Ke Apni Payal - Aashiq - The initial notes hummed by Lata Mangeshkar in this song based on Raag Shankara would later re-appear as a full-fledged song in Raat Aur Din.
Tera Mera Pyar Amar - Asli Naqli - I like this song more for a sense of nostalgia than for anything else. This was one of the songs that drew me away from the rock and metal craziness of college in late eighties.
O Jaadugar Pyar Ke - Ek Dil Sau Afsane - Beautiful melody, quintessential SJ.
Man Re Tu Hi Bata - Humrahi - A song I can listen in an endless loop.
Aaj Kal Mein Dhal Gaya - Beti Bete - A tandem song, where I actually prefer Lata’s version over Rafi’s
I am not much of a fan of SJ’s music post-1965, a lot of which sounds cacophonous to my ears. They did come up with some good melodies during this period, especially with Lata, but those were few and far between. Here are some of my picks from this period:
Bedardi Balma Tujhko - Arzoo - This is a good example of how SJ created some of the most evocative alaaps for Lata to croon. The entire song, however fails to live up to the promise of the alaap, save for the saxophone pieces in the interludes.
Gumnaam Hai Koi - Gumnaam – One of the many ‘haunting’ songs Lata sang.
Tumhen Yaad Karte Karte - Amrapali - If there is one SJ soundtrack I would pick as the best of post-65 SJ, it has to be Amrapali.
Tumhari Qasam Tum Bahut Yaad Aaye - Gaban
Koi Matwala Aaya Mere Dware - Love in Tokyo
Aa Aa Bhi Ja - Teesri Kasam - This song is very similar in structure and feel to the song from Gaban I had mentioned above.
If I look at the list above, I realize that there were still quite a few (what I call) good songs by Lata-SJ in 1965-66. But 1967 is really the cut-off year. Post this it is quite a chore to find really good Lata-SJ songs, both because I don’t quite relish the quality of SJ’s music then and also that the sheer number of Lata songs for SJ during that period is quite less, as other female singers started singing for them more frequently.
Jeevan Ke Dorahe Pe - Chhoti Si Mulaqat - I pick this song for the same nostalgic reason mentioned earlier, though this film had another nice Lata song - Kal Nahin Paye Jiya.
Awaara Ae Mere Dil - Raat Aur Din - I like every single song from this soundtrack. This is the song that germinated from the opening notes of the song from Aashiq, as I mentioned earlier.
Tan Man Tere Rang - Archana (1973, Neeraj) - I have picked this song only because I wanted 70s to be represented, and this song is probably the only “good” Lata-SJ song from this period.
Madhubala’s last film, Jwala, was released in 1970, but its songs were recorded sometime in the late 50s or early 60s. It had a number of Lata songs, out of which I pick this one.
Thus ends the two-part post on my favourite Lata-SJ songs. Of course, given the sheer volume, there are many songs that I had leave out. On another day I might pick an entirely different list, but I do hope I have been able to provide a cross-section that is fairly representative of the entire body of work Lata and Shankar Jaikishan did together.