Sunday, May 01, 2011

Lata –Voice of The Golden Era

When I first heard about a new book on Lata Mangeshkar, I wasn’t too excited. Enough is already known about the legendary singer, and there’re still a lot of mysteries, which have little chance of getting unraveled given the stoic silence the lady maintains about certain controversial aspects of her life. If one wants a hagiographic account of her life, there is always Harish Bhimani’s In Search of Lata Mangeshkar to turn to. For controversial events, malicious rumors and tons of information thrown randomly (and written in the most convoluted and reader unfriendly style), there is Raju Bharatan’s biography and several articles he has written over the decades. For the statistically inclined, there is Vishwas Nerurkar’s Gandhar Swaryatra. There is no better book than Ajatshatru’s Baba Teri Son Chiraiya for a detailed analysis of some of Lata Mangeshkar’s rarest of songs. And if you wanted to hear some thing from the horse’s mouth, Nasreen Munni Kabeer’s documentary and a subsequent book Lata- In Her Own Voice had already covered that.

So what new insights could this book offer? ?

Prior to the release of the book, the author – Dr. Mandar V. Bichu – started a group on Facebook where he uploaded the scanned contents of the books… and my interest was piqued. I hadn’t seen an account of Lata’s collaboration with all major composers at one place before. I knew of a similar book by the same author, but since that was in Marathi I could never have read that. Moreover, a composer-wise analysis is also of great personal interest to me and I have made some attempts at that on this blog. Of course, I wouldn’t even dare to call my blog posts as analysis of any kind, for they are more a random listing of some songs I like. Anyway, after seeing the contents, I was sure I wanted a copy of the book…. even though the price tag was very high! As soon as the book was available for purchase, I booked my order online and received the book in 3 days.

My first reaction on getting the book was – “ Wow, this is one heavy book!” What else can you expect from 415 page hard-bound book printed on high-quality glossy paper? This meant that I did not have the luxury of cursorily reading it lying on a bed. This, actually, proved to be a blessing in disguise because if I wanted to read it I had to sit on a desk with no other distraction. While this took me a while to finish the book, the book had my complete attention while I was reading through it.

I knew this was the book for me when I read the author’s “Prelude” to the book. Some words rang so true that it almost felt as if they were my words. I quote – “I feel my main qualification to write about Lata is my steadfast refusal to block my appreciative ears just because a particular song belongs to a particular era or a particular composer… In fact, by remaining aware of all the phases of Lata’s output in her six decade long career, I feel I am in a much better position to analyse it in totality” I completely subscribe to this view. In order to write authoritatively about a person one has to have a thorough exposure to the person’s complete career span. And that is what makes this book so balanced.

A major portion of the book is dedicated to an account of Lata’s partnership with most major composers. For most part, the author has not got swayed by either quantity or quality. So highly prolific composers like Laxmikant Pyarelal, Shankar Jaikishan, Rahul Dev Burman and Kalyanji Anandji find a chapter dedicated, as do composers like Jaidev, Khemchand Prakash, Khaiyyam and Hridaynath, whose output with Lata in Hindi films was somewhat limited. And one finds the same depth of analysis while talking about prolific but much-reviled-among-the-cognoscenti composers like Laxmikant Pyarelal and Kalyanji Anandji, as those like Jaidev who have a very small, but critically acclaimed, collaboration with Lata.

Following a detailed account of Lata’s output with 17 composers, the book has two more chapters on her work with other noteworthy composers of the “golden era” as well as the “post-golden era”.

My only grouse is that Chitragupta, a terribly under-rated music composer who, as luck would have it, got confined to mostly B and C grade films, but hardly ever compromised on quality to produce some really melodious songs for Lata, did not get a separate chapter in the book. In my opinion, he deserved it! Some years back when I had included Chitragupta in my blog about Lata’s collaboration with “lesser known composer”, many people protested that he did not belong among lesser known composer. The fact that he is again relegated to a few paragraphs in this major book, vindicates my stand. Having said that, the selection of composers for detailed analysis was the author’s prerogative and maybe someday we will find him writing in detail about the marvelous Lata-Chitragupta collaboration.

One of the other interesting parts of the book is the author’s 17 year old telephonic interview with Lata Mangeshkar. While the interview doesn’t reveal any earth-shattering, hitherto unknown facts (you can’t expect that in any Lata interview), it does have some interesting tidbits like Lata’s surprising views about Vasant Desai’s music, her sarcastic reaction to Anuradha Paudwal’s early 90s effort of paying tributes to Madan Mohan, Shankar Jaikishan, and her take on her tandem songs where the male versions were usually more popular.

Another interesting chapter is the one where the author talks about why Lata continues to sing way beyond her prime. And he finishes this chapter with a reference to the song she rendered exactly a year ago on Maharashtra Day (apparently recorded a few days earlier, but still by an 80+ Lata). His reaction, like many others who heard her sing that day – “Thank God, she continued to sing!” Here is a clip:

The book ends with my most favourite chapter – the author’s take on what actually makes Lata ‘Lata’. He neatly sums up with an either/ or reasoning for why just about every composer (even the most obscure ones) has at least one amazing composition for Lata…. “so either we could say that they all had reserved their best tunes for her, or we could say that she inspired them to come up with their best tunes and then mad them better!”

The author has revealed his answer in the book. And I’m sure you too have your answer in your mind.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lata Mangeshkar sings for C. Ramchandra - Part 2

“Lata and C. Ramchandra’s musical partnership in that heady early 50s era was simply different! Then the singer and the composer seemed so completely in tune with each other – musically and emotionally”

(Quoted from Lata – Voice of the Golden Era by Dr. Mandar V. Bichu)

Having talked about the first 5 years of Lata Mangeshkar’s association with C. Ramchandra, I now move to 1953, a year that produced one of the finest Hindi film soundtracks of all time – Anarkali. C. Ramchandra was first signed on for the film, then it is believed to have gone to Hemant Kumar, then to Basant Praskash, and finally back to C. Ramchandra. By the time C. Ramchandra came in again, Basant Prakash had already recorded a lovely Geeta Dutt solo – Aa Jaane-e-Wafa. There is also a story that when C. Ramchandra came on board he wanted the Geeta Dutt solo to be removed from the film. The producer, however, insisted on retaining that song. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of this story, but it is clear that by now there was a special bonding between Lata and C. Ramchandra, and the composer could rarely think beyond his muse while composing.

Every song from Anarkali is a beauty. Here are two songs – one the most popular, and the other, a song where Lata sings for an inebriated heroine.

Ye Zindagi Usi Ki Hai - Anarkali (1953) - Rajinder Krishan

Mohabbat Mein Aise Qadam Dagmagaye - Anarkali (1953) - Rajinder Krishan

If Anarkali was the high-point of Lata-CR output in 1953, songs from other films like Jhamela, Jhanjhar and Shagufa were no less.

Jhamela was directed by Bhagwan. Given his long association with C. Ramchandra (starting with Sukhi Jeevan in 1942), it wasn’t a surprise that C. Ramchandra composed the music for this film. Although not as popular as their previous venture Albela, Jhamela too had some Lata gems.

Kaahe Naina Lade - Jhamela (1953) - Rajinder Krishan

Jhanjhar was co-produced by Lata and C. Ramchandra. The stand-out track from this album was this “anti-lori'” by Lata and Madhubala Jhaveri.

Ja Ri Ja Ja Nindiya Ja (with Madhubala Jhaveri) - Jhanjhar (1953) - Rajinder Krishan

I also love this pacy song from Jhanjhar, amply demonstrating Lata’s breath control skills, also matched perfectly by the chorus.

Mohe Lage Sara Jag Pheeka Pheeka - Jhanjhar (1953) - Rajinder Krishan

This song from Shagufa sounds a like a pre-cursor to SJ’s Mil Gaye Mil Gaye from Kanyadan (1968). The similarity, however, may be purely coincidental.

Ye Hawa Ye Sama - Shagufa (1953) - Rajinder Krishan

In 1954, the Lata-CR combo gave us songs in films like Kavi, Meenar, Naastik, Pehli Jhalak and Subah Ka Tara.

Mehndi Lagi Thi Mere Haath - Meenar (1954) - Rajinder Krishan

Hone Laga Hai Mujh Pe - Nastik (1954) - Kavi Pradeep

Na Maaro Najariya Ke Baan - Pehli Jhalak (1954) - Rajinder Krishan

1955 was a very important year for the Lata-CR combo. This was the year when one of their biggest hits – Azaad – was released, and also the year of what I consider their finest soundtrack (along with Anarkali) – Yasmin.

Azaad came to CR after Naushad rejected the film due to the fast turnaround expected by the producers. CR took on the challenge and is believed to have composed the songs in record time. And what wonderful songs! Take this one, for example, that the composer sang himself with Lata when Talat Mahmood, the original choice, was not available.

Kitna Haseen Hai Mausam - Azaad (1955) - Rajinder Krishan

Yasmin had as many as 9 Lata songs, each one a carefully cut, unadulterated gem.

Ab Wo Raatein Kahan - Yasmin (1955) - Jaan Nisar Akhtar

Between 1956 and 1958, there was a decline in CR’s output. After averaging around 6 films per year between 1949 and 1955, he gave composed music for only 11 films in the three years from 1956-58. But the output was still magical, still a strict no-no for diabetics.

Kaise Aaoon Jamuna Ke Teer - Devta (1956) - Rajinder Krishan

Hawa Hai Sard Sard - Shatranj (1956) - Rajinder Krishan

Bheeni Bheeni Hai - Nausherwan-e-Adil (1957) - Parvez Shamsi

O Chand Jahan Wo Jayen (with Asha Bhosle) - Sharada (1957) - Rajinder Krishan

Dil Ki Duniya Basa Ke - Amardeep (1958) - Rajinder Krishan

It was in 1958 that the big fall-out between the composer and his muse happened. It is immaterial whether the reason for this was something intensely personal as Raju Bharatan in his Lata biography claims CR to have told him, or an ego issue as Lata said in her interview with Ameen Sayani. The fact is that one of the most melodious singer-composer partnership came to an abrupt end, or at least a taper.

CR turned to Asha Bhosle and Suman Kalyanpur for films like Navrang, Paigham, Sarhad, Aanchal, etc. While Navrang was a big hit, CR’s creativity seemed to be drying up.

It was at V. Shantaram’s behest that Lata and CR came together once again after a few years for Stree (1961), except for 2-3 films, they did not work together much again. And of course there was that non-film creation for eternity – Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo.

O Nirdayi Preetam - Stree (1961) - Bharat Vyas

Main Jagoon Saari Rain - Bahurani (1963) - Sahir Ludhiyanvi

The last released Lata song composed by C. Ramchandra was in Payal Ki Jhankar (1968). Going by Lata’s voice quality, it was likely recorded several years earlier.

Tu Aaye Na Aaye - Payal Ki Jhankar (1968) - Rajinder Krishan

Finally, I again quote Dr. Mandar V. Bichu from his book:

“The feelings in their songs never ever feel unreal – the voice and the compositions are practically made for each other”


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Lata Mangeshkar sings for C. Ramchandra - Part 1

In 1947, when Lata Mangeshkar was still in the very early phase of her playback singing career, Ramchandra Chitalkar was one of the first music composers to have reposed his faith in her abilities. He assigned Lata to sing a group song along with Geeta Roy and himself in the film Shehnai (1947).


Jawani Ki Rail Chali Jaye (with Chitalkar & Geeta Roy) - Shehnai (1947) - Pyare Lal Santoshi

This marked the beginning a partnership that would result in countless melodies over the next few years15-20 years. In her exceptionally long career, Lata has forged some memorable partnerships with a number of music directors to give us some of the most enduring and mellifluous songs in Hindi films, but in my mind the Lata-C. Ramchandra combination ranks right among the top, especially when we look at both quality and quantity.

After Shehnai in 1947, C. Ramchandra gave a few more songs to Lata in the subsequent year, but most of them were either duets or group songs in films like Khidki and Nadiya Ke Paar. It wasn’t until 1949 that Lata sang her first solo composition by C. Ramchandra. Namoona (1949) had a variety of Lata songs ranging from the folksy fun song, Mhari Gali Ma Aawjo, to the melancholic Ek Thes Lagi to an unusual mujra – Aji Sambhal Ke Aana.


Mhari Gali Ma Aawjo - Namoona (1949) - Pyare Lal Santoshi

Patanga was a big musical hot of 1949. While Shamshad Begum was the main singer in this soundtrack, CR gave 4 songs to Lata as well, including this fun duet with Shamshad Begum.


Pyar Ke Jahan Ki (with Shamshad Begum) - Patanga (1949) - Rajinder Krishan

Sipahiya was another CR soundtrack in 1949, again including many Lata beauties.


Dard Jaga Ke Thes Laga Ke - Sipahiya (1949) - Ram Murti Chaturvedi

By 1950, Lata Mangeshkar had become C. Ramchandra’s primary female singer. There wasn’t even a single film among the 35+ films that CR gave music for between 1950-1956, where Lata did not figure prominently.

In 1950, Lata-CR produced around 30 songs in 5 films – Nirala, Samadhi, Sangeeta, Sangram and Sargam.


Mehfil Mein Jal Uthi Shama - Nirala (1950), Pyare Lal Santoshi


Abhi Shaam Aayegi Niklenge Taare - Samadhi (1950) - Rajinder Krishan


Jo Mujhe Bhula Kar Chale Gaye - Sangeeta (1950) - Pyare Lal Santoshi


Din Aaye Pyare Pyare - Sangram (1950) - Raja Mehdi Ali Khan

This brings me to the pièce de résistance of all Lata-CR songs of 1950 - a semi-classical duet with Sarasvati Rane in Sargam. Marked by some outstanding singing, the song reaches a crescendo with a fabulous violin solo in the end – mindblowing!


Jab Dil Ko Satave Gham (with Saraswati Rane) - Sargam (1950) - Pyare Lal Santoshi

1951-52 can be considered the peak years for the Lata-CR partnership. They produced more than 75 songs in these two years, including some of their biggest hits in Albela.

The entire Albela soundtrack is outstanding, especially Dheere Se Aaja Ri Akhiyan Mein. But I pick this song, which, though well-known, is relatively lesser heard than other big hits from the film:


Balma Bada Naadaan - Albela (1951) - Rajinder Krishan


Ae Chaans Pyar Mera - Khazana (1951) - Rajinder Krishan


O Babu Kaise Dil Karoon Qaboo (with Amir Bai Karnataki) - Sagai (1951) - Rajinder Krishan


O Ladke Ladke Ladke Dil Dhak Dhak (with Shamshad Begum) - Shabistan (1951) - Qamar Jalalabadi

In 1952, Lata and C. Ramchandra continued to enthrall listeners with an amazing repertoire of songs raging from the traditional to experimental.


Mujhe Apna Bana (with Geeta Roy) - Ghunghroo (1952) - Rajinder Krishan


Jhoom Rahi Pyar Ki Duniya (with Chitalkar) - Hangama (1952) - Rajinder Krishan


Dil Dil Se Keh Raha Hai (with Talat Mahmood) - Parchhain (1952) - Noor Lakhnavi


Kijiye Nazara Door Door Se - Saqi (1952) - Rajinder Krishan


Shin Shinaki Bubla Boo (with Chitalkar) - Shin Shinaki Bubla Boo (1952) - Pyare Lal Santoshi

In the next part of this post I will write about the Lata-CR partnership post-1953, a period that not only produced the best soundtracks of the combo, but also saw a fairly quick decline.