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).
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.
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.
Sipahiya was another CR soundtrack in 1949, again including many Lata beauties.
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.
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!
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:
In 1952, Lata and C. Ramchandra continued to enthrall listeners with an amazing repertoire of songs raging from the traditional to experimental.
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.