“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.
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.
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.
I also love this pacy song from Jhanjhar, amply demonstrating Lata’s breath control skills, also matched perfectly by the chorus.
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.
In 1954, the Lata-CR combo gave us songs in films like Kavi, Meenar, Naastik, Pehli Jhalak and Subah Ka Tara.
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.
Yasmin had as many as 9 Lata songs, each one a carefully cut, unadulterated gem.
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.
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.
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.
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”