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Lata Mangeshkar’s 25 iconic songs: Meri awaaz hi pehchaan hai

Veteran playback singer Lata Mangeshkar breathed her last at Breach Candy hospital, Mumbai on Sunday. Here are 25 of her most iconic numbers.

Lata MangeshkarHere are 25 of the most iconic songs of Lata Mangeshkar. (Photo: Express archive)

When melody queen Lata Mangeshkar, who passed away on Sunday, used to enter a studio for a recording, there was a ritual she’d follow. She’d take off her slippers, bow in a pranaam, seeking strength from the gods of music, and begin her piece. This was after hours of rehearsals. From singing in the studio bathroom for the echo effect in Jab pyaar kiya toh darna kya to standing for eight hours for the recording of AR Rahman’s Luka chhuppi, here are 25 most iconic songs by Lata Mangeshkar that defined Hindi film music in the 20th and 21st century:

Aayega aane wala (Mahal, 1949): This is the watershed year when Lata Mangeshkar, who sang this haunting Khemchand Prakash composition and took the nation’s breath away sealed her supremacy in the Indian film industry for decades to come, with no rival in sight. The song broke all records at Radio Ceylon as people flooded their office with letters to ask for the singer’s name (the gramophone company only carried the character’s name — Kamini). Every composer took notice. Lata Mangeshkar had arrived.

Uthaye ja unke sitam (Andaz, 1949): The year 1949 was a turning point in Mangeshkar’s life and this song was one of the reasons behind it. Picturised on Nargis, this wistful number was another one of Mangeshkar’s initial big hits. This nasal timbre of her voice in this was the result of Mangeshkar’s admiration for Noor Jehan. It would be a little later that her own style would evolve and blossom. The song, however, written by Rajendra Krishan and composed by C Ramchandra, catapulted her into a success.

Yeh zindagi usi ki hai (Anarkali, 1953): In this top-grossing film from the year, in which Mangeshkar sang eight songs, Yeh zindagi usi ki hai in the sombre raga Bhimpalasi became the defining sound of heartbreak.

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Aaja re pardesi (Madhumati, 1958): In this Bimal Roy masterpiece, Salil Chowdhury gave us this achingly beautiful piece that echoes in a valley throughout the film. Even Mangeshkar has called it one of her favourites — the haunting ditty topped the Radio Ceylon charts for many weeks. Impressed with the song, lyricist Shailendra had gifted flowers to Mangeshkar.

Pyaar kiya toh darna kya (Mughal-e-Azam, 1960): Parda nahi jab koi khuda se, bando se parda karna kya… Anarkali held court in K Asif’s magnum opus. Everything about this song — the fearlessness in Shakeel Badayuni’s lyrics, Naushad’s brave and brilliant composition, Mangeshkar’s voice and Madhubala as Anarkali immortalising the song with her cracker of a performance. In the following years, it was a lovers’ rallying call, and a lesson in strength. And the nation sang this defiant message highlighting eternal love with much fervour.

O Sajna Barkha Bahaar (Parakh, 1960): This raga Khamaj-based song of the rain by Salil Chowdhury — a high point for Mangeshkar and one of her personal favourites was also one of the most delightful moments in this Bimal Roy film.

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Allah tero naam, ishwar tero naam (Hum Dono, 1961): This evocative bhajan by Jaidev had Sahir merge “Allah” and “Ishwar” in one sentence to give India a message of unity. While Mangeshkar sang this one at almost all of her concerts later, it also became a popular school prayer in the years to come.

Aye mere watan ke logon (1963): Composer C Ramchandra and Mangeshkar were not speaking to each other when Kavi Pradeep penned this piece in the aftermath of the India-China war. The two had an argument over one of Ramchandra’s recordists, whom Mangeshkar didn’t like. The two didn’t speak for over five years. But for this piece, he went to Mangeshkar’s home and requested her to sing this song which eventually went on to became a tableau for nationalism. The song was first performed on January 27, 1963. The song, a melody in raga Asavari — a sombre morning raga — was straight and simple and yet extremely evocative with a different chord progression for every stanza.

Lag jaa gale (Woh Kaun Thi?, 1964): One of the finest pieces by Madan Mohan, the song is known as much for Mohan’s brilliance as it is for Mangeshkar. Her voice soars through those top notes and descends with equal ease.

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Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai (Guide, 1965): One of SD Burman’s greatest compositions and it came with Navketan Film’s best offing — Guide. Every song sparkled, with Tere mere sapne being the most intense piece of writing from Shailendra. But what caught the attention of the nation was the “freedom song”, one that crystallised a perfect moment in a relationship — where Rosie discovers life again. Mangeshkar was the voice of her liberation.

Kuchh dil ne kaha (Anupama, 1966): This has got to be the most underestimated song by Mangeshkar, probably because it’s understated in the way she has rendered it. Hemant Kumar composed these ingenious lines from Kaifi Azmi in ambient, soft shades and Mangeshkar sang the delicate piece gently, giving it this ethereal quality that transcends the song to another level.

Chalte chalte (Pakeezah, 1972): This seminal piece by composer Ghulam Mohammad and poet Kaifi Azmi, describes the contemplations of a courtesan in love. The world of the courtesan named Sahibjaan hinges on the steam engine’s whistle, as a constant reminder of a love note she found in her ghungroo-tied feet. It is a spectacular piece of music; set along a looped tabla groove in Keherwa (eight-beat) taal, and Lata Mangeshkar’s fine voice.

Raina beeti jaye (Amar Prem, 1972): This prayer of a song from RD Burman in raga Lalit presented his prowess as not just a maker of upbeat song-pieces. Someone who almost always worked with Asha Bhosle, for this piece, he approached his wife’s elder sister, Mangeshkar. Bhosle fought with him on why he’d give all the good songs to “didi”. It’s an unforgettable moment, when Sharmila Tagore begins the alaap and a drunk Rajesh Khanna stops suddenly and goes upstairs pulled in by the voice he hears.

Ek pyar ka nagma hai (Shor, 1972): This Laxmikant-Pyarelal song, also one of their finest-hour, had Mangeshkar for the rousing number. Zindagi aur kuch bhi nahi, teri meri kahani hai…as Mangeshkar sang Santosh Anand’s lyrics, she segues into the calm meditations about life and death. Pyarelal played the violin himself, creating intricate phrasings.

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Naam Goom Jayega (Kinara, 1977): RD Burman’s composition in this masterpiece of a film from Gulzar, who also wrote the song’s lyrics, Meri Awaaz hi pehchaan hai/gar yaad rahe, the austerity in the piece, the uniformity of the pace, will echo in the times to come.

Yeh kahan aa gaye hum (Silsila, 1981): While the raga Chandrakauns-based bhajan Jo tum todo piya was from another universe of brilliance, it was Yeh kahan aa gaye hum composed be classical maestros Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma (santoor) and Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute), that caught the nation’s imagination. Its unique presentation, with Amitabh Bachchan reciting poetry in the song, came with a stylistic drift and thus remains extremely charming.

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Aye dil-e-nadaan (Razia Sultan, 1983): In this ambitious venture by Kamal Amrohi, composer Khayyam created one of his career’s best melodies, helming it was Mangeshkar. We sang along with the immortal lyrics by Jan Nisar Akhtar — Aarzu kya hai, justaju kya hai…

Mann kyun behka (Utsav, 1984): One of the few duets of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. The story goes that when Bhosle would sing her lines and would look at her elder sister and wonder if she had done all right, Mangeshkar would nod, and Bhosle would feel a sense of relief. The tender ditty was a breath of fresh air in the ’80s, which was dominated by the disco movement.

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Yaara seeli seeli (Lekin, 1990): Mangeshkar won the National Award for this Hridaynath Mangeshkar composition. As Dimple Kapadia on the screen struggled in the desert, she looked up, Mangeshkar’s voice soared to thrilling registers with yeh bhi koi jeena hai, yeh bhi koi marna. It was achingly beautiful.

Suniyo ji araj mhari (Lekin…, 1991): The words of the bandish (composition) of raga Vihangini, a raga created by Pt Mani Prasad of the Kirana gharana, the long alaap which acts as a prelude to the song will go down in history as one of the finest beginnings to a piece — the octave leaps, sounding glorious each time she repeats the phrase.

Dil hoom hoom kare (Rudaali, 1993): Based on Mahashweta Devi’s story of the same name, this Kalpana Lajmi film is remembered as much for the song as it is for Kapadia’s onscreen brilliance. The use of the word hoom hoom by Gulzar, which signified the heartbeat, was a masterstroke as it implied a more visceral state of being.

Maaye ni maaye (Hum Aapke hain Koun..!, 1994): A play on Shiv Kumat Batalvi’s poem of the same name, Mangeshkar sang this for Madhuri Dixit. She was 65 then and her voice had started showing signs of age. But the notes were perfect and the expression matched those on the screen. It remains one of her most popular numbers from the ’90s; along with Didi tera dewar deewana, another popular number from the film.

Mere khwabon mein jo aaye (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, 1995): Mangeshkar sang this fun piece for Kajol dancing in a towel and knocked it out of the park. The spunk in Mangeshkar’s voice and Jatin-Lalit’s composition was riveting.

Jiya jale jaan jale (Dil Se,1998): When AR Rahman was composing this masterpiece of an album, he wondered about the gentle, romantic song of the film — Jiya jale — and decided to get Mangeshkar into the studio. It was the late ’90s and Mangeshkar had become extremely picky. But she sang this as if no magic was ever lost and hit a new demographic with this one.

Luka chhuppi (Rang De Basanti, 2006): While recording this, Mangeshkar stood bare feet, as she’d always do, and recorded for eight hours. The result was a heartrending piece — a mother’s cry for her dead son. Prasoon Joshi’s fine lyrics and Rahman’s invigorating tune along with the Mangeshkar’s sombre voice will remain a reminder of her undying brilliance.

First published on: 06-02-2022 at 12:26:50 pm
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