INDIA’S ICONIC PLAYBACK SINGER AND NATIONAL TREASURE TURNS 90
by ASJAD NAZIR
This week marks the 90th birthday of legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar and she will no doubt receive good wishes from around the world.
The massive respect from different generations is well deserved for a singer, who rose up from humble beginnings to become a global superstar with an incredible body of work.
Her songs not only inspired artists, but also affected change, marked important moments in history and formed lifelong connections with listeners.
Eastern Eye decided to mark the singer turning a year older by taking on the impossible task of listing her top 20 Bollywood tracks from the thousands she recorded, taking into accounts expert opinion, landmark moments and popularity. (We want to add a disclaimer that there are many more great songs and that is why she is a legend).
20. Yara Seeli Seeli from Lekin (1991): A sign of how great this song is that it won a National Award for composer Hridaynath Mangeshkar, lyricist Gulzar and, of course, Lata. The musically-rich number rose up above the movie and is a genuine artistic masterpiece.
19. Yeh Galiyan Yeh Chaubara from Prem Rog (1982): The most singularly viewed solo song of Lata on YouTube is this Laxmikant-Pyarelal classic, which has clocked up more than 272,000,000 views. The playful number once again showed that Lata could do a fun number really well.
18. Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum from Silsila (1981): Music duo Shiv-Hari created magic when they combined the singing of Lata with poetry recited by Bollywood’s biggest star Amitabh Bachchan. The result was the most unique duet of her career and a timeless love song popular even today.
17. Dil Mera Toda, Mujhe Kahin Ka Na Chhora from Majboor (1948): At the beginning of her career, the young hopeful had trouble getting noticed and many producers thought she wasn’t up to the mark, but music director Ghulam Haider had faith in her. He gave Lata this breakthrough hit, which got her noticed and she never forgot his kindness.
16. Jo Wada Kiya Woh Nibhana from Taj Mahal (1963): This duet between Lata and Mohammed Rafi was the most popular song of that year. It would also help the historical epic turn into a blockbuster, win Filmfare Best Music Director and Best Lyricist awards, along with getting Lata a Best Female Playback Singer nomination at the same ceremony.
15. Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh from Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960): A perfect illustration of how popular this soundtrack was that Shankar Jaikishan won the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director ahead of Naushad’s stunning songs for Mughal-e-Azam. Lata dominated the soundtrack and this was the standout song, which remains popular nearly 60 years later.
14. Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna from Guide (1965): By the 1960s, Hindi film heroines were more liberated and that spirit of freedom was apparent with females living in the country. This super hit song from the iconic film summed up that spirit and revolves around a female living life to the fullest.
13. Mere Haathon Mein from Chandni (1989): This Shiv-Hari-composed soundtrack became the biggest-selling of all-time when it was released and spearheading the superb songs was the joyous number from Lata. The mesmerising way it was performed by Sridevi on screen elevated it to iconic status.
12. Tumhi Mere Mandir from Khandan (1965): The soundtrack won a Filmfare Best Music Director for Ravi and this emotion-filled song was the major highlight. The ultimate song from a devoted wife to her husband not only won Lata a Best Female Playback Award, but also a Best Lyricist honour for Rajendra Krishnan at the same ceremony.
11. Satyam Shivam Sundaram (title track) (1978): This song was particularly special because Lata inspired filmmaker Raj Kapoor for the subject of the musical drama. This was another technically-difficult song where Lata combined a classical base with a commercial appeal. Laxmikant-Pyarelal won a Filmfare Best Music Director award, largely thanks to this track.
10. Aaja Re Pardesi from Madhumati (1958): The first Filmfare Award for Best Singer was given to Lata for this top track composed by Salil Chowdhury. Any Bollywood movie set in a rural setting had music that was influenced by the uplifting number.
9. Chalte Chalte from Pakeezah (1972): The greatest Bollywood courtesan drama gave Lata many memorable musical moments but the finest was this commercial composition that reconnected Lata to her classical roots. The multi-layered song composed by Ghulam Mohammed was part of a dance, but had meaning in the lyrics and emotion in the vocals.
8. Ye Zindagi Usi Ki Hai from Anarkali (1953): The first countdown chart in India was Binaca Geetmala, which was broadcast on the radio from 1952 until 1994. This C Ramchandra-composed solo number rendered by Lata about losing the love of your life was the first to be named the song of the year in that massively popular chart.
7. Kabhi Kabhie title track (1976): Although the male version of the Khayyam-composed song by Mukesh is perhaps more famous, but the female one rendered by Lata delivered a far more powerful moment in the movie. Lata injects added emotion into the already powerful song and elevates a multi-layered moment that had romance and heartbreak.
6. Didi Tera Devar Deewana from Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994): In 1970, Lata asked the Filmfare Awards to no longer nominate her because she wanted to promote younger talent, but this spectacular Raamlaxman-composed song from the record-breaking movie was so popular that she was given a special honour by them. The fun song became iconic and helped the movie become the highest-grosser of all time.
5. Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua from Shri 420 (1955): The highest-placed duet is this timeless Shankar-Jaikishan-composed classic that saw Lata sing with Manna Dey. Everything – from the lyrics and masterful vocals to the way this song was picturised – oozed romance. The iconic song in the blockbuster movie perfectly captured the innocence of first love.
4. Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi from Awaara (1951): The record-breaking film had the first really expensive song ever filmed in Bollywood and gave rise to the big musical set-piece. Lata was given vocal duties on the track that not only became iconic but set a new benchmark for Bollywood in many ways.
3. Aayega Aanewala from Mahal (1949: The haunting song from the ghostly-drama not only turned Lata into India’s biggest singing star but also broke every records when it was released and was a major game-changer for Hindi cinema. This Khemchand Prakash-composed song showed producers how lucrative music was as a revenue stream and how a great song can turn a movie into a blockbuster.
2. Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya from Mughal-e-Azam (1960): The legendary love song composed by Naushad gets so much attention for the opulent set and Madhubala’s dance sequence, that listeners often forget that it was Lata’s voice that made it special. The timeless song connected with lovers across different generations and remains the ultimate anthem of romantic defiance.
1. Lag Jaa Gale from Woh Kaun Thi? (1964): The Madan Mohan-composed classic has stood the test of time and is the greatest Lata song of all time. The nightingale of India added so much emotion to the simple sentiments and music that many regard it as the greatest love song in Bollywood’s history. The current queen of Bollywood, Shreya Ghoshal, regularly performs the song and rendition by the band Sanam has been viewed over 66 million times.