There may never be time when someone, somewhere is not jamming to a Lata Mangeshkar melody. No other singer has grabbed the imagination of a country as she has. Music lovers may be split when it comes to their favourite male artists - some may vouch for Mohammed Rafi, some for Kishore Kumar, while others choose KJ Yesudas - but the plurality of them will choose Lata as the feminine voice they most desire to hear. Not for no cause.
Her voice is divine. Her range is extensive. Her expressions are usually spot on. That beautiful voice is turning 92 and on the occasion of her birthday, we’re revisiting some of India’s Nightingale’s most classic songs:
Ae Dil-E-Naadan- Razia Sultan
Khayyam, the last of the legendary famous composers to die lately, may have chosen Asha Bhosle to perform most of the songs in his magnum opus Umrao Jaan, but he elected the eldest of the brilliant Mangeshkar sisters to sing this excruciatingly beautiful tune. Lata’s soulful version elevated the song to one of the finest of the 1980s.
Raina Beeti Jaye- Amar Prem
Lata shines in this wonderful composition in the ragas Todi and Khamaj. She catches you right away and pushes you to listen to the song again and again. Chingaari koi bhadke and Kuch to log kehenge were two of Kishore Kumar’s best songs in R.D. Burman’s memorable score for Shakti Samanta, and this number by Lata doesn’t fail to live up.
Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna- Guide
The film’s crowning achievement was the chart-topping song “Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna." Lata Mangeshkar, who was nominated for a Filmfare Award, wonderfully portrayed a lady trapped in a moral quandary punctuated by love.
Tujhe Dekha To Ye Jana- Dil Wale Dulhaniya Le Jaenge
In the midst of all the commotion around the following happy ending, there is one song that pretty much established Shah Rukh and Kajol’s on-screen connection. ‘Tujhe Dekha toh yeh jana,’ sung by Lata and Kumar Sanu, became an overnight sensation and went on to represent love, as well as cementing itself as a ‘Love Anthem’ for more than a decade.
Humko Humi Se Chura Lo- Mohobbatein
This star-studded musical love drama caught the youth by storm, becoming a cult favourite. Being a musical, the song “Humko Humise Chura Lo" proved to be the movie’s crowning achievement, further cementing Lata Mangeshkar’s versatility.
Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon- Album
It wasn’t a boisterous song, but rather a moving one written eloquently by Pradeep about the sacrifice of soldiers. Lata’s performance on Republic Day, 1963, in the National Stadium in New Delhi, in the presence of President S. Radhakrishnan and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru moved the crowd to tears.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum- Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum
The soundtrack, particularly the title track sung by the nightingale, made Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum more appealing than the drama-filled plot. It has the ability to melt even the most fervent stone hearts. Every music lover’s lips are still tingling with the aalap of this well-known tune. Lata worked her magic once again, bringing this Jatin-Lalit piece to life.
O Sajna- Parakh
This was one of her first hits, and it remains one of her finest, seven decades later. Lata, then 20, demonstrated how her voice could captivate a whole nation. In this legendary song, she displayed her classical abilities to perfection. Khemchand Prakash’s composition is outstanding and wonderfully visualised.
Lag Ja Gale- Woh Kaun Thi
There can’t be any more well-known India tune than this one. Madan Mohan, the virtuoso whose muse Lata was, wrote this music for the 1964 film Woh Kaun Thi. It’s so lovely that you won’t be able to stop listening to it. Many vocalists have tried covers of this classic, but none have succeeded in capturing the essence of the song like Lata.
Satyam Shivam Sundaram- Satyam Shivam Sundaram
The song was chosen by the ambitious and young Lata to wow the audience. When people attempt what is undoubtedly a difficult song to render, they receive plaudits - and some of them become instant notoriety.
Laxmikant Pyarelal’s masterful work in raga Darbari Kanada for a film is reported to have been influenced by Lata’s voice. Director Raj Kapoor reportedly wanted her to play the part, which was later made famous by Zeenat Aman.