Love stories immortalised by Lataji

These five classic love stories would not have been possible without Lata Mangeshkar’s melodious voice

Lata Mangeshkar (Photo Courtesy: Getty images)
Lata Mangeshkar (Photo Courtesy: Getty images)

Subhash K Jha

The ghost-voices of the heroes were variable. Raj Kapoorchose Mukesh, Dev Anandand Rajesh Khannafavoured Kishore Kumar.Dilip Kumar preferred Talat Mahmood andMohammed Rafi. The ghost-voices of the heroes were variable. Raj Kapoor chose Mukesh, Dev Anand and Rajesh Khanna favoured Kishore Kumar. Dilip Kumar preferred Talat Mahmood and Mohammed Rafi. Rajendra Kumar and Shammi Kapoor went for Rafi and Manoj Kumar ghosted with Mahendra Kapoor. But for the leading ladies there was only one voice of their choice. Which is why some immortal love stories are unimaginable without Lata Mangeshkar.

1) Guide (1965): When Vijay Anand and his star-brother Dev Anand rushed to Sachin Dev Burman for the immortal songs of Guide, Sachinda’s one and only apprehension was ‘Would Lota sing?’. They had a serious fallout earlier in 1960-62. Burman dada didn’t want anything to go wrong. “It was to be Waheeda Rehman as Rosy and Lata as Rosie’s voice or no film at all,” the ebullient Dev Saab told me. Luckily for Guide, Burman’s ‘Lota’ was all there to give voice to Rosy’s flight into freedom as she throws aside the shackles of a dead marriage to sing Shailendra’s most evocative lyrics on freedom: ‘Kaaton se kheench ke ye aanchal tod ke bandhan bandhi payal’.

Waheeda Rehman told me during an interview, “This one song became the anthem of my career.” Equally important to the roadmap of Guide to nirvanic freedom was Piya tose naina lage re, a 9-minute epic dance song in which Lataji takes us on a journey with Rosy to superstardom, from Diwali to Holi, from summer to spring….the song encapsulates the protagonist’s journey in all the colours. In Mosey chhal kiya jaye Lataji expressed Rosy’s contempt, rage and disappointment at her Raju Guide’s betrayal. Take away her voice from Guide and you have a film as devoid of poetry and lyricism as Gulzar’s Meera without Lataji.

2) Pakeezah (1971): Chalte chalte yuhi koi mil gaya tha’, ‘Thare rahiyo ho banke yaar re’, ‘Inhi logon ne le lee na dupatta mera’, ‘Aaj hum apni duawon ka assar dekhenge’, ‘Chalo dildar chalo chand ke paar chalo’...Every song by Lataji in Pakeezah is an exquisite jewel in the croon. To imagine this ageless ode to romance and music without that voice is as inconceivable as Agra without the Taj Mahal. Director Kamal Amrohi’s son Tajdar Amrohi said, “It was always my Chhoti Ammi (Meena Kumari) and Lataji in Pakeezah. If either one of them had said no, Pakeezah wouldn’t have happened.”

3) Bobby (1973): Reeling under the impact of the flop show that was Mera Naam Joker, Raj Kapoor wanted to make a quickie about young love introducing his youngest son Rishi Kapoor and a 15-year-old debutante Dimple Kapadia. A new singer Shailendra Singh was to be Rishi Kapoor’s ghost-voice. But for the 15-year-old heroine it had to be Lataji only. Raj Kapoor deputed composers LaxmikantPyarelal to convince Lataji. She made a comeback to RK Films with chartbusters ‘Mujhe kuch kehna hai’, ‘Hum tum ek kamre mein bandd ho’ and ‘Jhooth bole kauva kaate’. And those who wondered how a 40-year old singer can sing for a 15-year old debutante here’s the thing: Lataji’s oceanic virtuosity was timeless.

4) Abhimaan (1973): When Hrishikesh Mukherjee decided to make a film about a naturally-gifted singer whose husband feels threatened by her talent he put together the project with Lataji as the key to the endeavour. The songs that Lataji sang for Jaya Bhaduri in this film are peerless: Piya bina piya bina, Abb to hai tumse, Nadiya kinare, Tere mere milan ki yeh raina and Teri bindiya re rank among her career’s best. Hrishida told me there would have been no Abhimaan without Lataji. “If she didn’t sing I wouldn’thave made Abhimaan. She was the voice of the film.Earlier also I made Anuradha about a singer . In that too Lata gave voice to the protagonist.” For Abhimaan, Jaya Bhaduri attended Lataji’s recordings and copied her mannerism.

5) Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978): Raj Kapoor wanted to make the film with Lataji in the lead. It was eventually made with Zeenat Aman with Lataji providing the sole voice image in imperishably majestic LaxmikantPyarelal compositions: the title song ‘Satyam shivam sunderam’, ‘Bhor bhaye panghat pe’, ‘Suni jo unke aane ki aahat’, ‘Yashomati maiyya se bole nandlala’, ‘Woh aurat hai tu mehooba’, ‘Saiyyan nikkas gaye’. Says Zeenat, “It would not be unfair to say that there would be no Satyam Shivam Sundaram without Lataji. She was the soul of the film.”

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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