Thursday , October 28 2021

Deconstructing the magic

By Subhash K Jha

Mumbai, Sep 28 (IANS) September 28 is playback legend Lata Mangeshkar’s 90th birthday. We go down memory lane and pick three songs from three different eras that define the versatility and greatness of the Bharat Ratna laureate. Three icons of the music world associated with these numbers recall her greatness and their creative experience of working with her.

YEH KAHAAN AA GAYE HUM: “Silsila” (1981)

Lyricist Javed Akhtar speaks:

“I started writing lyrics with Yash Chopra’s ‘Silsila’, and the first song of mine that was recorded was ‘Ye kahan aa gaye hum’. It was to be sung by Lata ji with the recitals by Amitabh Bachchan. It couldn’t get any better for a first-timer lyricist! What Lata ji did to the song was beyond any description of excellence. She simply took charge of the words. Lataji doesn’t sing the words. She sings the feelings behind the words. Lataji is the most defining emblem of Indian cinema. Normally, artistes strive for perfection. Only Lata Mangeshkar has achieved it. There are no boundaries to her excellence and reach. She has proved perfection is possible in this imperfect world. A musicologist once told me, ‘Sur kitna bhi bareeq ho uska jo exact center hai wahan Lata Mangeshkar gaati hain. Like Beethhoven, Shakespeare and Ghalib, Lata ji is far removed from the normal chain of civilisation.”

TUJHE DEKHA TO YEH JAANA SANAM; “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” (1995)

Composer Lalit Pandit (of composer duo Jatin-Lalit) speaks:

“We all felt it. There was something magical about the words. Anand Bakshi saab had never been more excited about any of his assignments during that phase. He was charged-up. We would all gather at his house for rehearsals. I remember Jatin bhaiyya and I were working on the music of another film at the same time. Anand Bakshi reprimanded us, ‘Kya kar rahe ho tum log? Your concentration should be on this (‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’). This will create history.’ Bakshi Saab was right.

Lata ji created magic in that song. The fact that we were working with her was in itself a historic event for us. Her singing the song meant it had automatically won millions of devoted listeners. For Lata ji, the songs of DDLJ were very special. I recall she loved the tune and she wanted us to send it to her on a cassette, so she could get familiar with it. When she came for the recording she was all prepared. And then she added her own dimension to the song. I’d say Lata ji took the song to places where we never imagined the tune could go.

After the recording she did something she never does.She came to the monitoring cubicle of the studio to congratulate us. We were speechless. I think Lata didi gave that extra special something to the songs of DDLJ because it was her Yash bhaiyya’s son’s directorial debut.

We had to re-record Kumar Sanu’s portions because he had not caught the mood of the lyrics and tune. Lataji ke saath aksar aisa hota hai. In their bid to match her excellence, the male singer would tend to overdo the feelings.

Incidentally, the tune for the opening lines were Adi Chopra’s. He was inspired by the music of Sooraj Barjatya’s cinema. Frankly, I think ‘Na jaane mere dil ko kya’ is a better song than ‘Tujhe dekha toh’ in DDLJ. But the popularity of this song has gone beyond anything we have done. It’s our signature tune. And we are indebted to Lata didi for doing things to the song that we could never imagine.”


Composer Rajesh Roshan speaks:

“I was very sure I wanted Lata ji to sing the title song, where the heroine Laxmi gets seduced by the hero. I was new to the industry then. My father (composer Roshan) never pushed his own career, there was no question of pushing mine. I knew Lataji from my childhood. But there was never a formal introduction. I played the ‘daflee’ for Laxmikant-Pyarelal in the song ‘Jhooth bole kauva kaate’ in ‘Bobby’. Lata ji, who sang the song, saw me and smiled.

Although Lata ji first sang for me in Mehmood’s ‘Kunwara Baap’, there was again no formal introduction. Mehmood saab just mentioned to Lata ji that I was like his son, and that was it.

My turning point was ‘Julie’. The title song was so steeped in romance and love, it represented the yearnings of two people in love. Lata ji simply swept into the song as if she owned it. It became the anthem of the youth. Let me tell you, Kishoreda had a very tough time keeping up with her in that song.

Working with Lata ji on the song, there were two big takeaways for me. One was the way she stressed certain words at a crucial point of a song. She always knew where to punctuate a song. She miraculously found space to provide her own punctuation in the rhythm of song. There is no other singer in the world who can do this. I wish she had taught singers who came after her to find the perfect place to punctuate a song.

Over the years, I feel it is amazing how she moulded her voice in every decade. The way she sounded in the 1950s was very different from her voice in the 1960s. And in the ’70s and ’80s she again moulded her voice into a different sphere. How she reinvented herself in each decade to sound better and better is a subject worthy of a thesis.”



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