She was born on this day (28th Sep) in 1929. She is 87 years old today.

Childhood photo of Lata Mangeshkar (Pic courtesy:
Childhood photo of Lata Mangeshkar (Pic courtesy:

What do you say or write about a legend? You just bow your head in respect and of course thank God that you have lived through most of the era when she sang.

Lata Mangeshkar is to us what breathing is to all beings in the universe: she keeps us alive and kicking.

To many of us she is of our mother’s age. To the younger generation, she is of grand-mother’s and even great-grand-mother’s age.

One can write pages and pages about the number of awards that she has won starting with the highest in India: the Bharat Ratna, as well as the highest in Indian cinema: the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. One can even write about the number of awards that she has graciously declined so as to give the other singers a chance.

Everytime you write about her, you discover something new and yet, she is not just a phenomenon but an era, there is no way that you can ever do justice to a write-up on her. No one can.

All one can say is to play and listen to one’s favourite songs. My list of her top ten favourites has been ready for ages. How are one’s favourites different from hers and anyone else’s? I have explained it several times but here it is again: Your favourite may not have anything to do with the real or acknowledged worth of a singer’s singing prowess. Your favourite evokes the kind of emotions within you that others can’t.

Song #1
Rasik balma dil kyun lagaaya tose dil kyun lagaaya…

She was the favourite of Shankar Jaikishan (and vice-versa) and indeed, the first time that she was credited as a playback singer on screen was in their 1949 movie Barsaat, in a song penned by the great Shailendra.

Shankar-Jaikishan with Lata Mangeshkar (Pic courtesy:
Shankar-Jaikishan with Lata Mangeshkar (Pic courtesy:

It is therefore no surprise that my Choice #1 of her songs for decades now has been a song composed by S-J in Raag Shuddha Kalyan, Tal Kaherava. I happily lived the memories of this song without ever seeing the movie: the 1956 Raj Kapoor movie Chori Chori. I saw the movie last year on my computer but if you really ask me I don’t remember the scene in the movie when Nargis lip-syncs this song; so strong is my own imagined scene of the song!

This one was not penned by Shailendra but by Hasrat Jaipuri.

Lata with Jaikishan (on her left) and Hasrat Jaipuri on her right (Pic courtesy:
Lata with Jaikishan (on her left) and Hasrat Jaipuri on her right (Pic courtesy:

What feelings the songs evoke in me? Well, Lata Mangeshkar’s singing represented the feelings of all the women of that era who were left to pine for their lovers; and she did it so well. When the pardesi or the balma went away (even if in misunderstanding), they had nothing left with them except yaad. Lata sang her best songs in that era whence, sadly, women were not considered the equivalent of men and indeed all the heroines for whom she sang were paid much less than their male counterparts. It is another thing that in the movie, she (Nargis) is the daughter of a millionaire and Raj Kapoor the hero is the poor journalist.

Please enjoy my #1 favourite (consistently) amongst tens of thousands of Lata Mangeshkar’s songs (Some of you who do Cost-Benefit analysis of your time spent on the net in general and on my Facebook group Yaad Kiya Dil Ne in particular would say (secretly though): “In this much of description, I would have put all the five, if not ten!” But then, you are you and I am I and I have never been hard pressed for time!) (I remember the time when by hook and crook a driver overtook me in Mumbai traffic and we stopped parallel to each other on the next traffic light. I lowered my window and asked him, “Bhai sahib, ye jo aap ne peechhe kiya, us se aap ek do minute pehle pahunch jaayenge. Par us ek do minute mein aap kyaa zabardast cheez karne waale hain?” He laughed and laughed and when the lights turned green he saluted me and drove off!): Rasik balma, dil kyun lagaaya tose dil kyun lagaaya; jaise rog lagaaya……

rasik balamaa, haay, dil kyo.n lagaayaa
tose dil kyo.n lagaayaa, jaise rog lagaayaa

jab yaad aaye tihaarii
suurat vo pyaarii pyaarii
nehaa lagaa ke haarii
nehaa lagaa ke haarii
ta.Dapuu.N mai.n Gam kii maarii
rasik balamaa …

Dhuu.Ndhe hai.n paagal nainaa
paaye na ik pal chainaa
Dasatii hai ujda.Dii rainaa
Dasatii hai ujda.Dii rainaa
kaase kahuu.N mai.n bainaa
rasik balamaa …

Song #2
Jaa jaa re jaa baalmava…

Lata ji is as rooted in Raagas as were Shankar Jaikishan. After the Shankar Jaikishan Music Federation Mumbai Meet in Jul this year, my friend Anand Desai gifted us each a CD with 500 of S-J’s Raaga based songs. Quite a few of these have been sung by Lata Mangeshkar.

Not surprisingly then, that the second most favourite Lata song has also been composed by S-J. They chose the same raaga in which my most favourite song ever of any artiste has been composed: Raag Jhinjhoti (and the song everyone in my Facebook group Yaad Kiya Dil Ne knows is Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam). Jhinjhoti is a raaga named after an apsara and Hindi films songs based on it (my own observation) often bring in feelings of self-pity such as in “Tum mujhe youn bhula na paaoge” and “Mere mehboob tujhe” and of course the Mamta song picturised on Suchitra Sen: “Rehte the kabhi jinake dil mein hum jaan se bhi pyaron ki tarah“.

The song is from the 1956 movie Basant Bahaar and its lyrics are a marvel produced by the great Shailendra. Its tal is Tintal.

Why would a song picturised on a courtesan evoke such strong feelings in me? Well, courtesans were essentially a part of our culture. One of them (Anarkali) nearly married a would be emperor. In Shashi Kapoor’s movie Utsav, he brought out how important a courtesan (Rekha as Vasantsena) was in our society. In the movie Amrapali (based on a true story), the king Ajatashatru wages a war to get her (Vyjayanthimala in the title role) and she finally takes to Buddhism! By the way, Amrapali had some of her best songs including the iconic Tumhen yaad karte karte jaayegi rayn saari (also created for her by the team of Shailendra and Shanakar Jaikishan).

Vyjayanthimala lip-synching Lata's Tumhe yaad karte karte in the 1966 movie Amrapali based on true story.
Vyjayanthimala lip-synching Lata’s Tumhe yaad karte karte in the 1966 movie Amrapali based on true story.

Hindi films directors of yore, often used the courtesans to express the feelings of the heroines (eg in Chhote Nawab song, the first song of RD Burman with Lata ji (composed in Raag Malgunji): Ghar aaja ghir aaye badraa saanwariya.

I can go on and on but the song is dear to me. Kumkum as Radhika does a very becoming dance on the song.

Please enjoy: Jaa jaa re jaa baalmwa…….

jaa jaa re jaa, baalamavaa
sautan ke raat bitaa_ii
kaahe karat ab jhuuTii batiyaa.N
jaa jaa re jaa, baalamavaa

Gair ke ghar karii raat jagaa_ii
mose kahe tere binaa nii.nd na aayii
kaiso harajaa_ii daiyyaa
jaa jaa re, jaa baalamavaa …

kaa.Ndhe lagaa laayii bindiyaa kisiikii
jaanuu.N mai.n churaayii tuune nindiyaa kisiikii
laaj na aayii tohe
jaa re jaa, jaa re jaa, jaa re jaa, baalamavaa …

Song #3
Unako ye shikayat hai ke hum kuchh nahin kehate…

What is the common thread that you have noticed in the first two songs that I put up? Naturally, the first thing is Raaga based. Then that the lyrics are very beautiful. So that’s it; my choice of songs is always based on lyrics since I am indeed a Lyrical man.

Talking about good lyrics, some of the best songs of Lata ji have been penned by Rajendra Krishan and Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and in the next two songs I shall give you both.

Rajendra or Rajinder Krishan (Pic courtesy:
Rajendra or Rajinder Krishan (Pic courtesy:

Rajendra or Rajinder Krishan’s 1958 movie Adalat was a major success for him and he cemented his pairing with Madan Mohan to create some of the best Lata Mangeshkar songs. As I never grow tired of saying it, the Top 10 Lata songs have Rajinder Krishan and Madan Mohan in large measure.

Lata ji with her "Madan bhaiyya"
Lata ji with her “Madan bhaiyya”

Adalat starred Pradeep Kumar, Nargis and Pran and the story of her having been forced to become a courtesan is the same as Suchitra Sen’s Mamta or dozens of other pics that Hindi films dished out.

The songs of the movie were not as commonplace as the story and are amongst the best of Lata. Have a look:

1. “Zameen Se Hamen Aasmaan Par” Asha Bhosle, Mohammad Rafi 03:44
2. “Yun Hasraton Ke Daag Mohabbat Mein” Lata Mangeshkar 04:00
3. “Dupatta Mera Malmal Ka” Asha Bhosle, Geeta Dutt 02:49
4. “Jaana Tha Humse Door Bahaane Bana Liye” Lata Mangeshkar 03:20
5. “Unko Yeh Shiqaayat Hai Ki Hum Kuchh Nahin Kehte” Lata Mangeshkar 04:31
6. “Ja Ja Re Ja Saajna (slow)” Lata Mangeshkar
7. “Ja Ja Re Ja Saajna (fast)” Asha Bhosle 05:50
8. “Jab Din Haseen Dil Ho Jawaan” Asha Bhosle, Mohammad Rafi 04:07

Lets start with the lyrics of top most: Youn hasraton ke daag mohabbat mein dho liye. Marvel at the outstanding beauty of the lyrics:

Ghar se chale the ham to khushi ki talaash mein,
Gham raah mein padhe the wahin saath ho liye

And then take up the 4th one: Jaana tha humse door bahaane bana liye and look at these outstanding lyrics:

dil ko mile jo daaG jigar ko mile jo dard
un daulato.n se hamane khazaane banaa liye

But the song with the most powerful lyrics is the 5th one: Unako yeh shikayat hai ke hum kuchh nahin kehate.

This was composed by Madan Mohan in Raag Malgunji, Tal Dadra, the same raag in which RD Burman composed his first Lata song: Ghar aaja ghir aaye badra saanwariya in Chhote Nawab.

Please enjoy: Unako ye shikaayat hai ke ham kuchh nahin kehate….

un ko ye shikAyat hai ke ham, (kuchh nahI.n kahate – 2)
apanI to ye aadat hai ke ham, (kuchh nahI.n kahate – 2)

majabUr bahaut karatA hai ye, (dil to zubaa.n ko – 2)
kuchh aisI hI haalat hai ke ham, (kuchh nahI.n kahate – 2)
apanI to ye aadat …

kahane ko bahaut kuchh thA agar, (kahanepe aate – 2)
duniyA kI inaayat hai ke ham, (kuchh nahI.n kahate – 2)
apanI to ye aadat …

kuchh kahanepe tUfAn (uThA letI hai duniyA – 2)
ab isape qayAmat hai ke ham, (kuchh nahI.n kahate – 2)
apanI to ye aadat …

Song #4
Aap ki nazaron ne samajha pyaar ke kaabil mujhe…

The fourth, as I have already let you know has been penned by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan who started giving us good songs when he was just about 17 years old, viz the 1947 movie Do Bhai (the same year when Shakeel penned his first song Afsaana likh rahi hoon) song sung by Geeta Dutt and composed by SD Burman: Mera sundar sapana beeta gaya, main prem mein sab kuchh haar gayi, bedard zamaana beet gaya.

Why do I like this song from the 1962 movie Anpadh (Illiterate) even though the movie, as seen by me, was just an average movie and the heroine was Mala Sinha who is as far from being my favourite heroine as you can get?

The reason are three. One, the lyrics by Raja are just superb. Look at this expression:

Padh gayi dil pe mere aap ki parchhayiyan,
Har taraf bajane lagi sainkadon shahnaayiyan.

Second is the composition by the maestro Madan Mohan whom Lata ji used to call “Madan bhaiyya”. Some of her best songs have been composed by him including Lag jaa gale se phir ye haseen raat ho na ho (I never get tired of telling you that it is is in Raag Pahadi), Naino mein badra chhaye (Raag Bhimpalasi) and Bairan neend na aaye mohe (Raag Kafi).

Raja Mehdi Ali Khan with Madan Mohan
Raja Mehdi Ali Khan with Madan Mohan

And lastly, the singing by her in her young voice has made this song not only my favourite but that of millions. Madan Mohan composed it in Raag Adana, a raag of late night (the raag being a blend of Raag Darbari Kanada and Malhar) and in Tal Rupaktal.

Please enjoy: Aap ki nazaron ne samajha pyaar ke kaabil mujhe….

aap kii nazaro.n ne samajhaa, pyaar ke kaabil mujhe
dil kii ai dha.Dakan Thahar jaa, mil ga_ii ma.nzil mujhe
aap kii nazaro.n ne samajhaa

jii hame.n ma.nzuur hai, aapakaa ye faisalaa – 2
kah rahii hai har nazar, ba.ndaa-paravar shukariyaa
do jahaa.N kii aaj khushiyaa.N ho ga_ii.n haasil mujhe
aap kii nazaro.n ne samajhaa …

aap kii ma.nzil huu.N mai.n merii ma.nzil aap hai.n – 2
kyuu.N mai.n tuufaan se Daruu.N mere saahil aap hai.n
koii tuufaano.n se kah de, mil gayaa saahil mujhe
aap kii nazaro.n ne samajhaa …

pa.D ga_ii dil par merii, aap kii parchhaa_iyaa.N – 2
har taraf bajane lagii.n saika.Do.n shahanaa_iyaa.N
ha.Nsake apanii zi.ndagii me.n, kar liyaa shaamil mujhe
aap kii nazaro.n ne samajhaa …

© 2016, Sunbyanyname. All rights reserved.

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  1. Selecting five gems from a basketfull of thousands of precious stones can only be done by a “Johari”, and you Sunbyanyname are a Johari of Indian film music. A wonderful selection of Lata ji’s songs and beautiful description of each one of them. One would love to read all the descriptions again and again and listen to all these songs over and over again. Thanks for sharing.