Lata Mangeshkar first sang a song at the age of thirteen in a Marathi film Gajaabhaau in 1943. Her last recorded song came out in 2019 as a tribute song for the armed forces. That’s a career spanning more than 7 decades and longer than the time India has been independent. Having sung songs in almost every Indian language one can think of, Lata ji is often referred to as the Queen of Melody or Nightingale of India. She has left such an indelible mark on the Indian music industry that even today her songs are the barometer against which a young singer tests themselves. She was a genius who just with her sheer vocal talent mesmerized generations across the world or as Dilip Kumar once said, “Lata Mangeshkar ki awaaz kudrat ki takhleek ka ek karishma hain”. Karishma (miracle) she was. Here below I list down my five favourite songs that I will always relate to her.
Lag Jaa Gale – Woh Kaun Thi
Hands down my favourite Lata Mangeshkar song of all time, ‘Lag Jaa Gale’ is a song that I can listen to repeatedly without any fatigue. With music by Madan Mohan and some of the most soulful lyrics by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, the melody is such that it tugs at the heartstrings ever so gently, making you fondly reminisce of a time that you shared with your loved ones and how little of it we actually have left to savour. With lines like ‘Jee bhar ke dekh lijiye humko Qareeb se, phir aapke naseeb mein ye baat ho na ho’, it reminds you to sometimes pause and cherish that time.
Luka Chhupi- Rang De Basanti
A moving piece about a mother’s cry for her (dead) son, Luka Chhupi is Lata ji at her melodious best. Set to a wonderful on screen act by Waheeda Rehman, the pain and anguish is so well translated by her voice that even today when the song plays, it brings a lump to the throat. She captures the exact mood that such a situation is expected to have and does it with empathy. It also helps that AR Rahman provides a soaring tune that aptly captures the love that a mother and her son share which goes beyond any other love.
Do Pal/Tere Liye – Veer Zaara
In possibly one of the finest music albums from the 2000s in Veer Zaara, Lata Mangeshkar delivered absolute gems in both Do Pal and Tere Liye. With soothing tunes by the Late Madan Mohan that were recreated for the film, both songs which are essentially about separation and longing have Lata ji stamp her authority over the songs. She had infused the songs with a beautiful melancholy that was relevant to heartbreak and which made me smile. Her initial powerful alaap in Do Pal is a thing of absolute beauty.
Ajeeb Daastan Hai Yeh – Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai
An absolute classic, Ajeeb Daastan has Lata Mangeshkar at the peak of her career. With some mesmerising lyrics by Shailendra and an upbeat track on what is an essentially romantically sad song, the piece to this day remains relevant and acts as a mirror to some of the more deeper and philosophical thoughts that are relevant to the complexity of love and relationships. Lata ji typically adds a touch of sweetness to the song, making it a bittersweet reflective piece.
Tere Bina Zindagi – Aandhi
A wonderful duet between Lata ji and the eccentric Kishore Kumar, Tere Bina Zindagi is an evergreen song from the Gulzar-RD Burman combo. Originally inspired by a Bengali tune, the song aptly captures the essence that the film, a political drama partly inspired by the life of then PM Indira Gandhi was trying to establish. The song like all classics of the golden era from the 60’s and 70’s wonderfully marries pathos, emotion, desire and love in a harmonious manner.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.