Today morning, I heard Yaara seeli seeli*** for the umpteenth time – a very satisfying and fulfilling number. As the song ended with its impossibly high and collosally breathtaking crescendo, I switched off the player – seeping in the reverberations of the voice that had once again shaken, stirred and stimulated the core of my soul; a thought struck my mind that I hadn’t done any post on Lata Mangeshkarji for a long long time now.
So here is one, a mosaic of memories from my lifetime. I am afraid the post has gone longer than intended, but I didnt have the heart to cut it out, or post it in parts.
For me, discovering songs sung by Latadidi (Lata Mangeshkar) is a passionate quest for a lifetime; and often, the results have been more often than not extremely satisfying.
As I wrote earlier, my love for Lata Mangeshkar’s voice began when I was too young to understand the feeling of love or being enthralled. I was too little to comprehend as to why I was selectively recording her songs when my dad got me a mini-diktaphone. I was too kiddish to grasp as to why my heart beat stopped when I heard her voice soar in the impossibly high-pitched Jahan pe sawera ho**! (Today, I heard the song again and I am convinced they must have invented laser beam hearing her unwavering-hitting-the-soul voice!)
My urge to build my own personal collection began during college years, when I was somewhat financially better off due to a constant stream of pocket money. At that time Lata didi had made a resounding comeback post-Maine Pyar Kiya with a flush of films like Pathar Ke Phool, Lekin, Sanam Bewafa etc. Naturally, these were the first choice for purchase.
Simultaneously, I scoured dad’s old collection, picking up likeable songs and finding their film names. Those were pre-historic times sans internet or google search, so I had to rely on his knowledge and fortify it further with information given by like-minded friends (particularly Bhaskar*, who was quite into old film songs). Hours were spent in various music shops browsing through cassettes to buy the optimum one since the budget was limited and I had to lay my money on the best option. Those were not the days of Music Worlds or Planet M’s either. So, I had to rely on the shop-keepers’ goodness as well. Often, they would be irritated because I would ask for various names.
During the decade of 1990-2000, I built up the volumes in my collection so much so that by the end of that era, I was purchasing albums just for one or two songs, having the rest in some other collection.
A newly opened shop in H-Block of our area was a favorite place. The owner couple became good friends and allowed me to stay on, just looking around at the titles and often (if the cassette wasn’t sealed) playing out some numbers to let me get the feel. I amdit, just looking through album covers provided me a high, and I still enjoy spending time in music-shops.
I recall my desperation when my sister informed that she had heard the title song of Henna at some shop where she had gone shopping that day. Impatiently I waited for evening, and set out to get hold of the cassette. The delight in seeing Lata Mangeshkar’s name listed in all the songs was immeasurable.
Likewise I had kept a keen tab on the audio release of Lamhe and paid several visits to the H-block shop to purchase it, but it hadn’t arrived. I was there when the HMV man came to deliver the cassettes, and I bought my copy straight off his bag; definitely the first buyer to get hold of the album in our area at least! That night, while my parents watched Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahiin on video (a film which I had childishly sworn not to see since it had Anuradha Paudwal’s awful voice, and also because she was trying to rival Didi; I saw the film much later when Paudwal’s career had crumbled), I locked myself in my room and immersed myself in the engrossing strains of Kabhi mai kahuun (Lata Mangeshkar) and Mohe chhedo na (Lata Mangeshkar)on my walkman!
Sadly, that shop had to close down in a few years. I made the best of the clearance sale that the owners held. Some years later, my new haunt was another small shop, in the main market. This one also closed down soon, and had a considerably small collection, but I have to mention the shop since this is where I bought the audio of Singapore – a little known Shammi Kapoor starrer, but with outstanding Shankar Jaikishan compositions. From this shop, I also bought the comeback album of Naushadsaahab and Lata Didi together – the flop Teri Paayal Meri Geet.
At that time, my fulcrum of search rested on two pillars: either they were Lataji’s songs or they were Shankar Jaikishan’s musicals. Since they worked together for quite a long time, buying a combination of their talent helped. During 1990-1993, I bought several of their film audios including Kanhaiya/Mai Nashe Mein Hoon, Hariyali Aur Raasta, Dil Ek Mandir/Dil Apna Preet Paraayi, Singapore, Anari/Chori Chori, Amrapali, Saanjh Aur Savera/Ek Dil Sau Afsaane, Shikast/Poonam and others. Apart from this, of course, I bought several Anmol Rattan-Lata Mangeshkar series that HMV had released. When the money would be lean, Bhaskar and I split the purchase and then record the cassette from each other.
At other times, when she sang only one or two numbers in a film, I would get them recorded. Hence, I have a cassette which I titled Lata Mangeshkar-Songs from 1990-91 that has numbers from both popular films like Ghayal and Thanedaar, but also from lesser heard ones like Farishtay (Saat kunwaron mein ek kunwari (Lata Mangeshkar)and Tere bina jag lagta hai soona (Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd. Aziz)) and one very curiously unheard but an extremely likeable duet Zara sa mujhe chhoona toh dekh kahiin khwaab na ho(Lata Mangeshkar, Amit Kumar) from an ill-fated Raj Babbar-Dimple starrer Karamyodha (composed by an off-beat Ajeet Verman).
When I started earning, I invested a large part of my salary in buying more musiccassettes – all Latadidi! By then, I had purchased a latest model of Sony audio system and after every such purchase, I would rush home and listen to the resounding voice in full glory of surround sound. Bliss couldn’t get a better definition ever!
I still remember the look of horror on my mom’s face when I told her I had bought a 5-CD Legends series collection of Lata Didi for a whopping Rs. 1500 and that, when my net salary wasn’t more than Rs 8-9000!!!!
Alongside music, my other interest is traveling and exploring new areas. Hill-stations excite me a lot and I have been lucky to visit several hill towns in India.
Instead of buying a souvenir that would be later relegated to some obscure shelf in the drawing room, I made a policy of buying one audio cassette from that place. Thus, whenever I listen to the music of Fauj, other than enjoying Latadi’s vivacious number Haaye main marjaawaan tere sadqe jaawaan, it brings back happy memories of the days spent in Mount Abu (during an autumn break in college) – the days when I got allergic to the blanket provided by our hotel and I kept sneezing the entire night, or how I cut my finger with a razor blade (no, the modern and more convenient Gillette Sensor Excels still hadn’t arrived) or how we trudged on its Mall Road leading towards the serene Nakki Jheel. The contours of the melody are irrevocably welded with the intricate marble work at Dilwara Temples and the hushed movement of the music is blended with the uncanny silence of the Kanyakumari Ashram.
Similarly, listening to Yeh Dillagi’s soundtrack refreshes my memory of another visit a few years later in 1994 – this time, to Manali in Himachal Pradesh.
And Calcutta doesn’t so much evoke strong reminiscence of its narrow roads stuffed with over-sized Ambassador Taxis, as it does of the leisurely two-hours spent in the HMV Showroom. There, I bought a lip-smackingly delicious Lata Mangeshkar collection’s vinyl record (I still had the player then), containing some long-forgotten gems.
In 1999, I paid a visit to Bombay due to my company’s training. It was the first (and probably the only) time that I stayed in that claustrophic city for a considerable length of time. Apart from discovering it at length- this included a boat ride at Gateway of India and a visit to a dance bar, I also stepped into the Planet M showroom at the Times of India building on Dr. D.N.Road. (Visit to the road was also monumental in the sense that I had written several letters to Filmfare, with this address and I was curious to see the place where all those missives ended). Planet M hadn’t made a foray in Delhi till then, and it was my first such visit to such a showroom where one could browse audio cassettes, without any hitch or hinderance. I was like Alice in a musical wonderland and came out loaded with fresh CD’s and cassettes!
Likewise, when I came to Agra, one of the first few things I did (other than seeing the Taj, of course) was to enter Planet M and purchase a cassette – needless to say, that of Lata Mangeshkar’s!
Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja
Once, a class-mate (who was doing part-time work for the newly revamped DD Metro channel) told me that he was working on an episode that dealt with film songs from same titles of different era. He added that he was on the look-out for an old Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja. At that time, the newer film with the same title ate up lots of newsprint due to its big budget. The classmate also mentioned that Shankar Jaikishan had composed the music for the older film and that Lata Mangeshkar had sung all the songs, which made my curiousity strong. I wasn’t too close to him, so I couldn’t press further (later, he entered Bollywood and worked in several films; he bowled me over with his superb performance in The Legend of Bhagat Singh). But I filed the name in my memory archives and set out on its search.
Several unfruitful days were spent in Palika Bazar shops to find the album. Given the confusing architecture of the underground Palika Baazar, I would often hilariously reach the same exasperated shopkeeper again and demand for Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja! I don’t think I left any shop un-visited. But the album was nowhere to be found. Thereafter, I had to as much as sight anything resembling a music shop – however small or dilapidated – and ask for this album.
The soundtrack eluded me for several years.
During my first job, I traveled to Gujarat. It was a tough experience for a novice, visiting interior towns like Mehsana, Sabarkantha and Anand (Today, I’d be hardly bothered, but at that time it was nerve-wracking!). Mercifully, the itinary ended at Ahmedabad, from where I was to take a train back to Delhi. Due to the available reservations, I also got a day extra there. Keeping in mind my policy of buying one audio cassette from a new place, I started looking around for music-shops.
It was a hot mid-summer day, and my memory is a bit weakened now. But I know it wasn’t a regular music shop – just an Archies kind of outlet, that has gift items, audiocassettes and greeting cards all together. I wasn’t expecting anything much from there. So imagine my ultimate joy, delight and euphoria when the tackily done blue audio cover with just the name Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja printed in an old fashioned font, beamed up at me!!! It is impossible to describe the sheer magnitude of my excitement when I held the cassette in my hand. I was so excited that my hands were shivering when I picked up the cassette; the shopkeeper didn’t know this, but at that time, I would have readily and gladly paid any price he would have asked for!
Over the course of the years, my search for songs has led me to several joyful moments as well. For example, it was while looking for the song Neelaam ghar mein from Clerk that led me to join the online Fan club of Latadidi on Yahoo Groups. I got the song, but I also made many friends during my interactions there. I also got the privilege of being the moderator for one such fan club- a title that I am mighty proud of, though frankly, I don’t get enough time to do justice to the group. Still, I love the place:- it is like a small sangeet mehfil, with music lovers from diverse backgrounds and differing countries (including non-Indians), all brought together for the love of one voice that evokes instant divinity. Some discussions have been very gratifying, and with one friend in Mumbai I continue to have ‘sms’ chats over Latadi’s songs.
Often, my absence from the blog can be directly linked to a spurt of posts on the group.
Offline, I have discovered many new jewels that I hadn’t originally set out for. This happens when I begin looking for a song armed with just a line or two. For example, I found the enriching Ek baat poochhti hoon when I was searching for a similar worded Mai tumhi se poochhti hoon (Black Cat).
Now, with the rampant usage of internet, finding songs and their details is an easy task. There are several people out there who have devoted so much time and energy to create web-sites and pages only to list out songs and their informations. It is amazing, and often I feel very small and dwarfed at their effort.
Over the years I find that not only have I managed to build up an honorable collection, but also some of them are songs that are rare and now virtually on their way to extinction.
These can be dividided into two categories one, which were always hard to find, but I had managed to get know of them, thanks to my dad’s rich collection recorded from Radio Ceylon. I have conscientiously tried to find those gems, and succeeded in getting their digitized versions.
In this, my friends from the Yahoo Group have aided me; several members have gifted these rare songs, recognizing my need is not because I am a hoarder (oh yes! There is a mercenary lot that keeps the rare numbers for selling purposes) but because of my genuine love for Lata Didi.
The second category is what I call ‘by default rare’ . These are the nineties films, often released on now-defunct music labels, but which I had bought without thinking that they would cease to be on public memory. Films like I Love You or Kanoon, Megha or Vishwasghaat (four Latadi songs composed by an unknown composer duo Shyam Surender, erstwhile assistants to Nadeem Shravann) are forgotten now but I own their cassettes, some on the verge of decay. I hold on to them precariously, hoping to convert them to mp3′s before they completely give up. When I had bought them, I hadn’t imagined that they would be a treasure to behold.
One such name is of a film called Jaan-E- Tamanna, which never got made and was supposed to star Karisma and Saif. It has three Latadidi songs composed by Aadesh Srivastav!
Then there are the songs that I hadn’t known at all, but my friends still gave me, as a beautifully kind gesture. It would be impossible to list them out but I think all such gifts can be epitomized by one song Peeke chale from Paakeezah. Oh! What a delightful discovery it was. I can’t ever thank my friend enough for gifting this! (I had the good luck to meet this friend offline recently, when he came to Delhi from London, where he stays).
When I was in Kathmandu I was living on a very meagre collection (it was next to impossible to carry the entire collection in the limited airways baggage allowance, plus I didnt have the requisite machine to listen to the cassettes). Hence sometimes the desire to listen to one or the other song was so strong that I would at once ping another friend (in Canada) to email it to me. In the due course, he also opened the windows to another set of exceedingly superb songs. His contribution in enhancing my collection can never be ignored.
I must say I am an intense advocate for buying original cassettes/CD’s – for two main reasons: a) Lata Didi gets a royalty from the album sales , so why deprive her her valid income? b) more sales will force the commercially inclined music companies to keep churning out her collections. However, sheepishly I have to admit I broke my own rules in Nepal – both by rampantly asking for songs from friends, as also by buying those pirated mp3 CD’s which prolifiterate every city’s gray market. My only consolation is that I have invested quite a lot in buying genuine audio cassettes and CD’s and might get forgiven for this trespass.
Hawalat -last weekend!
Today, my purchases are few and far between; primarily because most releases by the audio cassette companies (HMV or Universal/Music Inida) are merely unimaginative rehashes of their older collections, and I already have those numbers. The more unheard of numbers come from friends only. Still, if I find a song that I have always yearned for tucked away in a collection, I don’t hesitate in buying it. For example, in Agra I bought a very common Rafi-Lata Mangeshkar duet double-cassette pack, only because it contained Tumhare bin guzaare hain kai din ab na guzrenge from a lost Shankar-Jaikishan film Atmaram!
Yet, Lata didi‘s ouvre is a limitless ocean, where I know there are several gems waiting to be unearthed. For example, I am dying to listen to the music of an old fifties film Mehndi since it is the original Umrao Jaan story, and I am keen to hear Latadidi’s interpretation of the pain of the courtesan which I am hundred percent confident will be much more deep than what Asha Bhonsle or Alka Yagnik gave us.
One other such song is Tere pyaar pe bharosa kar toh loon from an obscure eighties film, which I had heard on FM once. Even a google search couldn’t throw up any definitive clue, except for informing the name of the film Hawalat. I sent out messages on the Yahoo Group also. I was in the impression it was a R D Burman composition. But sadly, no one had the song, though I eventually learnt it wasn’t RD Burman, but Anu Mallik who had composed the music. The tune remained with me and hats off to Mallik for creating a tune that is so easy on lips that with just one hear (and that too only once in my entire lifetime) I had quite memorized it!
Last week, when the posters of Hawalat erupted on the walls quite near my house, curiosity gripped me. The only hitch – the film was re-releasing in a shady hall called Meher – the kind of halls that decent people don’t visit, and which usually put up these eighties Mithun ‘action packed’ flicks at regular intervals. But still, the urge was strong. On Saturday, I ended up at the theater. Admittedly, I felt very odd. Mine was the only car parked. And I hate to say this (and sound awfully condescending), but the few people that had turned up in the cold Saturday evening were mostly from the lower strata of society.
I bought a balcony ticket (for a meager Rs 25) and entered the hall. It scared me to notice that I was the only person in the entire balcony section. The film had already started, and it was pitch black. The screen displayed some banter by Rishi Kapoor, one of the heroes. With more than just edgy nervousness, I sat in the nearest seat to the door, and kept hallucinating about what would happen should the management lock the door forgetting that a sole patron sat inside. During interval, I took a quick tour of the hall – shady and seedy, it was a derelict place, with stains all over the place; smelly rubbish cans, overflowing with spit, cigarrette butts and paan remnants; and dusty unswept floor. The balcony seats were ok, but a quick peek into the lower stall made me realise the extent of decay in the hall.
The movie print was horrendously poor, with visible lines of over-use. In between, it would blank out, when probably the reel changed, and there would be hoots and calls from the lower stalls. The voice quality was barely ok.
In all this, I prayed that I had come to the correct film, and that the song would come on soon, so that I can leave immediately. Till interval, there was no sign of the number, and it kept me guessing as to which of the three heroines ( Padmini Kolhapure, Mandakini and Anita Raj) would lip-sync it. To my horror, even the story had moved on to more serious aspects, and I wasnt sure as to how the director would place a song that sounded a romantic one.
During interval, I also realised that they closed the gates, hence there wasnt any chance of leaving immediately after the song.
Finally, the song came on. And boy was I delighted! It was sheer bliss to hear Lata Mangeshkar ‘s sweet and mellifluous voice, despite not a very robust sound system. I found the song was better than I had imagined! That subtle force at the word ‘jhooti’ and the intoxicatingly languid ‘dil’ were a delight to hear. Even Dilip Tahil’s ‘rapa paara,raapa paara’ added to the masti of the number.
The situation is vastly different from what I had imagined. The song comes at a place where Padmini Kolhapure is caught in the villain’s den; she sings the song to divert the attention of the villains ( Prem Chopra, Dilip Tahil) so that she and some other captives can run off. Quite a sensuous number, very unlike what I had thought.
Throughout the number, I forgot where I was, and was in a rapturous awe, and in a way, it was good I was alone there!
The song continues to dodge me. I have hunted for it at various shops. I have furrowed through the webspace to get any version of it. Yet, no good luck till now. Another such number, from yet another Mithun-da eighties flick is ‘Ram kare ke umar qaid humein saath saath ho jaaye re’ from Aadat Se Majboor (Music by Usha Khanna, if I am not too wrong!)
Maati Maangey Khoon
Last night, I got the chance of watching another film having songs that I have searched for eagerly – Raj Khosla’s eighties blunder Maati Maange Khoon. The film has four Latadidi solos – and each one is a nugget to be treasured. The best of the lot is Sang sang saari duniya le hum dono ka naam, ang lagake Shyam kardo Radha ko badnaam, followed by Lo saahib mai bhool gayii (a song mentioned in this post here). The film – a longwinding saga about poor kisaans v/s rich thakurs, with dacoit angle awkwardly juxtaposed on it) starred Shatrughan Sinha, Rekha, Reena Roy, Amjad Khan and Raj Babbar. In fact, Rekha has the most ‘musical’ role in the film – if she is on screen, she sings a song. I could catch only one small scene where she didnt break into a song. I think her dubbing portion would have got over in half a day itself. Nevertheless, I sat through the rut, to pick up Latadi‘s mindblowing rendition of the songs.
I sincerely appreciate your patience and tolerance for the sake of Lataji’s songs where such flop films are concerned.
I don’t think I can ever claim I am ‘patient’ and ‘tolerant’, but yes I do get an indescribable energy when it comes to listening to Latadidi‘s voice. Once again I feel that words are blunt tools to describe the magnitude of emotions that I go through whenever I hear her voice. Of course, I have songs that are ‘more favorites’ than the other – but if it is a Lataji song, I would naturally give it more than a casual hear. And in the end, sometimes it doesnt matter what the tune is or what the lyrics are – it all melts down to that voice – the voice which is part of my heart, my soul and my very existence!
Alongwith the sweetness that she has added to my life, Latadidi has gifted me a quest for lifetime – a quest that has given me uncountable memorable moments, and one that I hope never ends, so that I continue to be enthralled and surprised by discovering more and more songs.
Long live Lata Didi!
**’Jahan pe saveraa ho from Baseraa; Music: RD Burman; Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
*** Yaara seeli seeli from Lekin; Music: Hridayanath Mangeshkar; Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
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