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5 Hindi film songs by the versatile Rekha Bhardwaj — birthday special

We take a look at Rekha's songs as she proves that she's not just a filmmaker-composer's wife but also a voice to reckon with.

Anita Paikat

Award-wnning singer Rekha Bhardwaj has an identifiable voice. She is adept enough at tackling any mood — flirtatious, sad, chirpy, naughty, folksy, you name it. She is married to filmmaker-composer Vishal Bhardwaj and has often worked with him to create musical magic.

As she turns 54 today (she was born on 24 January 1964), we take a look at five of her Hindi film songs that proved she is not only a filmmaker-composer's wife, but one with a voice to reckon with.

1. 'Namak' — Omkara (2006)

Omkara was Vishal Bhardwaj's second tryst with adapting the Bard, after Maqbool (2004). The film had an ensemble cast including Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Vivek Oberoi, Konkona Sensharma and Naseeruddin Shah. The tragedy had two songs to break the serious tone, both picturized on Bipasha Basu. The first song was 'Beedi' by Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh, Nachiketa Chakraborty and Clinton Cerejo, and the second was 'Namak' sung by Rekha Bhardwaj.

While the former is more of a pop song, the latter was a naughty, seductive piece. While Basu barely manages to pull of the moves, the song is saved by Bhardwaj's perfect rendition. The singer uses modulation in her voice to add to the song's sex appeal.

2. 'Genda Phool' — Delhi-6 (2009)

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Delhi-6 had the topic of Hindu-Muslim unity at its centre. In a mohalla (colony) that has families from different religions live and grow together like a family, 'Genda Phool' represented this familial feeling.

Composed by AR Rahman, 'Genda Phool' is a folk song on the beauty of relationships that go beyond blood-bonds. The act of Rama (Aditi Rao Hydari) singing this number on the terrace along with other women while putting out the pickle to dry itself is a community activity, that is beyond the binds of religion.

Rekha, along with Shraddha Pandit, Mahathi, Sujata Majumder, sang this one in a subdued, soothing manner. Her tight north Indian accent was in contrast with the western music, which fitted well to the mood and theme of the song.

3. 'Ab Mujhe Koi' — Ishqiya (2010)

'Ab Mujhe Koi' was composed and sung by the husband-wife duo — Vishal and Rekha Bhardwaj. While the former penned down a tune that used minimum instruments, the latter made sure her voice lived up to the challenge.

Rekha's voice is not the one that could represent weakness and loneliness. Yet, her rendition of this song encapsulated the betrayal and sadness that Krishna (Vidya Balan) felt when she realizes there is no one left for her to wait for.   

4. 'Phir Le Aya Dil' — Barfi! (2012)

For this one Rekha Bhardwaj had to shed all sorts of raw, crude elements in her voice and resort to a polished, quasi-Urdu intonation. The song was picturized on a woman who picks luxury over love. Although now married to someone else, a chance meeting with her first love makes her realize what she has lost in the bargain.

Rekha emulated the pining of the woman, who let all the happiness she could have had just slip through her fingers, perfectly. Her heavy voice carries the perfect emotion — of loss, hope and redemption.

5. 'Darling' — 7 Khoon Maaf (2011)

Vishal Bhardwaj's 7 Khoon Maaf chronicles the story of a Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes (Priyanka Chopra) who murders all of her seven husbands. One of the husbands is Nikolai Vronsky (Aleksandr Dyachenko), a Russian and 'Darling' celebrates Russian folk music. The song is said to be adapted from the Russian tune, Kalinka.

However, according to a HindustanTimes.com report, a source close to Vishal confirmed, that the tune came from the famous Russian Red Army choir. It said: "It’s also one of the most notable folk songs of Russia and fits perfectly for the portions in which Chopra’s Susanna marries a Russian character, Vronsky, essayed by Aleksandr Dyachenko."

Whatever the case, it rode upon the singer, Rekha and Usha Uthup, to render an Indian touch to the Russian tune, and they did. While retaining the peppy tempo, Rekha (in the lead) manages to add in the crazy quotient that Susanna subscribes to. The stress and slur every times she croons the word 'darling' makes the song stand out from its ilk.