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Birthday special: 10 outstanding songs of singer Sudha Malhotra

On her 81st birthday today (she was born on 30 January 1936), here are a few of her well-known numbers.

Sonal Pandya

Sudha Malhotra’s first musical programme, a charity concert, was for Ghulam Haider and his musicians at age six. That led to a stint as a child artiste at All India Radio in Lahore. After the Partition, Sudha and her family came back to Delhi and later did her schooling in Bhopal.

Upon the recommendation of music composers Husnlal-Bhagatram, she took classical singing lessons from Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan and began singing playback with the film Arzoo (1950).

Despite her young start in playback singing, she gave it up all up after marriage. She was only 23 at the time. Her last recorded song was a duet with Mukesh for Didi (1959). However, her previously recording songs kept releasing long after she retired.

She sang ‘Kabhi Kabhi’ first with Geeta Dutt composed by Khayyam for a Chetan Anand film. The film was never made but it was eventually reused for the Yash Chopra film. In 2013, she was honoured with a Padma Shri.

1. ‘Mila Gaye Nain’ — Arzoo (1950)

The teenage Sudha was given an opportunity to sing her first song by music composer Anil Biswas for Shaheed Latif’s Arzoo (1950). The film was written by Latif’s wife Ismat Chughtai and hero Dilip Kumar displayed shades of grey as his character Badal who wants to disrupt the marriage of his first love, Kammo, after he is presumed dead. The melodious song, written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, was picturised on an equally young Shashikala. Another singer, Talat Mahmood also got his big break in the film.

2. ‘Darshan Do Ghanshyam’ — Narsi Bhagat (1957)

Another unforgettable number is the prayer song ‘Darshan Do Ghanshyam’ that Sudha Malhotra sung along with Hemant Kumar and Manna Dey. Composed by music composer Ravi and written by Gopal Singh Nepali, the song showed up as a question in the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire (2008) directed by Danny Boyle, as part of the quiz contest Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. In the film, the final answer to the question, “The song ‘Darshan Do Ghanshyam’ was written by which famous Indian poet?’ was Surdas, not Gopal Singh Nepali.

3. ‘Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao’ — Didi (1959)

The song about unrequited love is credited to N Datta, but in actuality it is Sudha Malhotra who composed the number herself when Datta was away. It was the only time she composed a song; she would go on to perform it numerous times in her career on request. ‘Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao’, written by Sahir Ludhianvi, is a duet sweetly sung by Malhotra and Mukesh. The number is picturised on Shubha Khote and Sunil Dutt. Khote’s character Radha is in love with Dutt’s character Gopal, who is doted upon by his sister Kamla, played by Jayshree.

4. ‘Kaase Kahun Mann Ki Baat’ — Dhool Ka Phool (1959)

Sudha Malhotra sang once again for N Datta in Yash Chopra’s directorial debut, produced by his elder brother BR Chopra. ‘Kaase Kahun Mann Ki Baat’, written by Sahir Ludhianvi, brought all the principal players of the film, from Ashok Kumar, Mala Sinha, Rajendra Kumar to Nanda, together for a dance performance picturised on the actress Purnima. Malhotra showed off her range as she took on this classically inspired composition by Datta.

5. ‘Salaam-E-Hasrat Qubool Kar Lo’ — Babar (1960)

The poet-lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi was said to be infatuated with Sudha Malhotra, 15 years his junior, when  they first began working on Bhai Behen (1959). Malhotra’s dulcet voice brought alive many of Ludhianvi’s songs in film, and ‘Salaam-E-Hasrat Qubool Kar Lo’ was no exception. Composed by Roshan in the raga Yaman, the song was picturised on actresses Shubha Khote and Azra in the Muslim social, Babar (1960).

6. ‘Kashti Ka Khamosh Safar Hain’ — Girl Friend (1960)

In 1960's Girl Friend, Sudha Malhotra got to sing a beautiful duet with Kishore Kumar for music composer Hemant Kumar. The pairing of Kishore and Sudha was rare and the song itself is a wistful number of things usually left unsaid. The lyrics were again, written by Sahir Ludhianvi. The film, directed by Satyen Bose, starred Kishore Kumar and Waheeda Rehman.

7. ‘Na Main Dhan Chahoon Na Ratan Chahoon’ — Kala Bazar (1960)

For Navketan’s Kala Bazar (1960), composer SD Burman compiled a wide array of singers from Mohammed Rafi to Asha Bhosle to Manna Dey. In this bhajan written by Shailendra, SD Burman chose the voices of Geeta Dutt and Sudha Malhotra. Their voices complemented each other perfectly. The song is picturised on Leela Chitnis and Nanda who play Raghu’s (Dev Anand) mother and sister respectively.

8. ‘Deep Gagan Ke Tum Ho’ — Zameen Ke Tare (1960)

In this inspiring duet with Asha Bhosle for the film Zameen Ke Tare (1960), their voices are almost indistinguishable. The singers lent their voices to the child artistes and siblings, Daisy and Honey Irani. The music for Zameen Ke Tare was composed by S Mohinder and the lyrics were written by Pandit Indra.

9. ‘Na To Karwan Ki Talaash Hai’ — Barsat Ki Rat (1960)

A pivotal qawwali sung by Sudha Malhotra, Manna Dey, and Asha Bhosle from PL Santoshi’s Barsat Ki Rat (1960), ‘Na To Karwan Ki Talaash Hai’, penned by Sahir Ludhianvi, was masterfully composed by Roshan, who had his first musical breakthrough with the film. The singers, including Malhotra, all work off each other well and onscreen. Shyama’s character Shama realises that Bharat Bhushan’s Amaan is not in love with her after all in a very public setting. According to Malhotra in an old interview, the song took a whole day and night to record.

10. ‘Yeh Pyar Tha Ya Kuch Aur Tha’ — Prem Rog (1982)

Sudha Malhotra gave up singing for films after her marriage, though she did perform in stage shows and television programmes occasionally. She was persuaded to return to playback singing for Raj Kapoor’s Prem Rog (1982) with the duet ‘Yeh Pyar Tha Ya Kuch Aur Tha’ with the singer Anwar. The showman personally came to take Malhotra to the studio. The song, a mujra picturised on actress Asha Sachdev, was written by Santosh Anand and composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.