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When Anil Biswas gave Lata Mangeshkar her first hit with ‘Mere Liye Woh Gham-e-intezaar’ – Death anniversary special

On the music director's 15th death anniversary today (31 May), we look back at the song from Anokha Pyar (1948) which was instrumental in launching Mangeshkar to the top.

Sonal Pandya

One of the top music composers of the 1940s and 1950s, Anil Biswas gave up film music in the mid-1960s. In 1963, he became the National Orchestra's director at the All India Radio (AIR) in Delhi. He stayed with AIR until 1975 as chief producer of the Sugam Sangeet programme. Later, he scored the music for Hum Log (1984-85) and many documentaries for the Films Division.

Biswas is known for his film music in Gramophone Singer (1938), Roti (1942), Kismet (1943), Arzoo (1950), and many others. He is also credited with being the first to use a chorus and an Indian orchestra in film music. Many singers like Zohrabai Ambalewali, Talat Mahmood, and Mukesh benefited from Biswas’s vast knowledge of music. He used their voices well.

How music composer Anil Biswas helped Mukesh sing ‘Dil Jalta Hai’

Another such singer was the young Lata Mangeshkar, who got an opportunity to sing 10 songs on the soundtrack of Anokha Pyar (1948) starring Nargis, Dilip Kumar and Nalini Jaywant. The romantic drama featured the three leads in a tragic love triangle. Amongst the 10 songs, the melancholy ‘Mere Liye Woh Gham-e-intezaar’ written by Behzad Lakhnavi stands out.

In the film, the song was picturized on a tearful Nargis as Geeta who remembers her moments with Dilip Kumar's Ashok. Circumstances keep separating the two throughout the film. Lakhnavi’s lyrics speak of Geeta's profound pain at being left in a sadness of waiting.

In a rediff.com article, Mangeshkar said that the song was one of her first hits. Incidentally, the composer met his second wife, Meena Kapoor, during the song recordings for the film.

Mangeshkar said, “There is a very interesting story about the songs of Anokha Pyar. While Anilda's wife and singer Meena Kapoor sang the songs in the film, all the numbers on the album were recorded in my voice. It was Anilda who introduced me to Raj Kapoor. One day, I was recording a song at Mahalaxmi Studios for Anilda when Raj Kapoor walked in. He wanted to hear me sing so he could use my voice for the film Aag (1948).”

In the songs of Anokha Pyar, the young Mangeshkar sounds quite different from the singer who dominated the film music scene in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. There were few producers and composers who were using Mangeshkar and for Anokha Pyar, Biswas used her for quite a number of solos.

Mangeshkar in an old article from January 1958 had recalled: While working on a song, music directors usually have in mind the voice of the singer who is going to sing it. Not so Anil. He does not take into consideration the voice of the singer. Once the song is composed, he would literally pull it out of the singer's throat — successfully.

She also remembered how the composer taught her voice modulation, breath control and how to properly pronounce words on the microphone.

Author Raju Bharatan in Lata Mangeshkar: A Biography wrote, “The breath control Anil Biswas taught Lata at such an early stage, a style of breath control by which she could inhale while singing, without in the least interrupting the melodic flow of, say, an Anil number like 'Mere Liye Woh Gham-e-intezaar Chhod Gaye' from Anokha Pyar is what made her the singer peerless.”

Bharatan also noted that Biswas was responsible from shaping Mangeshkar’s voice and distinguishing her from singers like Noorjehan and Shamshad Begum.

Many composers had a hand in adding to the legend of the nightingale of Indian film music and Biswas’s was a key and instrumental part of her early career.