Sep 27 2016

Lata Mangeshkar's best songs 1940s-50s: Birthday series Part 1

by   Shriram Iyengar

Lata Mangeshkar remains the gold standard for playback singing in India. For 7 decades, the singer reigned at the topmost echelons of Indian film music, with grace and poise. On the eve of her 87th birthday, we look back at some of her most memorable songs from each decade through a six-part series. Here are 10 songs from the '40s and '50s that mark the golden reign of the Melody Queen.

1 Hawa mein udta jaaye (Barsaat, 1949) 

The film that laid the foundation for RK Studios, Barsaat is iconic for more than one reason. That magical pose of Raj Kapoor-Nargis aside, it is also the film where Lata Mangeshkar sang for both the leading ladies of the film. This one featured on Nimmi remains a popular number with its folksy touch by Shankar Jaikishen. 

2  Uthaye jaa unke sitam (Andaz, 1949) 

Naushad played one of the most influential roles in the career of the Nightingale of India. His slow composition of this ghazal for Mehboob Khan's Andaz put the esteemed singer's voice on the pedestal of a brilliant orchestra. In addition, there was the soulful face of Nargis emoting for it on screen. 

3 Aayega aanewala (Mahal, 1949) 

The song that established Lata Mangeshkar as a singer non pareil in Hindi cinema, this haunting melody for Khemchand Prakash can still induce gooseflesh. 

4 Ghar aaya mera pardesi (Awara, 1951)

Raj Kapoor's surrealistic dreamscape was built on Shankar Jaikishen's lilting composition and the magical allure of Lata Mangeshkar's voice. As Nargis sways down to welcome Raj Kapoor's vagabond, it is difficult to imagine a sweeter voice that could have sung the song. 

5 Man dole mera tan dole (Nagin, 1951) 

Before there was Sridevi swaying to the tunes of a 'been', there was Vyjayanthimala in Nagin. This hypnotic melody was composed by Hemant Kumar, and sung by the elder Mangeshkar. The 'been' was played by Kalyanji of Kalyanji-Anandji fame. 

6 Thandi hawayen (Naujawan, 1951) 

SD Burman was another composer who can lay claim to modifying Lata Mangeshkar's voice from the shrill template of the 40s to the flirty voice of the 50s. This refreshing song remains one of the Melody Queen's best performances in the 50s. 

7 Mohe bhool gaye saawariya (Baiju Bawra, 1952) 

If melody was an acquired strength, her classical upbringing was Lata Mangeshkar's forte. In Naushad's tribute to the legend of Baiju Bawra, he left this pathos laden composition in Raag Bhairav to the skill of his most talented ward. She did not let him down.

8 Aaja sanam (Chori Chori, 1956) 

A film that spawned many remakes (Dil hai ke maanta nahi, Jab We Met), Chori Chori was a delightful love story brought to life by the presence of Raj Kapoor and Nargis. Backing them up were the vocals of another magical pair, Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar. 

9 Yaad kiya dil ne (Patita, 1953) 

It is very rare that Shankar Jaikishen ventured out of the RK combines in the 50s. Patita was one such occassion. Starring Dev Anand and Usha Kiran in the lead, it had this upbeat song that marked the composers for a bright future. Sung, of course, by Lata Mangeshkar. 

10 Aaja re pardesi (Madhhumati, 1958) 

No one did haunting melodies quite like Lata Mangeshkar in the 50s. In this classic by Bimal Roy, she delivers a song filled with longing, passion, and love. It proved the calibre of a singer already called the 'Queen' in Indian music.