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14 February 2022

Love Songs - Lata Mangeshkar

1929 - Eternity

I don’t usually do Valentine’s Day posts. But in the days following Lata Mangeshkar’s demise, I – like many others all over the world – immersed myself in her songs. Sometimes, it was the sad songs because they reflected the mood I was in then. At other times, I sought out her happy songs, the light-hearted ones that made me smile despite the lingering sadness. In the spirit of the day, therefore, I thought I would write up my favourite love songs – after all, what’s more hopeful than love? But many of my favourite love songs are duets – Ye raat bheegi bheegi, Nain mile nain hue baawre, Yaad kiya dil ne kahaan ho tum, Do sitaron ka zameen par, Koi bata de dil hai kahaanand I wanted to restrict myself to her solo songs. But as I began to collate them, I realised that not all love songs are happy ones. After all, sadness, despair and even heartbreak are a part of love. But I don’t want to be sad. 

Lata had lived a full life, had a great career, been feted and awarded. Most importantly, she had lived life on her own terms and without regrets. She had loved to visit Los Angeles, get into her jeans and play the slot machines. She had loved diamonds and reality shows. So if I really wanted to celebrate her, I thought to myself, let me restrict myself to the happier shades of love. So here they are, the many moods of love: some subdued, some exuberant, some reflective. But none that are sad or despairing.

There comes a time in life when you ache to be loved in a way you haven’t been loved before. It’s an amorphous feeling, not tied to any particular person but to the idea of being in love. There must be someone out there who is destined for you – you’re willing to wait.

She’s a will-o’-the-wisp seen through the mountain mists, a woodland sprite glimpsed for a moment before she disappears. All that one hears is her song, a haunting plaint that beckons the listener to follow, for she has been waiting many lifetimes for her lover. Will he appear?
Tum sang janam janam ke phere
Bhool gaye kyun saajan mere
Tadpat hoon main saanjh savera
Aa ja re, main to kab se khadi is paar
Ye akhiyaan thak gayi panth nihaar
Lata’s voice is ethereal.

Na jaane kyun / Chhoti Si Baat (1976) /Salil Choudhury / Yogesh)
She has met someone who she knows likes her. How much, she doesn’t know yet though he follows her around like a lovesick puppy. And she has not given him any sign of her own interest. She isn’t even sure what she really feels. Does she love him? Does she not? But when he disappears without a word, she finds that she misses him, and remembers every tiny detail about him. Why?
Na jaane kyun
Hota hai ye zindagi ke saath
Achanak ye man
Kisi ke jaane ke baad
Kar phir us ki yaad
Choti choti si baat… na jaane kyun
Phaili hui hai sapno.n ki baahe / House No. 44 (1955)/ SD Burman/ Sahir Ludhianvi
There’s a certain innocent sweetness to first love. That first realisation that someone special has become so important, to happiness; the hope that they feel the same way, the dreams of ‘forever’.  Here she is happily, exuberantly in love. Dreams beckon… a place where they can touch the stars, forget their sorrows, never look back.

Jhoola dhanak ka dheere dheere hum jhoolein
Ambar to kya hai taaron ke bhi lab choo lein
Masti mein jhoomein aur sabhi gham bhoolein
Dekhe na peechhe mud ke nigaahein
Aaja chal de kahiin door
My other pick for this mood is the beautiful Sajna mera dil tera dil from Jhoola, where she tells her lover not to let the world know that they are in love.

 Zara si aahat hoti hai / Haqeeqat / Madan Mohan / Kaifi Azmi
The worst part of being in love is waiting for the loved one to appear. Every whisper, every rustle of sound makes her wonder whether it is the person she is eagerly waiting for.

Zara si aahat hoti hai
To dil sochta hai
Kahiin ye woh to nahin..
It is all the more worrying because the person she’s waiting for is a soldier at the front. As the wind tugs at her veil, she wonders:
Shakl phirti hai nigaahon mein wohi pyaari si
Meri nas nas mein machalne lagi chingaari si
Chhuu gayi jism mera kis ke daaman ke hawa
Kahiin ye woh to nahiin…
Beimaan tore nainwa / Tarana (1951) / Anil Biswas /DN Madhok
Sometimes, it is enough to just spend time with your beloved. As fingers clasp and unclasp, trail gently over faces and through tresses, eyes meet in half smiles, as she exhorts her lover to sleep. (Though who can go to sleep when Madhubala looks so luminous, pray tell?)

Le moond ke akhiyaan tanik zara
Baithi hoon yahin main na ghabraa
Raat jaaye palak tose jhapki na jaaye
Beimaan tore nainwaa nindiya na aaye
The other equally beautiful romantic number is Meri aankhon mein bas gaya koyi re from Barsaat.
Muskaaye jab raat ki bindiya (she sings)
Ud jaaye aankhon ki nindiya
Thandi thandi main aahein bharoon
Haaye main kya karuun
It appears that falling in love is yet another way of inviting insomnia into your lives.
Jurm-e-ulfat pe log sazaa dete hai.n / Taj Mahal (1963) / Roshan / Sahir Ludhianvi
What happens to their love when it faces barriers? When her beloved is a prince of the realm, and she cannot aspire to be his queen? When she becomes a pawn in the battle for the throne? Anjuman Bano walks in, uninvited and unwelcome, into the mehfil of her aunt, Noor Jehan to sing:
Takht kya cheez hai aur laal-o-Jawahar kya hai
Ishqwaale to khudaaii bhi lutaa dete hai
Not for her the throne or precious jewels; all she cares for is her love for the prince, and his, for her.
Humne dil de bhi diya ahd-e-wafa le bhi liya
Aap ab shauk se de dein jo sazaa dete hai.n
The anthem of rebellious love is another Lata solo, Pyar kiya to darna kya, where a courtesan dares to challenge an incensed emperor:
Aaj kahenge dil ka fasaana
Jaan bhi le le chaahe zamaana
Maut wohi jo duniya dekhe
Ghut ghut kar yun marna kya
But this song, with its quiet defiance, is a favourite of mine.
Sakhi ri mera / Chitralekha (1964) / Roshan / Sahir Ludhianvi
He’s the commander-in-chief of the kingdom’s army, after all. But now, he’s back, victorious, and she is eagerly awaiting his arrival. Unlike the other men she knows, this man has neither praised her beauty nor vowed eternal devotion. But he’s captured her heart, and as she bathes and gets ready for his arrival, she wonders if he will visit her. Her restlessness can be assuaged only by his presence.

Saans bhi loon to aanch si aaye
Kanchan kaaya pighli jaaye
Adhron mein trishna bole
Ab chain pade tab hi jab unse milan ho le
Sakhri ri mera man uljhe tan dole
Dil jo na keh saka / Bheegi Raat (1965) / Roshan / Majrooh Sultanpuri
Love knows no walls between lovers. Where is the embarrassment in telling your beloved that you love him, desire him? She certainly doesn’t feel any, mingling both playfulness and seductiveness as she makes her feelings explicitly clear.
Ab tak dabii thi ek mauj-e-armaan
Lab tak jo aayi ban gayii hai toofaan
Ho baat pyaar ki bahakti
Bahakti nigaahon se kehne ki raat aayi hai
Dil jo na keh saka
Tumhe yaad karte karte / Amrapali (1966) / Shankar-Jaikishan / Shailendra
Passionate, seductive, restrained, this is a song of yearning, a desire for her beloved’s presence, as she waits for him to return to her. And only he can save her from the burning pangs of separation, the sleepless nights that his absence has provoked.

Birha ki is chita se
Tum hi mujhe nikaalo
Jo tum na aa sako to
Mujhe swapn mein bula lo
Mujhe aise na jalaao
Meri preet hai tumhaari
Tum le gaye ho apne
Sang neend bhi hamaari
Tumhe yaad karte karte

Sun ri sakhi more / Nagin (1954) / Hemant Kumar / Rajinder Krishan
She’s his, forever, and it’s time to go home to him. “Hurry,” she tells her friends, “help me get ready.” She can hear the notes of his flute; it’s their secret signal – he’s waiting. But she wants to look her best for him – kohl in her eyes, a vermilion dot on her forehead and the parting of her hair, a colourful veil, and flowers to bedeck her palanquin. Quick, before he leaves, but… where are her anklets?

Bansi ki dhun pe bulaaye mora chhalia
Laao ri, kahaan hai nigodi paayaliya
Maang bharo mat der karo
Kahiin rooth na jaaye saa.nwariyaa
Mohe jaana hai pii ki nagariya

For Lata Mangeshkar, with gratitude, for the many, many hours of listening pleasure that you have afforded me, us.

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