The Living Goddess I’ve known…

The morning on Sunday was far from happy. The sun rose rather late and nature itself was sombre. She seemed to be rather subdued when we walked the usual 5 Km, as if she had a foreboding of what was to happen. A few minutes after 8, I heard weird sounds and cries while outdoors. My joy of sighting and getting good pictures of a Golden Eagle was cut short abruptly by the odd goings on. My weekend abode is far from the madding crowd in the lap of relatively unspoiled nature. I then got a devastating news from a good friend. My initial response to him was “Please don’t spread unverified rumours”. To which he said : “I am 100% sure, Sir. This was just released on Times of India news”.

An innumerable number of emotions went through me, benumbing me. Aruna saw the changed expression, (as I do emote better than Priya Rajvansh and a number of unmentionable subhuman primates that infested Bollywood) and asked me what was the matter. I told her the contents of the message from Naresh Sajwani. Gold, our foster quadruped son stopped eating his morning meal.

I was scheduled to do a radio program on Monday the 7th Of February. I got a call from my host on AIR Delhi FM Gold, Kiran Misra ji telling me we should change the artiste for the program. I agreed without any hesitation.


The one voice 5 generations of Indians have definitely heard hundreds of thousands of times, every single day of their lives, multiple times a day without anyone ever tiring of doing so, has been silenced in the physical form.

Her priceless musical legacy will always be with us, as will the countless songs she sang in every conceivable genre in every language of our great country from the time the tiny wisp of a famous actor-singer of the Marathi stage, started singing at 9 years of age, over the eight decades that she was singing. Noted for her distinctive voice and a vocal range that extended over more than three octaves, her career spanned more than six decades, and she has astoundingly recorded songs for the soundtracks of more than 2,000 Indian films.

The only two things that really bind us as a nation – with all our differences- are Cricket & Film (music). No voice will be as easily recognized as hers by more in recorded human history.

Lata Mangeshkar, the nightingale’s voice is the soundtrack to our lives and the legendary singer leaves behind a legacy of evergreen musical gems through her timeless, divine voice. Transcending boundaries of region and language, Latadidi became an indelible part of every music lover’s life ever since her debut as a singer in the 1940s. With songs in over a thousand Hindi films and thirty-six Indian languages, there is seldom an occasion or a mood that can’t be complemented by her songs. The icon has left behind an unparalleled body of work and scores of ardent admirers.
Born on September 28, 1929, to a Maharashtrian musician Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar and Shevanti, she was originally named Hema, and was the eldest of five siblings, including Asha Bhosle, Meena Khadikar, Usha Mangeshkar and Hridaynath Mangeshkar.

Deenanath had first married Narmada, the daughter of a Gujarati businessman Seth Haridas Ramdas Lad, when the lady was 19 years old and he was 21. They had a daughter that was christened Latika, but she died in her infancy, as did her mother. Deenanath thereafter married her younger sister Shevanti, that Deenanath renamed Sudhamati. The oldest born daughter, named Hema, was fondly called Lata by her father, in memory of his first born, (deceased), daughter. The name stuck and in fact few would know of a Hema Mangeshkar.

Following her father’s death when she was not yet 13, Latadidi rendered one of her first songs for the 1942 Marathi movie made by Vasant Joglekar Kiti Hasaal. (the song sadly didn’t make it to the final cut) This was followed by songs in a few Hindi films until she first tasted success in 1948 with a song by composer Ghulam Haider, who also mentored the singer.
Then came the 1950s and there was really no stopping the legend from ruling the hearts of music lovers. Throughout the decade, she collaborated with composers such as Anil Biswas, Chitalkar (C Ramchandra), Shankar Jaikishan, Hemant Kumar, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Kalyanji Anandji, Naushad, SD Burman, Salil Chowdhury, Ravi, RD Burman and Madan Mohan, among scores of others. Barring OP Nayyar I can’t think of a single composer in Bollywood music who didn’t want Lata to render their creations.
With several hits up her sleeves she continued her matchless, seemingly eternal musical journey. She could sing classical based songs, ballads and bhajans and all these to perfection, with Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo, she presented the country with a patriotic fervour with an underpinning of tragic sorrow that held the power to move her listeners to tears. Throughout the subsequent decades, she recorded duets with the greatest male playback singers of the era and her undisputed reign continued through the 1980s and 1990s. By working with icons such as the composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal, RD Burman, and Shiv-Hari, the singer pleased a billion with rare gems.
She remained the dream collaborator for a new crop of composers in the 1990s including the Academy Award winner AR Rahman.

With unforgettable hits came innumerable national and international accolades. She received the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, which was presented to her in 2001. She had also received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award as well as the Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan. From overseas came the Légion dhonneur, France’s highest civilian award. With three National Film Awards to her name, Latadidi also held the distinction of becoming the first Indian to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1974.

As we mourn her loss, Latadidi leaves behind a billion plus inconsolable fans and an enduring legacy – one that will outlast those of my generation who were fortunate enough to watch her career unfold and progress.

For the program, we were constrained by uncompromising limitations of time available, this selection just represents the handful of songs I thought I should present as a tribute. I am only too aware that every Indian of all manner of description would have his/her choice which can be at variance. The sheer volume of quality songs that she has managed to create is astounding and even if I were to include a list of say 5000 songs, there will be innumerable fans pulling me up for the ones that were not included, and for a great reason. Please accept my sincere apologies if that happens on this selection, I concede your choice could be better than mine.

Here is a complete recording of the program on AIR Delhi FM Gold , broadcast on Monday 7th February 2022 .

1. “Aayega Aanewala”, is a song from Mahal made in the late 40s, that made Latadidi a household name. In keeping with the trend of the times, in the first batch of records, Aaayega aanewala was credited to Madhubala’s character, Kamini. When the song first played on All India Radio or other radio stations, thousands of enchanted and mesmerised listeners called in to enquire about the singer’s name. AIR officials actually didn’t know the name of the singer and were forced to mcall up the record company before announcing Lata Mangeshkar’s name on air and made her an overnight huge star, much like Mahal’s teenage leading lady, Madhubala. This made the recording company credit her by her name on subsequent batches of the record and changed the trend forever in India. This is a way, gave the playback singers a public identity and brought them into the limelight from the darkness of staying in the background.
To the present generation of music lovers, the name Khemchand Prakash, also known as Khemraj, might be totally unknown but he was the man who raised Latadidi’s popularity to new stratospheric heights by composing the memorable score of ‘Mahal,’ epitomised by the immortal song, “Aayega Aanewala.

Khemchand Prakash was actually in trouble when the powerful Ranjit Movietone owner, Chandulal Shah, started disapproving of his
association with the outside producers and the rift came to a head when Shah refused to let Khemchand Prakash use a raw voice for a song. “I don’t want an unknown voice in my film.” Shah told off KP but KP walked out of Ranjit Movietone. The “unknown voice” was that of young Lata Mangeshkar’s! (Latadidi had been recommended to Khemchand Prakash by none other than the Bhishmapitamah of Bollywood music, the venerable Anil Biswas, and he took an instant liking for her mellifluous voice.)

The song Aayega aane wala aayega, which rocketed Latadidi to unprecedented fame and popularity in those days and is still popular on the radio years later is from the film Mahal which is a story of reincarnation and a haunted palace. It had seven songs in it, of which Aayega Aanewala became an all time superhit.

By now the music composers had begun to use Western instruments in film songs, and for this haunting melody, Khemchand Prakash had made beautiful use of broken chords on the piano in the background of this song, with rhythm on the bass guitar and the tabla, and countermelodies on the violins. Aayega Aanewala also uses a major scale.

The 1950s and ’60s are considered to be the “golden era” of Hindi film music. This is the period during which the art of blending Indian classical and folk themes with elements of Western Classical Music like harmony and Western rhythms matured. They also began to use large orchestras to accompany the vocals, consisting of instruments from all parts of India and the world. They perfected the art of using musical interludes and counter melodies in songs, which until then had just one or two instruments accompanying the vocals. The beauty is that they did all this without compromising on the basic “Indian-ness” of the songs and background music in the films.
Against the backdrop of the bewitch­ing black and white celluloid imagery, and Madhubala’s ethereal beauty, the mesmerizing song was a superhit. It was an unforget­table, haunting audiovisual odyssey. An odyssey that marked the birth of a new era. It was a crucial period in Indian his­tory around the time independence had been achieved.

Ghulam Haider was a big name among Hindi film music com­posers those days. With his super-successful soundtrack of Khazanchi, he had brought in the rhythmic Punjabi-style to the fore. So when he started praising a new female singer as a potential musical genius, many an eyebrow went up. Most of those ‘knowl­edgeable’ people just laughed off Haider’s prophecy.

How could a tiny, teenaged, wisp of a girl survive in Hindi film music? That era belonged to robust, Punjabi voices like Shamshad Begum, Zohrabai Ambale­wali, Amirbai Karnataki and Noor Je­han. Yet somehow composers like Shyamsunder, Husnlal-Bhagatram, Anil Biswas and Naushad started discovering something new, something different in that girl’s voice. Soon her songs in films like Badi Bahen and Chandni Raat were played frequently on the juke-boxes. But most of those songs had an unmistakable Noor Jehanesque tinge and failed to establish her uniqueness and distinctive identity . But this was set to change very soon and for that destiny had correctly chosen Khemc­hand Prakash. This veteran composer from Rajasthan had already made his musical mark in films made by Ranjit Movietone– a famous film-studio of those days. Even bigwigs like Naushad had worked as his assistant early in their career. When he couldn’t convince Ranjit Movietone’s owner Sardar Chandulal Shah to take Latadidi as his singer, he just left the job and entered the rival studio, Bombay Talkies.

That was the time when Bombay Talkies were planning to make Mahal – a movie with a seemingly supernatural, mysterious storyline which was to be the first-ever Hindi film of this genre. Kamal Amrohi was entrusted with the job of directing the film and Khemchand Prakash chosen to be the composer.
‘Masterji’ – as he was fondly called, ­selected Latadidi and Nakshab Jarchavi to pen the lyrics of the theme song.

Usha Mangeshkar has this to say about the song’s recording, “The final rehearsal started at 6 p.m. and the song was re­corded at 7 a.m. the next morning!” ‘Aayega Aanewala’ had well and truly arrived.
The song made history on Radio Ceylon- the premier radio-station of that time.
According to the prevailing custom, the gramophone record carried the singer’s name as Kamini– the character played by Madhubala in the film but the radio-station director-who was deluged with thousands of listeners’ letters, finally had to find out the real name of the singer and then it was announced- “Singer- Lata Mangeshkar”. From then on, that name was to become an integral part of Indian music.

The song is a musical gem with fine, intricate facets. Right from the moment it starts with the couplet- ‘Khamosh Hai Zamana, Chupchap Hain Sitaare’, it creates a bone-chilling, haunting atmosphere that was truly unprecedented. The orchestration with piano, violins, bass guitar and tabla is limited in number and yet so effective. It blends beautifully into the texture of the song without ever distracting from the lilting melody. The fabulous aspect is the expressiveness of Latadidi’s voice- so mysterious, so moving and so magical! A voice that had been decried by Chandulal Shah as being too “thin” (Aawaaz badi patlee hai is ladki ki….)
Little wonder then that practically every golden era composer ­: Naushad, S.D.Burman, Madan Mohan, Jaikishan, Khayyam or Salil Choudhury would admit to tracing their fascination with Latadidi’s voice to this particular song. This was the song that really once and for all times, made these composers aware of the tremendous range and potential of her voice. They had found a voice for which they could conceive any tune and were sure that Latadidi would do more than full justice. So in that respect this was the song that made Latadidi what she became. But amazingly, Latadidi did not even get the due payment for the song which opened the floodgates of success for her.
‘Aayega Aanewala’ was also to be the forerun­ner of many a haunting song – a genre in itself. ‘Aaja Re Pardesi’ (Madhumati), ‘Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil’ (Bees Saal Baad), ‘Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat’ (Kohraa), ‘Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim’ (Woh Kaun Thi), ‘Aye Mere Dil-e-nadaan’ (Tower House), ‘Saathi Re Tujh Bin Jiya Udas Re’ (Poonam Ki Raat), ‘Yeh Raat Bhi Jaa Rahi Hai’ (Sau Saal Baad) , ‘Gumnaam Hai Koi’ (Gumnaam) – so many songs followed the ‘haunted’ path in its wake. In fact, Latadidi’s surreal, ethereal voice became the standard instrument of expression for such songs. Yes, as exceptions we did get to hear such songs in other voices like Rafisaab’s ‘Sau Baar Janam Lenge’, as well as by other greats like Ashatai and Kishoreda. Many of these haunting songs definitely became popular in their own right but none could really surpass what ‘Aayega Aanewala’ achieved in terms of creativity and cultural impact. Such events with massive impact just happens once in a millennium- like Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, like Leonardo’s ‘Monalisa’, like Latadidi’s ‘Aayega Aanewala’. The audience and aficionados of Bollywood Film Music watched the same mutely, as admiring witnesses to the changed course of history!

As an interesting vignette, while recording this song, the microphone was kept in the middle of the room and she had to start singing from one end of the room and come towards the microphone. This was a innovation out of Khemchand Prakash’s creative mind to create the desired effect. The timing of singing and coming towards the microphone should have been so perfect that when she would reach close to the microphone the part ‘Aayega Aanewala’ would start. It was only after multiple attempts the recording could be done correctly.

2. Her countless songs keep echoing, rekindling memories and her voice share one’s emotions, providing an expression to the unexpressed.
O Sajana Barakha Bahar Aayi from Bimalda’s Parakh, is the song that defines Latadidi and out of her myriad memorable songs, this song represents the true essence of her unique virtuosity. Free-flowing like a river and fragrantly fresh like a blooming flower, her voice is really one to die for in this song. Perfection personified with a rare intensity and divine sweetness, expressiveness and erudition; all the precious qualities of her singing shine through this exquisite rendition.

In fact this song was first recorded as a Bengali non-film song. Initially composer Salil Chowdhury was none-too-happy about his tune because of some negative, rather snide remarks from his colleagues. He himself, almost reluctantly wrote the Bengali lyrics for “Na Jeo Na“, just before the recording. That day Latadidi was unwell and yet, the song went on to become a huge hit in Bangla.
The legendary Bimal Roy chose this tune for his Hindi film Parakh and picturised it beautifully on an absolutely stunning Sadhana enjoying the first monsoon drizzle while fondly remembering her beloved. Who else but Shailendra could write such tenderly poetic and romantic lyrics?
With a sitar, a tabla, a jaltarang, a flute and a few violins, Salilda provided just the basic minimum orchestral backdrop and let Latadidi’s magical vocal artistry take over. Simple as it might seem, this Khamaj raga-based classical tune has just too many musical intricacies that only Latadidi could do justice to. A lesser singer would trip and fall flat. Listening to Latadidi’s delicate runs and bridges in the lines – Aisi Rimjhim Mein O Sajan Pyaase Pyaase Mere Nayan/ Tere Hi Khwab Mein Kho Gaye , is simply breath taking and further when she sings Saanwari Saloni Ghata Jab Jab Chhaayi/ Ankhiyon Mein Raina Gayi Nindiya Na Aayi, and the way she mouths the word ‘Ghata’ is pure magic! Salil Chowdhury who also happens to be story-writer of the film, selected Raag Khamaj, a late evening raag of Khamaj Thaat, and of Shringar Ras. The Taal he used was Keherva.

This composition was actually conceived by Salilda when his car was caught in a sudden downpour and he heard the swishing of his car wipers. Indeed, this song’s rhythm comes closest to the feel of the pitter-patter of rain, especially in the antaras: “Aise rimjhim mein ho sajan, pyaase pyaase mere nayan, tere hi khwaab mein kho gaye…”
Raags in Khamaj Thaat include other equally melodious raags like Rageshri, Jhinjhoti, Jaijaivanti, Des or Desh, and Tilak Kamod.

3. Woh Bhuli Daastaan is based on Raag Charukeshi, is from the early 60s film Sanjog. While Madan Mohan-Lata Mangeshkar weaved one more strand of their magical fabric, even the goose bumps stood up in rapturous applause.
Like O P Nayyar once famously said, “it is difficult to figure out whether Madan Mohan was made for Lata Mangeshkar or vice versa“. But, he added, there has never been a composer like Madan Mohan or a singer like Lata. Is it therefore not even more surprising that OPN never used Lata for his own compositions or was it just an egotistical statement that he did not need Lata to become famous and succeed, that he could achieve despite NOT using Lata’s voice.

Naushad actually went on record saying he was ready to exchange all his compositions for the twin gems by the Madan Mohan- Lata team Hai isi mein pyaar ki aabroo and Aap ki nazron ne samjha. S D Burman marvelled at his use of Latadidi’s vocals in tandem with folk instruments in Heer Ranjha . Singers like Ashatai, and Kishoreda and Manna Dey waxed eloquent on the Latadidi- Madan Mohan combine.
Madan Mohan scored music for about 90 films and collaborated 210 times with Latadidi, primarily for solos. For a man who thought Latadidi was the nearest thing to vocal perfection he has heard, each of those 210 times must have been magical. And we are the lucky ones to benefit from that amazing wizardry that the two created.
What is interesting that despite Latadidi’s working with the entire lineage starting with Anil Biswas to A R Rahman across the better part of 60 years, what makes the Madan Mohan- Lata combination supreme? That, too, as Madan Mohan as a composer can sadly, hardly be considered a ‘commercial’ success.

Madan Mohan’s compositional style and techniques and eventually the output were vastly different from most of his contemporaries, and even later composers who followed him. As Latadidi has herself reminisced, he would always croon various taans during the creation of a song. And his genius lay in creating the final composition from the surfeit of these taans with the assured ease and skill of a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat.
Though primarily popular as the Ultimate Ghazal creator, he envisioned and fashioned an incredible range for the vocals of Latadidi, where the output was more than simply a ghazal. Furthermore, Latadidi also without exception sounded different under Madan Mohan. One reason was that his composition frequently broke away from the usual paradigm, an unwritten rule of Hindi songs of a low octave mukhda followed by an antara at a higher octave. His compositions often started at a high pitch, followed either by an antara in low octave (for example, Jee humen manzoor hain from Aap ki nazron ne samjha) or an even higher pitched antara. We find the extra intensity, that added involvement with the soul of the numbers which Latadidi had to eke out. His numbers often created a feel of tearful feeling, simply by using one special note or line at just the most opportune moment. As in the use of one Latadidi stanza in Tum jo mil gaye ho or the seductive caress of the ephemeral in Khelo na mere dil se  by using the very unconventional notes as the first notes, and restricting its use to only once in this number that lingers in raga Charukeshi.

Another aspect of his style which makes this collaboration stand out is the fusion of Western elements of orchestration with Indian sensibilities, a trait which received an initial fillip under masters like C Ramachandra, O P Nayyar and Shankar-Jaikishan, and finally reached the zenith of unimaginable brilliance under Salil Choudhury and R D Burman.
While Salilda could cast a spell with his juggling of the seven notes or RDB could often combine unthinkable rhythms with smooth flowing tunes, Madan Mohan could play around with the soul of the number. His compositions were unique: heavy, cavernous, resonant, yet razor-sharp. Though arrangement was never his strongest point, he was a perfectionist and ensured that his musicians always gave their best.
Most of his songs with Latadidi might not, and are definitely not, be instantly hummable. To fathom the intensity of his compositions, one has to give more than just a casual hearing. And this is probably what the last three decades of music lovers have increasingly realized; because the combination which once failed to set the popular imagination on fire is now a sure-shot for the music companies. Along with Latadidi-Salilda, RDB-Kishoreda and Ashatai-OPN, Latadidi -Madan Mohan remains at the very pinnacle as arguably the best musical partnerships of the 100 years of Bollywood music.

4. , Aapki nazron ne samjha from Anpadh, with lyrics by Madan Mohan’s partner-in crime, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan is picturised on the lady who has had the maximum lead roles in woman centric movies, Mala Sinha and Dharmendra who pretty much gets a free ride on the back of her amazing performance.
When it came to composing songs based on raags, Madan Mohan was arguably the best. He composed this song: Aapki nazaron ne samajha in Raag Adana and set it to Rupaktal.
Raag Adana belongs to Asavari Thaat. Raag Adana resembles Raag Darbari Kanada, with the difference that Gandhar is forbidden in Aaroh in Adana. This Raag is rendered mostly in Madhya and Tar Saptaks unlike Raag Darbari Kanada, which is deeper and hence is rendered in Madhya and Mandra Saptaks (Octaves). In this Raag, Komal Gandhar and Komal Dhaivat should not be repeated (oscillated) otherwise Raag Darbari Kanada makes its appearance. Like Darbari Kanada, this Raag does not employ Meend and Gamak, as this is a flittering dynamic type melodic form. Its Jaati is Shadav-Sampoorna Vakra. It is normally to be sung during the second prahar of the night, that is, between 9 PM and midnight. Adana was a major raag in the 17th century and a combination of the then very popular raags Malhar and Kanada.

It is one of the immortal ghazals of Bollywood. This classy song had enough following among the lay public too, so much so that this ghazal finished 4th in the Binaca Geetmala final of 1962. Not a mean achievement for any ghazal (which traditionally is directed towards the numerically fewer fans of the genre). It is special in so many ways: this song earned Madan Mohan the sobriquet of “ghazal king” from Latadidi, and also the respect of his peers. Madan Mohan entered into a very productive phase of his career after this song.
This ghazal is an evergreen ghazal, that retains its ability to keep us spellbound, despite being composed almost 60 years ago and that is precisely what timeless music is all about.

5. Loosely based on Gustave Flaubert’s, ‘Madame Bovary’, Hrishikesh Mukherjee‘s woman-centric film ‘Anuradha‘ remains very relevant even today. It is a classic movie based on the life story of a woman who was once a celebrated singer on All India Radio (Leela Naidu) , and then has to sacrifice it to be the wife of a surgeon (Balraj Sahni) who is an idealist at heart and lands up spurning the charms of a celebrity status in a city to go and serve the Indian populace in a village. It will always remain that one memorable film which showcased the sacrifices, contribution, importance and credit of women in successful men’s lives and proved that behind every successful man is a great woman.
The Sitar maestro, Ravi Shankar, (arguably the best in the world in the craft and certainly the one responsible for taking the instrument out of India and exposing the world to its unmistakable charm) composed five songs for this movie; the first mainstream Hindi movie for which he was the Music Director and each one is a classic.

This song, “Haye Re Woh Din Kyun Na Aaye“, was composed by him in Raag Janasamohini (a raag meant to enchant and entrance people, literally; and it does exactly that so successfully here). The lyricist was Shailendra whose lyrics are always a class apart. For the exacting demands of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s difficult compositions, full of twists and turns, the vocalist has to be Lata Mangeshkar, and no one else.

6. While conceiving Raina Beeti Jaye from Amar Prem, the maverick genius R D Burman fused two raagas – Todi and Khamaj, an expertise that had hitherto been attributed only to his father.  Anand Bakshi’s lyrics blend with the notes to create an amazing magical feel if one listens to it at the crack of dawn.
The dilruba and the sarangi play the notes of Raag Todi and the Alaap of Latadidi in Todi is truly mesmerizing. Genuinely captivating, it is little surprise that Rajesh Khanna is drawn to the source of the song, like a moth drawn irresistibly to the flame.
One is drawn to the magical voice, the santoor plays the beautiful notes and the guitar picks up and starts the rhythm.
Anyone would become a huge, diehard Latadidi and Pancham fan after listening to the amazing opening bars of music and the alaap, even one bereft of all but the slightest of musical sensibilities.
“Raina beeti jaaye shaam na aaye“… the first part of the mukhda hints at the magic in the offing. The second part of the mukhda (“Nindiya naa aaye“) gets connected with the first line by the tiniest, a mere wisp of a filler of flute. However, the notes of that filler are completely different from the standard progression of the composition.
The musically trained ear can find that the first line uses the komal  rishabh, komal gandhar and komal dhaiwat but the second line has the notes from rishabh and gandhar in shuddha  form. But this is done without any apparent musical discontinuity.
One would always marvel at it even while being unable to fully understanding it, while being unable to understand the musical fine nuances. What can be perfectly understood here is that RDB had an extraordinary gift as a composer. Here he is experimenting, and experimenting for greater good. And how seamlessly is it done! He doesn’t use boundaries because he knows how to give a feel of mixing them.
He is always in the “is mode,” that is the mode of refusing accepted norms and structures. This is the hallmark of this genius composer. He has composed the antara roughly in Mishra Khamaj and thumri style. And how! Komal  notes based on Raag Todi and thumri-styled shuddha notes using Mishra Khamaj to depict separation and longing.
And how can one not talk about orchestration? Panchamda and his associates knew the use of instruments in terms of what to use, how to use, and where to use. Pancham was famous for giving a lot of emphasis on weightage, volume and length of beauteous sequences in a musical expression.

Understandably, being based on Hindustani Classical music, the use of dilruba, sarangi, santoor, flute and tabla in “Raina beeti jaaye” is quite understandable. But Panchamda comes in with a stamp of authority with the use of the haunting guitar, an unquestionably inspired touch of genius.
The flute played by no less a person than Hariprasad Chaurasia underlines the magic of soulful recital.

Same with the extraordinary rhythm section. You sense it is something different, and it is! The rhythm for the song is composed in Taal Keherva (eight beats). Though the antara clearly uses the well-rounded Keherva, Marutirao Keer and Pancham show their touches of brilliance by having a different rhythmic pattern for the mukhada. In the mukhada, between the third and fourth beat is a lovely little sound of the maadal and the guitar’s jhum accompanying the tabla to the sum! It’s again no ordinary variation.
“Raina beeti jaaye” is not just a brilliant composition or varied instruments and rhythmic patterns used with imagination. It’s more than that. The latter is in sync with the melody. It’s a case of experimentation draped in tradition. No wonder it is enjoyed for decades. It appeals to the less-discernable listeners, and also to the connoisseurs. It amazes the trained musicians and has managed to draw high praise from the “hard to satisfy,” great composer of yesteryear, Sajjad Hussain, who was not known to sugarcoat his reactions.
Gulzaarsaab worked extensively with Pancham and when asked which would be one additional film for which he would have liked to work with Pancham? Amar Prem, pat came the reply. One is convinced, “Raina beeti jaaye” must have contributed a lot toward this feeling of Gulzaarsaab.
It has been about five decades since our ears were exposed to “Raina beeti jaaye”. But the power of Latadidi’s singing refuses to die and each time it presents something new.
It remains as fresh, and timeless as is her voice.
They just do not create anything like this anymore.

7. Naina Barse, is a composition that is both astonishing and admirable. Again a product of Madan Mohan- Lata Mangeshkar teamwork. The tune was actually conceived and created by Madan Mohan in the year 1952 but sadly there were no takers till 1963. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, as they say, and this wonderful tune finally found a place through the immortal song, “Naina Barse” in the film “Woh Kaun Thi?” that was released in 1964 and has been etched onto our hearts permanently.
Naina Barse is a ghost song and like most ghost songs of Indian cinema, is very powerful in its content, and its melodic expression is just par excellence. One has to marvel at the fact as to how Raag Yaman with an accent of Komal Gandhar and Komal Dhaivat could ever be used to create the feeling of bone-chilling horror and thrill. But all this happens without the cost of the melody! That is its real beauty.
In ‘Naina Barse’, the  Mukhda starts  ‘On the beat’ but the antara “Woh Din…” starts ‘Off beat’and after the antara, the mukhda starts again ‘on the beat’ and this trick is something which can only be marvelled!
The interval of Sa to Tivra Ma is known as Tritone in Western Music and this interval is used as dissonance in Western Music. It is quite interesting that Madan Mohan started the antara with Tivra Madhyam.
This everlasting song by our Swarsamradnyi Latadidi, did not get the Filmfare award for that year which is rather surprising.
And the very same people also started to realize Madan Mohan’s genius only after his passing away.

9. Jaana Tha Humse Door Bahane Bana Liye, the song from the film Adalat is based on Raag Shivranjani and the string section’s use of Cello is an amazing, hair raising experience. For Rajinder Krishan the movie Adalat was a major success, and he cemented his pairing with Madan Mohan to create some of the best Lata Mangeshkar songs. Latadidi with her mellifluous voice was an absolutely incomparable genius for this genre. No other singer of either gender can come close to her in creating searing, gut wrenching songs.
Madan Mohan first joined the All India Radio, Lucknow, where he came into contact with classical vocalists and instrumentalists like Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, tabla maestro Allah Rakha Khan Qureshi, Begum Akhtar and, at a later stage, Talat Mahmood. Thereafter he came over to Bombay where his father was a joint-owner of Bombay Talkies and Filmistan, two premier filmmaking companies of that time. Madan Mohan tried to get into films as an actor but all that he could get were cameo appearances in some films of the late ’40s and the early ’50s. He then tried to become a playback singer but found hardly any takers.
But he was determined to make a career in the film industry, so he started devoting himself to mastering the rudiments of film music direction. He already had acquired a good understanding of Indian classical music while working at the All India Radio, Lucknow. He had an almost uncanny ability to adapt a classical raag for composing a Hindi film song. But before he could be accepted as a full-fledged music director by filmmakers, he had to serve for a while as assistant to music composers like SD Burman.
When Rajinder Krishan wrote the lyrics of this beautiful ghazal and Madan Mohan set them to music with this immortal tune, the result is truly magical.
All the ghazals in the film are Raag based compositions which are not commonplace which makes them impeccable works of film music at its best and are amongst Latadidi’s greatest works!

A musical journey of a lifetime that began in 1942, with Latadidi’s father’s untimely death putting the onus of providing for the family on her slender shoulders, while just 13 years of age. Pandit Deenanath’s friend Master Vinayak took care of the Mangeshkar family and offered her a role in the film Badi Maa. In 1949, she moved to Bombay where she began learning Hindustani music from Ustad Aman Ali Khan.
Latadidi had worked with several legendary music directors including Madan Mohan, R D Burman, the duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal and A R Rahman. She teamed up with Madan Mohan for the 1960s like Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha, Lag Jaa Gale and Naina Barse Rim Jhim from Woh Kaun Thi. Latadidi has sung over 700 songs for Laxmikant-Pyarelal. She sang songs like Gata Rahe Mera Dil, and Piya Tose in Guide recorded for S D Burman. She sang R D Burman’s first and last songs – in Chote Nawaab (1961) and Kuch Na Kaho in 1942: A Love Story in 1994. Her collaborations with A R Rahman resulted in popular songs like Luka Chupi in Rang de Basanti and O Paalanhaare in the movie, Lagaan.
The singer has lent her voice to a number of timeless classics over the years.
In 2012, Lata Mangeshkar launched her own music label called LM Music. Her most recent release (March 2019) was the song Saugandh Mujhe Is Mitti Ki. 

She holds the distinction of being the most recorded artist in the history of Indian music in Guinness Book of Records way back in 1974.

The book entitled “Lata Mangeshkar: A Musical Journey” contains little known facts intertwined with the story of her life in music, struggles, successes and her reign as the Queen of Hindi music from the 1940s to the present day.

Here is a complete recording of the program on AIR Delhi FM Gold , broadcast on Monday 7th February 2022 .

I loved doing this tribute to the Saraswati of Indian Music. I had to rustle up a short selection, just 8 songs out of an ocean, picking up the pearls was relatively easy, the tougher part was the thousands I had to leave behind, including those that are arguably even better than the ones I chose. My choice was also dictated by the occasion. I once again thank Kiran Misraji for the opportunity of being part of her show on AIR Delhi Gold FM.

There will surely be hundreds if not thousands of singers of mettle in our great country, but of one thing I am sure, there can only be one Lata. She stands unmoved as Polaris, the Pole star at the very zenith of the skies above us, unmoved, shining brightly on the world beneath, beatifically scattering its rays of brilliance while soothing our souls with her amazing musical legacy.

Stay safe, folks, stay healthy and happy and never forget it was an evil Chinese Virus that took away the greatest star in Bollywood music.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

22 replies on “The Living Goddess I’ve known…”

Thanks Neenaji.

It was a last minute change necessitated by the altered circumstances. Lataji’s volume of work is really too voluminous to be adequately addressed in a few score programs.


Lata is unforgettable…

पंचतत्वात विलीन झाला
तो फक्त तुमचा
देह दीदी….

सूरांची भाषा जाणणाऱ्या
प्रत्त्येक मनात तुम्ही
अमर आहात …..

तुमच्या सूरांचं शिंपण
सृष्टीला चैतन्याचं वरदान
देतच राहील….

संगीताची उपासना करणाऱ्या
प्रत्येकाच्या ह्रदयात तुम्ही
कायम असाल ….

तुमचा अमृतमयी आवाज
सतत गुंजत राहील
आमच्या कानात….

तुमच्या स्वरांचं चांदणं
बरसत राहील अविरत
श्रोत्यांच्या मनात …..

कालजयी चिरंतन शाश्वत
अनुपमेय उत्कट भावविभोर
अजरामर स्वर …..

© डॉ वंदना कामत

Liked by 1 person

Very fortunate & proud to be born in the fifties & in this land (in Pune a place near Alandi the presence of Shri Dnyaneshwar maharaj) to experience & appreciate all this Great work of legends like Lata Mangeshkar.
BEAUTIFUL presentation sir.

Liked by 1 person

Took a while for me, first to get out of the gloom of Lataji’s passing away , then I had to listen to your recording word by word.. so was trying to get the time… finally here I am..
It is like fresh breeze!! Each word a gospel truth!! God knows how you gathered all those intricate details 🤔🤔🤔🤔🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾And most importantly you selected the songs so very well…. Hats off in English and Sashtang namaskar in Marathi🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

Liked by 1 person

Nostalgia pulling strings at the heart on the background of a tremendous exit
and a desperate sense of loss
This broadcast made that feeling of hopelessness a little bit bearable

The blog contains a list of 9 songs however I missed the 8th one
A task for you
Send me the whole list


Liked by 1 person

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