Birthday girl Lata Mangeshkar’s melodies for co-Phalke laureate Asha Parekh: The Lata-Asha connection!

Bollywood’s legendary actress Asha Parekh. Photo: Facebook @Asha-Parekh

Asha Parekh is one of the seven women who have been awarded the highest honour in Indian cinema—the Dadasaheb Phalke trophy. She wins a full 20 years after another Asha—Asha Bhosle, who was her sole playback voice in her debut film, Dil Deke Dekho(1959)—was the last woman to be conferred the rare trophy. Asha Parekh is also the fourth actress to be so honored—after Devika Rani, who was the recipient of the first-ever Phalke, followed by Sulochana Sr. (Ruby Myers), Kanan Devi (also a singer) and Durga Khote.

Interestingly enough, this winner of this rare award for 1989, Lata Mangeshkar, has been Asha Parekh’s prime voice in films. Asha Parekh, along with Vyjayanthimala and Sadhana, is among the trio of the most musical stars in terms of the songs filmed on her in the 1960s (and with Asha also in the 1970s). And September 28 being Lata’s birthday, it is perhaps the perfect occasion to look back at the melodies the prime diva of Hindi film music has vocalized for Asha Parekh.

The 1960s

The sterling association began with a bang—with the Lata hit Laage na mora jiya from the 1960 Ghoonghat. The haunting litany was composed by Ravi. Salil Chowdhury’s tour de force adapted from a Mozart symphony, Itna na mujhse tu pyar jataa from Chhaya was next.

And then came the music that seemed to cement their association for good—Shankar-Jaikishan’s musical, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai. With humdingers as varied as the Lata version of Jiya o jiya o jiya kuch bol do and Yeh ankhen uffyuma (with Mohammed Rafi), Lata was already on the way to suit the petite and upcoming heroine who was already on a hit-streak.

With Aaj ki mulaqaat bas itni (a duet with Mahendra Kapoor) and Woh dil kahaan se laoon (Bharosa) composed again by Ravi, the Lata-Asha connection was firmly entrenched! The raag-based Tere bin soone nain hamare (with Rafi) saw Asha Parekh vocalizing the S.D. Burman beauty.

By this time, Asha had long established herself as a master at lip-synching songs despite being largely typecast as a “lightweight” actress. She seemed to feel her melodies deeply and not lip-synch them mechanically. The next two S.D. Burman hits Raat ka samaa and Yeh meri zindagi, both frothy romantic numbers, further emphasized this point.

The next three films—Love In Tokyo (Shankar-Jaikishan), Do Badan (Ravi) and Aaye Din Bahaar Ke (Laxmikant-Pyarelal) were all successful musicals and Lata’s semi-classical Koi matwala, Mujhe tum mil gaye humdum and above all, the Japan-flavored chartbuster Sayonara were outstanding creations from the first film. Lata’s sole solo in  Do Badan was Lo aa gayi unnki yaad, while Aaye Din Bahaar Ke, the Christmas 1966 offering, unleashed deep melody in Suno sajana, the soothing Yeh kali (with Mahendra Kapoor again) and the playful Mera mehboob hai bemisaal.

The Lata-Asha liaison continued to bloom subsequently as well, under Kalyanji-Anandji in Upkar (Har khushi ho wahaan), R.D. Burman in Baharon Ke Sapne (Aaja piya tohe pyar doon, Chunari sambhal gori with Manna Dey and Kya jaanu sajan) and Shankar-Jaikishan in Kanyadaan (Parayi hoon parayi, Mil gaye mil gaye aaj mere sanam).

Laxmikant-Pyarelal in Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke (Rama duhai, the title-song and Saathiya najin jaana both with Rafi), Madan Mohan in Chirag (Bhor hote kaaga, Teri ankhon ke siva and Chhayi barkha bahaar), Kalyanji-Anandji in Mahal (Bade khubsoorat ho), L-P again in Sajan (Ae mere meherbaan, Sajan sajan and— with Rafi—Resham ki dori), R.D. Burman in the scintillating songs of Pyar ka Mausam (the Rafi duet Nisultana re and the brilliant solos Na jaa o mere humdum, Aap chaahe mujhko, Main na miloongi and Aap se miliye)— the cavalcade in the 1960s ended on a high pitch indeed.

The 1970s began with the exotic Shankar-Jaikishan creation Sapere bin bajaa (Bhai Bhai) and went on to the chartbusters that slalomed into listeners’ hearts—Sona lai ja re and Kuch kehta hai yeh sawan with Rafi, in Mera Gaon Mera Desh, and Accha to hum chalte hain (with Kishore), Tere kaaran tere kaaran and the Rafi-Lata title-song, all from Aan Milo Sajana, which were all Laxmikant-Pyarelal creations. R.D. Burman contributed his might with Aaj na chhodenge (a Kishore duet) and Na koi umang hai in Kati Patang and also Kitna pyara vaada hai (with Rafi) in Caravan.

Shankar-Jaikishan, then at the end of their creative zenith, gave us the delectable Tum mujhe yun bhula na paaoge (Pagla Kahin Ka) and the froth-laden Nazar mein rang aur masti (Jawan Mohabbat). R.D. Burman’s Samadhi had the remix fodder Bangle ke peeche, an intoxicating number, and then came the saccharine sweet Aao tumhein chand pe le jaaye (with Sushma Shrestha) that Bappi Lahiri created for Zakhmee.

The Lata-Asha union reached a crescendo with the L-P masterpiece Main tulsi tere aangan ki from the film of that name. Few songs of Lata have equaled this gem in the entire decade and this beauty was an incomparable blend of exquisite melody, fabulous singing and terrific lyrics.

After this, we had a culmination to this magnificent actor-singer combo in two more delicious tracks, again composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, for the Basu Chaterjee comedy Prem Vivah (1979): Jinke aane se pehle hi and Kaaga mera ek kaam karna.

Few such teams so rich in music have existed in Hindi cinema, and this is one Lata-Asha combination that will never fade from memory. It is perfectly organic that the music alone justifies a key reason for both being deserving conferees of the highest award in cinema. Because their stupendous work together speaks—or should we say, sings?—a lot.



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