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Aamar Marathi Lata

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Today the nightingale of India turns Ninetyngale.
Yes, our dear Lataji completes 90 but only mortally. In our musical memories, she is as young and beautiful as Madhubala of 50s, as tender as Kashmir ki kali Saira, as gorgeous as Waheeda or a dream voice of Hema. She is one of those personalities, a long living legend in fact, that makes a Maharashtrian Marathi me really proud. In that context, she is as iconic Marathi as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Her voice has lured not only the Maharashtrians but to all Indians, in fact she is a world phenomenon.
According to Wikipedia she has sung in over thirty six Indian regional and foreign languages , but mainly in Marathi Hindi and Bangla. One can easily understand that this is such a vast subject to review, not possible for any mortal like me, so restricting the scope of this article, as the name of the article suggests, to the last but not the least in the above list, her bangla output and that too with my beloved Pancham which is surprisingly so less in quantity that one could count them on fingers of his/ her own fingers of hands and feet, the reason behind this?
Aami se kotha jaani na!
Although less in quantity, the output is, as usual and expected, top class quality with the graph of her career mainly in thick and thins spanning over nearly three decades, with each decade having its own characteristic property. Some of them went on to become blockbuster songs in Hindi, some created simultaneously with their popular hindi counterparts in the bilingual film ventures while some of them, mostly in the last years of Pancham, couldn’t have their hindi counterparts. This write-up is a humble effort to take you on the tour of those bong melodies by a non Bengali whose passion for the language has mostly to do with the passion for their iconic composer.
That’s why if any mistake happens, tumi khoma karo!
There is something that binds Maharashtra and Bengal, geographically and culturally. Being diagonally opposite on the south west monsoon axis, it is always that low pressure area over west Bengal and nearby northeastern states that brings widespread rains to Maharashtra. Culturally too, each state hosts the biggest religious festivals namely Ganesh utsav and Navaratri which also gives scope to presentation of Art, dance and music.
That is why it is no wonders there that the bangla and Marathi cultures exchanged the art forms, music and the personalities presenting that art. Two of the biggest film production industries in India are located in Mumbai and Kolkata. Not only Pancham but even his illustrious father, Sachin da was in love of Lataji’s voice saying openly, “Give me one harmonium and my Lata, and I can go on weaving melodies forever. “ The experimental genius Salil da too was in deep love of not only her voice to create many experimental melodic works in many languages but also in love with her equally experimental brother, Pt Hridaynath. He recreated many of his works in bangla by writing rich lyrics. Vice versa, the names of Hemant kumar and the great Manna da went on to become house hold names in Maharashtra with their film and non film outputs in Marathi.
The most iconic and once-regional-now-national Hindu festivals of India, the Ganesh festival and Navaratri/ Durgapooja are inherited from these two Indian states which come in quick succession separated by the correcting fortnight of fore-fathers, pitru-pandharawada.
One cannot and won’t want to detach oneself from the festive atmosphere during those days. Such is the cultural extravaganza besides the devotional atmosphere. The mandaps/ pandals are erected everywhere where the deities in most colourful and decoration with melodic music playing which doesn’t have necessarily to be devotional.
Not only me but the whole Maharashtra has woken up to the divine songs of Ashtavinyak Geete (Songs of Ganapati) during those auspicious days. Lataji’s bangla pooja songs must have been as revered in Bangla as her Ashtavinayak Geet. She is not as associated with Pancham for non film pooja songs as Salil da but she kick started Pancham’s bangla and non film pooja career just like his hindi film career with ‘Ghar aaja ghir aayi’.
Let’s kick start this Bong tour with the two immensely beautiful and tender voiced pooja songs.
Lata-Pancham Phase 1- Adbhoot Bangla 65’s :
This was a 7’ vinyl record presenting one song each on each side published in 1965.
Aamar Maloti Lata (1965) :
Lyrics : Pulak Bandopadhyaya

The rendition is as tender as Malati Lata and the singing character is wondering why that lata is swaying in ‘Aabesh’. She seems to be unaware of the reason behind it and her happiness (khushi) which could be, in all probabilities, the cool breeze of romance. One gets blown by her ringing tender voice of 60s and the immensely beautiful touches Pancham gives, particularly the way she re-sets the mukhada with the beautifully swaying ‘ae..ae..ae..ae’ and the stressing on ‘khushi’ in the antara.

The orchestral landscaping too is superbly refreshing. It may not have been densely landscaped like his Hindi songs but that sparseness sounds quite apt. Lovely garnishing of santoors in the prelude and interlude will freshen you up like anything as the gorgeous guitars and relatively thin yet mind-blowing violins.

I always marvel at the luck of this tune for it is blessed by the vocals of the three all time great singers, Lata ji , Kishore da and Manna da and obviously at Pancham’s skills who by sheer treatment changed the mood of other two male Hindi songs to pensive/ poignant.

Aami boli tomay dure thako (1965)
Lyrics : Pulak Bandopadhyaya

Same vinyl, other side, other mood. Yes, the orchestral elements like guitar, santoor, violins and flute are nearly same. I wonder whether both the recordings were completed the same day. It was of course quite possible for the talents assembled for the song.

But as I said, the mood is different. Lata is playing a character that is trying to save herself falsely from the chhed-chhad of her lover. The song went on to become a big success in hindi as a duet of same chhed-chhad mood but this original is a solo. Lata has to create the mood all by herself, of course with the accompaniment of high pitch flute that constantly flirts with her voice, the santoor (that does the same opening magic as ‘malati-Lata’), the dramatic violins and the strumming punctuations. All these elements are topped by Pancham’s superb punctuation touches that put the song in altogether different bracket. This is more evident in the starting pause after ‘aami boli’ taken to the greater heights in the antara where the alternate phrases have marvelous fillers and resets of her sweet aalaps.

This inherent counter structure might have made Pancham think of recreating it as Hindi duet. Of course there was the chhed-chhad master Kishore to ease out the things for Lata but you will simply adore this sweet and coy little solo effort by the nightingale.

That, you will think, was the stunning opening to their collaboration and would love them continue infinitely but alas!! That was the last of Lata we saw as far as Pancham’s pooja albums were concerned.
Of course his bangla non film career flourished with Kishore da’s marvelous contribution of six songs and Pancham himself entering the field with his stunning ‘Mone pare Ruby Rai’ in 1969. He also introduced his bhalobasha Asha , the partnership that created havoc in the category. Pancham meanwhile composed for his first bangla film , Raajkumari in 1970 with dazzling performances by Kishore-Pancham-Asha but with no contribution from Lata ji.

There was a drought of fifteen odd years before Pancham brought her back. He, too, had returned to Bangla film after a gap of a decade. Lekin der se aaye durust aaye, better late with Lata than never!

And this way, here starts their second phase, the vintage start to mid 80s…

Lata-Pancham Phase 2- Bilingual Early Eighties :
Looking at these members from no. 3 to no. 7 you would really think that the long wait was worth it. Pancham’s Amar (prem) association with legendary bangla and hindi film director Shakti Samanta continued in this decade of 80’s too. He (Shakti da) had thought of starting a bilingual ( Hindi and bangla) film project, the names were ‘Barsaat ki ek raat’ and ‘Anusandhaan’ ( ‘Onusandhaan’ in bangla pronunciation) respectively. The films were shot simultaneously in succession and so were the songs with their situation exactly same. The songs and their orchestration sounded exactly same except the tunes of ‘kaaliraam’ song pair. In bangla, Pancham preferred to use ‘baap ka maal’ , the legendary tune of ‘aami tak dhum’ sung by his father.

All the three Lata songs, however, were kept intact. Yes three songs and that’s quite a bonanza after that long wait. And thus the pair wakes up after the long hibernation to this Good morning Kalimpong song …and what a Bong-on start!

Otho otho surjai re (Anusandhaan 1980)
Lyrics : Gouri Prasanna Majumdar

Yes, the good morning song, equivalent of ‘nadiya kinare re’, shot in Kalimpong, I am told. The whole India does Good Morning to that ‘Shurajai’ (sooraj) every day through these seven north eastern states. These are often termed as seven sisters of India. These are like seven colors of rainbow or seven musical notes and Tripura being the Pancham note for all his fans. These states are showered heavily with the blessing of nature and music and are also known for the mighty mountain ranges and the tea estates, another Good morning connection!

So, Pancham-Lata make you wake up with the serene chorals of female tea estate workers and Lata ji’s heavenly aalaps that fade in to your ears to travel straight into your hearts. The heroine is Raakhi and Pancham has been quite consistent while using Lata ji for her nearly throughout. Raakhi plays a blind girl’s role but the whole treatment given by Pancham, Lata, the lyricists, Shakti da is so marvelous that you only marvel at her innocent beauty rather than pity at her blindness.

She is devoid of her visual sense but her other senses are extra alert as she feels the warmth morning sun by her hand, feels the lively coolness of the lush landscapes by lying on it, swings on the aroma of the tea garden while expressing the gratitude towards the nature around her through Lataji’s heavenly serene voice and Pancham’s classic pahadi tune and music.

Haye re pora bashi (Onusandhaan- 1980)
Lyrics : Gouri Prasanna Majumdar

If Raakhi was innocently serene in the earlier song, she is adoringly romantic doing a Abhisaarika out on a romantic one way date , blind date actually, with the pora Bashi (pardesi) Amitabh. Her close friend, Prema has given air to the hidden flame of love for him and the coy beauty is set to express it all to herself. At least that’s what she thinks as she doesn’t have the idea that pora bashi is just around watching and listening her with the intent which could only be possessed and shown by the great Amitabh.

You are all equally eager to how Pancham and Lata would start the song for this romantic endeavor and they don’t disappoint you, how would they?

Pancham adds flanger to the big pahadi shehnai to create a strange sound (I am told, to give that strange feel in her mind) and superbly shuffled threads of shehnai, violins, rhythm guitar, flute and the combined rhythm of tabla and maadal to show the advances of both, Rakhi and Amitabh. Don’t miss the flute phrase as serene as the surroundings that may sound hum-shakal of ‘kaali ghataon se, thandi hawaaon se, aao kahe haal dil ka’.

This sequence is simply to die for and so is Lataji’s ‘Haay’ to compel you to express similarly. This is actually just the beginning, however. The interludes and antaras take the song to the greater heights.

Her stumbling is made adorably attractive by the superb rhythm work by Marutirao’s tabla and Kanchabhai’s maadal, particularly the way maadal comes suddenly to the fore after bangla equivalent of ‘main toot ke phool si gir padoon na kisi jholi mein’. The cuteness of the beats is simply mesmerizing. Lata ji’s negotiation of that ascent too is equally cute on the ears.

I would like to draw your attention to the last but not the least interlude which is worth viewable and listenable on a repeat mode. Raakhi with her sixth sense suddenly senses Amitabh around and swerves and swings herself to touch him but sleek Amitabh is quick to get back as he doesn’t want to interrupt and Rakhi realizes it to be her own mystification and shies away. The whole sequence is so beautifully transformed into the musical expression thanks to the twisty flute, the searching strumming and the generous sprinkle of coy santoor by Pt Bapat to simulate the sharm-o-dynamics of the lady in love.

Just imagine the maestro with his instrument is made to wait to play this phrase till the last interlude. Pancham always believed to give the exact golden framework of timing of situation to these musical gems.

Such a vast subject this song is! It’s so rich in terms of everything. You have to be as alert as Rakhi/ Lata and as intent listener and watcher like Amitabh to absorb the nuances of the song which is not possible to do in a single session. Multiple sessions are mandatory.

Aamar shopno je shotti holo aaj (Anusandhaan 1980)
Lyrics : Gouri Prasanna Majumdar

The first of the two Kishore-Lata duets for Pancham in bangla. A superbly romantic song with that compound rhythm with prominent maadal , soaring sax, strumming guitar steps and lovely and lush violin stretches with some dangerous mounds in between ( at the sight of Kaliram and his henchmen) help Lataji soar along merrily. The assuring accompaniment of baritone Kishore da adds to the list to make this song sound simply heavenly.

A word of advice : Don’t just discount these three songs of Anusandhaan just because they are the versions of the already heard and fully acquainted Hindi counterparts. Although you don’t understand the full meaning, these songs sound mystical and mishit-cal in the sweet roshogulla Bangla and have been superbly presented with perfect bangla lip-synching by the greats, Rakhi and Amitabh, and of course by the Bangla folks, Shakti da, Pancham, Kishore, Gouriprasanna Majumdar and the pleasantly odd (not by rendition, but by region) Lata who is hardly sounding as born and brought up in Marathi culture.

Na na kache esho na ( Kolankini Konkaboti – 1981)
Lyrics : Swapan Chakraborty

This film, like Pancham’s first bangla film Raajkumari, was enacted by Mahanayak of bangla films, Uttam kumar. He was also one of the directors of this movie. The movie sound track is a concise album of just four but all stunning songs, presented by the greats , Kishore-Asha, a surprise classical singer Parveen Sultana and the maha nayika of this article, Lata.

Two of the songs viz ‘Aadho aalo chhaya te’ and ‘Bendhechi beena’ have the stunning hindi counterparts which you all know.

The remaining two , Asha’s stunningly classic “O aamar kandher aanchol’, that has equally a stunning studio recording in the voice of Pancham ( which means it was all set to be recorded in Hindi to be penned by Gulshan Bawra but didn’t materialize it seems) and this song by Lata unfortunately don’t have direct hindi versions.

This Lata song, like Parween Sultana’s song, is a courtesan’s song only difference being the lip-synching Sharmila Tagore here is also dancing with her own cute expressions of coquetry( that we are all familiar with) in front of the Zameendar, Uttam kumar and his allies.

Subject wise, the song is ‘aami boli tomay’ revisited. Here, too, she is pleading not to come near , but this is a professional performance in presented in the royal manner with the essential company of the poignant sarangi, gorgeous Sitars, the classical rhythm on tabla and the ghunghroo sounds synchronous to Sharmila’s graceful dance steps.

Composition wise and rendition wise, too, this song is absolutely royal. The way Pancham composes the mukhada in the staccato rhythm with a marvelous ascent along ‘tumi bhromor hoye, phoole modhu’ and the antara in the contrasting languid yet sounding equally marvelous is quite consuming. Listening to Lata ji while she negotiates those difficult stretches with effortless yet gorgeous way is no less consuming. This is simply brilliant and spotless performance presented equally splendidly by our darling actress, Sharmila Tagore.

It was released in 1981 but the visuals are in black and white which add a nostalgic element to the listening and watching experiment.

Churi chhada (Teen Murti – 1984)
Lyrics : Gouri Prasanna Majumdar

Another bilingual film like Anusandhaan, this time by Pramod Chakraborty known as Chakki da, who like Shakti da had a long memorable association with DevBurmans from the times of Ziddi (1964).

As the name suggests, this film (Hindi film – Jaagir) featured three leading male characters, Dharmendra, Mithun and Danny supported by Zeenat Aman and Shoma Anand.

The film sound track, too, just like the star cast, was dominated by male singers and songs. Asha Bhosle got a share of two songs. The song in the context, which as mentioned before, remains the second duet of Kishore-Lata remains pleasantly odd. But this could be due to the association of Lata with the on-screen actress, Shoma Anand. She was made immensely famous by Chakki da only with his Barood. She looked real Barood in that movie that was supported by the explosive RDX music, although credited to SDB. Lata sang both the songs for her. Shoma however was thrown to second lead in Chakki da’s next venture, Azad (1976), which featured the most consistent pair, Dharam-Hema. But Shoma featured in ‘kaun mil gaya’ sharing Lata’s voice with Hema.

The reason to elaborate the subject this much is just to guess how Lata ji arrived in both of the film versions for Shoma that gave her the only breezy, vivacious and ravishing Bangla Pancham song.

Pancham is in the most romantic, dynamic and exuberant mood here. It is always the cliché for the film makers to present the hero and the heroine coming from two different directions to unite to start the romantic proceedings. Trust Pancham to make this sequence / buildup astounding in the prelude. It has to be listened to believe it. It is overwhelming to listen to the dynamics of racing and ravishingly red car of Mithun and the galloping horse ridden by similarly ravishing looking Shoma with the perfect punctuation of neighing sound that rises to the occasion with swiss clock timing.

Manohari da’s sensual sax gives air to the romantic fire while Kishore and Lata ride this galloping rhythm with amazing ease.

The Bangla lip syncing, however, is certainly not in the class of Amitabh and Rakhi in their earlier duet. In fact, the Bangla audio seems to be superimposed on the Hindi version in the available YouTube links. But the speed of the composition, the shola (fire) of Shoma, exuberance of Mithun and presence of Knight-ingale Lata is sure to win the race.

Video

Audio

With this song, we enter the third and last phase of their brief yet memorable association. Bye bye to the outdoor scenic romanticism or dance numbers as most of all the following songs are vintage, emotional, filmed for the sad / distressed emotion. Interestingly many of them do not have direct Hindi versions with some intermittent exceptions which may make this listening exciting. This period seems to be after Pancham’s by-pass surgery. He is said to have enough time for himself and had composed many new tunes. While he was not having any work in Hindi films he did quite a few Bangla films with a noticeable contribution from Asha ji and Lata ji. Of course, these songs need a little time to grow on the ears but they will surely make way to your hearts in some sessions.

Lata-Pancham Phase 3- Vintage late eighties to early nineties :
Phele Asha Smriti Aamar (Shotoroopa – 1989)
Lyrics : Bhabesh Kundu

This is a superbly emotional composition picturised on Moushumi Chatterji. The song she is singing in the memory of Ranjit Mallick that makes her ‘bedona (Vedana/pain) jaaga’ as her ‘mon’ is wondering where to search him. Lataji is like a vintage wine here. Her singing is sure to tug at your heart-strings making you feel the pang (Bedona) she is experiencing. The way she touches the low along the opening to ascend slowly to burst into the high ‘shudhu je go tomay?’ always arrests my attention. The antara starts in high pitch and the descent is equally attractive.

Kavita Krishnamoorthy once said in one of her videos that Pancham’s rhythm was never dull even in his sad songs but quite bright and this song is just one of the many examples.

Another interesting feature of this song is that it is a tandem with Amit Kumar which may remind you of ‘yaad aa rahi hai’ from Love story . Just like that tandem, both these songs are sad.

Here is Amit Kumar’s version for Ranjit Mallick which stands as one of his best renditions with Pancham. Watch it from 1:49:13 hrs of this link.

Aapon jaara (Ladaai – 1990)
Lyrics : Swapan Chakraborty

While the heroine sizzled and mingled with Aziz and Amit Kumar with the voice of her younger sister, Asha Bhosale, it was Lata again to emote for her in her bedona-may days. Again, the singing of Lata is mind blowing with the help of emotional passages of violins

Khushir saagore Aami Sob Bhule Giye (Bou ranee – 1991)
Lyrics : Bhabesh Kundu

As the name of the film suggests, this song is for the Bou ranee who is happy to take care of her whole family particularly her ailing father-in-law played by Anil Chatterji in a typical Bangal traditional family. The mood as the mukhada suggests (‘Khushir saagare aami’) is for a change light and happy.

Jeo na daarao Prabhu – Bou ranee – 1991)
Lyrics : Bhabesh Kundu

The prelude is actually a mis-lude (misleading prelude) with the energetic play of shehnai and violins till the song takes the twist at Lataji’s high pitched start with the rhythm to taking a dragging U-turn. A song filmed for a mythological Ramayan scenes where she sings for the bado-abhagini character.

Aamar Sonaar chokh dutote ( Nobaab -1991)
Lyrics : Swapan Chakraborty

Latabai has been almost synonymous for sweet and consoling lullabies since ages. She had entered her 7th decade when she sang the song and her voice is still assuring and lovable.

The song filmed on a widow who is watching her motherly past in the flashback with tearful eyes.

Bole je kathaa tumi Nijer mukhe ( Ahankaar – 1991)
Lyrics : Bhabesh Kundu

If I have got it right then the heroine is heartbroken as is seen in the link where two of Asha’s songs flash in the opening and then the rendition of Lata starts as the heroine has to hide her sorrow and perform her stage show in a dance-song performance which has to be delightful to entertain the audience.

Buk bhoraa Mor ( Sroddhanjali -1993)
Lyrics : Swapan Chakraborty

This is another song for another heartbroken heroine, Debashree Roy, quite a familiar name even ouside Bengal. The song, again, is rendered pitch perfect by Lata with both the high and the low (‘dilam chithi likhe’). That low portion with the underscore of intriguing sarod brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it.
Audio of the song is available here

Je prodeep jaalcho tumi (Shwet Pathorer thala – 1992)
Lyrics : Mukul Dutta

The moment I heard it first time, the mukhada instantly connected me to ‘jiya bhoole they kahaan yaad naheen…tujhko paaya hai jahaan). This song is on the widow, Aparna Sen, who is emoting on her past while her dear ones try to make him forget the past and cheer her up.

One of the finest melodies sung superbly by Lata ji.

Kanamachi bho bho ( Shwet Pathorer thala – 1992) :
Lyrics : Mukul Dutta
In the movie, this song actually appears before ‘je pradeep’ but for the convenience of the write up sequence it is taken at the last. This is the last one but as usual not the least but one of the best of her bangla songs. Her voice is not consistently great but still manages to catch the attention of the listener with her spirited rendition. The song is about the game of blind-man’s-buff known as ‘Aandhali koshimbir’ in Marathi culture which is started with this typical phrase ‘kanamachi bho bho’.

There is a lovely all-Chowdharis composition on this game in the quintessential classic mould of Salil C.
(Animation version is available here

Pancham however takes just a cue from this phrase and starts this superbly rhythmic hide-and-seek game song with the different ‘sona manik hariye gelo’. Lata ji does a Sen-sational playback to the beautifully looking Aparna Sen who is playing hide and seek with her husband and son. The rhythm and the orchestration is adorably playful.
There is a disguised hint in the second antara and the destiny is playing hide-in-seek in parallel when it snatches her husband in an accident and the game and song come to an abrupt halt at this tragic news.

Listen to the unbelievable hindi version of this song which only Pancham could have thought and executed. The ambiance, characters, the mood and even the compositional structure of the bangla song is diametrically opposite. Watch it from 8.00 min onwards.

The Destiny was also playing a hide-and-seek game in Rahul Dev Burman’s life. Leave alone success (Pancham didn’t much bother about it) even the musical work was not coming his way. But in this post-surgery period he restarted with a rejuvenated heart and slowly but surely the films began to come his way and the melodic mehfil began to re-set itself with 1942 ALS ensuring a chale-jaao movement to expel the lean period from his career.

Lekin, wonder how,
Mehfil mein kaisi aayi yeh andhiyaari raat ? Precisely on 3rd Jan.

Pancham left us and his adorable and revered Lata didi. She must have felt the pang in her musical heart that would have made her think
“Aaj safar mein tune kyun chhod diya mera saath?” which she expressed through last of her song for him thru “Samay ka yeh pal tham sa gayaa hai”…, last of Her recorded song with Him.

But why do we recollect these sad sentiments today? It’s the birthday celebration of nightingale who has turned Ninety-ngale, but just mortally!
Aamar Marathi Lata will continue to sway melodically spreading her soft fragrance.

How I wish she turns Centi-ngale (100years)
But why to think about it now ?
“Aagey bhi hoga jo uska karam
Yeh 28 va sitambar to manayenge har saal hum!”
Happy birthday Lata ji !!

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