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Solo Songs of Lata – Vocal Preludes Special

There is a genre of songs which is unique and uncommon – where there is a prelude, which has both instrumental as well as vocal music. This genre of poetry is perhaps called Qat’a in Urdu and vilambit laya (introductory slow tempo) in Hindustani classical music. The prelude is slow when compared to the rest of the song and there is a marked difference in the pace of the mukhda and antaras vis-à-vis the prelude. Some of these songs tend to be longer, especially if the prelude is considerably long. Also, there is a lot of scope to incorporate minute details and sounds in the picturisation, owing to the length of the song.

In this post, I have tried to list ten of Lata Mangeshkar’s solos where her canorous voice complements the instrumental music of the prelude. What is common in all these songs is that the lyrics in the prelude do not find a place in the main song – i.e. they do not figure again in the mukhda and/or antaras. Further, the tune of the prelude is not the same the rest of the song; as a result it could keep you guessing as to which song it actually is. I have also steered clear of qawwalis as they do follow this pattern somewhat – of a long prelude – but belong to a completely different genre of music.

The songs that I am listing below are known more by the mukhda than the prelude, though the lyrics and music of the prelude are as enthralling as the rest of the song. Most of the songs are very popular – some are even iconic. I have tried to highlight a fairly unnoticed dimension of these songs. The lyricists of these songs would have traversed an extra mile. These songs need more creativity in not only writing the mukhda and antara but to have lyrics for the prelude which need to both gel with as well as stand out in order to get noticed. Now, without further ado, let me get to my list. The songs are of the golden era though not arranged in any particular order.

1) Aayega Aanewala (Mahal, 1949) Lyricist Naqshab Jaavarchi, Music Director Khemchand Prakash. This is a song on which an entire post can be written. This song put the spotlight on two young ladies. One was Lata Mangeshkar who gained fame as a playback singer and never looked back. The other was Madhubala who became an established actress after her stellar performance in this movie. It was also marked the directorial debut of Kamal Amrohi. The lyricist of this song – Naqshab Jaavarchi – has done a stupendous job. He was immensely talented but did not work prolifically in Indian cinema. He shifted base to Pakistan in his later years. It is said that the opening line of the song, ‘Khamosh hain zamana chup chaap hain nigahein,’ was penned by Kamal Amrohi himself and the rest was written by Naqshab.

Khemchand Prakash (1907-1949) who composed the score of this song was one of the pioneering music directors in Hindi films but his untimely demise cut short a blossoming career. At that time, composers were using forty pieces of an orchestra or even more but Aayega Aanewala was recorded with only twelve instruments. This almost became his swan song for he died soon after, without witnessing what a sensation his song had become.

The song starts with haunting music aptly provided by the piano notes for the chimes of the grandfather clock (which alas [!] is not seen anymore). The swinging chandelier and the desolate sprawling palace adds to the (ghostly !) aura. The slow, halting prelude coincides with a perplexed Ashok Kumar trying to figure out whose spooky voice it is. And then suddenly there is the full throated Lata singing, ‘Aayega Aayega Aayega Aanewala.’ To create the effect of a distant voice which would add to the eeriness, it is said that Lata sang the prelude from a distance and slowly started coming towards the microphone. It is interesting to note that the prelude is about 2:15 minutes long accounting for almost one – third of the total duration of the song, perhaps one of the longest preludes in Hindi film music. It is Lata’s voice with minimum music support which mesmerizes. Truly Lata had arrived (Aayega Aanewala!)

khaamosh hai zamanaa, chup chaap hain sitaare
aaraam se hain duniyaa, bekal hain dil ke maare
aise mein koi aahat, is tarah aa rahi hain
jaise ki chal rahaa hain, man mein koi hamaare
yaa dil dhadak rahaa hain, ik aas ke sahaare

2) Thade Rahiyo (Pakeezah, 1972) Lyricist Mjrooh Sultanpuri and Kamal Amrohi, Music Director Ghulam Mohammad. If Mahal was Kamal Amrohi’s debut film as director, Pakeezah was his magnum opus and his wife Meena Kumari’s final performance before the arc lights. Like in the song from Mahal where it is said that he penned the opening lines, the opening lines which form a part of the prelude in this song too have been penned by him and not Majrooh Sultanpuri. This genre of Urdu poetry is called Qat’ã (قطعہ). Kamal Amrohi seemed to have a penchant for this genre.

The song is a mujra, laced with playfulness; it trains the ardent lover in the art of patiently cooling his heels. The Qat’a talks of how long it has been since the beloved came to meet. The night thus becomes a moonlit one (even if it isn’t actually so! ). The happiness expressed in these lines of meeting the beloved then turns into making him wait almost as if to punish him in the mukhda and the antaras. The manner in which the two antithetical moods are merged is wonderful – the delight of meeting after a long time and the arduous wait the lover is subjected to by prolonging the process of adorning and clearing the coast. The opulence of the set is also breathtaking. The prelude is almost a minute long.

chaandni raat badi der ke baad aai hain
ye mulaaqaat badi der ke baad aai hain
aaj ki raat woh aaye hain badi der ke baad
aaj ki raat badi der ke baad aai hain

3) Mohe Bhool Gaye Saawariya (Baiju Bawra, 1952) Lyricist Shakeel Badayuni, Music Director Naushad. A gem of a composition from a movie which was all about classical music, this song has strong shades of Raag Bhairav. Meena Kumari plays the role of the the tragedy queen to the hilt in this song. The emptiness in her innocent lovelorn eyes as tears roll down uncontrollably is matched by the desolate surroundings. There can be no better song to express pain after being forgotten by your beloved. It is an extremely melancholic song with lyrics penned in a mix of braj and Hindi.

The prelude is slow and sets the tone for the rest of the song, which is also slow, in keeping with the mood of the song. This could be rated as one of the best songs that Lata sang for Naushad.

jo main sa jaanti
ki preet kiye dukh hoy
ooo, nagar dhindhora peetti
ki preet na kariyo koy

4) Mohabbat Aisi Dhadkan Hain (Anarkali, 1953) Lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri, Music Director C.Ramchandra. This bitter sweet Lata number from the movie Anarkali oscillates between hope and despair. In the movie, Anarkali is waiting to meet Salim secretively when she sings this song. Set to Raag Rageshri, this beautiful solo is rendered flawlessly by Lata as always. C.Ramchandra’s music is par excellence. In fact all the songs of this movie were memorable. All, except one, were sung by Lata.

An interesting piece of trivia here is that Vasant Prakash was initially chosen as the music director and he had even recorded one song of the movie in Geeta Dutt’s voice (Aye Jaan-e-Wafaa, which also interestingly has a lovely prelude with lyrics). However, he fell out with the producer of the movie and was thus replaced by C.Ramchandra who wanted all the songs to be sung by Lata. This did happen but the Geeta Dutt number was retained and so the film had two music directors – C.Ramchandra and Vasant Prakash. Vasant Prakash however was not very prolific after this.

The prelude lines refer to the lighted candle Anarkali holds in her hand waiting for Salim. The willing wait is in the hope of sighting splendour (jalwon – here of Salim’s advent) even as the candle burns, albeit sadly. Various websites have got the lyrics wrong. One needs to hear very carefully to get them right. Some say janmon ki pyaas hain (it is jalwon ki aas hain) which is completely off track; others say to woh bhi instead of So woh bhi.

is intezaar-e-shauk ko
jalwon ki aas hain
ik shamma jal rahi hain
so woh bhi udaas hain

5) Sab Kuch Lutaake Hosh Mein Aaye (Ek Saal, 1957) Lyricist Prem Dhawan, Music Director Ravi. This is a song from the third movie that Ashok Kumar and Madhubala were paired, the first two being Mahal and Nishana. The high pitched prelude sung in a party in the movie by Madhubala is a song that comes straight from the heart after learning about being betrayed in love. She expresses her anguish and introspects as to how she just did not see this coming. Interestingly, there is a male version of this song which Talat has rendered. This is a song where Ashok Kumar also introspects as to how he did not recognize true, unconditional love. The only common factor in both versions is the tune. The lyrics, both of the prelude and the rest of the song, are completely different as they are rendered from two different standpoints. In the female version, the prelude is more high pitched and longer, lasting almost a minute. (I am citing both below just to appreciate the difference.)

Female Version 
Na poochho pyaar ki humne jo haqeeqat dekhi
Wafaa ke naam pe bikte hue ulfat dekhi
Kisi ne loot liyaa aur hamen khabar na hui
Khuli jo aankh to barbaad mohabbat dekhi

Male Version 
karte rahe khiza se hum sauda bahaar ka
badla diya to kya ye diya unke pyar ka

6) Aa Aa Bhi Jaa Raat Dhalne Lagi (Teesri Kasam, 1966) Lyricist Shailendra, Music Director Shankar Jaikishan. This song is picturized on Waheeda Rehman as she dances on stage. She plays the role of a nautanki dancer in the movie. Having fallen in love with Hiraman, a simpleton, she understands that the path she has chosen is a forbidden one for a woman like her. The movie brought several greats under one roof – Shailendra as lyricist and producer, Basu Bhattacharya as director, Shankar Jaikishan as music directors, Phanishwarnath Renu as the dialogue writer (incidentally the writer of Maare Gaye Gulfam, the short story on which the film was completely based). Despite such great minds commingling, the movie did not do well at the box office and eventually became one of the main reasons for Shailendra’s untimely demise. However, it was not too long after that that the movie acquired cult status and even won prestigious awards. The movie has a very strong rustic touch as it is based in a village and local dialects have been used very liberally, and rightly so, through out the movie. The movie had several songs given the fact that there were several dance performances that Waheeda had to give as a nautanki dancer.

The prelude of the song is high pitched and slow, indicating the fate that Waheeda’s love for Raj Kapoor in the movie would meet. The second line is rather difficult to interpret. Loosely translated, the lines perhaps mean – your love is sure to destroy me. This is just the beginning (of my love for you) and I already suffer extreme anguish.

Rahega ishq tera khaak me mila ke mujhe
huye hain ibtedaa mein ranj inteha ke mujhe

7) Jo Main Jaanti Bisrat Hain Saiyyan (Shabab, 1954) Lyricist Shakeel Badayuni, Music Director Naushad. This gem from one of the early movies of Nutan boasts of several lovely songs. The movie is a fractured fairytale, ending tragically (as the song Jeena Teri Gali Mein, Marna Teri Gali Mein suggests). Just like in Baiju Bawra where the hero was Bharat Bhushan, this movie too has him as the male protagonist. His proficiency in classical music is central to the plot of the movie. The similarity perhaps ends here. Both movies are poles apart in their plots. May I also add here that Nutan looks rather slender in the movie though her acting prowess is already there to see.

The situation in this song is somewhat akin to that of the song of Baiju Baawra (Mohe Bhool Gaye Saawariya). It is once again the same duo at work – Naushad and Shakeel – but the lyrics are so revitalizing. Unlike the Baiju Bawra song which speaks of conformism, this song exudes a refreshing sense of defiance. The play on words in the prelude bina (without) and beena ( the stringed instrument) is also unmissable.

man saajan ne har linaa
aur tan duniya ne chhinaa
bhala kaho ab kaise baje
bina taar ke beena

8) Ai Ri Jaane Na Dungi (Chitalekha, 1964) Lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, Music Director Roshan. A piece of advice that I would give before writing more on this song is that it must only be heard and not seen. The reason is that it is an eyesore. All the actors of this movie look jaded and too old for their roles. One can blame it on the historical subject and context of the movie – which needed actors who were younger and fitter – along with the horrendous makeup and wigs which compound the viewer’s misery. One cannot help remembering the movie Aarti (1962) which released just two years before Chitralekha, where the same actors – Ashok Kumar, Pradeep Kumar and Meena Kumari – had given such powerful performances. Incidentally, the music director of Aarti was Roshan! Even though Chitralekha flopped, Roshan’s music in the movie was par excellence. Based on classical raagas, each song is exquisite.

This particular song of the movie has a long drawn, slow, vocal prelude which is followed by a more fast paced mukhda and antaras as the royal dancers take over. Set to raag Kamod, the song in chaste Sanskritized Hindi, penned by Sahir is pure bliss. However the mukhda is said to be from an old source and was not Sahir’s creation. There is no clarity about who penned the prelude lyrics.

aali ri, roko naa koi
karne do mujhko manmaani 
aaj mere ghar aaye wo pritam
jinke liye sab nagri chhaani
aaj koi bandhan naa bhaaye
aaj hain khool khelan ki thaani

9) Luti Zindagi Aur Hum Muskuraye (Parvarish, 1958) Lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri, Music Director Dattaram Wadkar. There were a couple of other songs that I wanted to include but I decided to list this because of the music director. As I have always maintained, it is the unsung talents that need to be spotlighted as reams have already been written about the front liners. Having worked as an assistant of the great duo Shankar Jaikshan, he perhaps lived in their shadow and could not successfully launch himself as an independent music director. He was an accomplished tabla player. Parvarish was one of the few movies which saw him in the role of an independent music composer. The movie had some very memorable songs but this particular song of the same movie is a lesser heard one. It has a beautiful high pitched prelude and the rest of the song too, somewhat, maintains the same pitch. Hasrat Jaipuri’s lyrics also are very beautiful where he says –luti zindagi aur gham muskuraye / gale humse milkar khushi ro rahi hain. The manner in which the coupling of opposite emotions is done is lovely.

jahaan wale tere ghar chiraag jalte hain 
hamare dil mein magar dil ke daag jalte hain

10) Tu Pyaar Kare Ya Thukraaye ( Dekh Kabira Roya, 1957) Lyricist Rajinder Krishan, Music Director Madan Mohan. This song from a film, which is a comedy of errors, is unique because it is actually a part of a series of songs – the third part. The first begins as Meri Veena Tum Bin Roye (sung by Lata) and the first line of this song becomes the refrain after the second and the third song ends. The second song is Ashkon Se Teri Humne Tasveer Banai Hain (sung by Asha Bhosle) and the third which is the song I refer to here is the one which has the vocal prelude. This is again sung by Lata and is picturized on a distraught Shubha Khote. I like the way the second and the third song songs come back to the opening line. Weaving three songs into one without any disjoint is truly the brilliance of Madan Mohan. The raag he has composed in is Ahir Bhairav. This song swings between hope and despair and the lyrics of both the prelude and the rest of the song (penned by Rajinder Krishan) convey the same mixed emotions.

na gila hoga, na shikwa, na shikayat hogi
arz hain chhoti si, sunlo to inayat hogi

Here I come to the end of my playlist. I am sure there are many more songs of Lata which have vocal preludes. Since I wanted to have a crisp list, I have only ten. Some others that were therefore left out were Jab Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (Mughl-e-Azam, 1960), Raat Ka Sama (Ziddi, 1964) and Ae Mere Dil-e-Naadaan (Tower House, sad version, 1962) .

While I was writing this post, I realized that preludes of songs are generally ignored or forgotten. The only time one perhaps remembers them is when Antakshari is being played and the opponent, in order to outwit you, points out that the song actually has a different beginning!

While I have enlisted Lata’s solos with vocal preludes, there are many duets/trios that she has sung where there are long preludes though the prelude has not necessarily been sung by her. A few of them are – Dil Mein Sama Gaye Sajan (Sangdil, 1952), Mujhe Teri Mohabbat Ka (Aap Aaye Bahaar Aayee, 1971), Purva Suhani Aayi Re (Purab aur Paschim, 1970), Tu Ganga Ki Mauj Main Main Jamuna Ka Dhara (Baiju Baawra, 1952), Jeet Hi lenge Baazi Hum Tum (Shola aur Shabnam, 1961) and Jeevan Mein Piya Tera Saath Rahe ( Goonj Uthi Shahnai, 1959). Let me also conclude by saying that songs with vocal preludes – both solos as well as duets – have been sung by other singers as well, though the number may not be as considerable (barring Rafi, maybe??).

I am sure there are many more solos of Lata which have vocal preludes. Please do add on if you happen to read my post and know of any songs that fall in this category.

6 thoughts on “Solo Songs of Lata – Vocal Preludes Special

  1. Aayega aanewaala was the one which first came to my mind, and then Mohe bhool gaye saanwariya – both of which I was very happy to see on your list. 🙂 Some other lovely songs here, too. Interesting post, thanks for this.


    1. Thanks for the lovely song, Anupji! Strange that the songs of Anarkali which released around the same time became so popular but the songs of Jhanjhar where the music is equally beautiful did not. I love the lyrics of the prelude
      bahaare bech daali, phunk dala aashiyaane ko
      zara si raakh rakh di, bewafaa tere dikhaane ko


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