What Lata-Asha meant to RD Burman and OP Nayyar
[Book extract] There is the key difference between the two music composers as trailblazers.
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Asha's craft lies in shunning "craft". Lata's art lies in concealing art.
On the career front, through the 1950s, Asha's Marathi-Hindi diction always posed a problem.
Where it came to Urdu, Lata was the role model, having absorbed the finer points of the language from the Lucknowi Naushad and other master composers of the era.
So much so that, if there had been no Lata Mangeshkar, there would have been no Madan Mohan to sing.
Likewise, how much of OP Nayyar would there have been left to sing if you took away Asha Bhosle's 324 songs, Geeta Dutt's 62 songs and Shamshad Begum's 39 songs?
Beyond that, how much? A total of 77 OP compositions distributed among as many as 20 singers?
That meant, where 22 lady singers shared 178 OP compositions a single songstress, OP's one and only Asha Bhosle, "commandeered" 324 songs.
Debating the matter along the same lines, if RD Burman as a mould-breaker cut through via Asha Bhosle, how much did Lata mean to Pancham?
Well, if Pancham's music is not complete without Asha, it does not even begin minus Lata! "The voice of Pancham", therefore, is Lata - Asha or no Asha.
On air through the Saturday-Sunday of 6-7 July 1968 was the Vishesh Jaymala programme of All India Radio's Vividh Bharati.
In that programme raptly heard throughout the Indian subcontinent, the Pancham penchant for Lata became evident. Became evident in the 12 songs - eight of them his own compositions - that Pancham played here.Asha Bhosle: A Musical Biography; Hay House; Rs 599.
In that Vishesh Jaymala put forth by Pancham, Asha Bhosle got no more than a look-in with "O mere Sona re Sona re Sona re" (on Asha Parekh in Teesri Manzil).
Even here, Asha found herself Pancham-sandwiched between two Lata-participating numbers!
For, following "O mere Sona re Sona re Sona re", Pancham chose to play Manna Dey, Lata Mangeshkar and chorus "Chunari sambhal gori udee chali jaaye re".
This one was on Anwar Hussain, Laxmi Chhaya and Asha Parekh in Baharon Ke Sapne - end-May 1967.
Pancham ratified his Vividh Bharati choice of as many as six Lata lovelies - in eight RD compositions - with the Mangeshkar mellifluous "Sharm aati hai magar aaj yeh kehnaa hogaa".
A brilliantly honed tune it turned out to be, if going abegging on Saira Banu in Padosan - November 1968.
(The songs of Padosan, as tuned by Pancham, were all the rage months before this "cult film to be" arrived.)RD Burman with Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle.
By way of an RD Vishesh Jaymala round-off, now, came Kishore Kumar's "Mere saamne waali khidki mein" (on Sunil Dutt, by KK courtesy, in the same Padosan).
It was against this backdrop that I asked RD Burman about which musical score he rated, as his best ever, after 22 years in films. "It still is Chhote Nawab," opined Pancham.
"If only because Lata Mangeshkar was not, any longer, singing for Dada Burman when Mehmood asked me to compose Chhote Nawab. Those days [going into 1961], you were made if you got Lata Mangeshkar to render your maiden song. So I told Dada [Burman], flat, that I was ringing Lataji. As Lataji, too, wanted to get back to Dada, she readily agreed to sing 'Ghar aa jaa ghir aaye' for me."
Here I chipped in with: "Did you, initially, set 'Ghar aa jaa' as Raag Bageshri in the Kaafi thhaat? Or was it in that thhaat from the word go - to unfold as Raag Malgunji?"
Came back Pancham: "Who but you could pose such a query? All that I know is that I slipped into the Kaafi thhaat while shaping 'Ghar aa jaa ghir aaye'. From there, it does go into Raag Malgunji. In the face of having scored a thousand-and-one numbers since, 'Ghar aa jaa ghir aaye' remains my best. The memory of the legendary Lata Mangeshkar agreeing to sing so readily for a beginner like me makes 'Ghar aa jaa' unique."
There is the key difference between RD Burman and OP Nayyar as trailblazers both. Pancham never overcame his fascination for Lata Mangeshkar.
By contrast, Lata, as our "super singing power", meant nothing, just nothing, to OP. For OP, it was Asha Bhosle all the way
(Reprinted with publisher's permission. Courtesy of Mail Today.)