(Wishing a very Happy 83rd Birthday to Usha Mangeshkar)
This post was in the air for quite some time. When I started searching for the post, I was troubled by a few things. The first important obstacle was to confirm the exact date, as I found three different birth dates mentioned on three different sites. Then Arun Kumar ji Deshmukh came to my rescue and confirmed today’s date. I want to thank him for that. He has been very supportive & encouraging to me. The second problem was the paucity of information about her film songs and personal life on internet. But I watched some of her interviews and decided to move forward with my post.
She is the youngest among Mangeshkar sisters and elder to Hridaynath Mangeshkar. She has faint memories of her father, who died when she was just six. So she could not take tutelage from him. But she had a natural inclination towards music and other arts. She must have learnt from listening to her elder sister Lata Didi, from an early age. Later she had formal training from Ustad Amanat Ali Khan & Ustad Aman Ali Khan. She used to attend musical concerts with her siblings and that enriched her natural talent for singing. In early years, her style of singing and to some extent her voice was very similar to Lata Mangeshkar. It’s very difficult to differentiate their voices in songs like, Aplam Chaplam. She developed her own style later, but she was also interested in painting (which she learnt from Mr Acharekar, who was Art director at RK studios) and dancing as well. It is also mentioned that she had formal training in dance as well, before she joined films as a playback singer. Her painting abilities are well known & she had some of her paintings exhibited in Mumbai, few years back. For her, painting and singing are complementary to each other and are closely related. She says, ‘We get a definite image about the picturisation of the song, when we listen to it. It forms an image that helps to sing the song with the perfect emotions.’ She used to paint from an early age, but she painted for the first time, to a song for ‘Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam Haseen’. After she listened to it, she painted a sea shore and was disappointed to watch the song later, picturised in a jungle. Her painting of ‘Shivaji Ganeshan’ & ‘ Shivaji Maharaj’ are quite famous.
(Photos courtesy: Usha Mangeshkar twitter page)
Let’s talk about her singing career now. Her first playback was for Baby Rajshree, for the film, Subah Ka Tara in 1954. It was her first solo and the voice suited very well on screen. But I think, she was never very serious about her singing career in Hindi films and was not career minded. For initial few years, she sang duets with Lata Mangeshkar, some of which were spectacular hits. The duets from Azad are a perfect example. She also sang for child artists in initial years. Her talent never got promoted in a significant way in Hindi films for a long time. In 60s, she sang a number of duets with Lata Mangeshkar & Asha Bhosle. But majority of the songs were subsidiary dance numbers, though occasionally the heroine would be a part of the song, if Lata Mangeshkar is a co singer. More about her duets in the second part of the post. Today I’m concentrating on her solos. She was offered main lead songs in 60s for some B grade and stunt movies, like Magic Carpet, Mujrim Kaun Khooni Kaun, Tarzan & King Kong, etc. The songs were average, though some of the movies had good songs too. I have highlighted some of those songs in the list. She sang all types of songs, from Lullabies to Cabaret and love songs to soulful ghazals & mujra songs. She molds her voice perfectly for a situation so that while she is best known for the devotional song, ‘Main To Aarti Utaru Re’, an item number ‘Mungla’ is also among her popular songs. She started her career with C Ramchandra, but later worked with majority of the popular & less popular composers. Madan Mohan, Jaidev, Shankar Jaikishan, Laxmikant Pyarelal, R D Burman, Kalyanji Anandji, were among the popular composers in her career. She also had an association with Iqbal Qureshi, Pardesi, G S Kohli, Chitragupta, Ravi, C Arjun, Bappi Lahiri, Ram Laxman etc.
Her major break was for the film, Jai Santoshi Maa, which was released in 1974 & was a surprise Box office hit, even when films like Sholay were in the run. The Aarti song from the movie, made her famous overnight and she was nominated for Best Playback Singer at Filmfare Awards for the first time. She was nominated again for the song ‘Mugla’ from Inkaar & ‘Humse Nazar To Milao’ from Ikraar. But she could not make it to actual trophy any time. If we take a look at her career, most of the songs are duets or trios and Quadruples with other singers. Her outstanding & popular Hindi solos are less in number.
In comparison, her Marathi songs, both film & non film are immensely popular and I’m going to highlight some of my favourites too! She has sung in other languages as well, like Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Bhojpuri and Nepali too.
And Here I’m with Hindi & Marathi solos of Usha Mangeshkar, in no particular order………………
1. Bhabhi Aayi Bhabhi Aayi – Subah Ka Tara (1954) C Ramchandra – Noor Lucknowi
Her first Hindi film song. Baby Rajashree is mocking her sister in law’s arrival at home. She calls her fatty, slightly dumb and describes the unfortunate funny sequence of events that follows her journey to their home. It wasn’t a bad start for Usha Mangeshkar, but unfortunately she couldn’t make a mark in A-grade social films. Many singers accept songs from B grade movies in the early part of their career. But a few get typecast for those films, and occasionally get chance for subsidiary songs in A grade movies. Holds true for many singers of the Golden era.
2. Chachi Akad Gayi – Panchayat (1958) / Iqbal Qureshi – Shakeel Nomani
Again a playback for a child. A fun song describing the pretend anger of his aunt and funny fight between his uncle and aunt. Usha Tai’s voice suits the occasion perfectly. The innocence in her voice highlights Daisy Irani’s innocent face. Watch the complete song to enjoy it.
3. Aankhon Mein Surma Daal Ke – Rani Rupmati (1957) / S N Tripathi – Bharat Vyas
The video of this song is very short, not even for a full minute. But it’s a melodious song, available full as an audio track. A pre marriage song. The abruptly ending video makes us wanna watch it fully, but nevertheless we have the wonderful audio in full version.
4. Mere Mehbbob Sun – Bhootnath (1963) / Vedpal Verma – Yusuf (?)
The film, the composer and the lyricist (haven’t ever heard of him) all are lesser known. But look at the quality of the song, such a nice use of piano. Even for such a film, Usha Tai has sung with deep emotions and dedication. A wonderful song.
5. Thandi Hawaon Kali Ghataon – Zimbo Comes To Town (1960) / Chitragupt – Prem Dhawan
Chitra singing happily roaming on a lovely landscape. Chitragupt offered some of the songs to Usha Mangeshkar over the years, mainly for b grade movies and mythological movies. But it’s such a delightful song, it doesn’t matter. A typical Chitragupt melody, creating sweet wonders even without Lata Mangeshkar.
6. Dono Hathon Se Dil Kyun Sambhala Hai – Sunehri Nagain (1963) / Kalyanji Anandji – Faruq Kaiser
A dance performance by Helen for Anwar Hussen. The film has only one song by Usha Tai. But it’s among popular songs from the movie. The song could be a climax song, it seems,good song, it supports the dance very well.
7. Lage Nahi Mora Jiya – Banarasi Thug (1962) / Iqbal Qureshi – Gulshan Bawra
Iqbal Qureshi offered her a few duets and solo for the film. A good song to listen to. The semi classical dance number is a deliberate attempt to distract I S Johar’s attention. The thugs perform their part meanwhile.
8. Yeh Aaj Kal Ke Ladke – Dillagi (1966) / Laxmikant Pyarelal – Majrooh
She got a good opportunity in the film, to sing for main lead, let be for a single song. Though I don’t like it much, I guess it’s fairly popular. The fast paced song is sung with appropriate naughtiness and crispy pronunciations. She jeers at young men in general for being fashionable in vain, than studying. And taunts about their hairstyles, physique. A fun to watch and listen to. Enjoy ladies!
9. Tu Mungla Mungla – Inkaar (1977) / Rajesh Roshan – Majrooh
Usha Mangeshkar was nominated at Filmfare best female playback singer awards for the second time, for this song. It is immensely popular and the catchy tune and the rhythm appeal to all generations alike. Some share of the popularity definitely goes to Helen, whose dance enchants the audience.
10. Sultana Sultana – Tarana (1979) / Ram Laxman – Ravindra Rawal
One of her very popular songs. Ranjeeta acts like a newcomer in the song, her awkward dancing distracts! I remember listening to the song in childhood on a cassette. Ram Laxman offered her a fair chance in Hindi films. Her concert is never complete without this song.
11. Main To Aarti Utaru Re – Jai Santoshi Maa (1974) with Chorus / C Arjun – Kavi Pradeep
This is her best known Hindi film song. In fact, she received instant recognition after its release. The Aarti was tuned into Gujarati garba music and the folkish tune caught instant attention and is still immensely popular. It is a straight simple devotional song, the simplicity itself appealed much to general public. Usha Mangeshkar sang the song once again in 2006, for the remake of the movie.
12. Sanjh Bhayi, Jhanjh Bhed Jiyra Ke – Sapna (1969) / Jaidev – V N Mangal
A beautiful semi classical song, perhaps a dance performance on screen. Usha Tai was at home for such compositions as well, though she hardly got opportunities for such songs in social films, early in her career. I couldn’t get much information about the movie, but as usual Jaidev has composed it excellently and sung easily by Usha Tai.
13. Ab Se Pehle To – Nawab Sahib (1978) / C Arjun – Sahir
A lesser known song, but a beautiful composition. She is wondering about the dreamy state of her mind, experienced for the first time. She is eager to meet someone, talk to him,fishing for compliments. The bewildered girl is portrayed very well by Usha Tai. Every song has its own fortune, some are fortunate enough to be popular, others though good, remain unheard.
Now, some of my favourite Marathi tracks,
14. तुम्हाला केली मी मर्जी बहाल – पिंजरा (1970) / राम कदम – जगदीश खेबुडकर
Pinjara was the most successful Marathi movie of the year & celebrated golden jubilee. The major attraction was its songs along with spectacular Lavani dances by Sandhya & Dr Shriram Lagoo in a different role. Usha Mangeshkar sung the songs with great devotion & are considered evergreen. These songs require a particular type of singing, and way of pronunciation. She got them perfect & excelled in all the songs. The selected song is not a dance number, but a song requesting a lover to stay back. The plea in her voice is just appropriate for the situation.
15. केळीचे सुकले बाग- भावगीत (Non Film) / यशवंत देव – कवि अनिल
A soulful song. It feels like a philosophical song, metaphorically comparing the world around us to a banana plantation. Without love and affection, the relationship becomes mechanical. We all require inner strength and vitality to continue our life, the materialistic world can’t help us.
16. काय बाई सांगु – पवना काठचा धोंडी / पंडित ह्रदयनाथ मंगेशकर – शांता शेळके
A romantic song describing Her first encounter with Him. I could not get its video, but it should have been fun to watch! She is very shy & wondering what exactly has happened to her? She has lost her nerve and thinks about him all the time. The shyness of an eager lover, her memories of his visit are expressed perfectly by Usha Tai. A perfect song!
17. ससा तो ससा – बालगीत (Non Film) / अरुण पौडवाल – शांताराम नांदगावकर
One of my most favourite songs for children (Baal Geet). The song describes the most well known story of Hare & Tortoise and is inspiring to listeners of all ages alike. Slow but steady wins the race is the message given by this peppy song.
And now a bonus track,
It’s not possible to end the list, without a लावणी.
18. मला आणा कोल्हापुरी साज – सोनाराने टोचले कान / राम कदम – ग दि माडगुळकर
A wonderful Lavani, which later became her forte. The Lavani songs from Pinjara overshadowed her other Lavani songs. But she was an expert. Enjoy the song.
Would you add a song?
Mehfil Mein Meri, claims no credit for any image posted on this site. Images on this blog are posted to make the text interesting. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are from YouTube and have been used here only for the music lovers. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners.