Lata Mangeshkar: 28th September 1929 – 6th February 2022!

Lata Mangeshkar has been the greatest ever singer from India, and with very little doubt. In a career spanning over 70 years, she sang and enthralled billions of people with thousands of songs in several languages, including Indian and foreign. Since the exact number of songs sung by this phenomenal singer has been under tremendous controversy since they vary from 6,000 to over 30,000, I had done some intense research across contradictory sources of information and arrived at a number that is closer to 6,500. You can read a snapshot of that research in the Facebook link below:

But today, it is not about how many songs Lata ji sang, it is about the quality of her voice, the immense talent she had, and the way she mesmerized the entire country and beyond, with her magical voice through generations. In over seven decades, she worked with almost all the music composers (except O P Nayyar), and sang with a range of other singers, from the small and unknown to the popular legends like Mohd. Rafi, Kishore Kumar, and her own sister, Asha Bhosle.

There are few things more challenging than creating a top ten list for Lata Mangeshkar. Out of the 6,500 songs she sang, a good 2,000 were massive hits, and almost anyone with the slightest love for Bollywood music would have easily heard a few hundred songs from this great singer. Since the day of her death, close to a month back, I have been listening to her songs all over again, and I think I have listened to over 400 of my favorite songs, some of them multiple times, to arrive at a list of top 25, and I focused on only her solo numbers, from which I have eventually created a list of the “Top Ten Hindi Songs by Lata Mangeshkar” according to me. And yet, this list has been changed 4 times in the last 3 days.

So without further ado, I’ll share my list with other music lovers. But one quick word of caution before that.
Please understand that this is a list of my top favorites and since it is opinion-based, there is an obvious and high likelihood of my list being different from yours. I hope you will like these songs, even if they don’t figure in your top list, and I am happy to hear about other songs that you feel would be in your top ten list. I am confident, I would love them myself. So let’s get to it:

No. 10 – Sun Sahiba Sun

Movie: Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985)
Music: Ravindra Jain
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri

A lovely catchy composition by Ravindra Jain, who won the Filmfare Best Music Director Award for Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Lata Ji also won the Bengal Film Journalists’ Award 1986, for this song. The film won 5 Filmfare awards in 1986, including Best Film and Best Director (Raj Kapoor)

No. 9 – Tere Mere Beech Mein

Movie: Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981)
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

Another blockbuster from the early 1980s, Ek Duuje Ke Liye won 3 Filmfare awards and one National Film Award, although the best Female Singer award was won by Asha Bhosle for Umarao Jaan. This song, sung both in the happy and sad versions, by Lata and S P Balasubrahmanyam respectively, was a super hit without any doubt.

No. 8 – Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil

Movie: Bees Saal Baad (1962)
Music: Hemant Kumar
Lyrics: Shakeel Baduyani

In 1962, the film Bees Saal Baad won 4 Filmfare awards, including Best Lyrics for Shakeel Baduyani while Lata Mangeshkar won the Best Female Singer for this haunting melody composed by Hemant Kumar. A pure classic!

No. 7 – Yeh Sama, Sama Hai Ye Pyar Ka

Movie: Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965)
Music: Kalyanji Anandji
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965) was an average film and did not win any notable awards. But the music composition by Kalyanji Anandji was fantastic, even though it did not even get nominated for the Filmfare awards, which was deservedly won by Ravi for Khandaan. Lata Mangeshkar also won the Best Playback Singer award for her performance in ‘Tumhi Meri Mandir’ from Khandaan. Nevertheless, this song has been one of my favorites. There was something immensely appealing about a woman singing to herself, using her own ways of self-expression, oblivious and regardless of her surroundings.

No. 6 – Chhod De Saari Duniya

Movie: Saraswatichandra (1968)
Music: Kalyanji Anandji
Lyrics: Indeevar

Saraswatichandra (1968) was another marvel from Kalyanji Anandji, but even this one did not win the Filmfare awards, which were awarded to Shankar Jaikishan for Brahmachari, while Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle took the Best Singer awards. Kalyanji Anandji did win the National Film Award for Saraswatichandra and this song, a deeply saddening number with a rare message of acceptance, makes it a special one. Apologies, I couldn’t find a link with the original film track. Take a listen.

No. 5 – Baahon Me Chale Aao

Movie: Anamika (1973) 
Music: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Lyrics: R D Burman

A song that many would think, was ideally suited to Asha Bhosle’s style, but Lata Mangeshkar showed her immense versatility by singing this lovely composition by R D Burman. By this time, Lata Ji had withdrawn herself from the Filmfare awards in order to promote younger talents and the award went to Asha ji for her number in the film Naina, while the best Music award went to the Senior Burman for Abhimaan.

No. 4 – Humne Dekhi Hai Un Aankhon Ki

Movie: Khamoshi (1969)
Music: Hemant Kumar
Lyrics: Gulzar

This beautiful song did not win any awards, but there is something magical about this simple but heart-touching number, both in terms of the natural flow of the song, a quintessential Hemant Kumar trademark style, as well as the uncomplicated yet deep lyrics by Gulzar. One of my personal favorites of all time.

No. 3 – Aaja Re Pardesi

Movie: Madhumati (1958) 
Music: Salil Chowdhury
Lyrics: Shailendra

Madhumati was nothing short of a phenomenon. This Bimal Roy film swooped the 6th Filmfare awards by winning in 9 categories, a record that was kept for 37 long years, including the Best Playback Singer award that was announced for the first time and Lata Mangeshkar won the very first award for this song, which at that time, was only one for both Male and Female categories. Madhumati is widely regarded as one of the most melodious films ever produced and Salil Chowdhury established himself as one of the greatest composers.

No. 2 – Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh

Movie: Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960) 
Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Lyrics: Shailendra

Shankar Jaikishan won the Best Music Award for Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai in 1961, but Lata Ji lost to Mohd. Rafi for the Best Playback Singer award whose “Chaudhvin Ka Chand” stole the show. Nevertheless, this was one song that would remain in our memories for a long, long time.

No. 1 – Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha

Movie: Anpadh (1962) 
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan

One of the earliest movies emphasizing the need for educating women, Anpadh (1962) was a musical masterpiece in the truest sense. While Lata Mangeshkar worked and excelled with several Music Directors, some of her most melodious songs were composed by Madan Mohan. While this song by Lata Ji and Madan Mohan’s composition for Anpadh fell short that year to Shankar Jaikishan‘s ‘Professor‘, Lata Ji did win the Best Playback Singer award for her rendition of “Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil” from ‘Bees Saal Baad‘ (No. 8 on my list).

So that was my Top Ten Solo songs by Lata Mangeshkar, the greatest singer from India. Let me know if you like these songs and I will be happy to listen to some more songs that you might suggest.
But before I let go of you, I would love you to listen to a song that doesn’t belong to this list, because it was sung in a different language.

Parting Gift – Ekbar Bidaay De Ma

Movie: Subhas Chandra (1966) 
Music: Aparesh Lahiri
Lyrics: Pitamber Das

This great song was from the Bengali film Subhas Chandra (1966) and Lata Ji really made her mark with a mind-blowing performance. The sheer effort she put into grasping the language, the diction, and the way every single word is articulated is indeed a miracle. I have to admit, I have listened to many famous singers sing in other languages that are not native to them, especially those sung by Non-Bengali singers in the Bengali language, but no one has ever achieved this level of perfection. This song was composed to honor Khudiram Bose, the Bengali freedom fighter who was hanged to death by the British masters when he was just 18 years old.

Take a listen and if it doesn’t make the corners of your eyes moist, do let me know.

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