Songs of Yore Award for the best duet goes to?
After the survey post on the best songs of 1953, I have already done Wrap Up 1 on the best male solos and Wrap Up 2 on the best female solos. Continuing the series I present the third Wrap Up on the best duets.
While surveying the music of 1953, Subodh made a somewhat radical statement that it was not a great year for male solos. Some other readers also too seemed to echo that sentiment. The absence of any great Rafi solo did make the year less diverse, and it ultimately became a one-horse (Talat Mahmood) race. Subodh was equally dismissive of female solos ‘Female solos too don’t do much either’. If a year had Ye zindagi usi ki hai, Ye sham ki tanhaiyan, Raja ki ayegi baraat, Aa ja ri aa nindiya tu aa, Hamare baad ab mahfil mein afsane bayan honge of Lata Mangeshkar, and great songs by Rajkumari, Shamshad Begum, Asha Bhosle, Geeta Dutt and Jagjit Kaur which we discussed, I would say it was as great a year as any. Nevertheless, it was a given that in the most of 1950s and 60s it was going to be a one-horse race (Lata Mangeshkar), which meant that one had to make special efforts to include ‘other’ female singers in the final list of ten.
When we come to the duets in 1953 we do not face any of the above doubts and issues. Rafi more than compensates by three great duets which can rank among his all time best – Sun mere sajna (with Lata Mangeshkar, Aansoo), Aapne cheen liya dil (with Meena Mangeshkar, Farmaish) and Devta tum ho mera sahara (with Mubarak Begum, Dayera). Another one, La de mohe balma aasmani chudiyan (with Shamshad Begum, Rail Ka Dibba) is no mean song, and can easily rank among the best of Rafi-Shamshad duets. Did you notice that his four duets are with four different female singers? Arunji mentioned in the context of Asha Bhosle that music directors considered her voice better suited for duets. I would give a Freudian explanation. Since the music directors had decided that Lata Mangeshkar was going to be the solo voice for the heroine, they were purging their guilt of ignoring other female singers by giving them outstanding duets.
Mukesh’s Aa ja re ab mera dil pukare is an incredibly sweet song. Jane na jigar too is quite above any threshold of quality. Lata Mangeshkar figures in both.
It has been said earlier by readers that probably no song of Hemant Kumar can be less than good. He had two outstanding duets in the year – Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag and Yaad kiya dil ne kaha ho tum, both with Lata Mangeshkar – which are among their all-time greats. These have already figured in my post on the best of Hemant Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar duets. Canasya also speculated that Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag would be declared the best duet which, with Ye zindagi usi ki hai, would pave the way for C Ramchandra’s crowning as the best music director. Even though I control the coin and the umpire’s finger, I frankly do not know. I do not pre-judge, and declare openly if I have any personal bias.
This was the year of Talat Mahmood. He had great duets too. SoY regulars would be aware that I am mesmerized by Chahe nain churao (with Lata Mangeshkar, Aas) and Mohabbat ki dhun beqararon se poochho (with Sudha Malhotra and Jagjit Kaur, Dil-e-Nadan). I am counting the latter song in duets for want of a convenient category. Moreover, every Talat fan has great regard for Baharon ki duniya pukare tu aa ja (with Asha Bhosle) and Aasmanwale teri duniya se jee ghabra gaya (with Lata Mangeshkar) – both from Laila Majnu. And there are huge admirers for Chali kaun se des gujariya (with Asha Bhosle, Boot Polish) too.
This was an incredible year for Manna Dey. We have seen his great solos earlier, which he surpasses in duets and comes up not with one but at least three which are among his best ever – Mausam beeta jaye, Hariyala sawan dhol bajata aya (both with Lata Mageshkar, Do Bigha Zameen) and Ritu aye ritu jaye sakhi ri (with Lata Mangeshkar, Hamdard).
Here I must admit my pseudo-Freudian theory is already collapsing as we find Lata Mangeshkar all over in duets too. Well, as we discussed earlier she was The Female Playback singer of the 1950s and 60s. But is that a problem? If you are looking for diversity, male playback arena was more democratic. Here everyone shone. All the great singers are there without any affirmative action as I had to do in the case of female solos.
I am not finished yet. There is an exceptional duet still lurking behind. Kishore Kumar in the 1950s ranked after his other great contemporaries. Yet he gives an everlasting gem Aa mohabbt ki basti basayenge hum (with Lata Mangeshkar, Fareb).
So I have mentioned Rafi’s (3+1), Mukesh’s (1+1), Hemant Kumar’s two, Talat Mahmood’s (2+3), Manna Dey’s three and Kishore Kumar’s one – in all 17 duets of great quality. I hope this covers all the worthy duets. Reducing it to ten is going to be an uphill task, and surely any song I leave is going to disappoint a large number of readers. Now the task would have some of my bias. But before I embark on that I entirely agree with Subodh’s statement that this was the year of duets. I have to also thank all the readers for their valuable suggestions and involvement in the discussion.
Let me start by must-include songs – those which in Ashokji’s phrase are default choices. I do not see how any list in this year can leave Aa mohabbat ki bati basayenge hum. Manna Dey’s Mausam beeta jaye is a default choice. Same with Hemant Kumar’s Jaag dard-e-ishq jag, and Rafi’s Sun mere sajna. Mukesh’s Aa ja re ab mera dil pukara is a definitive song from RK-SJ banner. Talat Mahmood has several must-include duets. I go for Mohabat ki dhun beqaraaron se poochho.
Six slots have been taken but every major male singer has been represented (this was not on account of social justice, they came on their own merit). In the remaining four slots, one I give to Manna Dey, and bowing to popularity I choose Haryala sawan dhol bajata aya (sorry Venkataramnji for not including Ritu aye ritu jaye sakhi ri, but Anu and many others are going to be happy). I give another to Rafi – Devta tum ho mera sahara – this is going to make connoisseurs too happy. I give remaining two to Talat Mahmood – Chahe nain churao (my favourite, Ashokji has also mentioned it) and Aasmanwale teri duniya se (quintessential Talat-Lata duet).
I have come to the final ten which should give at least 80% satisfaction to every reader. Putting them in order is frankly an impossible task. They are so good that putting them in any order would be probably OK. My own choice for the first two slots would have been Mhabbat ki dhun beqaraaron se poochho and Sun mere sajna re. Jignesh and Ashokji happen to share my fondness for Talat Mahmood. But Manna Dey’s two duets have been preferred by many, so also Hemant Kumar’s Jag dard-e-ishq jag. Therefore, if I harmonise the preferences of everyone, giving the top slot to Mausam beeta jaye is a fair conclusion, followed by Jaag dard-e-ishq jag. The rest of the ranking reflects my preference. Here I have to mention that there being no separate category for all-female duets, these have to be covered in this category. Some readers mentioned a number of these duets. But the field being so crowded I hope the readers would agree that it does not seem possible to squeeze in an all-female duet
1. Mausam beeta jaye by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar from Do Bigha Zameen, lyrics Shailendra, music Salil Chaudhary
Salil Chaudhary’s debut film established him as one of the most talented music directors. He was quite frank in admitting his inspiration from a Russian marching song, but his own adaptation to an Indian village scene is remarkable.
2. Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar from Anarkali, lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music C Ramchandra
Anarkali was a high point in C Ramchandra’s career. By this time he was firmly with Lata Mangeshkar, and their combination had set an enviable benchmark for sweetness and melody. With Hemant Kumar’s sweet voice Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag becomes one of the greatest duets of all-time.
3. Mohaabt ki dhun beqararon se poochho by Talat Mahmood, Sudha Malhotra and Jagjt Kaur from Dil-e-Nadan, lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
Ghulam Mohammad would rank among the top two or three composers who gave the best music for Talat Mohammad. He is known more for Pakeezah, but Dil-e-Nadan is among his best works. Shyama and Peace Kanwal are not only learning the song from Talat, but also seem to be vying for his affection. The newcomer Peace Kanwal is somewhat stiff, leaving the field for Shyama, who snuggles closer to Talat and, towards the end of the song, also slips in her photograph in his pocket.
4. Sun mere sajna by Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangehskar from Aansoo, lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi, music Husnlal Bhagatram
By this time Husnlal Bahgatram were displaced by their protégés Shankar Jaikishan from their top pedestal. C Ramchandra had displaced them from the special favour of Lata Mangeshkar. Yet they show their brilliance in this haunting melody of the mountains, easily among the all time greatest duets of Rafi-Lata.
5. Aasmanwale teri duniya se by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar from Laila Majnu, lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
This film had two music directors – Ghulam Mohammad and Sardar Mallik, but the songs are individually credited. Ghulam Mohammad had some special tuning with Talat. A quintessential Talat-Lata duet. Shammi Kapoor became a sensation with Tum Sa Nahi Dekha and Junglee, but, though it is difficult to believe, some of his best songs are by Talat Mahmood before his image make-over.
6. Chahe nain churao chahe daman bachao by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar from Aas, lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar Jaikishan
This is one song for which I am willing to stand alone against the whole world. It seems it does not figure on the radar screen of some readers. I would urge you to see this incredibly beautiful folk dance by two unknown actors (identified in the video clip as Om Prakash – obviously not the famous comedian/character actor – and Chanda Bai). The lead couple, Shekhar and Kamini Kaushal (newly married?), watch it, with the lady feeling very abashed, and the husband and the dancers encouraging her to open up. Shankar Jaikishan’s orchestration is wonderful – different from their RK style of music. In the same year they gave some typical blue songs for Talat, and now you have this very atypical peppy song from him which would make your feet dance. If we were not living in a democracy I might have put this song at no.1. I am thankful to Ashokji for mentioning this song.
7. Aa ja re ab mera dil pukara by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar from Aah, lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri, music Shankar Jaikishan
Now SJ with RK banner style of music. It is a corroboration of the year being the year of great duets that one of the best Mukesh-Lata Mangeshkar duets should figure at no. 7. Even though the film was a flop, the music was out of this world.
8. Aa mohabbat ki basti basayenge hum by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar from Fareb, lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Anil Biswas
Even though Kishore Kumar skyrocketed after Aradhana (1969), his best is in earlier period. Did Anil Biswas have any doubt whether he would carry it off? He must have been immensely satisfied that the outcome was one of his best creations by a singer who was not associated with his kind of music.
9. Hariyala sawan dhol bajata aya by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar from Do Bigha Zameen, lyrics Shailendra, music Salil Chaudhary
It is very unusual for two duets from the same film to be included in such a tight field. The film opens with this song when there is no indication of the misery that is to follow. Therefore, you have a very cheerful farmers’ song heralding the arrival of monsoon. You see Salil Chaudhary’s mastery over folk, which he would display later in Madhumati with great finesse.
10. Devta tum ho mera sahara by Rafi and Mubarak Begum from Dayera, lyrics Kaif Bhopali, music Jamal Sen
Left to myself I might have chosen Aapne chheen liya dil or La de mohe balma, but I am aware Devta tum ho mera sahara has an iconic status among connoisseurs. We have discussed this song earlier with great deal of respect in my earlier posts on Jamal Sen and Mubarak Begum. If a duet of this quality can bring up the rear, we can only salute 1953 as a great year for duets, and all the singers and the music directors who have given songs that are everlasting.