When I try to compile the most melodious, the most beautiful songs of Lata Mangeshkar, the following songs invariably come to my mind:
|Kare kare badra ja re ja re badra||Bhabhi (1957)|
|Na to dard gaya na dawa hi mili||Kali Topi Lal Rumal (1960)|
|Sajna sajna kahe bhul gaye re pukar ke||Chand Mere Aa Ja (1960)|
|Rang dil ki dhadkan bhi lati to hogi||Patang (1960)|
|Main hun gori nagin banungi rasiya||Nache Nagin Baje Been (1960)|
|Balma mane na||Opera House (1961)|
|Kajra na dekhe gajra na dekhe||Suhag Sindur (1961)|
|Aaj ki raat naya chand leke ayi hai||Shadi (1962)|
|Dil ka diya jala ke gaya||Akashdeep (1965)|
|Uthegi tumhari nazar dheere dheere||Ek Raaz (1969)|
All these songs are composed by Chitragupta and they should figure in any list of Lata’s best.
Yet you do not hear of the Lata-Chitragupta hyphenation in the same glowing terms as you hear of Lata-Madan Mohan special tuning or Lata-C Ramchandra special bonding (till it turned sour towards the end), or Ghulam Hyder’s role in discovering and introducing Lata, or Naushad grooming Lata’s voice in the 50’s out of Noorjehan’s mould or Khemchand Prakash’s singular contribution of Ayega Anewala (Mahal 1949), or Lata having the largest number of songs and the most hits with Laxmikant Pyarelal.
There are many more gems Chitragupta composed for Lata such as:
|Ja aur kahin ro shenai||Shaadi (1962)|
|Phoolon pe nikhar hai||Chand Mere Aa Ja (1960)|
|Chanda mama aare aao bare aao||Bhauji (1965)|
|Tadpaoge tadpa lo||Barkha|
|Dekho paniya bharan ke bahane||Kangan (1959)|
|Muskurao ki ji nahin lagta||Kangan (1959)|
|Daga daga vai vai||Kali Topi Lal Rumal (1960)|
|Dil ko lakh sambhala ji||Guest House (1959)|
|Thandi thandi chale re hawa||Guest House (1959)|
|Tumhi ho mata tumhi pita ho||Main Chup Rahungi (1962)|
|Hae re tere chanchal nainwa||Oonche Log (1965)|
The Chitragupta-Lata story would not be complete without mentioning Lata’s duets with various singers, composed by Chitragupta. These duets are again incredibly sweet and beautiful and would easily figure among the best of Lata with those singers:
Lata Mangeshkar with Mohammad Rafi
|Chali chali re patang meri chali re||Bhabhi|
|Lagi chute na ab to sanam||Kali Topi Lala Rumal|
|Beet gayi hai adhi raat||Nache Nagin Baje Been|
|Chale ho kahan sarkar humein beqarar kar ke||Nache Nagin Baje Been|
|Teri ankhon mein pyar maine dekh liya||Chand Mere Aa Ja|
|Adhi raat ko khanak gaya mera kangna||Toofan Mein Pyar Kahan|
|Gori itna bata tera lagta hai kya(Correction thanks to Sharmaji: It is a Lata-Usha Mangeshkar duet)||Toofan Mein Pyar Kahan|
|Teri duniya se door chale hoke majboor||Zabak (1961)|
|Chand jane kahan kho gaya||Main Chup Rahungi|
|Koi bata de dil hai kahan||Main Chup Rahungi|
Lata Mangeshkar with Mukesh
|Dekho mausam kya bahar hai||Opera House|
|Na milte hum to kaho tum kidhar gaye hote||Opere House|
|Chadhe chanda to tum bhi chale aana||Aplam Chaplam (1961)|
|Teri shokh nazar ka ishara||Patang|
|Ek raat mein do do chand khile||Barkha|
Lata Mangeshkar with Talat Mahmood
|Bagon mein khilte hain phool||Suhag Sindoor|
|Mehlon mein rahnewali dil hai gareeb ka||Tel Malish Boot Polish (1961)|
|Mausam ye pukare||Burma Road (1962)|
Lata with Kishore Kumar
|Machalti hui hawa mein chamcham||Ganga ki Lharein (1964)|
|Chedo na meri zulfein sab log kya kahenge||Ganga ki Lahrein|
|Ajanabi se ban ke karo na kinara||Ek Raaz|
Lata Mangeshkar with Mahendra Kapur
|Aa ja re mere pyar ke rahi||Oonche Log|
|Tumne hansi hi hansi mein kyun dil churaya||Ghar Basa ke Dekho|
Lata Mangehskar with PV Srinivas
|Chanda se hoga vo pyara phoolon se hoga vo||Main Bhi Ladki Hun|
Lata Mangeshkar with Usha Mangeshkar
|Banke piya kaho haan dagabaaz ho||Burma Road|
Now let us look at some of Chitragupta’s other songs in which Lata Mangeshkar does not feature at all. Chal ud ja re panchi(Bhabhi) would be always counted among Rafi’s greatest. There are some more Rafi solos: Mujhe dard-e-dil ka pata na tha (Akashdeep), Jaag dile deewana (Oonche Log), Ankhiyan sang ankhiya laagi aaj (Bada Admi 1961). There is a seldom heard but a very pleasant Rafi solo in Barkha – Admi chirag hai, uski chalegi kya chalti hawa ke saamne. Can any list of Mukesh’s songs be complete without Muft hue badnam (Barat).
There is a world of Bhojpuri films where Chitragupta was the undisputed monarch. In fact he defined Bhojpuri film music in the early sixties. Those who lived in Bihar or Eastern UP those days are witness to their mass popularity. Their immense popularity, Chitragupta’s characteristic sweetness and the fact that they were sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Rafi, Talat and Usha Mangeshkar made these songs mainstream. The songs of Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadaibe (1962) such as Hey ganga maiya tohe piyari chhadaibo(Lata, Usha), More karejwa mein peer (Lata, Usha), Sonawa ke pinjra mein band bhaile (Rafi), Luk chhip kajraa mein, Hum ta khelat rahli ammaji ke godiya and of Lagi Nahi Chute Ram (1963) such as Lal lal othawa se (Talat, Lata), Mori kalaiya sukumar ho (Lata), Ja ja re sugana ja re (Talat, Lata), Rakhiya bandhaa la bhaiya jiya tu lakh barees ho were popular much beyond Bhojpuri region without anyone caring for the distinction.
Then why did Chitragupta remain unheralded, under-rated and grossly unrewarded? He never won a Filmfare award (that the awards in some years were patently perverse is another story for some other time) or the state Padma awards.
The reason perhaps has to do with the sociology of Hindi film world of those days.
For someone who was born as Chitragupta Srivastava (1917) in Karmaini village of Gopalganj district of Bihar and left his job as a lecturer in a Patna college to make a career in music composing, the entry barriers to Bombay film world must have been daunting. He started working as assistant to SN Tripathi, which explains a slew of devotional/ mythological films Chitragupta did. Now most of these films had zero production and creative value. These were essentially meant for the kind of audience who offered flowers, incense and money at the screen when they saw a god making appearance in the film. Some of these films were Shivratri, Balyogi Upmanyu, Gayatri Mahima, Sati Madalasa and Pavanputra Hanuman.
The other kind of films which fell to Chitragupta’s lot was D-grade stunts. The name of some of the films such as Mala the Mighty, Fighting Hero, Stunt Queen, Tigress, Lady Robinhood, Toofan Queen says it all.
It was after struggling for several years that in the fifties he got introduced by SD Burman to a banner of some standing. That was the AVM Productions of South. SD Burman himself was too big for a banner like AVM, and he was familiar with Chitragupta’s work as SN Tripathi’s assistant. AVM and some other studios from South such as Gemini made what were known as clean family drama. These mahaan parivarik films were the ones which youngsters from decent middle class families were allowed to watch. But they remained stuck in-between. They did not have the lovable tramp of Raj Kapur or the tragedy King of Dilip Kumar or the carefree romantic of Dev Anand or the rebellious teaser of Shammi Kapur. They could have a middling Balraj Sahni or an occasional Ashok Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Sunil Dutt or a struggling Dharmendra. Aside from AVM’s Bhabhi, Main Bhi Ladki Hun, Main Chup Rahungi, Barkha for which Chitragupta composed music, his large number of other films had cast such as Sundar, Chandrashekhar, Ajit, Aga, Mahipal, David, Jagdeep, Kumkum etc.
What is amazing is the way Chitragupta’s music rose above his films. The fifties heralded the golden era of film music when hundred of flowers bloomed. The industry was dominated by the big three Naushad, Shankar Jaikishan and SD Burman who were the favourite composers of the three greats Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapur and Dev Anand. Standing alongside them were the two other superstars OP Nayar and C Ramchandra. After the big five the remaining space was occupied by other greats, Madan Mohan, Roshan, Hemant Kumar, Salil Choudhry and Kalyanji Anandji. You still have to reckon with Khayyam, Jaydev, Ravi and several more. That Chitragupta made a mark in this crowd with the kind of films he got and with the background he came from is a testimony to his talent.
Chitragupta now in heaven (died 1991) would be contented that his sons Anand Milind have made a mark for themselves, and at least in one respect done better than him – they have a Filmfare award for Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, which eluded him. But what would he make of some of their famous songs such as Dhak dhak karne laga (Beta), Sarkai lo khatiya jada lage (Raja Babu), Tujhko mirchi lagi to main kya karun (Coolie No 1) etc. I would not charge them with denigrating their father’s legacy. It is only a sign that the times have changed, and so has the music. The music of the fifties and sixties are our precious gems which would have remained locked in vaults, but thanks to internet they are now accessible. Chitragupta is one of the greats of that era. If Madan Mohan was King of Ghazals, Naushad, King of classical and OP Nayar, King of rhythm, I have no hesitation in describing Chtragupta as King of Melody right up there along with Roshan, another of my great favourite.