The Sister Act – My ten favourite Asha-Lata duets

The Sister Act – My ten favourite Asha-Lata duets

Happy Women’s Day! Today on the occasion of Women’s day, I would like to focus on two ladies, who have influenced Indian cinema in a way, which hardly anybody has done till now. The two ladies in question are Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle.

(by Gautam Rajadhyaksha, from:
Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle dominated the female playback singing in the Hindi film industry from the 50s to the 80s. Their art and artistry still influences the singing of the female singers in India. Each of them has allegedly sung more than 4000 songs, but it is said that they recorded only 75 songs (duets, trios, and quartets) together in Hindi films. Their first duet was recorded for the film Daman [1951] under the baton of K. Dutta and the song was ye ruki ruki hawaiyen.

While Lata has that virginal, untouched, sweet voice, there is this dark, seductive tone of Asha’s. For me Lata’s voice is like a thandi hawa, which refreshes and cools, while Asha’s voice is one which though it might be outwardly calm brings a whirlwind bringing all my feelings and emotions in a chaos. What really strikes me about Asha’s voice is her phenomenal width. She seems to go from one octave to the other like a lift and bridge it with a effortlessness, which takes my breath away. Both of them have a phenomenal technique, which has assured them a long career.
Making a 10 favourite list for Lata or Asha is a futile task. I won’t even attempt it, thus I have taken an easier way out and listed my ten favourite Asha-Lata duets. In the duets their rivalry or let us say healthy competition can be seen in how the lines of the song are divided among them. It is also interesting to note that if the duet was between the leading lady and her friend, then Lata always gave playback to the heroine and Asha got to sing for the sakhi.
I will stop analysing and present my ten favs. Hope you like and enjoy them.

1. Aji Chale Aao – Halaku [1956]
MD: Shankar-Jaikishan; Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri

Hindi film’s vision of ancient Persia, with Pran playing the title role. It looks like the song is filmed on Helen and Minoo Mumtaz with Lata lending her voice for the latter, while Asha sings for Helen. But is it really Minoo Mumtaz? According to imdb she plays the role of Halaku’s (Pran) wife in the movie. A queen won’t be seen dancing on the streets, would she? Madhu informs me that it is Veena who plays the role of Dorcas, Halaku’s wife. Thank you, Madhu!
The song is equally divided among the two sisters. Both of them get equal number of lines to sing. They even alternate as to who gets to sing the antara first. This must be the only film where Pran gets to play the title role.

2. Kar Gaya Re Kar Gaya Mujh Pe Jadoo – Basant Bahar [1956]
MD: Shankar-Jaikishan; Lyrics: Shailendra

A very beautiful duet picturised on Nimmi and Kum Kum, with the former lip-syncing to Lata’s voice and the latter to Asha’s. Lata and Asha sing the alaap together, their voices blending together with the sweetness of milk and honey. Asha gets to start first two the antaras, while Lata takes up the last one. It confirms the fact again that Kum Kum is a great dancer.

3. Sakhi Ri Sun BoleMiss Mary [1957]
MD: Hemant Kumar; Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan

Lata leads this song with a classical base (wonder what the raga is?) with Asha matching her steps like a shadow. In the scene, it looks like as if Meena Kumari is helping Jamuna (Richard informs me that it is not Jamuna, thank you Richard; Anu has kindly informed me further that the lady in question is Meenakshi, thank you Anu!) someone with her riyaaz. A superb duet!

4. Kya Hua Yeh Mujhe Kya Hua – Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai [1960]
MD: Shankar-Jaikishan; Lyrics: Shailendra

If any song defines dancing up a storm, then this is it. Padmini and Chanchal dance lip syncing to  Lata’s and Asha’s voice respectively. The way the song is divided among the sisters is interesting. Lata gets to sing the first line of the mukhda (refrain) Asha follows with the second line and both sing together at the end kya hua. In the first stanza of Lata sings the first two lines. Asha follows with the next two lines in the same melody and also sings the last two lines of the climax of the first antara. The mukhda is repeated as in the beginning. In the second stanza the roles are exchanged. Asha gets to sing the opening lines and Lata gets to sing at the next four lines. The mukhda which appears again now begins with Asha’s lines and Lata gets to complete it although the question answer form is destroyed. The third stanza begins like the first one but the climax is sung by both of them together.

5. Dhadhkaa O Dil Dhadhkaa – Bharosa [1963]
MD: Ravi; Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan

Like in man bhavan ke ghar jaye gori from Chori Chori [1956] Sai and Subbulaxmi get to lip-sync to Lata’s and Asha’s voices. They sing the mukhda together and also repeat the opening lines of the antara together to. They alternately open the first and second antaras. Simple division!
The music director Ravi passed away yesterday. A great composer! A loss for the film industry, which didn’t uses his talents for the last twenty years or so! Thank you Ravi for giving us unforgettable melodies, which make our world a better place to live!

6. Jab Jab Tumhe BhulayaJahan Ara [1964]
MD: Madan Mohan; Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan

Lata sings for Minoo Mumtaz and dominates the song completely. Asha gets to sing for young Aruna Irani (according to imdb she must have been 12 years old at the time of release of the film). Lata gets to sing the opening shairi, lead the mukhda and the antaras. But that doesn’t mean Asha gets to do nothing, she sings the heart wringing variations of the opening lines of each antara.

7. Ae Kaash Kisi Diwane Ko – Aaye Din Bahar Ke [1966]
MD: Laxmikant-Pyarelal; Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

Though Lata gets to sing for the leading lady Asha Parekh. It is Asha singing for Nazima who dominates the song with the number of lines she gets to sing and her opening lines, which are much more in sync with the opening tune. But it is not only the number of lines, but it is also the vivacity and timbre of her voice which dominates this duet. The effervescent part of a duet naturally has an upper hand than the sensible one.

8. Pad Gaye JhooleBahu Begum [1967]
MD: Roshan; Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi

This is a song in still happier days of Zeenat Begum (Meena Kumari). She is frolicking around with her friends and singing in the rain. Lata sings for Meena and Asha for Zeb Rehman. They sing the mukhda together. Lata gets to open the antaras in both the stanzas. Asha got other plum solo songs to sing in this score.

9. Jabse Laagi Tose NajariyaShikar [1968]
MD: Shankar-Jaikishan; Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri

Asha singing for Bela Bose gets to open the song. Lata sings for Asha Parekh and gets to open every antarawhich follows, where Asha just repeats what Lata sings. S-J which was a loyal Lata camp till then gave Ashaparde me rehne do, which still rocks in its original and remix forms

10. Man Kyo Beheka Ri BehekaUtsav [1984]
MD: Laxmikant-Pyarelal; Lyrics: Vasant Dev

As far as I know this is their last duet in a Hindi film. As would be expected Lata sings for Rekha, while Anuradha Patel.
Rekha and Anuradha Patel bond in a story where they are rivals in love for Charudatta. One is the wife and the other a well-known courtesan. Using metaphors of midnight and flute they sing about their nocturnal encounters with the beloved. Girish Karnad uses this song as a medium through which the well-experienced courtesan gives her knowledge of love and sex to the wife. Girish Karnad portrays this unusual triangle with the background of deceit, treachery, a political coup and spirituality, thus bringing together the four aims of human life: kama (sensual pleasures), artha (power), dharma (the right path) and moksha (liberation).

And this brings us back a complete circle to Women’s day. Here is for a stronger women’s movement and freedom of expression and thought, because strengthening of women’s rights is strengthening of human rights!

to enjoy!


Posted on: May 2, 2016Dimple Pancholi

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