Lata Mangeshkar

Though popular film music is not entirely synonymous with Hindi film music, Hindi films are usually seen as adequately constituting the “essence’ of commercial Indian cinema. Since the early 1930s, there have been few Hindi films without songs, and only the so- called art cinema, the advent of which was perhaps marked by Shyam Benegal’s Ankur (“The Seedling”, 1975), has shown a disdain for this most marked feature of the Hindi film. A number of characteristics of Hindi film music and song compel attention. First, Hindi film music has borrowed unabashedly from all known styles and genres of music, and much like Indian culture as a whole, refuses to acknowledge the bankrupt concept of “copyright”. Everything is, to put it colloquially, fair game: thus the borrowings are not only from Indian classical, folk, and devotional music, but also from Japanese music (as in the film “Love in Tokyo”) and Persian music, and from Western music. Hindi film music is often set to large, Western-style orchestras; in many Hindi films until recently, there was a set piece in which the hero played, before a large and distinguished gathering, in which his fiancee as well as the vamp were present, the piano. But the hero in the Hindi film plays the piano no more than he sings: indeed, songs are sung by what are termed playback singers. Thus the hero and heroines (the villains are seldom given that honor) appear to sing, but the long history of Indian cinema has known only a few dozen singing voices.

Among the most well-known male playback singers have been K. L. Saigal, Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, and Manna Dey; among the women, the two dominant voices have been of Lata Mangeshkar and her sister Asha Bhosle. Lata, as she is affectionately known throughout India, has been singing for nearly forty years. Along with her sister Asha she is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having recorded more songs than anyone else. Some of the songs are sung as duets, with male and female voices alternating. The song in this selection is entitled Is Moe Se Jaate Hain (“From this turn [of the road] we leave”), and is taken from the film Aandhi (“Storm”): Lata is accompanied here by Kishore Kumar.