3. “Ab Aage Teri Marzi”
The 1955 film “Devdas,” an adaptation of Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s eponymous novella, boasted more Mangeshkar magic. Directed by the celebrated Bimal Roy, the film chronicles the tragedy of the title character, played by Dilip Kumar, whose arrogance causes him to lose his childhood sweetheartc and descend into a hell of alcoholism and misanthropy. Sachin Dev Burman, the film’s music director, championed Mangeshkar; together they produced some of Hindi cinema’s finest scores. “Aage Teri Marzi” is a fast and joyous, yet insouciant plea (the charming lyrics written by Sahir Ludhianvi) from Chandramukhi the courtesan (Vyjayanthimala, in her first dramatic role) to Devdas (Kumar, further proving his ability to act via body language alone), brooding silently as the courtesan dances and sings in front of him and his friends. What I find particularly fascinating about this song is the influence of the music on the visual. That is, Vyjayanthimala, as both actress and dancer, had to listen to the song to align her performance with Mangeshkar’s performance, instead of the other way around, because Hindi film songs are recorded months before the film is actually shot. “Aage Teri Marzi” is just as beautiful on its own; with the visual it breathes new life into the Hindi film song.
4. “Naina Barse Rim Jhim”
Jumping ahead almost a decade, to 1964: Lata Mangeshkar is by now a household name, in constant demand for her services. “Woh Kaun Thi” (“Who Was She?”) was a smash hit thriller. “Naina Barse Rim Jhim” is classic Lata: soaring melancholy—practically messaging the heavens—careening through the snowy mountains of Kashmir, as Dr. Anand (Manoj Kumar) tries to get closer to her, having first encountered her in many different places, including, at the beginning of the film, giving her a lift to a cemetery (spooky!). Mangeshkar’s voice is equal parts haunting and haunted: she hints at a great love, one she has lost in tragic circumstances. The guitar strumming at the beginning of the song is unsettling, causing an undercurrent of tension bordering on frustration.
Note: Ultra Entertainment does not allow embeds of this performance so please click here to view.
5. “Piya Tose Naina Laage Re”
Author R.K. Narayan reportedly hated director Vijay Anand’s adaptation of the former’s novel “Guide.” The 1965 film starred Waheeda Rehman and the director’s brother, Dev Anand. S.D. Burman composed the film’s music, and, once again, showcased Mangeshkar’s ability to handle incredibly complex songs. “Guide,” if nothing else, is the source of a landmark—for Burman, for Mangeshkar, for Hindi cinema in general—song. “Piya Tose Naina Lage Re” is eight minutes and thirty seven seconds long, and illustrates the various phases of dancer Rosie’s (Rehman) career. It’s a fast song, heavy on tablas, with swaying strings that slide from confidence to trepidation and back. Mangeshkar’s voice is pitch-perfect as she tiptoes to the peaks of the melody, descends rapidly, covering a whole universe of sound and energy.