Lata Mangeshkar - The Queen : Part 6 - The original master composer, Sajjad Hussain


You can read the earlier parts of this series here: PreludePart 1Part 2Part 3 Part 4, Part 5

When you read this series in its entirety, you will be surprised that I had dedicated a chapter to Lata Mangeshkar - Sajjad Hussain's partnership while not bothering about some other partnerships that produced a lot more songs. That is because of the quality of music delivered by Sajjad Hussain and the great regard Lata had for him. In an interview whose link I can't find, she had said that Sajjad Hussain was the best music director she worked with. She also mentioned that only when she had to sing a song for him she used to feel scared. Lata had mentioned that he was a perfectionist and would not tolerate anyone playing out of tune. (There is a lot more to say about Sajjad Hussain's music and his temperamental character, but I will say that in a different article dedicated to Sajjad Hussain.)

Sajjad Hussain, too, had great regard for Lata. He knew what she was capable of. You can hear him talk about Lata in this video clip, where he recounts how dazed Lata's Ustad was with her brilliance. 

Sajjad gave Lata some extremely complex and tough compositions, but she delivered them with elan. Let us now listen to some of the compositions of Sajjad in Lata's voice and analyze how she has sung it and how much Sajjad's training would have helped her. 

I think the first film that Lata sang for Sajjad Hussain was 'Khel' (1950)  This has two gems in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar. (I love every song in this movie, especially the Shamshad Begum one. The Meena Kapoor song is also lovely. As I said, all these for another day.)

Let's start with, 'bool ja ae dil'

The first thing you will hear is that this is not the standard beat, as with, say, a Naushad melody. The gait, or what we call 'nadai,' in Carnatic music, differs from the standard 'chatusra' (4x4) nadai.  The gait gives a different flavor to the tune. It is not an easy song to sing, for the song uses the full vocal range of Lata. One second she is hitting the upper registers; before you know it, she has come down to the lower registers. And note how he makes her quiver her voice in places like 'sapna that suhaana'. The 'naa' at the end quivers melodically. Lata is in that phrase of her singing where she is slowly shedding that childish voice and is becoming a woman. Despite the rather robust tuning, the song effectively conveys the pain of the heroine. Songs like this would have given Lata a greater grip on tala, making it easy for her to deliver songs in any tala.

Another lovely song from 'Khel' in Lata's voice is 'jate to jao' 

Once again, right during the prelude itself, you make out that it is not like the standard Hindi film song. Observe how the mukda runs for a long time, snaking it way before coming back to the starting point. Then comes that patch without music, and when the rhythm instruments join, observe the vocal dynamics of Lata. Notice how she varies the volume of her voice. A song that demands great control over vocal dynamics, rhythm, and a great range from the voice.

Next, we take up 'Saiyyan' (1951). It was Lata's show all the way and Sajjad gave her amazing melodies. Here is Lata talking about Sajjad Hussain and 'Saiyyan'

Sajjad explored Lata's voice a lot in this film, giving her different kinds of songs. We start with a fun song, 'hawa mein dil dole' 

This is a jaunty melody sung by a young heroine. The brilliance of Sajjad Hussain's tune can be seen by how he changes the tune in the antara. The mukda starts one way but the whole tune and singing takes a different hue in the antara. I am reminded a lot of the later day Salil Choudhary songs when I hear the antara. (I am not sure if Salilda was influenced by Sajjad but the 'sound' in this antara sort of shows that he probably anticipated music directors like Salilda)

Another fun love song from the movie is 'khayalon mein tum ho'

This song sort of showcases the genius of Sajjad, and you can probably understand why Lata rated him so high and was willing to keep quiet even when he said harsh words. The song has a long and wonderful prelude. The mukhda itself is a work of a genius, with Sajjad changing the phrasing between lines. Initially, we hear short phrases, and then the long phrases, and in the continuation of the mukhda, the short phrasings again. It is difficult to anticipate the melody in this song and the melodic structure is unique. It would have been a great challenge to sing this with the orchestra, for there is no room for error as the words are tightly packed and coiled around the taal. Any slip, and you have to start again. Lata sings it with ease. I am sure that Sajjad probably tuned this, knowing that Lata would deliver. 

'kali kali raat re' from this movie is another gem. Let's listen to it.

This is a song of 'viraha.' I became a big fan of this song right from the moment I heard. The 'joote se pyar kiya' line in the mukhda is completely unexpected and raises the song to great heights. The mukhda itself does great justice to Lata's range. Lata tender voice and the 'sound' that Sajjad produces (once again reminding me of Lata Salil combination in movies like 'Maya') This was definitely a unique sound for the early 50s. 

As I said, Sajjad explored Lata's voice range and her ability to convey multiple emotions in this movie. Here is a sad song in Lata's voice. 'kismet mein kushi ka naam nahin' 

Once again, a different gait to convey sadness. Lata's voice is perfect for songs like these, and the emotion hits us hard. We can feel the emotion of the heroine. Sajjad uses Lata's voice mostly in the mid-range in this song and lets her hit the higher registers only once in a while, and we can see that Lata's voice was melodic across the range. 

In the earlier part of this series, I had written in detail about another outstanding song from this movie, 'woh raat din who shaam ki,' so I will skip it here.

Next: from the movie 'Hulchul' (1951), the brilliant 'aaj mere naseeb ne' 

Sajjad's unique tune and rhythm come to the fore in this song. It is clear from the way he has made Lata sing the song that he placed a high premium on vocal dynamics. The slight quiver once in a while, the meends, and the changing volume levels all point to Sajjad Hussain considering all these aspects when recording a song. It also meant that he could only use a voice that could deliver his requirements to perfection, and he found that voice in Lata. Lata, I am sure, learned a lot when she was singing such songs. The training she had here would have made singing songs of other music directors an easy task.

The year 1952 saw the release of 'Sangdil,' a movie with Sajjad Hussain's music. It was to be the biggest hit of Sajjad Hussain. The songs brought great fame both to Lata and Talat Mohammed. We start with a Lata-Talat charming duet, 'dil mein sama gaye sajjan'

This is a lilting duet and the voices of Talat and Lata blend well. By this time, Lata has already established herself and it shows in her singing, that is much more assured. Just when you think that the tune is much simpler compared to Sajjad's other songs, there comes the last antara where Sajjad suddenly changes the tune and leaves you stunned. Lata's voice, especially in the last antara, is something to die for. 

The Lata solo in this movie is a thing of beauty. 'woh toh chala gaye hai dil'

This song once again highlights Sajjad's ability to give a heart wrenching song against a robust rhythm. Very few have done. Most music directors would opt for a simple and soft rhythm as a background for such songs. Sajjad on the other hand opts for a strong rhythm but yet marries it with a tune filled with sadness. Only a genius can think of such a rhythmic background for a sad song. Lata brilliantly conveys the pathos inherent in the tune and her tuneful singing is honey to our ears. As I said earlier, she is in her elements here, completely in control of her voice and her craft.

Surprisingly, though Sangdil was a major hit, Sajjad Hussain did not get to compose for a movie for next more than two years. 1955 saw the release of 'Ruksana'. From what I read, after recording one song, Lata fell ill and could not sing for some time. The other songs are mostly rendered by Asha Bhosle. The song that Lata rendered was, 'tere dard dil mein basa liya'

The rhythm in this song is also different with some lovely pauses in the rhythm. The tune is wonderful as usual and Lata is at her best. The tune is complex and you cannot anticipate how it would move, especially in the antaras. The light touch of Darbari in the antara requires someone with a great grasp of the knowledge of swaras. Lata, that way, was definitely the best choice for this song. She must have taken great pleasure when singing the song because it would have tested her ability with respect to her swara knowledge. This was probably the best song in the film.

The last song we will see if from another hit of Sajjad Hussain, 'Rustom Sharab.' The movie is also significant for being the last movie in which Suraiya sang. Her song was definitely the highlight of the album but Lata's song was equally good. 'ae dilruba' from Rustom Shorab.

In this clip you can hear Sajjad speak first and then the song starts. The Middle Eastern touch is evident in both the orchestration and the melody. What is impressive about the song is the structure of the song. The tune doesn't seem to be following the rhythm and it seems to have a mind of its own. Against a steady beat, the tune moves any way it wants. Especially when Lata sings that alap in the middle. The rhythm of that alap is quite different from the rhythm of the song. Lata's voice is pure honey in this song. This song cannot be sung if you don't have an hold on rhythm. You mind must be thinking of the rhythm of the tune rather than the rhythm of the orchestra. Lata's is an excellently controlled performance.

Those were most of the songs that Sajjad and Lata produced together. While there are much more popular combinations with Lata: Madanmohan-Lata, Salil-Lata, Roshan-Lata and so on, my personal preference is for Sajjad-Lata. Hearing the songs, it is no wonder that Lata rated Sajjad as one of the best she has worked under and her fears when she went to record for him were well founded, going by the evidence of the songs. Lata and Sajjad combination had produced 14 songs from what I read in Google. We have covered 12 in this part and one in the last part. 

Do listen to all the songs and enjoy. In the next episode, I will take up another famous combination of a music director with Lata. 


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