‘Salilda and my brother Hridaynath would deliberately make my compositions tough.’
‘Their logic was, “You can do it, so why should we not compose accordingly?”,’ Lata Mangeshkar, who would have turned 94 today, September 28, 2023, once told Subhash K Jha.
To maestro composer Salil Chowdhury, Lata Mangeshkar was the ultimate singer.
‘There is nothing she can’t do. In my entire career as a music composer, I’ve never come across a talent like hers,’ he had once said.
Without hesitation, Lataji once admitted that Salil Chowdhury was her toughest composer.
“Salilda and my brother Hridaynath would deliberately make my compositions tough. They would make notes that were meant to be a challenge for me. Their logic was, ‘You can do it, so why should we not compose accordingly?'”
“With Salilda I did some of my most favourite compositions like Oh Sajna Barkha Bahaar Ayee from Parakh, Ja Re Ud Ja Re Panchi from Maya, Raaton Ke Saaye Ghane from Annadata, Na Jiya Laage Na from Anand…”
Were his compositions intimidating?
“Not at all! I shared a great rapport with him. He knew which of his creations suited me. I was never scared of singing his tunes. Instead, I would be very keen to sing his songs. I love his music. I haven’t met a composer quite like him. Look at the tunes he thought up!” Lataji had said.
Lataji was deeply impressed by Salil’s knowledge of music.
“The sources of his composition and the references from Beethoven to North Eastern folk music! He used to write fluently in Bengali. His poems were superb. You know, he used to write his own lyrics for some of the Bengali songs he composed for me. His grasp of the North Eastern folk music was tremendous.”
“Being a Communist, he was an agnostic, so we never agreed on his views on God. Lekin woh kamaal ke music director the,” she had said.
Not only did their Hindi soundtracks like Madhumati, Chhaya, Parakh and Prem Patra re-define the sound and texture of the Hindi soundtracks, they changed the destiny of popular Bengali songs.
Nineteen years after his death, Lataji recorded one of Salilda‘s newly discovered lyrics, Surodhwani, under the musical supervision of the singer’s protégé composer Mayuresh Pai.
“Salilda was Salilda. No one could compose songs like him. His tunes were layered and textured and very difficult to sing. I loved the challenge of singing Salilada‘s Raaton Ke Saaye Ghane in Annadata and Rajnigandha Phool Tumhare in Rajnigandha.”
“Not only the songs he composed for me but also for Mannada (Dey) and Mukesh bhaiyya like Ae Mere Pyare Watan from Kabuliwala and Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam Haseen from Madhumati,” she had said.
Folklore has it that once during a particularly difficult recording of a song composed by Salil Chowdhury, Lataji passed out.
“It’s a fact,” she had confirmed.
“I did faint while singing one of his songs. The fact that many of his Bangla compositions were later sung in Hindi made it doubly difficult for me. Salilda‘s Ja Re Ud Ja Re Pakhi became Ja Re Ud Ja Re Panchi in Hindi. Na Mono Lage Na and Nishidin Nishidin were composed and sung in both Bangla and Hindi.”
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