25 July, 2021

What If Lata Had A Rival?

Would Lata have attained the 'super' status she did if Noor Jehan (as the 'brighter' voice) had chosen to stay on in India after Partition? I took the point to Naushad...

What If Lata Had A Rival?
A full 33 years after Partition, back in India. Noor Jehan was a towering presence in Bombay’s Shanmukhananda Hall. During that misty February 11, 1982, evening seeing even Dilip Kumar (as Noor Jehan’s 1947 Jugnu co-star) ditching Lata Mangeshkar! While ‘Sangeet Samrat’ Naushad Ali’s materialising by the Malka-e-Tarannum’s side, now, was a resonant reminder that this composer had been the only one in India to record first K.L. Saigal (for Shahjehan) and then Noorjehan (for Anmol Ghadi).

Lata instinctively sensed that here she faced the greatest vocal challenge of her career. She boldly opted to sing first. Beginning with Shyam Sunder’s 1949 Bazaar gem, Saajan ki galiyaan chhod chale (in Pahadi, Punjabi folk style). Lulling Noor Jehan into feeling that the Mangeshkar diva was still vocalising in her shadow. Then came the Lata punchline, as she facilely switched, in transcendental Gaud Sarang, to Allah tero naam, Ishwar tero naam (from Jaidev’s 1961 Hum Dono). Bringing vibrantly home to Noor Jehan, listening spellbound,...

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