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Pehla Nasha….Composer Lalit Pandit On The Iconic Song’s Genesis

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Pehla Nasha

Lalit Pandit, one-half of  the  Jatin-Lalit duo  looks back at the most  iconic  song of  their  career. “In my entire  career as a composer I have never created another song like Pehla nasha.It became  such a  landmark in my career I  never even attempted  it again  . I knew Pehla nasha cannot be done  again.”

How did  Pehla nasha happen?  “Pehla nasha happened  to us  in 1991.  My brother  Jatin  and I were very new. Our first soundtrack Yara Dildaara was  yet to release.When  we  were  invited for  a music session with  Mansoor Khan  the director of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, we  were very excited.He  was making a new film Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar.We had gone fully prepared.To our good fortune  our sister (singer)Sulakshnaji had got us an  8-track recorder. I used  to record  my songs on that. In those days of  analog  dubbing  a house demo  was  futuristic. I would  have  my songs ready.”

The  director   Mansoor Khan was  really impressed  by Jatin-Lalit’s  preparation. “He  loved the songs we had composed . Can you  imagine after the  award-winnings song by composed by Anand-Milind  of  Qayamat Se Qayamat  Tak, for him to  select new music composers must  have been a tough decision. I think Mansoor agreed to listen  to our songs   to oblige  a mutual friend. After  hearing our songs he left without making any  commitment. After many sittings he decided  to take us instead  of Anand-Milind.”

This is when Pehla nasha was  born. Recalls Lalit, “Mansoor wanted  one outstanding romantic song in the film.Jatin and I  had other romantic  songs in our individual repertoire. When we played Pehla nasha  live for Mansoor he thought it was just okay. I don’t think Pehla nasha is a  composition for live renderings. He didn’t take  to it immediately.  I don’t blame him for  not  getting it right away. I  went back re-recorded  the whole song. We  worked on it for two whole days. It was raining when we went back to Mansoor with  the song. As soon as we entered he said  he was not sure about the song, that it was  too slow, etc etc. Before he  could say anything more I  put the headphone on  his head and played it on the walkman.Mansoor  is a learned musician. When he heard what we had done he  took to it instantly.He took us to his father(producer  Nasir  Husain). He also liked it. Only then were Jatin and I convinced that  we would  bag this  project Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar.”

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Speaking on the genesis  of the composition Lalit says, “Pehla Nasha  wasn’t composed  overnight. A  lot of thought went into it. For example, the way the piano interlude  at the start recurs. I  composed  it piecemeal. It was India’s first slow-rock tune. I remember  Mansoor’s father Nasir Husain Saab’s office used to be very close to  Mehboob Studios.Jatin and I would visit his office every day. During those days  to compose music for a  Nasir Husain  production was  a big deal.We  knew  it was  make-or-break deal  for Jatin and I….I remember we sat  together for story and music sessions. Apart  from Mansoor, his sister Nusrat and  Aamir(Mansoor’s cousin) would there.”

Lalit says  Aamir also loved the song. “Aamir  loved Pehla nasha.The first song  of the album Yahan ke hum sikandar  was  programmed by  Ranjit Barot in just half an hour. Our temperamental  arranger Babloo Chakraborty   took  great offence to that and vowed  never to work with us again.I was  very young at that time. Our recordings stop.The shooting was  to start  in Ooty and we  had no arranger.Because of the politics  in the music world even smalltime arrangers refused  to work with  us.The Bengali musicians were  peeved that Jatin and I were doing  the music  for Nasir Saab and not R D Burman. Anyway , Mansoor agreed to use the song without an arranger. And that worked out well  for Pehla nasha. Later Bablooda relented thanks to Nasir Husain Saab.When I sent the song to Bablooda  his reaction was, ‘Chee chee Lalit. Kya gana kiya hai? Itna kharaab sound hai. Yeh toh tv serial se be kharaab gana hai.’ I told him the song  is what  it is. Everyone loved the song except Bablooda. But when his  kids heard  it they loved it. Then he called me  and took back his words.”

The crowning  glory  for  Pehla nasha was  yet to come for Lalit.  “This is my  first and last song where the violinists , when we  recorded the string arrangement, got  up and  applauded. I wept . I finally  knew we had done the right thing in Pehla nasha. Our reputation spread across the  film industry. The  subtlety  of  the  recording was  unique. When Panchamda (RD) heard Pehla nasha at Nasir Husain Saab’s  house , he loved it too.  What  bigger certificate  for the song? Panchamda  started guiding us from then onwards. He was a large-hearted  artiste. I am so glad I went through all these experiences  of life. They’ve made me what I am.”

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