Love is not only about togetherness and joy. It is also about being torn apart and the abject grief of losing love. Which are your favourite songs of Birha? Here are mine
1. Milne se pehle bichad jayen hum kyon banke bigadd jaye bhaag by Lata Mangeshkar(Aag Hi Aag): This song in 3 parts about parting being such a crummy condition, has a history. It was to be sung by Kishore Kumar. Reveals Aag Hi Aag producer, PahlajNihalani, “It was composed for Kishore Kumar. But when he came to the recording studio and heard the tune he shook his head and said, ‘Nah, yeh gaana sirf Lata gaa saktihai, Ussko bulao.’ We persuaded him again. He came to sing the number again. Again , Kishoreda said , no get Lata. Then Bappida and I began thinking. If Kishoreda thinks it is for Lataji, it must be for her.’ She came, she sang all three parts of this birha song in no time at all. It was perfect, flawless. When she sings the words ‘Mitwa oh mitwa’ in the Bengali baul tradition we all wept in the studio. According to me this is the finest song on separation in love in Hindi cinema.” Adds Bappi Lahiri, “When I hear this song I know why I call her Mata Saraswati. She is beyong incredible. I don’t know how Kishore Mama would have sung Milne se pehle in Aag Hi Aag. But after hearing how Mata Saraswatisang it we were sure there was nothing more that could be done with these heartbreaking lyrics by Anjaan.”
2. Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain jo muqaam woh phir nahi aate by Kishore Kumar(Aap Ki Kasam): Rajesh Khanna brought out the best in R D Burman. Their collaboration has given us some of the most indestructible melodies of Hindi cinema. Even by their formidable track record this song written by Anand Bakshi about looking back at those cracks through which love fell through, is an epic creation. It is a melody about love, loss and regret that has embedded itself deep in our hearts. Kishoreda sings the lines as though they belonged to him. He may have been generous enough to pass on Milne se pehle to Lata because he felt only she could do full justice to it. But as diehard Lata bhakt I can still say , no one but Kishore ould have sung this monumental ode to lost love.
3. Tum bin jeevan kaise beeta pucho mere dil se by Mukesh(Anita): There was something in Mukesh’s voice, something deeply pained and wise, that made him the ideal choice for songs about fugitive love and heartbreak. This number composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal is so beautifully written and sung and it captures the ethos of estrangement so enchantingly it brings tears to the eyes each time. Saawan ke din aayebeeti yaadein layen…The rain cannot hide the pain.
4. Pucho na kaise maine rayan beetayi by Manna Dey(Meri Soorat Teri Aankhen): There is nothing that can be said about this song which can do justice to its limitless evocativeness.I once asked the late great Manna Dey about the unplumbed depths of pain that he ferreted out of lyricist Shailendra’s wounded words. Mannada had laughingly said, “That pain you hear in Poocho na kaise could be the pain I felt for being typecast in classical songs. No, but seriously it was a raga-based number and Burman Dada(composer Sachin Dev Burman) had to call me to sing it.” I feel some of the impact of the song is blunted on screen by Ashok Kumar whose face was blackened by bootpolish . There is another (unknown) actor listening in rapt attention to Ashok Kumar lip-snycing the pain-lashed tune. He completely gets it.
5. Piya bina piya bina by Lata Mangeshkar (Abhimaan): Piya aise rothe ke hothon semeri sangeet rootha kabhi jab main gaoon lage mere mann ka har geet jhootha. Wah, Majrooh Sultanpuri Saab. A broken heart never sounded more evocative, thanks to Lataji’s boundless aptitude to express longing and pain. When I met the film’s director Hrishikesh Mukherjee he showed me the place in his home where the song was composed. Lataji recalls, “Burman Dada sang the song to me. I don’t think I captured the longing and pain in the lyrics the way he did.”