On Lalit Pandit’s birthday, revisiting the enduring appeal

‘Very rarely does a composer get an opportunity to work on a musical like this where the director knew exactly where to use the songs, and how. Plus, we had Lataji. We couldn’t go wrong.”

Although it was Lata Mangeshkar who sang almost all of the songs in Aditya Chopra’s record-breaking directorial debut Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, it was her sister who got Jatin-Lalit on board as music composers.

Asha Bhonsle was instrumental in getting Jatin-Lalit this assignment. Lalit Pandit and his brother Jatin had gone to meet Bhonsle to condole when RD Burman had passed away. She happened to ask if they had worked with Yash Chopra. When the Pandit brothers expressed eagerness to work with Bollywood’s most successful filmmaker, Bhonsle dialled and spoke to Yash Chopra then and there.

Yash Chopra, a diehard Lata Mangeshkar bhakta, wanted only her for all the female vocals, and Jatin-Lalit were very happy with that. But considering Bhonsle’s role in getting them this project, they felt obligated to get the other sister into the soundtrack for at least one song. This was the last song that Jatin-Lalit recorded, and even this was to be sung by Mangeshkar. The duo had to be very clever with Yash Chopra, and convince him that Bhonsle could do justice to ‘Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main.’

But to Lalit Pandit, the song ‘Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana Sanam’ was special from the word go. They all felt there was something magical about the words. Anand Bakshi had never been more excited about any of his assignments in that period. He was charged up. The entire DDLJ team would gather at Bakshi’s house for rehearsals. Bakshi had predicted the music of DDLJ would be historic.

Jatin-Lalit felt Lata Mangeshkar took the song ‘Tujhe Dekha’ to another level. Says Lalit, “She created magic in that song. The fact that we were working with her was in itself a historic event for us. By her singing, it automatically got millions of devoted listeners. For Lataji, the songs of DDLJ were very special. This was a time when Nadeem and Anuradha Paudwal were trying to capture the film music market with the support of Gulshan Kumar and T-Series.We never wanted to be part of that group.”

When Lata Mangeshkar first heard the song ‘Tujhe Dekha,’ she loved the tune, and wanted Jatin-Lalit to send it to her on a cassette so she could get familiar with it. When she came for the recording, she was fully prepared. And then she added her own dimension to it.

Says Lalit, “I’d say Lataji took ‘Tujhe dekha toh yeh jaana’ to places where we never imagined the tune could go. I remember after the recording, she did something she never does. She came to the monitoring cubicle of the studio to congratulate us. We were speechless. I think Lata didi gave that extra special something to the songs of DDLJ because it was her Yash bhaiya’s son’s directorial debut.”

Kumar Sanu’s portions in ‘Tujhe Dekha’ had to be re-recorded. Concedes Lalit, “Yes, it’s true. When we heard the duet, we found Sanu had not caught the mood of the lyrics and tune. Lataji ke saath aksar aisa hota hai [this used to happen often with Lata Mangeshkar]. In their bid to match up to her excellence, the male singer tends to overdo the feelings.”

Lalit lets out a big secret about ‘Tujhe Dekha.’ “The tune for the opening lines were Adi Chopra’s. He used to sing these words, “Tujhe dekha toh yeh jaana sanam.” We took the start from him, and then went on to compose our own song. But yes, the beginning of the song is Adi’s.

He was inspired by the music of Sooraj Barjatya’s cinema. Frankly, I think “Na jaane mere dil ko kya” is a better song than “Tujhe dekha toh” in DDLJ. But the popularity of “Tujhe dekha toh” has gone beyond anything we’ve done. It’s our signature tune. And we are indebted to Lata didi for doing things to the song that we could never imagine.”

The music of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge played a big hand in its success. Undoubtedly, DDLJ was the highest point of Jatin-Lalit’s career. All the radio stations feel that the melody and the sound-quality of the music made them favourites for airplay.

When Jatin-Lalit had just started out, they were doing the music of Venus’ Khiladi. Like every aspiring composer, they were keen that Lata Mangesgkar sing a song for them. They approached her to sing the duet ‘Vada Raha Sanam.’ But Lata Mangeshkar declined. Jatin-Lalit were very hurt. Yash Chopra always insisted on Lata Mangeshkar singing all the songs in his films. When Jatin-Lalit got to know that Lata Mangeshkar would be doing all the singing in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, the duo decided there and then that they would create music that would do justice to Lata Mangeshkar’s voice. She was really happy with the quality of songs, so much so that she also took part in discussion on how she would sing.

Recalls Lalit, “We used to wait bated breath for her to arrive at the recordings. Hamari toh woh heroinon ki heroine hain [she is our heroine of all heroines]. She’d come looking like a doll, and regale us with her anecdotes. When you become her friend, you get to experience her deadly sense of humour. During the last decade, no other composers have worked so much with her.”

At 65, Lata Mangeshkar sang for Kajol. In ‘Mere khwabon mein jo aaye,’ the reference point that Aditya Chopra gave Jatin-Lalit for the song was Lata Mangeshkar’s ;Bhai Batoor’ from Padosan [19680].

For the song ‘Ghar aaja pardesi tera des bulaye re,’ Aditya Chopra was very clear that his mother Pamela Chopra would sing. The song had to be designed keeping her image in mind. Pam Chopra helped Jatin-Lalit with that song. Prior to this, Jatin-Lalit had never composed a single song with a Punjabi flavour. Being from Punjab, Pamela Chopra not only introduced Jatin-Lalit to the right tune but also the appropriate musical instruments. Anand Bakshi was told to create a song like ‘Chitthi Aayee Hai’ [Naam, 1986], which would make every Indian away from home feel homesick.

‘Mehndi lagake rakhna’ is staple at all sangeets and weddings. This was the song that got Jatin-Lalit DDLJ. Lalit sang it out loud to Yash Chopra when he met him. His words then were, “Mehndi lagake chalna, paayal bajake chalna, par aashiqon se apna daaman bachake chalna.” The tune stuck to Aditya Chopra’s mind, and he asked for it for DDLJ. By then, Jatin-Lalit had given it to Feroze Nadiadwala. But it was not used. So they gave it to Aditya Chopra. Initially, they wanted a brisk Bhangra tune. But ‘Mehndi lagake rakhna’ is not a Bhangra song. The opening two lines of ‘Mehndi lagake ke rakhna’ — “Yeh kudiyan nashe di pudiya, yeh munde gali de gunde” – was not only written by Bakshi but also composed by him in one sitting on Yash Chopra’s request. Yash Chopra said, “Shah Rukh’s [Khan] entry in the song must be done to the accompaniment of the special two lines.” Bakshi wrote and composed SRK’s entry. The rest of the song was composed by Jatin-Lalit.

Coming to my favourite song in DDLJ: “Na jaane mere dil ko kya ho gaya.” This is two different songs fused together. The idea of two different tunes coming together came from Aditya Chopra himself. Jatin-Lalit were worried as to how they would record two such contrasting sections as one song. During those times, there was no digital programming. It was all done live. In “Na jaane mere dil ko kya ho gaya,” Jatin-Lalit had to record the longest rhythm section of their careers. The musicians had to rehearse from 9:30 AM and go on till 11 PM.

Jatin-Lalit composed a title song, and then dropped it. Why? Explains Lalit, “Adi felt — and we all agreed — that no matter how good our title song, it will be compared with Ravindra Jainji’s ‘Le jayenge le jayenge dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge’ in the film Chor Machaye Shor [1974].”

There was a situation for the title song in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. During the the antakshari, Jatin-Lalit tried their best, and they came up with what they thought was a terrific tune. But they finally decided to drop it. The tune was used by Jatin-Lalit in Jab Pyar Kissise Hota Hai [1998].

Lalit is rightfully proud of the music created by his brother and him in DDLJ. “Very rarely does a composer get an opportunity to work on a musical like this where the director knew exactly where to use the songs, and how. Plus, we had Lataji. We couldn’t go wrong.”

Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based journalist. He’s been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out.

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