Bollywood – The magical world of music and colourful dances and discussions are incomplete without mentioning the lovely music and amazing dance steps. Most recently I have submitted an article based on music; it’s about best 10 music directors all time. This time, I would like to forward my talks and continue with best singers of Bollywood who have given their voices to the great compositions of those versatile composers all time. Yes, I am dealing with best playback singers of Bollywood, who have rendered their melodious voices to actors onscreen and made their romantic and melodrama scenes most successful.

As a hero or heroine, an actor has a few limitations. One of those includes a sweet voice to carry away with song sequences of the film and in most cases, actors are not talented to give their voices for tunes though such practices existed during 40’s and early 50’s. Also, voice of the singer should equally match and blend with the person who lip-sync it onscreen. Now I remember an incident related to the shooting of the song ‘Nayana Barse’ of Woh kaun thi. The song was pictured in the snow of Shimla and Sadhana had to lip-sync to the song. But due to some reason the song recording couldn’t take place and the composer Madan Mohan had to record it in his own voice. For the film shooting, Madan Mohan’s voice was used where Sadhana lip-sync to it. As news was already spread that it’s a mysterious ghost story, many people even wondered what type of ghost story is this, where the female ghost sings with male voice! This incident happened about 50 years back in some hill station of Shimla and yet it can’t deny the fact that singer’s voice attributes a lot to the success of composition, lyrics as well the movies. A song becomes perfect only if the words are clearly dictated with correct pronunciation and clarity without the loss of a beat or melody. 

So, through this article, I would like to explain briefly the contributions given by 5 best female playback singers of Bollywood. I would like to begin my prepared list with most popular and successful female voices of the industry. Also, I would like to present it as a countdown from number 5 to top person of the list. I have prepared it based on the popularity, talent as well as the contributions. So, here goes my list – beginning with no.5.

5. Shreya Ghoshal

Perhaps she is the only lucky star of Indian playback singing industry who managed to win National awards for the first ever recorded song. ‘Bairi Piya’ of Devdas was recorded in the year 2002 and when Ismail Darbar recorded the song in Shreya’s voice after telling her that it’s just a final practice, no one even imagined that this song will be chosen as the best Indian female voice of the year. Not only to Hindi, she has been giving her amazing contributions to almost all Indian languages including Malayalam, Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi and Bengali.

shreyaShe is one among those lucky winners who got opportunity to sing in Bollywood, through music reality shows of Indian television. When I thought about female singers of present times, two names flashed in my mind. One is Shreya and the other – Sunidhi Chauhan and both these talented singers rose to limelight through reality shows of television. When I had to choose one among these two to sum up the list of 5, without hesitation I could choose Shreya Ghoshal’s name.

When Shreya was chosen as the winner of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, a new singing world opened to her and she truly followed the traditions of many great singers and musicians of Bengal who gave their valuable contributions to Bollywood. Kishore Kumar, S.D.Burman, R.D.Burman, Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik – the list is so long! Bollywood music is incomplete without these persons too!

When director Sanjay Leela Bansali found her at an episode of ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’, he offered her all the songs pictured on Aiswarya rai, for his next movie, ‘Devdas’. Songs Bairi piya, Silsila yeh chahat and Dola re became instant hits and gave her many appreciations including Filmfare and National awards. She repeated the same success next year with the song, ‘Chalo tumko lekar chale’ and ‘Jaadu hai nasha’ of Jism for which she won her second Filmfare the successive year. The same year, the ‘Chan chan’ song of Munnabhai MBBS and ‘Aye meri zindagi’ of Mere Saaya also become success. She performed in the song ‘Har Taraf’ of Mere Saaya.

The instant success of Jism made her the most wanted female singer of the industry. She continued her success in Bollywood with a series of songs like ‘Mujhe tumse’ of Tumsa nahi dekha, ‘Hulchul hua’ of Aaja Nachle, ‘Pal pal’ of Lage raho Munnabhai, ‘Koi tum sa nahi’ and ‘Chori chori’ of Krishh, ‘Tumhe jo meine’ and title track of Mein hoon naa, ‘Betaab hai dil’ of Phir milenge, Yeh ishq hai of Jab we met, Barso re of Guru, ‘Jaane do na’ and Title song of Cheeni kum, ‘Tujh mein rab’ of Rab ne bana de Jodi, ‘Maine chun liya’ of Dil maange more, ‘Hadh se zyada’ of Rakt, ‘Agar tum mil jaavo’ of Zeher, ‘Dheera Chalna’ of Paheli, ‘Waada raha’ and ‘Dil dooba’ of Kaakee, ‘Khabar nahi’ of Dosthana, ‘Bahara’ of I hate love stories, ‘Zubi zubi’ of 3 idiots, ‘Piya bole’ of Parineeta, ‘Saas mein’ of Jab tak hai jaan, ‘Teri meri’ of Boduguard, ‘Chikni chameli’ of Agneepath, ‘Mein agar kahoon’ and ‘Dhoom tana’ of Ohm Santhi Ohm, title track of Ashiq banaya aapne, ‘Oo lala’ of Dirty picture, ‘Acha lagtha hai’ of Aarakshan, ‘Sukr Alla’ of Kurbaan, ‘Kyun in dino’ of Kambaqt Ishq, ‘Soniyo’ of Raaz – The mystery continues, ‘Kaise kahoon’ of Gajani, ‘Chori kiya’ of Debaangg, ‘Oh saathi re’ of Omkara, ‘Teri ori’ of Singh is Kingh, ‘Mere dolna’ of Bhool Bhulayya and ‘Ab to forever’ of Tara ram pam. It’s just a collection from a huge hit of songs. It can be noted that in majority of her association with movies, she has sung just one or two songs; surprisingly those songs are the most noticed ones and nominated for Filmfare awards.

Now, when the composer needs a melodious voice to perform his song, no doubt, Shreya Ghosal is the first choice and that’s the reason why I placed this ‘Melodious queen of present times’ in my hit list. Now when loud and special voices are given first preference, Shreya stands in a different corner with millions of fans following her melodious voice. No doubt, her melodious voice, classical base and dedications are the reasons behind her super success at a comparatively young age with many awards including 4 National awards and 10 Filmfare awards collectively – indeed a unique record.

Author’s opinion – Unique and melodious voice – this factor prompted me to include her in the top 5 list. No doubt, she is the voice of present youth and she has proved her versatility in all languages she had attempted singing. If I say about my mother tongue, it’s the most difficult Indian language to speak and dictate correctly and when we hear her Malayalam songs, no one can even recall that she is a Bengali. Her voice quality is also perfect and that’s the reason why she is the no.1 singer of Mollywood at present and has won many awards including Kerala state awards twice. Also, no other female singer of present Bollywood can sing melodious tunes with cuteness and expressions, more beautifully that Shreya, no doubt! It’s just perfect and nothing else.

4. Kavitha Krishnamurthy

Ranking 4th, it’s none other than Kavitha Krishnamurthy – one among the most versatile singers of 90’s and 2000’s. Though she had to struggle a lot of big opportunities during 80’s, middle 90’s placed her as one among the most versatile singers of the industry. She has given contributions to the industry during hit songs of Karma, Chaal baaz, Mr.India, thus becoming the voice of Sri Devi during that period. ‘Har karam’ of Karma, pictured on Nutan, ‘Tum se milkar’ of Pyar chuktha nahin pictured on Padmini Kolapuri, ‘Karthe hai pyar’ and ‘Hawa Hawai’ of Mr.India, ‘Naa jaane kaha se’ of Chaalbaaz – all pictured on Sridevi are among the most noted songs of 1980’s. Most of her songs were later dubbed by other artists during this period, thus leaving chances for her. It happened in 1942-A love story too! When her songs were kept intact by the music director R.D.Burman, we witnessed one among the finest works of present times. She won all music awards for female playback for the song, ‘Pyar hua chupke se’. Actually the female version of the hit song, ‘Kuch na kaho’ was first recorded by her voice later by Lata Mangeshkar.


After the success of melodious tunes of 1942-A love story, she didn’t look back and became an established singer during 90’s. Yet she was placed behind Alka Yagnik who was the first choice of directors. With the success of ‘Pyar kya chupke se’, she was given Manisha Koirala songs most. Their combination gave many hits too – Aaj mein upar of Khamoshi, Ikaraar karna and Oh piya of Agni sakshi, Becheniyaan of Gupt, Dhanti paseena of Guddu, Jaan leva of Moksha, Telephone dun mein of Hindusthani, Maharaja title track, Tu hi tu of Dil se and Tu hi re of Bombay. Before 1994, Kavitha has rendered her voice for ‘Barso re’ of First love letter and Saudagar songs like ILU ILU and title track for Manisha. She was the favourite of music composers like A.R.Rehman, Ismail Darbar and Jatin Lalit, who have given her the best songs of her career.

Sanjay Leela Bansali who has directed movies like Khamoshi, Hum dil de chuke sanam and Devdas has given the best songs of her career. It’s for the couple of movies - Hum dil de chuke sanam and Devdas, composed by Ismail Darbaar that her voice is noted most. He has also given her songs for the love triangle movie – Mehbooba, acted by Ajay Devgan, Sanjay Dutt and Manisha Koirala. Songs of Deewangee is another instant. Pyar se pyare is quite a popular number. Till now, Hum dil de chuke sanam is considered as the masterpiece of Kavitha – the movie for which she got maximum recognitions. Songs include title track, Albela sajan, Nimbooda and Dol Baaje. The same combination repeated the magic for their next venture Devdas. Kavitha gave her voice for all Madhuri’s songs including Dola re and Maar daala and Hamesha tum ko chaaha.

Apart from Ismail Darbar, the composer who has wisely used her voice was none other than A.R.Rehman. His songs include Tu hi re of Bombay, Kismat se tum, Sunta hai and Key sara, Paigaam laaga saawan of Lakeer (she did its original version in Tamil too), Nazrom ki milne se and Humdum pyara pyara of Viswa vidhatha, Mein albeli and Dheeme dheeme of Zubeidaa, Satrange re of Dil se, Chalo chalo of Nayak, Chand aaya of Dil hi dil mein, Oh jaan de de re of Daud, Bol sajni of Doli sajake rakhna, Ishq bina of Taal, Jaaniye yeh kaisa of Rangeela and Telephone dun mein of Hindusthani.

Other hit songs of Kavitha Krishnamurthy include all songs of Bhairavi, Mere piya ghar aaya of Yaarana, Aakh mare of Tere mere sapne, Ghungat mein chand and Mera ek sapna hai of Khoobsurat, Bole chudiyan of Kabhi khushi kabhi gum, Woh ladki hai kaha of Dil chahta hai, yeh dil sun raha hai of Khamoshi, Bin tere sanam, Kahi pyar ho na jaaye of Baadal, Meri duniya hai of Vaastav, Khuda gawah title song, Phool title song, Teri hi aarzoo hai of Chandramukhi, Chori chori of Dalaal, Chandni raat mein of Baagi, Hai huku of Gopi Kishen, Yeh duniya of Pardes, Dol bajne laga of Virasat, Tu cheez bade hai of Mohra and Hadh kardi aapne title song. 

Author’s opinion: As a great lover of Bollywood music, I feel that hers is a god gifted voice. I have closely heard her voice many times and very often felt that spirituality is associated with her voice – such a lively voice! Something divine is present in her voice; a strange feeling that I can’t explain. I had felt such a feeling that soothes my mind while hearing one more singer’s voice only. It’s none other than Lata Mangeshkar, whom I often believe to be the incarnation of Saraswathy. Such thoughts are higher when I hear her slow melodies with less instruments and devotional songs. She has sung only a few songs in my mother tongue Malayalam. For a movie – E Snehatheerathu, music composed by her husband L.Subramaniyam, I had several times felt the divinity behind her voice, particularly Shiva devotional song and a romantic number, “Udayaarkka kiranagal”.  

3. Alka Yagnik

Undoubtedly Alka comes third in my list. Since she has sung ‘Ek do teen’ for Madhuri Dixit in 1988, she remained as the most popular female voice of Bollywood for two decades or so. From classics to folk, from romantic to item numbers and from melodious tunes to teasing songs, Alka Yagnik has proved to be the best female voice of industry in present Bollywood. It’s not at all easy to count one or 100 of her best songs of Bollywood. It can be said that she is the most sought female voice of the industry since early 90’s, though she has reduced her work considerably now. She remained the first choice for all music directors and was the strong contender of Kavitha Krishnamurthy during 1990’s. Yet, most of the music directors gave the leading songs to this magical voice. Once I read somewhere, she was the most paid playback singer of Bollywood during middle 90’s. 25,000 rupees was a big amount that time!


She has proved several times to the best voice of all leading ladies of present Bollywood including Madhuri Dixit, Karishma, Kareena, Priety Zinta, Aiswarya, Urmila, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee, Raveena, Juhi Chawla, Sonali Bendre and Shilpa Shetty. Though she didn’t bring much variations to her voice while singing for different heroines on screen, it didn’t look odd anywhere onscreen and she is considered to be the most perfect female voice of present times. Among all co-singers she was most successful with Kumar Sanu, with whom she has given the best duets during 90’s. She has also given wonderful duets with Udit Narayan and Sonu Nigam. She holds the record of maximum Filmfare in singing category Female along with Asha Bhosle. She has been consecutively nominated for 14 years with 35 nominations – a unique record that may stay forever unbroken.

She started her career in Bollywood during early 80s of which ‘Mere Angane mein’ of Laawariz is most popular. It’s a challenging role to choose the best gems of her singing career. Yet I would like to gather a few, though I may miss some. Her most notable works include Hum hai rahi pyar ke, Saajan, Raja, Raja Hindusthani, Kuch kuch hota hai, Kabhi khushi kabhi ghum, Hum tum, Qayamat se qayamat tak, China gate, Baazigar, Hum ho gaye aapke, Mein Khiladi tu anari, Taal, Dil chahta hai, Josh, Har dil jo pyar karega, Aitraaz, Lakshya, Sarfarosh, Raju ban gaya gentleman, Ashoka, Fiza, Rakshak, Raaz, Humraaz, Yes Boss, Karan Arjun, Soldier, Zubeidaa, Umrao jaan, Khal nayak, Dhadkan, Khalnayak, Kaho na pyar hai, Aap mujhe acha lagne lage, Kya yehi pyar hai, Jaan, Jaanwar, Ishq hai tumse, Takkar, Silsila hai pyar ka, Khiladi, Aarzoo, Mission Kashmir, Kahi pyar na ho jaaye, Akele hum akele tum, Tere naam, Koyla, Chalte chalet, Swades, Mangal Pandey, Kabhi alvida na kehna, 1-2-ka 4, Lagaan, Phir bhi dil hai Hindusthani, Kisna, Fida, Kyon ki, Deewana, Pardes, Pyar kiya to darna kya, Dulhan hum le jayenge, , Kal ho na ho, Gulaam, Ek rishta, Barsaat, Mela, Chal mere bhai, Vijaypath, Fiza, Regugee, Khamoshi and Kasoor.

It’s not all an easy task to collect the best of Alka Yagnik. I may list more than 500 songs of my favourite. So, let me mention 27 best songs of my choice though I am really confused with the choices – Saawariya of Swades, Pardesi of Raja Hindusthani, Meri mehbooba of Pardes, Raah mein unse of Vijay path, Dekha tujhe to of Koyla, Hai naa of Dulhan hum le jayenge, Hum ho gaye aapke - title track, Saasom ko of Hum tum, Aapke pyar mein of Raaz, Churake dil mera of Mein Khiladi tu anari, Hai mera dil of Josh, Raja ko rani se of Akele hum akele tum, Taal se taal mila of Taal, Jo haal dil ka of Sarfarosh, Gazab ka hai din of QSQT, Kuch kuch hota hai title song, Oh re chori of Lagaan, Ek do teen of Tezaab, Suraj hua madham of K3G, Ek din aap of Yes Boss, Dil laga liya of Dil hai tumhara, Sun sanana of Ashoka, title track of Silsila yeh pyar ka, Jhangariya of Krishna, Soldier title track, Dekha hai pehli baar of Saajan and Mohabbat na ho gaaye of Kasoor. The above list of songs and movies are enough to prove the supremacy of this great singer of Bollywood.

Now, in the midst of digital recording and fast numbers we have lost this great voice somewhere. Though she has remained as the top voice of about 2 decades or so, her voice is not heard much nowadays! Let us hope, she comes back with big hits giving surprises. 

Author’s opinion – If I am asked to say a few words about Alka Yagnik, ‘voice quality’ is the first thing that comes to my mind; also, the clear and sharp voice that reaches our heart through an easy path. Her voice quality best suits for recording and also suits every heroine of present times. Though I felt her voice was too thin for heroines till middle 90’s, as time passed by, her voice became matured and grew as the finest voice of present times.  

2. Asha Bhosle

Still hot debate is going on for the top position elder sister or younger one. Yet, according to my tastes and interests, I give second position to ‘the pop queen of Bollywood’. Perhaps she is the most versatile female singer of India, who has experimented with all ingredients and shades of Bollywood music. It benefited Asha Bhosle most when her elder sister decided not to sing for cabaret compositions. Regardless of type of song given, she sang each and every single piece given to her without hesitation because she respected the word ‘music’. Now I remember an incident of female playback singer K.S.Chitra of south, I read from her interview in a magazine. During 80’s, once she was offered a Tamil song with vulgar words and in the recording studio, she refused to sing. But music maestro Ilaya Raja advised her not to do so, as it’s an insult to music and Chitra still keeps as the best advice of the music industry. Whenever I remember this incident, Asha Bhosle’s face comes to my mind first. Yes, she is one among those singers who has never become choosy for the songs given to her and the success that she attained through her career is only due to this principle that she followed throughout her life.  

ashabhoslePerhaps she is the singer who has been criticized most and compared with the works of Lata Mangeshkar – the leading singer of the industry. Yet she didn’t care anything and climbed steps one after the other reaching the top. Now also, I feel surprised how she was able to sing the song ‘Rangeela re’ and ‘Tanha’ of Rangeela when she was 61 and ‘Hai rama’ of Lucky for a 16 year old girl when she was 71. Also, it’s to be noted that she is one among those dedicated singers of Bollywood who strived hard to attain a position that she actually deserves. There was a time during 50’s and 60’s when she was given second heroines’ or supporting actresses’ songs and she has sung those songs gracefully. When melodious songs were given to Lata, dance numbers were reserved for Asha that time. Thus she played second fiddle role always. It took many years of hard work to get out of her elder sister’s shadow and she developed her own unique singing style to place her among the most established singers of Bollywood and that’s the reason why many singers of present times see her as their role model. It’s also to be noted that though Lata was the first choice of all composers except O.P.Nayyar, it was Asha who has sung maximum duets with Mohd.Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Mahendra Kapoor!

As a singer she developed her own style of singing during middle 60’s and early 70’s. Yet I would like to point out a few best songs of Asha during 50’s. I may miss many as I am not proficient in songs of 50’s, yet let me attempt. Aayiye meherbaan of Howrah bridge, Kaali ghata chaaye of Sujatha, Chod do anchal zamana kya kahega of Paying guest, Chanda chupi of Light house, Sar par topi and title track of Tumsa nahin dekha, Haal kaisa hai janab of Chalthi ka naam gaadi, Aada hai chandrama of Naurang, Dil syam se of Thokar, Acha jee main haari of Kaalaapani, Zameen se hamein aasmaan par of Adalat, Kya karoom mein of Sanskar, Eena meena deeka of Asha, Aakhom mein kya jee of Nau do gyarah, Jab dil apna and Salaam le of Ruksana, Maang ke saath tumhara, Saathi haath battaana and Ud jab jab sulfein of Naya Daur and Koi aaya dhadkan kehti hai of Lajwanthi are only a few among those gems composed during the golden era of Bollywood music. It is solid proof that music director O.P.Nayyar played a significant role in toning Asha Bhosle’s career who has given all the best compositions to her. Surprisingly he has never used Lata Mangeshkar’s voice. It’s believed that there was a personal relationship between O.P and Asha and they parted in 1974 with the song, ‘Chain se humko kabhi’ of the movie ‘Praan jaye par vachan na jaaye’.

Now before proceeding further, let me list the best songs of O.P.Nayyar – Asha Bhosle combination. He solely used Asha’s voice in almost all movies during 1960’s. Some of them include ‘Deewana hua badal’ and ‘Isaarom mein’ of Kashmir ki kali, ‘Yehi who jagaa hai’ of Yeh raat phir na aayegi, ‘Aakhon se jo uthari’ of Phir wohi dil laaya hoon, Bahut sukriya and Aap yuhi agar of Ek musafir ek hassena, Zara hole hole chalo, Hoton pe haseen and Aaj koi pyar se dil ki batein of Sawan ki ghata, Roka kai baar, Kajra mohabbat wala, Jaaiyiye aapk and Yeh reshmi zulfaien of Mere Sanam and Who haseen dard de do and Kitne haseen hai jahan of Humsaaya.

Now a list of Asha’s songs of 60’s of other music directors’ composition – Raat ke humsafar of An evening in Paris, Parde mein rahne do (Shikar), Itni badi mehfil of Dil apna aur preeth paraye (SJ composition), Aaja aaja, Oh hassena and Oh mere sonare of Teesri Manzil (R.D.Burman composition), Abhi na jao chodkar of Hum dono (Jaidev composition), Mere mehboob mein kya nahi of Mere Mehboob, Aaj kal shaql deedar of Leader (Naushad), Sach hue sapne tere of Kaala bazaar and Raat akeli hai of Jewel Thief, Gun guna rahi hai of Aradhana (S.D.Burman composition), Neeli neeli khatha of Hum Hindusthani (Usha Khanna composition), Tore man darpan of Kajal, Zindagi ke rang kai re of Aadmi aur Insaan and Na yeh zameen thi of Sagaai (Ravi’s composition), Tere khayalom mein hum of Geet gaaya patharom ne (Ramlal’s composition) and Jhumka geera re of Mera Saaya (Madan Mohan composition) are only a few selected songs among the long list. 

Her association with R.D. Burman during early 70’s produced the finest songs of both their careers. Their association gave a new direction to Bollywood music and provided the basement of fast numbers, cabarets and rock songs. A few of them include Dum maro dum title song, Jaane jaa of Jawani Diwani, Yeh mera dil of Don, Piya tu of Caravan, Sapna mera toot gaya of Khle khel mein, Chura liya and Lekar hum diwana dil of Yaadom ki baraat, Yeh ladka hai Alla of Hum kise se kum nahin, Aao na gale lag jaaona of Mere jeevan saathi, One two cha cha cha of Shalimar and Duniya mein of Apna Desh. They got married in 1980 and they continued giving hit songs to Bollywood. During this time, equal preference was given to melodious tunes as well. ‘Katra Katra’ and ‘Mere kuch samaan’ of Izzazat can be quoted as examples. O Maria of Saagar was a popular dance number of this combination that time and ‘Tum se milke’ of Parinde, a romantic number popular still now.

Other hit songs of Asha Bhosle during 70’s and 80’s include Ulchan sulche na of Ulchan, Jab tak rahe tan mein jiya of Samadhi, Jaaneman of Ek choti si baath, Sajna hai mujhe of Saudagar, Dil cheez kya hai and Justaju jisko of Umrao jaan, Sona maahi sona of Soni mahawaal, Kise nazar ko tera of Aitbaar, Koi sahari baabu of Loafer, Kab se bichade hue of Laawaris and many fast numbers. With the beginning of 90’s, we witnessed a slow degradation of Asha’s career except a few songs like ‘Kitabein bahut se’ of Baazigar and ‘Jeene ke bahana’ of Khoon bhari maang. She made a huge come back at the age of 61, with the songs of A.R.Rehman’s composition – Rangeela (1995). It can be said that she has been a hot favourite of a particular director during each decade. Her carrier was well nourished by O.P.Nayyar during 1950’s, 1960’s and early 1970’s, then followed by R.D.Burman and after his death in 1994, by A.R.Rehman.

Now let me mention a string of hits born in A.R.Rehman-Asha Bhosle combination till now. Rangeela re and Tanha of Rangeela, Radha kaise na jaale of Lagaan, Mere dil ka woh of Kabhi na kabhi, Kahi aag lage of Taal, Oh bawre of Daud, Rang de of Thakshak, Dhua Dhua from Meenakshi and Mehrbaan of Tehzeeb. Perhaps she might have sung less number of songs of A.R.Rehman, but all of them have become huge success worldwide. Other hits with rest of music directors include Hai rama of Lucky – No time to love (Adnan Sami), Jab dil mile of yadein and Mein naachoon bin paayal of Fiza (Anu Malik), Ajnabi mujhko of Pyar to hona hi tha, zara sa jhoomloom of DDLJ (Jatin Lalit), Kambaqt ishq of Pyar tune kya kiya (Sandeep Chowtha), Habba habba of Jogger’s park (Tabun Suthradar) and Le gayi of Dil to pagal hai (Utham Singh).

Now she holds the Guinness records for maximum recorded songs – a unique record and I have tried my maximum to include the best and popular songs of her career. It’s to be noted that people who loves pop and fast numbers than melodious tunes will prefer to place her name top of Lata, no doubt!  

Author’s opinion: From teasing numbers to rock and from classical songs to romantic, she has shown an amazing capability to handle all sort of songs. No doubt, she is the most versatile female singer India has ever witnessed. She never said ‘no’ to any song offered to her and that’s the first reason behind success. She accepted all types of criticisms and took its positives to put the next step forward. Among all singers, perhaps she is the only person whose voice didn’t fade with time and now also has enough caliber to sing for a school girl. That’s the reason behind her success. She has always remained as the second choice of many directors, yet she managed to bring maximum variations in those offers given to her thus achieving the tag of ‘The most versatile singer of Bollywood’. It’s only in terms of voice quality she lost first position in my list. 

1. Lata Mangeshkar

Let me start saying a note – It’s foolishness to describe about the talent and contributions given by this living legend of the industry. She is now 80+ and has completed 70 years the industry. She is the most wanted female voice of India and for many people, a day begins with her bhajans. I don’t know where to start about this great personality as she has been my biggest inspiration of my life. Her voice soothes millions of hearts and serves as medicine where medical science retreats. Each and every song that she rendered her voice is so precious and not at all an easy task to list best 100 or 1000. Yet I would prefer to pick my all favourite songs belonging to different decades and composers and may miss a few too. Though I am a great fan of Lata and Asha, it’s for the first time I write something on these two great legends and perhaps I may miss your favourites in the midst of my choices.

lataAs it’s possible for me to write in many pages on Lata, I would like to brief it to give you an impressive column to read. There are many facts about Lata Mangeshkar. Let us begin with those interesting facts first. When Royal Albert Hall, London recorded the graph of her voice, it was given the title of ‘By far the most perfect voice of the world’! Undoubtedly it’s true too! Millions of fan followers around the world accept this fact that hers is the most melodious voice of the world till now. She is the first Indian to perform there too. Not only that, she is the only playback singer from India who is able to sing in 3 octaves; the rest can sing only up to 2 octaves. Though Goa is her home town, she has never sung in Goa. She always sings barefooted showing respect to singing.

Now to begin with her singing career and memorable songs that I feel the best. As a singer, her voice was rejected during late 40’s saying, ‘too thin voice for a heroine’. To financially support the family she had to work as a child artist in many black and white movies of past time. Her debut as a singer was through a couple of Marathi movies and her first Bollywood movie was ‘Paa Lagoon’ for the movie Aap ke seva mein, before Indian Independence. After that how many incidents have she witnessed till Bollywood grew from stage to another! And in every part of those reforms, Lataji has given significant contributions too.

It was music director Ghulam Haider who served as her mentor giving her first big breaks in Bollywood. The song was ‘Dil mera thoda’ of Majboor. Next year, the song ‘Aayega aanewala’ of Mahal pictured on Madhubala was released and after that began the real success journey of Lata Mangeshkar. During 50’s and 60’s many leading heroines used to insist on Lata’s voice for songs of which Madhubala comes first. Earlier she was criticized for poor dictation of Hindi and singing style of Noor Jahan – the top singer of Bollywood during 1940’s. Later she developed her own style of singing, a distinct voice that everyone loves to hear again and again. She was the only singer who was able to bring tears to the eyes of our Late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, when she sang the song ‘Ee mere watan ke logo’ written by Pradeep.

I know it well it’s my foolish attempt to write about the best singer India has ever produced. Yet it’s my humble attempt to choose at least a few great works done by Lata from 30K+ songs she has given to Bollywood. As I have told earlier, Aayega Aanewala was the first big break of her singing career and from early 1950’s, she became every director’s hot pick for female voice. Yet I feel it was during late 50’s that she established as the unchallengeable voice of Bollywood music. By that time, her voice grew a little more mature thus suiting the heroine’s voice to perfection. It’s my opinion only.

Baiju Bawra of Naushad’s music is still considered a classic. All sound tracks of this movie are exceptionally beautiful and she gave voice to Meena Kumari onscreen. As a singer this movie brought Mohd.Rafi to limelight too. After the success of Baiju Bawra, she became the leading female singer for music directors, Shankar Jaikishan, Hemant Kumar, Roshan, C.Ramachandra, Salil Chowdhury, Ravi, S.D.Burman, Madan Mohan and Naushad. Actually, all leading songs of Shankar Jaikishen – Raj kapoor movies during 50’s were sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Now let me give a brief note on hits on Lata during 1950’s; it’s only a selected list of songs. Aaja re pardesi, Sulmi sang and Bichua of Madhumadhi, Itna na mujhse pyar bada of Chaaya (Salil Chowdhury), Ghar aaja mere pardesi of Awara, Pyar hua, Mud mudke and Ramayya of Shree 420, Aaja sanam, Panchi banoom, Jahan mein jaathi hoon, Yeh raat and Rasik balma of Chori Chori, Saajan sang kahe of Main Nashe mein hoon, Yeh shyam ki tanhaayiyan, Raja ki aayegi baaraat and Aaja re of Aah, Woh chand khila, Tera jaana and Dil ki nazar of Anari (Shankar Jaikishan), Jise tu kubool kare and O jaane wale of Devdas, Jeevan ke safar mein and Ankh khuli hi of Munimji, Chand phir nikla of paying guest (S.D.Burman).

She has ruled the industry as ‘Nightingale’ for about 4 decades or so. She has been the favourite of all music directors from 1950’s to 2000’s. But has two exceptions – O.P.Nayyar of old era and Nadeem Shravan of present times have never recorded even a single song with Lata, though she has been the leading singing lady of the industry. Her voice was well used by great composers like Shankar Jaikishen, Laxmikanth Pyarelal and Madan Mohan who played significant roles in polishing her career. She was the first choice of Naushad too. She has also given hit songs with S.D and R.D and new generation composers like Jatin Lalit and A.R.Rehman. As it’s not possible to tell everything about her songs, let me conclude this article by listing her best songs of my choice. As it is challenging to prepare the list based on movies or decades, let me try to list Lata’s best from 60’s under different music composers. I have excluded 50’s from this list and hoping I have included the best. It’s my sincere effort too! Please excuse if I have missed your favourites.

Shankar Jaikishan – Mujhe tum mil gaye and Sayonara of Love in Tokyo, Tera mera pyar amar of Asli Naqli, Ajeeb Daasthan of Dil apna aur preeth paraye, Tera aana of Anari, Ajee rootkar and Bedardi balma of Arzoo, Yeh kaha of Silsile, Ehsaan hoga and Ja re ja of Junglee, Aaja aayi bahar of Raj Kumar, Ek bijli giri of April Fool, Mein ka karoom of Sangam, Tum mujhe yoon of Pagla kahi ka, Gumnaam title track, Dil ek mandir title track and Ruk jaa raath

S.D.Burman – Abke sajan and title track of Chupke chupke, Chanda hai tu and Kora kaagaz of Aaradhana, Piya bina, Nadiya kinare and tere bindiya of Abhimaan, Rulake gaya, Dil pukare and Hoton mein of Jewel thief, Khilte hain gul and Megha chaaye of Sharmilee, Piya to se, Mose chal, Gaata rahe and Aaj phir of Guide, Tere ghar ke samne title song, Rangeela re of Prem Pujari

R.D.Burman – Tere bina and Aaj kal paon of Ghar, Bindiya chamkegi of Do raasthe, Waada karo of Aao gale lag gao, Na koi umang of Katti Patang, Bahom mein chali aao of Anamika, Tum aagaye ho of Aandhi, Aaja piya and Kya jaanoom sajan of Baharom ke sapne, Beete na bitai of Parichay, Khamosh sa afsana and Seeli hawa of Libaaz, Bai batoor of Padosan, Jaane kya baat hai of Sunny, Agar tum na hote title song, Karvatein of Aap ki kasam, Na jaa and Nisulthana re of Pyar ka mausam, Dilbar of Caravan, Bheegi bheegi raat and Hum dono of Ajnabi, Kya yehi pyar hai of Rocky, Sawan ki jhoole of Jurmana, Panna ki tamanna of Heera Panna, Gum hai kise ke of Rampur ka Laxman, Raina beethi jaaye of Amar Prem, Kasmewada title track

Madan Mohan – Naynom mein badra and Title track of Mera saaya, Tere liye of Veer Zaara, Zara si aahat of Haqeeqat, Nayana barse and Lag jaa gale of Woh kaun thi, Betaab dil ki and Aaj socha tho of Hasthe Zakhm, Woh bhooli daasthan of Sanjog, Aap ki nazarom ne of Anpat

Laxmikanth Pyarelal –Woh hai zara, Dil vil and Ruk jaa of Shagird, Suno sajna of Aaye din bahar ke, Bhor  bhaye panghat pe and title song of Satyam Sivam Sundaram, Oh babul pyaare of Johny mere naam, Sola baras ki and Title track of Ek duje ke liye, Jaane kyon log of Mehboob ki mehndi, Yeh dil tum bin kahi lagtha nahi of Izzat, Mein tere ishq mein of Loafer, Oh ghatha sawari, Sajna and Sa re ga ma of Abhinetri, Sheesha ho ya of Aasha, Mere saasom ko of Badalthey rishthey, Chalo sajna of Mere humdum mere dost, Sawan ka mahina of Milan, Koi nahi hai of Pathar ke sanam, Jhoot bole of Bobby, Dafliwale of Sargam 

Salil Chowdary - Oh sajna of Parekh, Na jaane kyon of Choti si baat, Itna na mujhe se of Chhaya, Ragnigantha title song 

Khayyam - Yeh mulaquat of Khaandan, Aap yun faasulom se of Shankar Hussain, Dikhayi diye yoon of Baazar, Kabhi kabhi title song

Hemant Kumar – Kahi deep jale kahi dil of 20 saal baad, Kuch dil ne kaha of Anupama

Kalyanji Anandji - Ek tu na mila of Himalay ki gode mein, Chod de saari duniya and Chandan sa badan of Saraswathi chanda, Rootte rootte piya and Mere Padne mein of Kora Kagaz

Others:   Pyar kiya to of Mughal E Azam (Naushad), Milti hai zindagi mein of Aakhein (Ravi), Jiya jale of Dil se, Khamoshiyan of 1 2 ka 4, Ik tu hi sahara of Pukar  (A.R.Rehman), Tere mere hoton pe and Mere haathom mein of Chandini, Tu mere samne of Darr (Shiv Hari), Dil to pagal hai title song and Are re are (Utham Singh), Tujhe dekha to and Mere khabom of DDLJ, Humko hamein se of Mohabbatein (Jatin Lalit), Dil hoom hoom of Rudali (Bhupen Hazarika), Yaara sili sili of Lekin (Hridaynath Mangeshkar), Bhool gayi sab kuch of Julie, Pal bhar mein yeh of Swami (Rajesh Roshan), Sun sahiba sun of Ram teri Ganga maili, Dil mein tujhe bitake of Fakira (Raveendra Jain), Ajnabi kaun ho tum of Sweekar kiya meine (Usha Khanna), Yeh dil aur unki of Prem Parbat, Tumhe dekthi hoon of Tumhare liye (Jaidev), Dil diwana of Meine Pyar kiya, Title song and Deedi tera dewar of Hum aapke hain kaun (Ram Laxman), Chalte chalte of Pakeezah (Ghulam Mohammed), Tere pyar ka aasra of Dhool ka phool (N.Dutta)

Though I have shared numerous songs in this list, let me tell a few words on my favourites too. ‘Nayana Barse’ of Woh kaun thi is so special to me. I consider this song to be the best of Lata Mangeshkar, whom I see as the most influential person of my life till now. 

Author’s opinion – As I firmly believe that it’s foolishness to describe about the real power of the glowing star among the singers, I leave my words to readers’ imagination. Just I need to say something about my hidden desire that I have been carrying in my heart for about two decades or so. If someone asks me, whom do you want to meet once in your life time, it’s none other than Lata Mangeshkar. I really want to touch her feet once. I can say 100% that her voice and songs have played a significant role in shaping my personality and I can hear her songs for days continuously without any break. I learnt to love, remain patient, show emotions and enjoy happiness through the words she told through her uncountable songs! That’s what the position of Lataji in my heart. I often feel that she is the incarnation of Goddess Saraswathy; that’s the reason why she remained unmarried! It’s not possible for common man to reach a goddess. Though she had quarreled with almost all leading singers and composers during 60’s, the truth is that, it’s not possible for anyone to hate her or her music. Hers’ is a gifted voice that has the miraculous power to cure diseases and lessen mental ailments. That’s my firm belief.

Images: Wikipedia
Read about 10 best music composers of Bollywood – My choice

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