Once Upon a Time: When Lata Mangeshkar first recorded with AR Rahman, Gulzar narrates
In the ‘Once Upon a Time’ series, we present anecdotes shared by famous film personalities.
Veteran poet, lyricist and filmmaker Gulzar has been a part of the film industry for over six decades now and if there’s anyone who has closely seen the changing times at the movies, it is him. In the recent book by Nasreen Munni Kabir titled Jiya Jale: The Stories of Songs, the lyricist talks about the process of writing songs and their making as accomplished music directors and playback singers created these gems with him.
The book is written in a question and answer format much like Kabir’s biography of the artiste, In the Company of a Poet.
Gulzar elaborates on how the Malayalam verse of the Dil Se song came about and how it was Lata Mangeshkar’s first time recording with the musical maestro.
It is well known that AR Rahman records his music at his studio in Chennai and this was the first time that Lata Mangeshkar travelled all the way to record the song. It was quite reassuring for the Queen of Melody that Gulzar was going to be in Chennai as she did not know anyone else at the studio.
The singer’s cabin at the studio was constructed in a way that the Jiya Jale singer had no eye contact with the composer. After one rehearsal, she said, “Gulzarji, it feels as though I am blind.” So then, Gulzar sat on a chair outside her booth so she could see him through the window and Rahman could also see him and hence, he became the “bouncing board” between the two.
Lata Mangeshkar recorded the song in one single session but AR Rahman worked on it for about 10 days to finalise it. After he was done, he requested Gulzar to translate the Malayalam verses to Hindi. When Gulzar heard the song, he suggested Rahman to go ahead with it as it is. He felt that the chorus with Lata Mangeshkar’s voice sounded beautiful.
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As Gulzar discusses the song ahead, he talks about the meaning of the lyrics and implies that this a kind of ‘suhaag raat’ song as the woman talks about “masle phoolon” and “raat bhar bechaari mehndi pisti hai pairon taley”. The song is shot in broad daylight and hence, it is not obvious to the viewer to infer that meaning but the essence sustains.
Dil Se released in 1998 and over twenty years later, “Jiya Jale” continues to be known for its melody and its Malayalam verses.