"Lata Mangeshkar Ji is the Venus star of Indian cinema history."
The Nightingale of Bollywood, Lata Mangeshkar, was one of the most inspiring singers in history.
The late playback singer had an unprecedented contribution to the Indian music industry, spanning seven amazing decades.
Her celestial voice resonated throughout Bollywood and earned her labels such as ‘Voice of the Millenimum’ and the ‘Queen of Melody’.
However, these honorific titles don’t do Lata Mangeshkar justice. Her voice was much more than that. Her vocals were symbolic of progressiveness, faith, history and professionalism.
Lata Ji broke boundaries for women to succeed within Bollywood music, whilst redefining the typical playback singer.
Fusing poetry, ghazals and context, she was able to incorporate different styles for the desired effect.
Whether that was a lively dance number or a sorrowful and reflective track, she could do it all.
Her tonal structure, diverse range and immense adaptability provided years of joy to all those who listened.
She had this natural gift for film and each of her performances was unique and eloquent.
Recording over 50,000 songs in eighteen languages, the great Lata never once looked back and was relentless in her work ethic.
Dedicating her entire life to film and music, she is a generational icon that has touched the lives of millions of people.
Here, we uncover 20 of the best Lata Mangeshkar songs, all so timeless and evocative of her incredible talents.
‘Aayega Aanewala’ – Mahal (1949)
Taken from the movie Mahal, ‘Aayega Aanewala’ is one of the most eery Lata Mangeshkar songs. The track catapulted Lata’s career and made her voice an instant success.
Combining the horror movie’s setting, a melancholic production but soulful sound, the nightingale amazed viewers with her captivating tone.
‘Aayega Aanewala’ is picturised upon Indian cinema legends, Ashok Kumar and Madhubala. Both encompass Lata’s vocals and generate the meaning of her words.
The song slowly builds up towards the end with the introduction of tabla hits, complimenting the darkness of the movie.
Lata’s magnetic singing echoes throughout ‘Aayega Aanewala’. The piano’s orchestration, bass guitar and violins is confined but beautifully textured.
With her voice and the Madhubala’s ghostly expressions, the picturisation is a haunting yet unforgettable audiovisual.
The surrealness that holds in Lata’s every note is astounding, making it one of the most expressive songs of her catalogue.
‘Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua’ – Shree 420 (1955)
The comedy-drama, Shree 420, was produced by Raj Kapoor who also starred in it alongside Nargis and Nadira.
At the time of its release, it was the highest-grossing Indian film of all time.
Many fans were in awe of Lata’s vocals in the track ‘Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua’. Manna Dey also features on the song in a mesmerising duet.
Serenading each other with their verses but then joining up for decadent harmonies create an everlasting hum of richness.
They both have flurries, displaying their vocal range as they bounce off each other, with entertaining lengthy notes.
Picturised on Kapoor and Nargis on a rainy night, the tense instrumentation is vigorous but the flute cycles add a certain joyousness.
Adan Mirza, a Bollywood fan from India highlighted how multi-generational Lata’s voice remains:
“This never gets old. My all-time favourite. Remember listening to these songs from my dad’s old cassettes.”
Although the movie was shot in black and white, the voice of Lata Ji adds an energetic brightness to the production.
‘Aaja Re Pardesi’ – Madhumati (1958)
Starring Bollywood royalty Vyjayanthimala and Dilip Kumar, Madhumati focuses on a forbidden romance between the leading pair.
The stunning visuals open with Dilip suddenly hearing a distinct voice radiating through the air. A familiar feeling to all of those who hear Lata for the first time.
With Dilip running toward the vocals, Lata proceeds to bellow out the opening lines as Vyjayanthimala personifies the singer’s tone.
Lata’s remarkable voice control lures the listener in. She doesn’t allow her notes to get too dramatic, as she teases listeners with blasts of rhythmic quality.
A break in the middle of the song is theatrical, with roars of a drum against the screech of a violin. It provides a refreshing and western sound that was innovative at the time.
Lata Ji was only 28-years-old when she recorded this song but it showed how outstanding her skill set was.
This was appreciated by the 6th Filmfare Awards in 1959 where Lata Mangeshkar won ‘Best Playback Singer’ for this song.
Sonically, ‘Aaja Re Pardesi’ is layered with vocality, percussion and cadence, making it an engaging masterpiece.
‘Jo Wada Kiya Woh Nibhana Padega’ – Taj Mahal (1963)
For Taj Mahal, Lata Mangeshkar joined up with iconic singer Mohammed Rafi who both featured throughout the film’s soundtrack.
The historical production focused on the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan and his involvement in building the Taj Mahal.
Starring the likes of Pradeep Kumar, Bina Rai and Veena, the movie was a commercial hit. However, it is mainly remembered for its melodious music.
‘Jo Wada Kiya Woh Nibhana Padega’ saw both Rafi and Lata combine for a poetic and sumptuous duet.
Lata’s sultry and hypnotic melodies merge well with the song’s light drums, high-pitched strings and Rafi’s fragility.
Additionally, the intimacy of the track was shown beautifully in its picturisation.
Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai personify the devotion in both Lata and Rafi’s vocals for a dramatic performance.
Lata Mangeshkar was nominated for ‘Best Female Playback Singer’ at the 1964 Filmfare Awards for this track, emphasising just how enchanting it is.
‘Lag Jaa Gale’ – Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
Starring the likes of Sadhana, Manoj Kumar and Helen, Woh Kaun Thi? is a mystery thriller directed by Raj Khosla.
Lata Mangeshkar featured on four of the six songs for the classic soundtrack. However, ‘Lag Jaa Gale’ was the piece that really resonated with fans.
The track uses the musical composition raga pahari, which is an Indian melodic framework.
This fascinating element means the piece cannot be recreated using traditional European concepts. Lata engages in this uniqueness and adds her own depth of flavour to the song.
Expressing a deep sadness, the track embodies the separation of two lovers in Woh Kaun Thi? which Lata’s voice fantastically captures.
As Sadhana takes centre stage in the visuals, her thought-provoking expressions exude the pain felt in Lata’s melodies.
In a mesmerising way, the playback singer uses a sombre tone and ends with a boisterous note when finishing off some lyrics.
This adds such an atmospheric characteristic to the performance of Lata Ji, diversifying her capabilities as a playback singer.
‘Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai’ – Guide (1965)
Guide is a romantic drama that was produced by Dev Anand who also featured in the film with co-star Waheeda Rehman.
Both actors were picturised upon in the fantastic song, ‘Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai’.
The track focuses on Waheeda and Dev’s travels across India, as Waheeda performs daredevil stunts and intricate choreography.
The familiar erratic hits of the classic tabla are catchy and Lata’s voice does wonders in providing a head-nodding chorus.
As the percussion of the drums becomes progressive, the intertwine of guitar strings gives an electric twist to the song
However, this does not stop Lata Ji from creating an engaging and blissful ambience.
It is also important to mention that Waheeda entraps Lata’s vocals magically as she performs each detail of the melody to great effect.
The song was so powerful that Lata Mangeshkar was nominated for ‘Best Playback Singer’ at the 1967 Filmfare Awards.
‘Hothon Mein Aisi Baat’ – Jewel Thief (1967)
Bollywood filmmaker Vijay Anand created the memorable box office hit, Jewel Thief.
The spy thriller starred legendary actors in Dev Anand, Vyjayantimala and Ashok Kumar among many more.
Although ‘Hothon Mein Aisi Baat’ is attributed to both Lata and Bhupinder Singh, the latter has a limited contribution.
Lata Ji is the predominant voice on the track, displaying her immense and diverse vocal range. The dance sequence showcasing the song was immersive and lively, with Vyjayantimala at the forefront.
Her every move symbolised Lata’s angelic vocals and the tracks profound instrumentation provided a Bollywood vibrancy.
The whole song is a fusion of spine-tingling tension, Indian melody, dramatic bass and enchanting composition.
Lata’s sensational voice is a star-studded factor that propelled the cinematic qualities of ‘Hothon Mein Aisi Baat’.
‘Chalte Chalte’ – Pakeezah (1972)
The musical romantic drama, Pakeezah, played host to some of the most legendary stars in Indian cinema.
Starring Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari and Raaj Kumar, the film is among the most well-known productions in Bollywood.
However, Lata’s rendition of ‘Chalte Chalte’ stole the show. The singer’s vocal affection is an instrument in itself and absorbs the attention of each viewer.
The mix of Lata’s short and elongated tones are terrific, stripping away the Bollywood theatrics without losing an extremely enchanting element.
Meena Kumari performed the track in Pakeezah to great effect. Her operatic facial expressions, wandering eyes and themes of hope epitomise Lata’s voice.
Athar Siddiqui, a Business Architect from Birmingham expressed:
“This song is absolutely timeless.”
“Such beauty on screen is matched by Lata classic beautiful voice. Beauty all around.”
This song contributed to Lata Mangeshkar winning ‘Best Playback Singer’ at the 36th Annual BFJA Awards in 1973.
‘Bahon Mein Chale Aao’ – Anamika (1973)
Picturised upon Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bachchan, ‘Bahon Mein Chale Aao’ is a track that showcased the playful qualities of Lata Mangeshkar.
Her elongated notes, vocal prowess and unique tone matched the organic composition of the beat.
Superbly personified by Jaya, Lata’s voice echos throughout the song and it truly redefined how Bollywood music should appear.
As Jaya prances around with Sanjeev, the vibrant percussion and hits of tumbi are raw but add a certain cinematic flavour.
Innocent, heavenly and soothing, ‘Bahon Mein Chale Aao’ is an immense depiction of how intoxicating Lata’s voice was.
Arpit Vishnoi, a sketch artist from India emphasised this point:
“Everything is perfect. Acting, lyrics and simplicity is the factor that makes it adorable.”
Additionally, the minor guitar strings not only showed the advancement of Bollywood music but how Lata could shine against any musical component.
‘Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein’ – Kabhi Kabhie (1976)
The unforgettable Kabhi Kabhie by Yash Chopra is widely considered to be one of the best romantic Bollywood movies created.
Primarily down to Yash’s directorial talents, the film’s music contributes massively to its success.
The duet is sung by both Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh, who put their own musical stamp on the track.
Although the original song was in literary Urdu, this same poeticness is shown by Lata Ji.
Featuring acting royalty Amitabh Bachchan, Raakhee and Shashi Kapoor, the song is picturised on a contemplative wedding night.
An intense song that surrounds itself with romance and heartbreak, Lata’s voice is a symphony of emotion.
The way the nightingale proceeds with vivid melodies and allows the instruments to shine separately is splendid.
‘Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein’ is a complete mix of what made Lata Ji so hypnotic.
The soothing notes, powerful vocal range and a culturally rich familiarity made every listener fall in love with Lata Ji.
‘Salaam-E-Ishq’ – Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978)
This classic Diwali blockbuster was the third highest-grossing Indian film of the decade, behind Sholay (1975) and Bobby (1973).
The star-studded cast included established actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Raakhee and Rekha. But it was Lata Ji that helped excel the movie’s success with ‘Salaam-E-Ishq’.
The duet called for another iconic singer in Kishore Kumar, who was the voice for Amitabh. Whereas Rekha dramatised Lata’s stunning singing.
Both actors were terrific in their performances. However, that could not have been accomplished without the legendary singers.
Lata’s energetic flow, her dynamic octaves and piercing chants balanced the operatic stylings of Kishore Da.
Anchal Deshwal, an accountant from India, commented on the emotive aspects of the song:
“No acting needed…the real emotions are the heart of the song.”
The focus on mujra dance in the picturisation provided the platform for the exotic sitar and harmonium to flourish.
The combination was a success, with Lata Ji adding these same musical qualities in her own voice.
‘Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum’ – Silsila (1981)
Another Yash Chopra film, Silsila, showcased the musical stylings of Lata Mangeshkar and Amitabh Bachchan.
The movie had a plethora of Bollywood talent on show including Shashi Kapoor, Jaya Bachchan, Rekha and Sanjeev Kumar.
Although, ‘Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum’ focuses on Amitabh and Rekha embracing each other’s love.
The track starts with captivating energy as background notes set the scene for the rest of the song.
Then, Lata Ji robustly enters with a drawn-out note of “Yeh Kahaan” that depicts how engaging the singer’s talent was.
Even when she continues to sing “Aa Gaye Hum”, she actually finishes the last word with a beautifully long-winded hum.
It resonates with the rest of the song, creating such a wonderful listening experience.
What Lata Ji did so well was create an orchestra of ambience through her gifted voice.
Her sound is so direct yet fluent. It was a catalyst in reimagining the Bollywood sound, making this one of the best Lata Mangeshkar songs.
‘Tune O Rangeele’ – Kudrat (1981)
Directed by Chetan Anand, the music in Kudrat was entirely composed by the maestro, RD Burman.
The song beautifully captures Hema Malini wooing Rajesh Khanna with vibrant outfits, decadent surroundings and lively interactions.
Although, Hema’s portrayal of Lata’s voice is what makes the song sot befitting.
Lata’s artistic vision was one of her main attributes as an artist. Being able to mould her voice around certain instrumentation and beats was astounding.
‘Tune O Rangeele’ is an example of this. The lively mix of percussion, drums, and strings allows for an uplifting beat.
However, the way Lata flows across each section of the track is symbolic of her creative expertise.
She knows the exact moments to belt out boisterous notes or when to tone it down to fully express each lyric.
FILMS Utube cited it as a memorable performance by Lata Ji, stating:
“One of Lata Ji’s mind-blowing songs. A true nightingale. Words cannot describe her voice, you have to feel the sweetness in her voice. Truly magical.”
Lata’s musical was extremely adaptable and ‘Tune O Rangeele’ shows how lively her presence could be.
‘Zindagi Ki Na Toote Ladi’ – Kranti (1981)
Kranti is a historical drama that starred and was directed by Manoj Kumar.
Bollywood icons like Dilip Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, and Hema Malini also starred in this epic drama.
The song picturised upon a moving ship shows Hema tied up, with Manoj looking on. The visuals are chaotic but the delightful vocals bring a surprising calmness.
Nitin Mukesh graces the song alongside Lata Ji and both do an exceptional job, delivering outstanding vocal performances.
Although the high-pitched composition adds a dramatic quality, Lata’s pure voice bodes well against it. Combined with Nitin’s tranquil rhythm, the track symbolises why Lata Ji was so sought after.
In 2021, Swastik, a superfan of the female playback singer expressed her love for the song:
“No words for Lata Mangeshkar. Lata Mangeshkar’s voice is always melodious.”
“Lata Mangeshkar Ji is the Venus star of Indian cinema history.”
The desperation she exudes in her singing is acted out superbly by Hema, making viewers feel as if they are part of the movie.
‘Aye Dil E Nadan’ – Razia Sultan (1983)
Razia Sultan is an Indian period biographical movie that starred the likes of Hema Malini, Dharmendra, and Parveen Babi.
‘Aye Dil E Nadan’ is one of the standout tracks from the film and to no surprise, Lata Mangeshkar gave a thrilling performance.
Although the maturity in her voice was always apparent from an early age, this song solidified this.
Similar to ‘Aayega Aanewala’, this track has certain transparency about it where Lata’s notes flow through the listener.
Lata Ji had this spellbinding ability to engage listeners to her sound, feeling exactly as she did whilst singing.
Hema perfectly encompasses the loss and belonging themes of the track, complementing Lata’s voice exquisitely.
Wandering across different environments by herself, the melodramatic setting also plays on viewers’ heartstrings.
Lata’s engaging tone cleverly intrigues listeners, whilst enjoying the poignant and wistful scenes on-screen.
‘Kabhi Main Kahoon’ – Lamhe (1991)
Top stars Sridevi and Anil Kapoor took the lead roles in the musical drama, Lamhe under the direction of Yash Chopra.
Hariharan accompanied Lata Mangeshkar for ‘Kabhi Main Kahoon’ which visualised the leading characters in a romantic celebration.
The song bellows with a layered harmony at the beginning before Lata Ji cuts through this with her sizzling vocals.
Her tone has this fragility about it that contrasts with any instrumental. The mature melody she impacts every track with is equally as impressive in this song.
There is a discipline that Lata Ji has on this song where she backs Hariharan’s verses without overwhelming his voice.
However, when she comes to propelling those sweet vocals, she does so without any extraneous sound, making it seem so effortless.
Srinath Patel, an engineer from England emphasised how much the song means to him:
“Even though I was born three years after this, it resonates with me so much.”
“All I heard growing up was this song and Lata Ji and I’m going to make sure my kids are raised with the same iconic voice.”
This just highlights how evergreen Lata’s voice continues to be, even after her unfortunate passing.
‘Yaara Seeli Seeli’ – Lekin… (1991)
Starring Vinod Khanna, Amjad Khan, and Dimple Kapadia, Lekin… is a chilling movie directed by Gulzar.
Focused on Dimple as she looks bleakly around her, the track is about love, belonging and restless pain.
With the film surrounding Dimple’s character Reva, an agitated ghost, Lata magically captures the heartache that she feels through this thrilling melody.
With her empty eyes, Dimple wanders. Lata’s gifted voice portrays the emotion of the track with great feeling.
The first two lines of the track translate to:
“The night of separation burns slowly like wet wood, neither complete ablaze nor wholly extinguished.
“It is more painful because this is neither complete death nor complete life, just hung in between.”
The singer had a great gift for capturing these nuances within the film. The composition is incredibly structured and added a theatrical eeriness that aided the subject matter.
In 1990, Lata won her third National Film Award for ‘Best Female Playback Singer’ for this piece. To no surprise, this had to make the list for one of the top Lata Mangeshkar songs.
‘Didi Tera Devar Deewana’ – Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994)
Lata Mangeshkar and Indian playback singer, SP Balasubrahmanyam joined forces for this festive track. The movie’s lead actors Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit were the main focus for the visuals.
Lata Ji graciously introduces the song with glorious adlibs mimicking the instruments of the beat. One can just listen to that all day because of how infectious Lata Ji makes it sound.
These appear throughout the track, providing a comical break in between verses.
The hysterical picturisation plays well into Lata’s vibrant undertones and Balasubrahmanyam provides a brief yet contrasting aura to the track.
Historical apparatus are instrumental for this track. Tumbi, tabla, sitar, and hits of guitar strings compliment Lata’s performance without overshadowing it.
The added pop-infused bass is refreshing and annexed a western flair to an otherwise Bollywood classic.
The dance rhythm makes this song an unforgettable piece in Lata’s catalogue. Besides still being popular with the modern audience, it is also a timeless track amongst the older generation.
Lata gained the ‘Special Award’ at the 40th Filmfare Awards in 1995 for this track and deservedly so.
‘Tujhe Dekha To’ – Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
Aditya Chopra made his directorial debut with the groundbreaking movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol featured in the lead roles with the likes of Asha Bhosle and Udit Narayan featuring on the soundtrack.
However, it was ‘Tujhe Dekha To’ which remains as one of the standout songs from the movie.
Lata Mangeshkar was joined by Kumar Sanu for the duet track as it quickly resulted in a magical performance by both.
The visuals focus on Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol’s love story in the heart of Punjab, India. Lata’s radiant aura ooze throughout the performance.
The instrumental itself is speedy and filled with tabla slaps. However, it is Lata’s controlled singing that allows the listener to get gradually immersed in the nuances of the song.
Her hums and vocal backing through Kumar’s verses transform ‘Tujhe Dekha To’ from a normal piece to an all-time classic.
In 2005, the album was chosen as the top Hindi soundtrack of all time by voters on the BBC Asian Network website. Undoubtedly, Lata was a huge reason for this.
‘Tere Liye’ – Veer-Zaara (2004)
Yash Chopra teams up with Lata Mangeshkar once again for this epic romantic drama that stars Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta. It is one of the deepest Lata Mangeshkar songs.
‘Tere Liye’ is a duet with Roop Kumar Rathod, It is also one of the most moving songs on this list.
The visuals focus on the relationship between Shah Rukh and Preity as they recapture their memories together.
However, the intimate connection between the two is intensified by Lata and Roop’s rhythmic bond.
Although Roop does well in giving a masterful performance, Lata provides her presence on the track with a flawless performance.
As the classic flute and sitar become grander in rhythmic tone, Lata also increases her melodies to provide an overwhelming yet angelic experience.
The track is a catalyst in Bollywood dramatics but in an organic and immersive way.
Lata does not overdo it because there’s no need to. Her voice was already majestic and her experience within the industry allowed her to convey natural emotion to the context of any production.
An Irreplaceable Star
Lata Mangeshkar was undoubtedly the greatest female playback singer in history. Although these tracks are Lata’s best work, it is impossible to fathom how irresistible her catalogue truly is.
Besides, Lata Ji blessing each track with her irreplaceable grace, she captured the theme of each song with such class.
There are also many other classic and formidable Lata Mangeshkar songs.
‘Pardesiyon Se Ankkhian Milao Na’ (1965), ‘Aaja Shaam Honay Aye’ (1989), ‘Mere Haathon Mein’ (1989) are so musically imposing.
Even historic tracks like ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ (1997), ‘Tu Mere Saamne’ (1993), ‘Main Hoon Khushrang Henna’ (1991) also showcase Lata’s impeccable range.
Not to forget monumental Lata Mangeshkar songs like ‘Humko Humise Chura Lo’ (2000) that emphasise how generational Lata was.
However, the best thing about Lata Ji is that she provided so much warmth to people that everyone has a song that they can relate to.
Lata Mangeshkar’s songs are artistic but also pivotal to many lives and that’s why her beautiful voice will live on.
There is no doubt that every music and Bollywood lover will also come across Lata’s vocals in their lifetime.
Lata Mangeshkar had the presence, talent and utmost decorum that will transcend every generation.