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Aayega Aanewala

by Dr. Mandar V. Bichu

Aayega Aanewala
Film: Mahal
Year: 1949
Composer: Khemchand Prakash


An eerily still night. A lone-standing palatial house shrouded in the dark. The slowly rocking swing with no one around. The magnetic, mystifying Madhubala as a lady in white. The be­wildered look on Ashok Kumar's ex­pressive face.

Against the backdrop of the bewitch­ing black and white celluloid imagery, a mesmerizing song pierced through:

‘Aayega, Aayega, Aayega
Aayega Aanewala Aayega , Aayega, Aayega! Aayega!!’

The year was 1949. The film was Mahal; the composer Khemchand Prakash and the singer ­Lata Mangeshkar. It was an unforget­table, haunting audiovisual odyssey. An odyssey that marked the birth of an era.

It was a crucial period in Indian his­tory. Independence was just round the corner. Ghulam Haider was a big name among Hindi film music com­posers those days. With his super-successful soundtrack of Khazanchi, he had brought in the rhythmic Punjabi-style to the fore. So when he started praising a new female singer as a potential musical genius, many an eyebrow went up. Most of those 'knowl­edgeable' people just laughed off Haider's prophecy. How could a tiny, teenaged, two-braided Maharashtrian girl with such a thin voice survive in Hindi film music? That era belonged to robust, rustic Punjabi voices like Shamshad Begum, Zohrabai Ambale­wali, Amirbai Karnataki and Noor Je­han. Yet somehow composers like Shyamsunder, Husnlal-Bhagatram, Anil Biswas and Naushad started discovering something new, something different in that girl’s voice. Soon her songs in films like Bazaar, Badi Bahen, Anokha Pyar and Chaandni Raat were played frequently on the juke-boxes. But most of those songs had an unmistakable Noor Jehan-tinge and failed to establish her uniqueness. But this was to change very soon.

For that destiny had chosen Khemc­hand Prakash. This veteran composer from Rajasthan had already made his musical mark in films made by Ranjit Movietone- a famous film- studio of those days. Even bigwigs like Naushad had worked as his assistant early in their career. When he couldn't convince Ranjit Movietone's owner Sardar Chandulal Shah to take Lata as his singer, he just left the job and entered the rival studio Bombay Talkies.

That was the time when Bombay Talkies were planning to make Mahal - a movie with a seemingly super-natural, mysterious storyline which was to be the first-ever Hindi film of this genre. Kamaal Amrohi was entrusted with the job of directing the film and Khemchand Prakash fitted the bill perfectly as the composer.

 'Masterji' - as he was fondly called, ­selected Lata as the singer to sing the theme song for the movie. Nakshab Jarchavi penned the lyrics. After nu­merous rehearsals the final recording session started and to quote Usha Mangeshkar, "The final rehearsal started at 6 p.m. and the song was re­corded at 7 a.m. the next morning!" ‘Aayega Aanewala’ had arrived!

The first reaction from the Bombay Talkies' chief Shashidhar Mukherji was depressing. "Will such a slow song run?" He let that song remain on the soundtrack only at the insistence of Khemchand Prakash who was su­premely confident 'of its worth. However the composer had the last laugh when the song made history on Radio Ceylon- then the premier radio-station.

According to the prevailing custom, the gramophone record carried the singer’s name as Kamini- the character played by Madhubala in the film. But the radio-station director-who was deluged with thousands of listeners’ letters, finally had to find out the real name of the singer and then it was announced- “Singer- Lata Mangeshkar”. From then on, that name was to become an integral part of Indian music.

What makes this song so special? It’s a musical gem with fine, intricate facets. Right from the moment it starts with the couplet- ‘Khamosh Hai Zamana, Chupchap Hain Sitaare’, it creates a chilling, haunting atmosphere hitherto never experienced before. The orchestration with piano, violins, bass guitar and tabla is limited and yet so effective. It blends beautifully into the texture of the song without ever distracting from the lilting melody. The most fabulous aspect is the expressiveness of the voice- so mysterious, so moving and so magical!

No wonder then that practically every golden era composer ­be it Naushad, S.D.Burman, Madan Mohan, Jaikishen, Khayyam or Salil Choudhury - would later trace their fascination with Lata's voice to this particular song. This was the song that really made these composers aware of the tremendous range and potential of her voice. They had found a voice for which they could conceive any tune and be as­sured that Lata would do more than full justice to that tune. So in that respect this was the song that made Lata the musical- phenomenon that she is! But strange are the ways of destiny for the melody queen did not get the due payment for the song which opened the doors of success for her.

Even after composing many other memorable songs like the Lata-gems ‘Door Jaaye Re’ and ‘Chet Chet Kar Chale’ (Asha); ‘Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya’ and ‘Mushkil Ho Bahut Mushkil’ (Mahel); Chanda Re Jaa Re Jaare and Jaadu Kar Gaye Kisike Naina (Ziddi) and Kishore Kumar’s historic Saigal-ish debut-song ‘Marne Ki Duaayen Kyun Maangu’ (Ziddi), Khemchand Prakash would forever be immortalized and remembered mainly as a creator of ‘Aayega Aanewala’.

‘Aayega Aanewala’ was also to be the forerun­ner of many a haunting song - a genre in itself. ‘Aaja Re Pardesi’ (Madhumati), ‘Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil’ (Bees Saal Baad), ‘Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat’ (Kohraa), ‘Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim’ (Woh Kaun Thi), ‘Aye Mere Dil-e-nadaan’ (Tower House), ‘Saathi Re Tujh Bin Jiya Udas Re’ (Poonam Ki Raat), ‘Yeh Raat Bhi Jaa Rahi Hai’ (Sau Saal Baad) , ‘Gumnaam Hai Koi’ (Gumnaam) - so many songs followed the 'haunted' path in its wake. In fact, Lata's surreal, ethereal voice became the standard instrument of expression for such songs. Yes, as exceptions we did get to hear such songs in other voices like Rafi’s ‘Sau Baar Janam Lenge’, Asha's ‘Mera Man Bhatak Raha Deewana’, Suman’s ‘Mere Mehboob Na Jaa’ and Kishore’s ‘Tere Ghungroo Ki Awaaz’. Many of these haunting songs became popular in their own right but none could really surpass what ‘Aayega Aanewala’ achieved in terms of class, creativity and cultural impact.

Why? Because an artistic marvel changing the face of history comes into existence just once in a millennium - like Shakespeare's ‘Hamlet’, like Leonardo's ‘Monalisa’, like Lata's ‘Aayega Aanewala’. And then all that we can do is to remain mute, admiring witnesses to the changed course of history,

About the author
Dr. Mandar V. Bichu

Lata Online’s editor-webmaster-curator Dr. Mandar V. Bichu is a pediatrician based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, who is also a prolific writer-journalist. His fascination for Lata Mangeshkar’s music has resulted in two books-Gaaye Lata Gaaye Lata and Lata-Voice of the golden era, and many published articles.