Her Southern Sojourn

by Vinay Kumar

Lataji made her own impact on South Indian melodies although she rarely worked on the same. As a matter of fact, she did not need a song in any regional language to prove her presence. She occupied a permanent place in hearts of all Indians even with/without songs in their mother tongue. 

Credit for bringing Lataji down to South Cinema at peak of her busy schedules in 1950's goes to Susarla Dakshina Murthy ji. He gave an everlasting melody in name of "Nidurapora tammuda" in her golden vocals. Her solo became instant hit and remained as all-time hit for ever in History of Telugu cinema. There is another duet version of the song where she shared mike with inimitable Ghantasala ji.  she sang the Hindi version “Aaj kal main dhal gaya” also when this movie was remade in Hindi as “Beta Beti”.

If “Nidura pora thammuda” happened in 50's for ANR starrer movie "Santhanam", it took more than 3 decades for Lataji to return to Telugu cinema. Interestingly she sang for ANR's son, Nagarjuna starrer movie "Aakhari Poratam" this time. She got to sing the duet with versatile SPB for a tune set by Ilayaraja. She loved the tune instantly and the song turned out to be a good success. 

Apart from two hit songs mentioned above, she had few more songs like those in “Sridevi”, dubbed version of  Yash Chopra's “Chandini” where she sang 2 duets with SPB and 2 solos and then there are unheard melodies from "Brahmarshi Viswamitra" and one unreleased movie of director Vamsi.  Brahmarshi Viswamitra had Ravindra Jain as music director and the title cards of the movie clearly mentions Lataji's name.
However, that song is not available in the audio track. Similarly, Director Vamsi got a song recorded by Lataji in music direction of Ilayaraja for his movie and later on shelved the movie and the song got shelved too. He mentioned in many of his interviews that he would release that song as a part of his future project. Wish that day comes soon and the unheard melody takes its birth!!

Personally, I love “Nidurapora thammuda” the most for her voice modulation especially at beginning of each stanza. 

Next to Telugu, It was Tamil where Lataji sang for South Indian cinema. Though it was not a straight movie but for dubbed version of Udan Khatola where she rendered 3 solos in Tamil.  "Enthan kannalan" became South Indian sibling of "Mere Sayyaji" and "En ullam Vittu odathe" for "Hamre dil se na jana". Title song came in form of "Ennai kande Selvai" in Tamil.

Personally, “Enthan kannalan” and “En Ullam Vittu Odathe” are very close to my heart for the pain she filled the song with!!

Again, it was Ilayaraja who scored for Lataji's vocals in Tamil after many decades. He mentioned that most of the songs he tuned for Lataji were all recorded around same time when she was available in Chennai for her personal work. How could she say no to one of her favorite composers and how would Ilayaraja leave a golden opportunity of recording her vocals. He mentioned once in his interview that whatever came from vocals of Lataji and Mehdi hasan was ever melodious. Coming back to their works together, she rendered soothing "Aararo Aararo" for Anand movie, haunting "Engiruntho Azhaikum", magical "Ingeyum engeyum" and "Valay Osai", a duet with SPB for Satya movie. Among all, Valay Osai became most popular. Her alaap in mid of the song takes us to some unknown worlds.

I personally love the solo from Satya. Ingeyum Engeyum is magic of Raja's drums accompanied by melody of Lata. It is haunting, dreamy, and breezy and listening to it is just experiencing Ilayaraja+Lata Mangeshkar!!

She recorded two beautiful songs in Kannada as well. "Bellena belagayithu" which is very close to her all time classic "Jyothi Kalsh chalake" was a successful song. This song is a celebration of Lata Mangeshkar in Kannada. She got to sing yet another rare song in the same movie "Kranthiveera Sangolli Rayanna" with Laxman Berlekar as music director.

Let us end our journey of Lataji's South Indian melodies with Salilda's magical "kadali chenkadali" from Nellu. Salil chowdhury had a very fruitful career in Malayalam as he had in Bengali and Hindi and he did not leave a chance to embrace his most favorite voice with a Malayalam classic! This song again is a huge success. Malayalis fell in love with her singing. Who would not!! 

Lataji sang few songs in Odiya and other regional languages also in addition to mainstream cinema of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. People loved her singing and cherished it forever in their own language.
Even minor pronunciation errors were received with love and affection as they were no hurdles compared to the magic she filled those melodies with!

*(You can check out some of Lataji's South Indian songs on Lata Online.) 

About the author
Vinay Kumar

Vinay Kumar is working as a software engineer. He is an ardent fan of Indian Music and his main passion is to collect musical works of Lataji & S Janakiji. He is from Andhra Pradesh. currently working in US for a project assignment