This series is four articles old and I am yet to refer to Lata Mangeshkar! The greatest voice ever and most talented among all the female musicians – no doubt. But then not my favourite not that it matters to that great lady. Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu would always hold her up as an exemplar for voice culture and faithful adherence to pitch. But give me Asha Bhonsle any day – the emotion that Asha brings can never be matched, even by Geetha Dutt, Samshad Begum, Suraiya or Uma Devi (Tun Tun), all of whom are my other favourites.

Nalini Jaywant, courtesy Wikipedia

Among my favourite Lata numbers is Thandi Hawayen, for the movie Naujawan, starring Nalini Jaywant and Prem Nath. This was released in 1951 and Thandi Hawayen remains its best known song. And Lata is at her best. The lyrics are by Sahir Ludhianvi and the music Sachin Dev Burman’s. The scene itself is very quaint, replete with images of another era including an old man in a night dress, holding a pince nez, rather like something out of Wodehouse.

Thai Ullam song book cover courtesy Wikipedia

Anyway, the song became a great hit and remains one of Lata’s career bests. And when Thai Ullam was being made the next year by Narayanan & Co starring RS Manohar, (Gemini) R Ganesan and MV Rajamma, they decided to throw in a song based on Thandi Hawayen for good measure. I am unable to locate a print of this movie and Wikipedia informs me it was a tear-jerker based on a novel titled East Lynne written by Ellen Wood (was there nothing original I wonder). But the song (music by V Nagiah and A Rama Rao and lyrics by Kavimani Desigavinayagam Pillai) Konjum Purave, sung by the one and only ML Vasanthakumari, was as big a hit as the original. Perhaps not wanting to make a complete copy, they made one change – the background score is different while the voice follows the same tune. But that too was not original – VAK Ranga Rao tells me that it was lifted from the Song of Delilah in Samson & Delilah (1949) of Cecil B Demille starring Hedy Lamarr and George Sanders.

You know what it does? It somehow gives the song a tragic undertone, completely different to the mood of Thandi Hawayen which is all happy. Even though the two tunes were copies, I must credit it to Nagiah and Rama Rao for somehow realising that the two, brought together, will make for a completely different feel. Of course,I dont know what the scene was on screen. Anyway, hats off to MLV as well. Nobody like her. Also kudos to the Kavimani for fitting the lyrics in so perfectly.

By the way, a careful listening to of Song of Delilah will give you another piece of trivia – it seems to be the slower version of Likhe Jo Khat Thuje. That is a Rafi number from a film called Kanyadaan dating to 1968 starring Sashi Kapoor and Asha Parekh. Heard of the film? I have not. But the song (Neeraj/Shankar- Jaikishen) is one I have grown up with and continue to adore. That is the power of music I suppose.

This article is part of a series on old film songs, chiefly Hindi and Tamil. The earlier parts can be read from here