Singer Lata Mangeshkar, dubbed Nightingale of India, turns 90 on Sept. 28 and in honor of the woman who recorded thousands of songs we at Variety chose 25 of our favorite tunes from Bollywood. There were many more we could choose, including duets with Hemant Kumar or Mohammed Rafi but we didn’t want the list to become too unwieldy. Mangeshkar started singing professionally at age 14 and Bollywood actresses from the 1940s to 2000s have lip synced to her on screen. Acting legend Dilip Kumar once said of her: “The way the fragrance of a flower has no color, a flowing spring or cool breezes belong to no country, the smile of an innocent child has no religion, similarly Lata Mangekshar’s voice is a miracle of nature’s creativity.”
Laru Lappa Lara Lappa
“Ek Thi Ladki (1949)
The Punjabi duet is the most famous part of “Ek thi ladki” about a girl (Meena Shorey) running away from a blackmailer and working as a secretary.
Na Bole Na Bole Re
Mangeshkar lent her voice to top star Meena Kumari in this song and dance number, which also has a religious meaning of Radha singing in praise of Lord Krishna.
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Man Mohana Bade Jhoothe
Showing off her classical roots, Mangeshkar’s gorgeous rendition of another song praising Krishna was beautifully picturized on Nutan in “Seema.” Since the star was also a trained singer she was able to realistically accompany the song on the tanpura as she lip-synched.
Nain so Nain Nahi Milao
“Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje” (1955)
V. Shantaram’s dance film with music by Vasant Desai was another chance for Mangeshkar to show off her classical chops even if the actor in question was Sandhya, not a very well-known star, certainly not in the leagues of Meena Kumari, Nargis or Vyjanthimala.
“Chori Chori” (1956)
Mangeshkar sang dozens of times for Nargis, including this soulful number in “Chori Chori,” a remake of “It Happened One Night.”
Aaja Re Pardesi
Composer Salil Chowdhury shot to fame with the soundtrack to this story within a story of a wronged tribal girl who gets her own revenge, starring Vyjanthimala on whom the song was picturized.
That sitar opener hooked so many Hindi film aficionados in this happy tune from composer Salil Chowdhury, picturized on Sadhana as a young woman in love for the first time.
>Ajeeb Dastan Yeh
Dil Apna aur Preet Parai (1960)
Meena Kumar’s lip-synching matching Mangeskhar’s voice perfectly in this love triangle directed by Kishore Sahu with music from Shankar-Jaikishen.
Allah Tero Naam
Hum Dono (1961)
Starring Dev Anand in a double role with Sadhana and Nanda as the female leads, the film was a box office hit. Sahil Ludhianvi’s lyrics and Jaidev’s music added to its luster with this devotional song that gave goosebumps.
Naina Barse Rim Jhim
“Woh Kaun Thi” (1964)
A spooky tale about a mysterious woman (Sadhana) who appears before a motorist on a rainy night singing “Naina Barse Rim Jhim Rhim Jhim” before disappearing at a cemetery, the song was the centerpiece of great music in Raj Khosla’s psychological thriller.
Tu Jahan Jahan Chalega
“Mera Saaya” (1966)
Another psychological thriller this was the third film from director Khosla and starring Sadhana. Besides this haunting melody, check out a catchy tune by Mangeshkar’s sister Asha Bhonsle (“Jhumka Gira Re”).
Inhi Logon Ne Inhi Logon Ne
A rare dancing girl tune as Mangeshkar was pretty strict about lending her voice to anything that smelled unsavory. The story itself was pretty chaste, a young girl (Meena Kumar) raised in a brothel who falls in love and wants to marry, which goes against society’s expectations.
Ek Pyar ka Nagma Hai
Actor Jaya Bhaduri once said in an interview that when Mangeshkar sang for her for the first time she was thrilled because, as a newcomer, she knew she had arrived when the queen of melody bestowed her voice.
Raina Beeti Jaaye
“Amar Prem” (1972)
Rajesh Khanna is lured by a soulful Sharmila Tagore, the local courtesan who lures him as she lip syncs this classical tune in Shakti Samanta’s adaptation of a Bengali story.
Bahon Mein Chale Aao
Jaya Bhaduri attempts to seduce Sanjeev Kumar with this come hither (literally, the words mean come into my arms) tune from Rahul Dev Burman.
Tere Bina Zindagi Mein Koi
Suchitra Sen stars as a politician who reconnects with her ex-husband during a trip in a story that had many allusions to then-prime minister Indira Gandhi (although she was a widow by the time she ascended to power).
(Razia Sultan, 1983)
Hema Malini stars in the period pic about queen Razia Sultan. The director Kamal Amrohi liked Khayyam’s style and while the composer mostly used other singers, he gave Mangeshkar this one, a good decision.
“Dil Se” (1998)
Helmer Mani Ratnam gave Oscar winner his big break and for the director’s “Dil Se” he used Mangeshkar’s voice for this number picturized on Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta.
Ek Tu Hi Bharosa
Rahman returned with Mangeshkar for one of her last song performances in a middling film that stood out mostly for its music. Anil Kapoor of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame stars as an army officer who rescues a kidnapped politician.