MUMBAI — Jagjit Singh’s 10th death anniversary fell Oct. 10. The composer-singer, India’s top contemporary ghazal maestro, also adorned many films with his voice (“Pinjar,” “Tum Bin,” “Tum Bin 2,” “Vadh,” “Tejaswini,” “Jogger’s Park,” “Kasak,” etc. under other composers and “Saath Saath,” “Khudai,” “Aaj,” “Situm” et al under his own baton).
His non-film ghazals (and nazms and geet as well as a few devotionals) are legion, but here, I enlist what I think are his finest five ghazals in cinema. Here are the songs listed in alphabetical order.
“Tum Itna Jo Mooskura Rahe Ho” / “Arth” (1983 / Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi Music: Jagjit Singh-Chitra Singh)
The masterpiece from Mahesh Bhatt’s arguably finest film as a director had a profound thought: that sometimes a smile hides a great sorrow. It was brilliantly used in a very meaningful situation in the intense love triangle.
“Chitthi Na Koi Sandesh” / “Dushman” (1998 / Lyrics: Anand Bakshi Music: Uttam Singh)
This is a song that gradually crept into your system and then never let go. A lyrical and creative synergy between lyricist Anand Bakshi and director Tanuja Chandra, the melancholy song of separation brought a lump to your throat.
“O Maa Tujhe Salaam” / “Khal Nayak” (1993 / Lyrics: Anand Bakshi Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal)
Another conceptual masterpiece by Subhash Ghai translated into awesome words by Anand Bakshi (with a ghazal singer, the lyrics are paramount as a ‘ghazal’ is basically a form of poetry). The idea that, for a mother, her son is also an object of her adoration whether he is good or evil, found resonance with all. Laxmikant-Pyarelal set it to a hauntingly immortal tune, vindicating Singh’s admiration for them for long. (Incidentally, this is the second of L-P’s masterpieces filmed on character artiste Sudhir Dalvi after “Aadmi Musafir Hai” from “Apnapan.”)
L-P also did Jagjit’s “Raat Ghatayen” from “Tejaswini” later, but the song never made it to the charts despite its worth.
“Honthon Se Choo Lo Tum” / “Prem Geet” (1981 / Lyrics: Indeevar Music: Jagjit Singh)
A cult evergreen even at his shows when he was alive, this song from Singh’s debut film in Hindi cinema remains as fresh today as when released 40 years ago. Singh also composed the classic Asha number “Tumne Kya Kya Kiya Hai Hamare Liye” in this album, which as a film was a home production of Shatrughan Sinha. Sinha was closest to Singh among the stars, and Singh also composed music for his home production “Billoo Badshah,” Sinha’s own production “Kalka” (with Chitra Singh) and “Jwala,” in which Sinha played the lead.
Indeevar’s lyrics are magnificent in this song, as in the lines, “Na Umra Ki Seema Ho / Na Janam Ka Ho Bandhan /Jab Pyar Kare Koi / To Dekhe Kewal Man (No one sees anything like age or origin when they fall in love—they only listen to their heart).”
“Hoshwalon Ko Khabar Kya” / “Sarfarosh” (1999 / Lyrics: Nida Fazli Music: Jatin-Lalit)
This wonderful and simple narration of what happens to one’s senses after love intoxicates was filmed on Naseeruddin Shah playing a ghazal singer from Pakistan. Singh told me that he did have a creative say in the making of this tune. The words were penned by one of his favorite poets, Nida Fazli.