Sudha Malhotra was one of the female singers who showed a lot of promise in the 1950s and 1960s but couldn’t quite take their careers to the next level. Like some of her peers, she was unable to get the leading music directors of the time to look beyond the Mangeshkar sisters. Between 1949 and 1982, she recorded only about 250 songs. Among the highlights of her career were songs written for her by Sahir Ludhianvi. The number of songs she sang for him and the words Sahir used in those songs led to speculations of romantic links between the two. Sudha Malhotra got married in 1960 and it is probable that the speculations are just that. She recorded very few Hindi film songs after 1960 but had a moderately successful career recording bhajan and ghazal albums and performing concerts.
To mark her birthday on November 30, I pick five songs by this under-rated singer with a lovely voice.
Darshan Do Ghanshyam (Narsi Bhagat 1957)
“Darshan Do Ghanshyam” is a soulful bhajan based on Raag Kedar. With three singers at their prime – Hemant Kumar, Sudha Malhotra and Manna Dey – the song features some excellent singing. Composed by Ravi and written by Gopal Singh Nepali, this song featured in Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) and ctsed a bit of a controversy. Music director Ravi sued the film-makers for using the song without permission. Additionally, Anil Kapoor’s quiz master character adjudged Surdas as the right answer to the question on the song’s writer. Gopal Singh Nepali was not even an option.
Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao (Didi, 1959)
“Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao” is easily Sudha Malhotra’s most popular song. What made the song extra special is that she actually composed it. Called in to compose a song when the film’s music director N. Dutta was indisposed, Sudha Malhotra put together one of the most mellifluous ghazals recorded for Hindi films. This was the only song she ever composed for Hindi films. Sahir’s moving lyrics for the song seemed to reflect is own angst. While Sudha Malhotra is the star of the song for me, Mukesh also chips in effectively and makes this duet a delight to listen to.
Aaj Mujhe Kuchh Kehna Hai (Girl Friend, 1960)
The only Sudha Malhotra duet with Kishore Kumar is among the least heard of Bollywood’s most romantic songs. “Girl Friend” is the only film in which Sahir Ludhianvi wrote for Hemant Kumar. Both these towering artists kept things simple for this song – Sahir using words we speak everyday and Hemant Kumar choosing melody over arrangement. This short but extremely sweet song leaves us wanting for more.
Salaam-E-Hasrat Qubool Kar Lo (Babar, 1960)
“Salaam-E-Hasrat Qubool Karl Lo” was considered by many as Sahir’s open declaration of love for Sudha Malhotra. If this really was the case, it was devilishly clever – and romantic – of Sahir to get the object of his affection to voice his thoughts! Writer Akshay Manwani’s interview with Sudha Malhotra for his book “Sahir Ludhianvi – The People’s Poet” (highly recommended read) suggests that the love may have been one-sided. Here’s an excerpt of what Sudha Malhotra said in the interview:
He must have liked my voice… I don’t know what it was, but he was definitely very enamoured. He kept giving me good songs to sing, which was my achievement…..
….All I know was that attention was being showered on me and I was lapping it up. As a young girl, if somebody, such an important person, is giving you so much attention, you enjoy it.
Whatever the back-story may have been, the song is a musical gem. It’s easy to see why Sahir fell in love with Sudha Malhotra’s voice.
Na Main Dhan Chahoon (Kala Bazar, 1960)
In “Na Main Dhan Chahoon”, S.D. Burman brought together Geeta Dutt and Sudha Malhotra. The chemistry between the two singers is striking and at times it’s difficult to tell the difference between their voices. (Sudha Malhotra sang for Nanda’s character and Geeta Dutt for Leela Chitnis’.) Sudha Malhotra’s penchant for light classical songs and bhajans in particular come through in this song and became the basis of her independent career after she got married.
This half an hour interview provides interesting insights into the career of the charming singer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3buW-o0ylo
[This post originally appeared here.]