Stories in a song

Redemption song: Sulakshana Pandit’s stirring ghazal ‘Mana Teri Nazar Mein’

She fared better as a singer with this track from ‘Ahista Ahista’ than as an actor.

Sulakshana Pandit is often recalled in film nostalgia columns as the woman who was spurned by actor Sanjeev Kumar. Pandit was reportedly in love with her co-star during the filming of Uljhan (1975) and wanted to marry him, but Kumar’s heart throbbed for Hema Malini. It is said that when Hema Malini turned down Sanjeev Kumar, he turned against marriage entirely, and Pandit bore the brunt of his decision.

Born on July 12, 1954, in Haryana, Pandit began singing at the age of nine. She got her first break when she sang the lullaby Saat Samundar Paar Se (Taqdeer, 1967) as a child artist. Her co-singers were Lata Mangeshkar and Usha Khanna.

The popularity of the lullaby got Pandit a steady stream of songs. Her duet Beqarar Dil Tu Gaaye Jaa with Kishore Kumar in Door Ka Raahi (1971), while she was still in her teens, is one of her most accomplished performances.

In 1975, Pandit made her acting debut in Uljhan (1975). She sang the duet Aaj Pyare Pyare Se Lagte Hain with Kishore Kumar in Uljhan, putting her in the league of singing actors such as Noor Jehan, Kishore Kumar and KL Saigal. Aaj Pyare Pyare Se Lagte Hain was written by MG Hashmat and composed by Kalyanji-Anandji.

However, Pandit’s descent had already begun with her debut film. She took up few roles, and even fewer singing opportunities came her way compared to the sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, who were the first two choices for playback.

Pandit won the Filmfare Best Female Playback award for the song Tu Hi Sagar Hai (Sankalp, 1975). It was written by lyricist Kaifi Azmi and composed by Khayyam. Her rendition of the song Boliye Sureeli with Bhupinder in the film Griha Pravesh (1979) is a fine example of Pandit experimenting with her vocal chords to produce a softer timbre than her usually sharper notes. The tune was composed by Kanu Roy in raag bihag with lyrics by Gulzar.

Pandit had a prolific period as a playback singer in the 1980s, but fame was fleeting. Her songs did not reach the popularity that new singers with pop vocals were achieving through disco hits. Even her sweet melodies such as Mausam Mausam with Anwar Hussain in Thodisi Bewafai (1980) displayed an innocence that was beginning to sound dated.

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‘Mana Teri Nazar Mein’.

In 1981, Pandit sang the solo number Mana Teri Nazar Mein (Ahista Ahista). Written by Naqsh Lyallpuri and composed by Khayyam, the elegiac tune gave Pandit a chance to prove her versatility with the ghazal. The lilting composition and her soulful performance turned the track into one of the best ghazals produced in film music.

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