My favorite songs rendered by one of my favorite singers Sonu Nigam: (In no particular order.)
(1) Satrangi Re – Dil Se
Seven colors (Satrangi) symbolize the seven stages/shades of love: hub (attraction), uns (infatuation), ishq (love), aqidat (reverence), ibaadat (worship), junoon (passion), and maut (death). Gulzar weaves together these seven shades into a great poetic form, complemented by A R Rahman’s wonderful music and Santosh Sivam’s spectacular cinematography. Sonu Nigam, and quite notably Mahalaxmi, brings this dark and powerful song to life by adding the ethos and passion to Gulzar’s philosophical words. At the time of this album’s release, Sonu Nigam admitted that this was one of the toughest songs he ever sang. There are very few other songs that have such prolific combination of lyrics, singing, music and visuals.
(2) Sau Dard – Jaan-e-mann
Gulzar’s poignant lyrics were intentionally kept conversational because of the experimental (operatic) structure of all songs in this musical movie. I love the way “Ek tu hi naheen” extends and blends with the sound of the flute. Love the way the song reaches its operatic high, supported by beautiful orchestration. The lines “Sau raaste, par teri raah naheen” reminds me of another one of Gulzar’s song from Aandhi “In reshmi raahon mein, ik raah to woh hogi, tum tak jo pahonchti hai”.
(3) Tanhayee – Dil Chahta Hai
This significant milestone in SEL’s career (Dil Chahta Hai) had many gems, but my favorite from the entire album is this sad one sung soulfully by Sonu Nigam. The crying flute before each stanza gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. The picturization of this song by Farhan Akhtar is quite impressive — consider Aamir Khan standing aloof in front of a moving traffic or in between a huge walking crowd… to Javed Akhtar’s “Milon hai phaili hui tanhayee“, Farhan adds a contrasting yet enhancing image: bheed mein tanhayee.
(4) Soona Mann Ka Aangan – Parineeta
Sonu Nigam is said to have shed tears while recording this song. Shantanu Moitra borrows few lines (Phool phool) written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore in this movie that was based on his contemporary novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya, and pays a musical tribute to their era.
(5) Tujh Sang – Dev
One of the few semi-classical songs of Sonu Nigam. Fast paced, moving and amazingly rendered by Sonu Nigam. (I am still unable to fathom how Aadesh Shrivastav could have come up with such fascinating score.) The ease with which Sonu Nigam moves between lower and higher octaves proves his superiority (among other contemporary singers) when it comes to the classical genre.
(6) Desh Ki Mitti – Bose: The Forgotten Hero
A patriotic, yet subtle song. This is one of those handful patriotic songs that conveys the feeling without using cliched words like zindagi, maut, kurbaan, jaan, aan, baan, shaan etc. Sonu Nigam had another great song in this movie – “Ekla chalo re”. But I like “Desh ki mitti” more, especially because of the heart-melting melody by A R Rahman. Listen to the instrumental version of this song (here) and you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.
(7) Kal Ho Na Ho – Kal Ho Na Ho
Another SEL classic, an evergreen melody. This is probably the most popular song in my entire list.
(8) In Lamho Ke Daman Mein – Jodha Akbar
Sonu Nigam’s flawless pronunciations and A R Rahman’s heavenly melody combined with Javed Akhtar’s imaginative lyrics make this song a real treasure. Javed Akhtar carefully chose Urdu words for the lines sung by Akbar, a Muslim king; and shuddh Hindi words for the lines sung by Jodha, a Rajput princess: Pakeeza, qalma, farishtey, falak versus samay, kaaya, prem.
(9) Dheere Jalna – Paheli
M. M. Kreem’s jaw-dropping music, a melange of dholaks, tabla, sitar, flute and shehnai, makes this song so alive and vibrant. (I wish we get to hear more from this most under-rated music director, IMHO, in Bollywood.) Notice how this song comes in the movie when the ghost (disguised as Shahrukh) comes to Shahrukh’s haveli for the first time, and Gulzar’s lyrics give us a hint to his precarious situation — “dheere jalna”, “soch samajh kar aanch rakhna” — and also suggest how his desires can shatter any time… i.e. “kaanch ka sapna gal hi na jaaye”.
(10) Ye Dil – Pardes
There are many other memorable songs by Sonu Nigam and I am not going to list all of them. But I just can’t leave out this song from Pardes that provided a great boost to Sonu Nigam’s career, who established his own singing style with this song, and broke his image as a Rafi-imitator. This album, and especially this song, is probably Nadeem Shravan’s most original work (as compared to their knock-off’s from Pakistani Ghazals and songs).