Across 15 years, Jatin Pandit and his younger brother Lalit Pandit delivered close to 75 soundtracks, a small number compared to the prolific work-rate of peers Anand-Milind, Nadeem-Shravan and Anu Malik. But they left the competition behind in their significantly high hit-to-flop ratio, their thoughtful restraint and the slickness of their arrangement and production.
Jatin-Lalit were active in probably the last decade when Hindi film stars were associated with certain composers or a particular style of music. Song situations and lipsynced songs might be diminishing in importance, but Jatin-Lalit endure. Their work with Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Ajay Devgn makes for a perfect highlight reel of the best of 1990s Hindi cinema.
Jatin-Lalit built their discography from elements used in only their second film, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992): the romantic song slowing down time (Pehla Nasha), energetic campus romps (Yahaan Ke Hum Sikander, Arre Yaaron Mere Pyaaron); cheerful club numbers (Naam Hai Mera Fonseca).
Pehla Nasha, a dreamy ballad with a stadium rock quality, is powered by a sparkling piano, Udit Narayan and Sadhana Sargam’s spirited vocals, and veteran Majrooh Sultanpuri’s zeitgeist-defining lyrics about puppy love. It’s the standout song in Mansoor Khan’s coming-of-age film.
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar followed Yaara Dildaara (1991). It yielded the catchy hit Bin Tere Sanam, also written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.
Bin Tere Sanam’s masterful blend of traditional synthpop with claps and tabla signalled a drive in the young composers towards new sonic directions, for which such adventurous directors as Sanjay Leela Bhansali gave them opportunity.
For Bhansali’s Khamoshi (1996), Jatin-Lalit evoked a sense of quietude in their songs they hadn’t had the chance to delve into before.
Take Bahon Ke Darmiyan – a soft, dreamy song with a languid bassline. Hariharan and Alka Yagnik’s vocals are light on the ears. The reserved pace and arrangement make it seem as if this was the natural sort of song Jatin-Lalit would make after Pehla Nasha if they didn’t find themselves going down a different road with Shah Rukh Khan-starrers such as Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992) or Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995).
Khamoshi is packed with interesting tracks: the stillness in Ankhon Mein Kya, the diverse rhythms of Gaate The Pehle Akele, the synths in Jaana Suno Hum Tumpe Marte Hai, the melancholy of Yeh Dil Sun Raha Hai. Seldom have lyrics and tune fit so well together as in Aaj Main Upar, the album’s jolly crowdpleaser.
If any star benefitted the most from the duo’s talent, it was Shah Rukh Khan. Their compositions for his films are packed with the flourish and cheer of big weddings and bustling campuses.
Their most eclectic, passionate and melancholic soundtrack for an SRK film was Kundan Shah’s Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994).
As with Pehla Nasha and Bahon Ke Darmiyan, Jatin-Lalit really shone with romantic songs that require slowing down time and transporting the actors, viewers and listeners to a dream world. Khan’s feet don’t touch the ground for good reason with Ae Kaash Ke Hum playing in his mind.
They went on to score other Khan hits, such as Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Aditya Chopra’s Mohabbatein.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’s songs are almost like bhajans in any household that consumes Hindi cinema. Aditya Chopra’s film led Jatin-Lalit towards a dholak-pop sound to which they frequently returned and even brought to Bengali films.
With Shah Rukh Khan’s collaborations with Aziz Mirza, Jatin-Lalit were at their audacious best. Check out the sparse production in the mostly electronic Jaata Hai Tu Kahaan for Yes Boss (1997). This dancefloor track has some qawwali thrown in. Abhijeet Bhattacharya was clearly the best playback voice for Khan.
Bhattacharya got the best compositions in the subsequent collaborations between Mirza and Jatin-Lalit. These include duets with Alka Yagnik, such as in Aur Kya in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (1999).
Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman has its moments, including the haunting Tu Mere Saath Saath, in which aspiration and ambition is crossed with the allure of romance (the lyrics are by Mahendra Dehlvi).
Yes Boss too has a fabulous six-song soundtrack, the best being the duet Ek Din Aap. Once again, time stops to allow the hero and heroine to bask in love.
The Jatin-Lalit combination worked well for the other two Khans too. Only Bollywood geeks will remember the storylines of Salman Khan’s 1998 releases Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai or Pyar Kya To Darna Kya. But the music?
O O Jaane Jana, in which Jatin-Lalit introduced Kamaal Khan (possibly Salman Khan’s favourite singer besides himself), has been the definitive Bhai song for over 20 years.
Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai has a superb rom-com soundtrack. No dholaks and no bansuri here – it’s all funky music to swing to in Switzerland. Granted a couple of tracks are adapted from a riff here or a chorus there from Western pop, but the songs are simply too lovely.
Pehli Pehli Baar is a great solo hero song for Salman Khan (and Bhai has seldom looked this handsome). O Jaana is a tremendously sweet and now-iconic duet featuring Kumar Sanu and Lata Mangeshkar. Is Dil Mein Kya Hai is possibly the most fun track here.
Aamir Khan’s films expectedly offered Jatin-Lalit more opportunities to experiment.
Ghazals were hard to find in 1990s films, but then Jatin-Lalit bring to the mix the excellent Hoshwalon Ko Khabar Kya in Sarfarosh. Correctly written by Nida Fazli, arranged by the brothers and lip-synced to by Naseeruddin Shah, it’s one of the songs that make you realise what Hindi film music rightly done can be.
There’s also the rock-influenced romantic duet Jo Haal Dil Ka. Rock is something Jatin-Lalit returned to time and again, strangely enough in films starring Ajay Devgn: Aashiq Hoon Main (Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha) or Yeh Vaada Hai (Raju Chacha).
Kumar Sanu’s Jab Kisiki Taraf Dil Jhukne Lage from Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha is an angst-bitten piano ballad that KK might have crooned for Emraan Hashmi 10 years later. The Remo Fernandes-sung Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha title track is an earworm. Kudos to the brothers for picking the right singer for that tune.
Or take the superb campfire guitar song, Tune Mujhe Pehchana Nahi from Raju Chacha, which can understandably be mistaken as one of Shaan’s Indipop hits.
The most unconventional Jatin-Lalit song for an Ajay Devgn film, or any film, has to be Dil Dil (Raju Chacha). It’s a forward-thinking song, with Amit Kumar used like never before. It’s hard to imagine such a song in a movie starring another actor at that time.
In between big-ticket films, Jatin-Lalit continued to slip in good melodies here and there. The Sangharsh album is great, and is probably the most melodious soundtrack Akshay Kumar had in the 1990s.
Sanjay Dutt too got a terrific album with Vaastav. Dutt is among the actors, besides Aamir Khan, who has sung playback in his films. If Khan crooned Aati Kya Khandala in Ghulam, Sanju Baba’s droll voice perfectly suited Ae Shivani from Khoobsurat.
The composers brought their A-game to smaller releases as well. Hidden in one of Mithun Chakraborty’s 100-plus releases in the 1990s is Tu Itna Pyaar Kar from Saazish (1998). Lovelier is the solo Lata Mangeshkar track Maine Pyar Kisise Kiya from Gangster (1994), directed by and starring Dev Anand.
Before the brothers stopped composing, they delivered two last great albums: Kunal Kohli’s Hum Tum and Fanaa.
At a time when Vishal-Shekhar, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Pritam had reinvigorated Hindi film music, Jatin-Lalit’s work in these albums proved that they could keep up with the times. The production is super-crisp and the tunes are still memorable.
These two soundtracks are the finest examples of Jatin-Lalit’s talent. From a single hook in an Iraqi tune, the brothers spun three songs – Yaara Yaara from Hum Tum, Chand Sifarish and Chanda Chamke from Fanaa. While all three are unique in their own right, the combination of power chords over tabla, infused with qawwali and bhangra, makes Chand Sifarish stands out.
But it’s eclipsed by Mere Haath Mein. The last time two of our greatest matinee idols romanced on the Jhelum in 70mm was to a Jatin-Lalit song. Imagine disbanding after a song like this.