1. Abb toh aao Dhanush ke Dhari (Lata Mangeshkar, Film Bajrangbali, 1976): This 1976 film featured Biswajeet as Sri Rama and Moushumi Chatterjee as Sita. Music composers Kalyanji-Anandji said to this writer that the challenge here was to compose songs in praise of Rama that sounded fresh and unheard. My pick is Lataji’s solo where her plaintive please for her beloved Rama to return home resonates with the consecration of the Rama temple in Ayodhya.
2. Katha yeh Rama ki paawan naam ki aayen hain sabko sunane (Lata Mangeshkar-Asha Bhosle, Film Lav Kush, 1997): This long-lost screen adaptation of the Ramayan featured Jeetendra as Rama and Jaya Prada as Sita. The film sank without a trace. But Ram Laxman’s lush soundtrack of thirteen passionately composed songs, survived. Out of the thirteen tracks four are duets by Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, a rare occurrence. My pick is this upbeat gem with both sisters joining chords to pay their respect to Shri Rama.
3. Mann ki aankhon se main dekhun roop sadaa siya raam ka (Mohd Rafi, Film Mahabali Hanuman 1981): Not much is known about composer Kamalkant who composed this emotional Bhajan in the voice of Mohammad Rafi known for his devotional memorabilia like Sukh ke sabb saathi dukh mein na koi(Gopi) and O duniya rakhwale sun dard bhare mere nyale and Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj(Baiji Bawra). This Ram bhajan got eclipsed by the film’s complete failure to find an audience. A pity, because it displays to advantage Rafi Saab’s versatility in the devotional mould.
4. Hey rome rome mein basne wale Rama (Asha Bhosle, film Neel Kamal, 1968): While most of the great composers of the golden era preferred Lataji for devotionals—and her Allah tero naam is indisputably the most cherished Bhajan of Hindi cinema—composer Ravi went to Asha Bhosle for that immortal Bhajan Tora man darpan in the film Kajal. This lesser known Ram Bhajan filmed on Waheeda Rehman in Ashaji’s voice celebrates Rama’s supremacy on two levels , the mythological and the celluloid where Manoj Kumar and Waheeda Rehman’s characters were named Rama and Sita.Rama kasam!
5. Hey Rama tere raj mein kaise jiyen Sitayen (Bajrangbali, 1976): This lavish superhit film featuring Dara Singh in the title role had Biswajeet as Rama and Moushumi Chatterjee as Sita.Kalyanji-Anandji’s devotional soundtrack featured this gem where Lataji asks Rama about the status of women during his rein. It is an unorthodox approach to the Bhajan where the sacrosanct God is actually questioned about gender dynamics. Written by the great poet Pradeep(who wrote Lataji’s imperishable Ae mere watan ke logon), this devotional has a searing relevance even today.
6. Ramse bada ram ka naam baneye sabke bigde kaam (Ram Bharose , 1977): Curiously Kishore Kumar didn’t sing too many Bhajans in his vast repertoire of songs. I can recall a beautiful Krishna Bhajan for Rajesh Khanna in the film Mere Jeevan Saathi: Aao kanhayee mere dhaam ke subah se ho gayee shaam. And after much brain-wracking here is a very unusual Ram Bhajan, written and composed by the great devotional expert Ravindra Jain for a Randhir Kapoor comedy film. Kishore keeps it light and bouncy. We don’t have to get all solemn and existential to communicate with God.
7. Sabse pehle sabse aakhir loon main tera naam hey Ram (Mohd Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, unreleased film): This Rajesh Roshan-composed Bhajan is a rare resonant rendezvous with Rama written feelingly and passionately by the great Anand Bakshi. The singing by the two stalwarts is flawless. Sadly this beautiful ode to Rama isn’t counted among the great devotionals of Bollywood because the film was never released. I got some details from Rajesh Roshan. “This Bhajan is one of my own favourites. Sadly it never got its due. It was composed for a film called Hey Rama, not the Kamal Haasan-directed film but a 1977 project produced by Hiren Khera and directed by B R Ishaara featuring Sanjeev Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Sulakshana Pandit, Mithun Chakraborty. Shashi Kapoor was to be featured in a negative wrong.” What happened to the film? Rama jaane!