Feb 6, 2022, Though anticipated, when it became official that the Melody Queen of India, Lata Mangeshkar, is no longer among us, it hit the collective consciousness of the nation like a sledgehammer.
The only consolation was that she may have passed on, but her voice, which moved our hearts and provided succour to our souls for more than seven decades, will forever be with us.
Like all inspirational stories, Lataji’s early struggle to establish herself in the 1940s is one that we cannot ever forget. In those days, she would take a BEST bus and travel from her south Mumbai home regularly to meet Naushad Ali at his Khar West bungalow or in the studios, hoping for a ‘singing break’ under the legendary music maker’s baton.
In the vicious Mumbai monsoon, she would come to Naushad’s home, wearing her trademark sari, carrying an umbrella but totally drenched, shivering and barely able to speak, let alone sing. The music director would offer her piping hot tea and cookies to soothe her, but no songs … yet … .
“I felt her voice was not yet ‘ripe’ for my style of music,” said Naushad, the perfectionist, in a conversation with this writer. He was trying to justify not giving her an early break. “To improve her diction and control over words, I advised her to learn and practice Urdu, which she did … and finally, she was ready to record for me.”
The first choices of Naushad were the reigning stalwarts — Noorjehan, Suraiya, Shamshad Begum, Zohra Ambalewali, to name a few.
With time, trained by her father, Dinananth Mangeshkar, Lataji grasped the maestro’s advice and got her first major hit — ‘Uthaye Ja Unke Sitam’ (‘Andaz’, 1949) — composed by her mentor Naushad. With it, she ‘arrived’ in the film industry.
Thereafter, top music directors of the era wooed her, and they included Sachin Dev Burman, Husan Lal-Bhagat Ram (brothers), Ghulam Haider, Sardar Malik, Ghulam Mohammed, Jaidev, Salil Chowdhary, C. Ramchandra, Shankar-Jaikishan (partners), Roshan, Madan Mohan, M. Zahur Khayyam, Kalyanji-Anandji (brothers), Laxmikant-Pyarelal (partners), Sonik-Omi (uncle-nephew), Ravi Kumar Sharma or ‘Ravi’, Sudhir Phadke, Sajjad Hussain, Usha Khanna, and even A.R. Rahman, Anu Malik, Rajesh Roshan, Anand-Milind and Jatin-Lalit, among the younger crop of baton wielders.
Producers and directors vied for Lataji’s unique voice and style for their top heroines, especially because she could ‘mould’ her voice to suit most heroines. Without doubt, she had become the first among women singers, a position that Mohammed Rafi enjoyed among the men.
Yet, there was a music director who remained aloof from Lataji — with haughty pride — and yet rose to the top echelons of the music industry — the incomparable O.P. Nayyar.
“I found Lata’s voice too thin, too shrill, which did not suit my compositions,” Nayyar had once said, claiming he was “the only music director who succeeded in Bollywood without Lata’s voice”.
He added: “I needed a more vivacious, richer, healthier voice of, say, Shamshad Begum, Geeta Ghosh-Dutt, Asha Bhosale.” One woman singer, Suman Kalyanpur, was blessed with a voice rivalling that of Lataji’s, but she was content being in the shadows, yet she thrived on enduring masterpieces composed by some of the music directors.
As Lataji’s singing style matured under master music directors, her voice helped heroines who acted or danced to her tunes catapult to stardom, such as Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Nargis, Ameeta, Beena Rai, Waheeda Rehman, Vyjayanthimala Bali, Tanuja, Sharmila Tagore, Asha Parekh, Nutan, Saira Bano, Sadhana Shivdasani, Babita Kapoor, Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi, Hema Malini, Rekha, Sridevi, Neetu Singh, Madhuri Dixit, and many others in the post-1980s, right down to the youngsters, notably, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee and Karisma Kapoor.
After the exit of Noorjehan from India and the fading away of other stalwart female singers, by the late 1950s/early 1960s, Lataji was firmly perched on the top of the heap and brooked no nonsense from anyone — producers, directors, composers, siblings or contemporaries — attempting to clamber anywhere close to her roost.
Bollywood is full of stories of how Lataji ring-fenced her position till the very end, often raising the hackles of her female peers, although male singers, such as Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Mahendra Kapoor and Manna Dey (all deceased) and others, chose to maintain a professional rapport with her.
Nevertheless, there were tales of how Rafi once bore the brunt of her “other side”, or certain composers quivering as she gently declined to sing for them after they allegedly dared to commission some other female singers, for whatever reason. Of course, powerful filmmakers such as Mehboob Khan, Raj Kapoor, Kamal Amrohi, Dev Anand, Shakti Samanta, B.R. Chopra, Yash Chopra and the likes had no time for tantrums.
Born on September 28, 1929, as the oldest child of a musically inclined family in Indore (Madhya Pradesh) — comprising father Dinanath, Lataji, Meena (Khadilkar), Asha (Bhosale), Usha and sole brother Hridaynath — she was tutored by her dad from the age of five and also acted in his musical stage plays, till death in 1942.
Helped by a close family friend, Master Vinayak D. Karnataki, she got a foothold in singing and acting that year with a first Marathi song and a maiden Hindi song in 1943 before shifting to the film industry capital in 1945.
In Bombay (now, Mumbai), she learnt classical music and continued singing the odd songs, till her big break with ‘Dil Mera Toda, Mujhe Kahinka Na Chhoda’ (‘Majboor’, 1948), with full help from Ghulam Haider, whom she later described as her “godfather”.
Simultaneously, she sang in different Indian languages with aplomb, non-film songs, with her range encompassing classical, tragic, melodious, erotic, melancholic, light, mischievous, depending on the composer, or the heroine, or the song situation.
After the seniors passed away or faded out, Lataji sang expertly and easily with the gen next of male singers such as S.P. Balasubramaniam, Amit Kumar, Shabbir Kumar, Nitin Mukesh, Anwar, Udit Narayan and Sonu Nigam, and astounded her listeners with the seemingly “undying” power and youthfulness of her golden voice.
Over the decades, she was decorated with a multitude of rewards and honours — three Padma awards, five Filmfare Awards, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award — capped by the Bharat Ratna in 2001. More than that, state governments named awards and institutions after her.
Lataji sang at prestigious live concerts or charitable events, enthralling global audiences, picked up more overseas accolades, such as France’s highest civilian honour, Officer of the Legion of Honour, in 2007, briefly dabbled in high-end merchandise, such as signature jewellery and perfumes, launched a production and music house, and entered into international music collaborations.
5 unknown facts about Lata Mangeshkar
Fondly termed as Didi and the Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar rules a million hearts. The legendary singer has been in the news recently since the sad demise of yesteryear actress Nanda. Social networking sites were abuzz with the news of the fake death of Lata Mangeshkar post Nanda’s passing away. Creating a trend on social media, Lata Mangeshkar does not need to be in the news to create a stir. She’s a name in herself and second to none! Here are a few unknown facts about India’s most talented singer and legend.
Lata Mangeshkar, as most know, is the daughter of Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar, (a theatre actor and classical singer) and Shevanti (Shudhamati). Born on 28th September 1929, Lata was not her original name. She was born as Hema but rechristened later as Lata after a famous character Latika from her father’s play Bhaaw Bandhan. Lataji started singing at the age of five and studied the fine art of music with Aman Ali Khan Sahib and Amanat Khan, established and famous singers of that time. When Lata Mangeshkar entered the film industry as a playback singer, she was rejected because in that era, signers like Noor Jehan and Shamshad Begum ruled the roost with their heavy nasal voices. Lata didi’s voice was considered too thin for that time. She acted in over eight films from the year 1942-1948 due to the sad demise of her father who passed away in 1942, leaving Lataji to fend for her family. With no success in these films, she debuted with playback singing for the Marathi film Kiti Hasaal (1942) but the song never saw the light of day as it was edited form the film.3/55 unknown facts about Lata Mangeshkar
It is said that she moved India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to tears when she sang the song Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon, Zara Aankh Me Bhar Lo Pani. This was in 1962 when India lost the war to China and Pandit Ji apparently said to her that she had moved him to tears. She apparently has a permanent gallery reserved for her at the Lord’s Stadium from where she enjoys watching her favourite game- Cricket. She became the first Indian in 1974 to have performed in the Royal Albert Hall, London. It is said that Lata didi believes that her voice suits actress Saira Banu’s the best!
As her popularity soared, everyone wanted to associate with India’s nightingale. In 1999, the perfume Lata Eau de Parfum was launched. The same year, she was nominated as a Member of Parliament. However, due to ill health the noted singer could not attend the sessions in Rajya Sabha which drew a lot of flack. Interestingly, Lata didi did not take a single penny or a salary or a house in Delhi for her services an MP. Putting her creative talents to the test once again, Lata Mangeshkar designed for an Indian diamond export company called Adora. The collection was called Swaranjali and five pieces from this collection were auctioned at Christies and raked in £105,000. Being generous as she was, she donated the money for the 2005 Kashmir earthquake relief. She has made the Nation proud and has been award India’s Highest Civilian Award- the Bharat Ratna, making her the only second vocalist to be the recipient of this prestigious award. That apart, she has been awarded the Padma Bhushan , Padma Vibhushan, Dada Saheb Phalke Award, Maharashtra Bhushan Award, NTR National Award, Bharat Ratna, ANR National Award and three National Film Awards to name a few. She has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by six universities including one by the New York University.5/55 unknown facts about Lata Mangeshkar
In a shocking state of controversies, the gentle, shy and soft spoken Lata did was in the news once again but for different reasons. She was allegedly romantic linked to noted musician Bhupen Hazarika. In a shocking statement to Zee News, the late musician’s estranged wife had stated that the two would spend nights together and her husband apparently told her that if a musicians wants to come up, he has to have his songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar. This statement is said to have enraged Hazarika’s partner Kalpana Lajmi and all the Mangeshkars. As per reports in the media, it was Lata didi’s alleged decade long love affair with the late Raj Singh Dungapur that came to light. He was the son of royalty and he had apparently promised his parents that he would not bring home a commoner bride. It is said that the duo met in Mumbai when Raj Singh Dungapur ended up playing cricket with Lata didi’s brother at their Walkeshwar house. They came from different backgrounds and maybe those things were not allowed in those days, as commitment to families came first. Though the two remained unmarried, this itself was proof of their eternal love, if stories of their true love are anything to go by.
Leave a Reply