Today, India lost Lata Mangeshkar. She was 92 years old and possibly the most beloved and well-known artist in the subcontinent, inspiring generations of artists for over a century. Last month, she acquired Covid and was taken to Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital with severe pneumonia symptoms.
It would be absurd to describe Lata Mangeshkar as brilliant, among other praiseworthy qualities. Lata Mangeshkar was Lata Mangeshkar. Lata Mangeshkar, like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven, has become a byword for greatness. And it will remain thus for decades to come. Aside from her technical skill, her brilliance rested in her connection with the music, a connection that drew in her listeners as well. Her rendition of the song was always going to be the finest.
Mangeshkar, an artist of such renown and unbelievably prodigious output, accomplished what few others could. She achieved a degree of melodic brilliance in Hindi cinema music that has yet to be surpassed. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan famously stated, “Kambakhat galti se bhi besura nahi gaati,” frustration and delight rolled together.
But Lata Mangeshkar achieved something more in addition to giving us over 25000 songs, each one a lesson in discipline, fortitude, and brilliance that often alone belonged to her despite the song being a collaborative effort. She persuaded India and Pakistan to agree on one thing: the quality of her voice. There was a special bond between the two countries when it came to agreeing on the magic of Mangeshkar’s voice, whether it was the famous storey of a letter that came to All India Radio from Lahore, saying that India could have Kashmir if they could give Lata Mangeshkar to Pakistan, or stories of her legions of fans on the other side of the border, some of them senior classical musicians, who spoke of her as the Partition’s biggest loss for Pakistan. “People say she admires me,” Noorjehan, the renowned vocalist Mangeshkar adored and followed long before she became a successful singer, once stated about her.Lata toh Lata hai, par Lata toh Lata hai. “Koi aaj tak paida nahi huya, Meri nazar mein Lataji ki tarah koi aaj tak paida nahi huya, Meri nazar mein Lataji ki tarah koi aa That is high praise from Madam Noorjehan.
Mangeshkar was born in a Sikh neighbourhood in Indore and reared in a musical household in Kolhapur. Master Dinanath Mangeshkar, Lata’s first master, was a musician from the Gwalior gharana who operated a theatre company. She just went to school for one day. She was around five years old at the time, and she was accompanied by a little Asha (Bhosle). The school, however, would not allow such a little youngster to sit in her class. She made the decision to never return.
She would listen to her father teach his pupils at home and absorb the information. Her father noticed her correcting one of his students one day and was surprised by the child’s teaching ability. He made the decision to teach her the fundamentals of classical music. However, his sudden death forced Lata, the family’s eldest child, to start working at the age of thirteen.
Master Vinayak, a close friend of her family and the proprietor of the Navyug Chitrapat movie studio, took care of the family and assisted Lata in her career as an actor and singer. Her debut song was for Vasant Joglekar’s Marathi film Kiti Hasaal, however it was deleted from the final version. Before arriving to Mumbai in 1945, she sung a few songs for Marathi films. She began her studies here under the tutelage of Ut Aman Ali Khan of the Bhendibazaar gharana. Mangeshkar was also introduced to composer Vasant Desai by Vinayak. After he died in 1948, composer Ghulam Haider took Mangeshkar under his wing and introduced her to filmmaker Sasadhar Mukherjee, who had recently opened the Filmistan studio. Mangeshkar, on the other hand, was turned down by Mukherjee, who believed her voice was too thin. Haider, enraged that his judgement had been questioned, went on to prophesy that “music composers will beg Lata to sing for them.” With the song ‘Dil mera toda, mujhe kahin ka na chhoda,’ Haider handed Mangeshkar her first important break – a piece that sounds like a copy of Noorjehan’s somewhat nasal approach. In some years, Mangeshkar was singing in a distinct style, with that thin, mature voice that would later fulfil Haider’s remarks.
Soon, the nation’s ears were perked to the phonograph, which was playing Aayega aanewala, a haunting Khemchad Prakash composition from Mahal (1949), which stole the nation’s breath away and cemented her supremacy in the Indian cinema industry for decades to come, with no challenger in sight. People inundated Radio Ceylon’s headquarters with letters asking for the singer’s name (the gramophone company only carried the character’s name — Kamini) as the song shattered all records. Every composer was taken aback. Lata Mangeshkar was on her way. Every time Mangeshkar sang, whether it was the irreverent Mughal-e-Azam ditty Pyar kiya toh darna kya (1960) or the profound Sahir Ludhianvi piece Allah tero naam ishwar tero naam (Hum Dono) or the playful Piya tose naina laage (Guide, 1965), she captured a feeling so pure that it left one feeling grateful to Especially when she performed Kavi Pradeep’s Aye mere watan ke logo to the tune of C Ramachandra and a nation’s collective conscience against the backdrop of the Indo-Sino conflict. Pt Nehru, like the rest of the country, sobbed.
Naushad, Anil Biswas, SD Burman, Shankar Jaikishen, C Ramachandra, Sali Chowdhury, Hemant Kumar, Roshan, Madan Mohan, Khayyam, Jaidev, and Ravi were among her most successful collaborators.
Stories of rivalry and Mangeshkar’s attitude surfaced as she ascended the ladder of popularity one song at a time. The most important relationship she has is with her sister, legendary vocalist Asha Bhosle. OP Nayyar is famed for never asking Mangeshkar to sing for him. Mangeshkar revealed in a radio interview with Ameen Sayani in 1984, titled ‘Lata Se Darte Darte,’ that Asha ran away from home at the age of 14 to marry Ganpatrao Bhosle, and that the family was upset. Bhosle also refused to let her speak to her relatives. “Asha is my sister, and our styles are completely different. She gets her fair portion of the songs, and she gets her fair share of the songs. There isn’t even a hint of rivalry… She’d answered, “As for Nayyar sahab.” Another was with Mohammad Rafi, with whom she sang the majority of her famous duets. This was a disagreement about royalties. While Mangeshkar wanted the record label to pay her royalties for her songs, Rafi argued that once the song had been sung and the singer had paid for it, it was no longer the singer’s property. Between 1963 and 1967, the two did not perform together.
From Madhubala and Waheeda Rehman to Kajol and Madhuri Dixit, Mangeshkar sang for a wide range of actors. Yaara seeli seeli (Lekin, 1990), Maaye ni maaye (Hum Aapke Hain Koun.! ), Jiya jale (Dil Se, 1998), and Mere khwabo mein jo aaye (Dilwale Dulahaniya Le Jayenge, 1994) were all hits, proving that one didn’t have to be a specific age to sing for young women. Mangeshkar’s music appealed to a wide range of people. Her most recent films include Veer Zaara (2004), in which composer Madan Mohan’s classic compositions were recreated, and Rang De Basanti’s melancholy Lukka chhippi (2006) She received the Dada Sahab Phalke Award in 1989 and the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, in 2001, among many other honours.
Lata Mangeshkar (1929-2022): The nightingale is silent