Lata Mangeshkar- the name inspires awe and reverence. Her voice has cast its magical spell on the entire nation for over four
decades, singing more than 40,000 songs. Meet her and her family who
have carved out a special niche for themselves in the world of music.
The nightingale of India Lata
Mangeshkar, whose musical career spans over four decades, is still
going stron Lata Mangeshkar is o music what Shakespeare
is to literature, said the Guinness citation which she received on
At 62, Lata does not know how the
Guinness people have managed to get a list of songs she has sung.
Statisticians who have kept records of the songs she has sung in
various languages put the total at 40,000. Lata chuckls: who is
counting certainly not me! Neither is she counting the numerous
awards and honours that have been bestowed upon her. She says Ive
requested people not to give me awards any more as there are so many
youngsters who need encouragment.
Last year, Lata was accorded the
highest award given to any artist, the 1989 fellowship of the Sangeet
Natak Akademi, followed by the 1990 Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the
greatest honour for any film luminary. Lata says I was touched
and felt honoured to be selected for the Phalke Award.
To commemorate her achievements, H.M.V.
released a four-cassette album Diamonds Forever which contains 60 of
her all-time popular hits. The BBC too chose July 26 last year to
begin its Hindi service programme Lata Ki Kahani covering all aspects
of her lif and career.
Though Lata can converse in English,
she is more comfortable while talking in Hindi. Explaining how and
why she missed out on formal education, she says, As children
we followed our father Dinanath Mangeshkar, a renowned stage artiste,
from place to place. Even before 13 years he feel ill and died. I
acted as a child artiste on a few occasions but never attended any
school. As the eldest child, the responsibility of looking after my
mother, three younger sisters and one brother fell on me.
Fortunately, I had been trained in singing by my father. Master
Vinayak Rao, the father of actress Nanda, took me under his wing and
I began my career acting and singing in film at the age of 13.
Her first film was the Marathi Pahali
Mangalagaur followed by more than half a dozen hindi films like Badi
Maa, Jeevan Yatra etc. lata confesses: I disliked facing the camera.
I always knew acting was not my forte studios. Mukherji rejected her
after having heard her singing. Ghulam Haider consoled the sobbing
Lata and told Mukherji that he would live to regret the day. He
certainly did. A few days later Lata was asked to sing for music
director C. Ramachandran. The next day she was recording for
C.Ramachandran Majboor. The rest is history.
The only time this magical voice went
silent was in 1960 when she had a severe throat infection. Panic
griped the film industry and thousands of her fans when Lata went on
the All India Radio and announced that she may not be able to sing
again. However lata recovered soon only to record for the film
Mahal. As she sang Ayega Ayega Ayegamelodiously the film
directors and her fans thanked god.
Lata divine voice can move you to
tears. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru sobbed like a child when she sang Aye
mere watan ke logo, zara aankh mein bhar lo pani at Delhis
National Stadium for the war aid fund. Lata explains: Everytime I
sing something extraordinary happens. Im transported to a
different world. When songs cease to have such an effct on me I will
She truly considers music a prayer and
never wears slippers or sandals while singing even on stage. Her
devotion and dedication to music demand reciprocation. The minute
word is out that she is on her way to the recording room all
cigarettes are quickly stubbed out in deference to her wish. As a
mark of respect for her talent everyone bows to touch her feet I feel
embarrassed when people touch my feet; I dont feel I have done
anything to merit it. But its their display of love and
affection which is more important to me than any award! She
Her sister, Asha Bhonsle, who perhaps
poses the only challenge to Lata, having sung as many songs and
having won even more awards both dreads and enjoys singing with her
Didi. A few months ago at Poona, Hridayanath Mangeshkar held a music
programme in memory of his father. Asha pranced, yodeled and danced
on the stage rapping out a string of hit numbers. Her younger
sister, Usha Mangeshkar too joined her. But the musical luminaries,
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Pandit Jasraj, who attended the function,
insisted that without Lata the function would be incomplete. So lata
walked on stage demurely draped in her traditional white saree and
sang only one shloka so evocatively that all hand folded in a
prayer and eyes looked heavenwards in utter reverence.
Asha, whose career spans almost as long
as latas says: The only reason why I am successful is because I
dont bear my maiden name Mangeskhar. My first husband may have
made my life miserable but its on his name that I have attained
fame. After a phenomenon like Lata Mangeshkar, the listeners were not
going to accept another Mangeshkar. A voice like hers is Gods
own miracle. There never has been and never will be a singer like
her. A lot of clones, dressing and singing like her, may be but never
one like her.
Lata adds: There really are many people
who can sing exactly like me. You can mistake them for the original
so long as they imitate me but ask them to record an original song
and they are lost.
Asha admits Didi was the one who got me
my first break. While she sang for the leading lady I sang for the
second lead or the vamps in the film. But Didi advised me not to copy
anyone and I established my own style of singing. Today I am known
for my very unmistakable style which is as distinct as Didis. I
am told I can make an obscene song sound hummable. It may sound
immodest but the layman identifies only our voices. Ask them about
the other singers and they dont know one singer from the other.
The Mangeshkars are notorious for
snuffing out upcoming talent. Murmurs of monopoly have been heard but
nobody dares openly accuse the talented isters for fear of reprisals
in the form of cancelled recordings. The sisters themselves are
scornful of accusations. Meena Khadilkar, the second of the
Mangeshkar sister once one of the finest voices ever heard, before a
sensitive throat pur paid to her singing career defends: Didi (Lata