September 28, 2019 is a historic day for Indian music and a day of celebrations for the music lovers in India, as the legendary singer LataMangeshkarwas honoured with ‘Daughter of the Nation’ title by the Government of India on her 90th birthday on that date as a tribute to her contribution to Indian film music over seven decades.
LataMangeshkar,fondly known by the epithet "Melody queen” and called Lataji with love and affection,is one of most respected and adored playback singers in India with over 25000 songs in 36 languages to her credit.
Lataji is the recipient of three National Film Awards, fifteen Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards, four Filmfare Best Female Playback Awards, two Filmfare Special Awards andFilmfare Lifetime Achievement Award. She was honoured with Padma Bhushan (1969), DadasahebPhalke Award (1989), Padma Vibhushan (1999), Bharat Ratna (2001) and Officer of the Legion of Honour by France (2007). In 1974, she became the first Indian to perform in the Royal Albert Hall, London’s most iconic venue. Lataji is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most recorded artist in the world.
Born on September 28, 1929 in Indore, Central Provinces (now Madhya Pradesh), LataMangeshkar is the eldest daughter among the five children of the accomplished claasical singer and stage actor PanditDeenanathMangeshkar and ShevantiMangeshkar.Lataji was initially named Hema when she was born, but later her father renamed her as Lata, inspired by a character in one of his plays. LataMangeshkar is the elder sister of singers AshaBhosle, HridaynathMangeshkar, UshaMangeshkar and MeenaMangeshkar.
Lataji started acting in her father’s musical plays since the age of five. She also took lessons in classical music from maestros like Amanat Khan, PanditTulsidas Sharma and Aman Ali Khan Saheb later in life. She was inspired by K.L. Saigal’s music when she was young. She did not receive a formal education as she did not attend school. PanditDinanath passed away when Lata was just 13 years old and as the eldest child, the financial responsibility of the family came to rest upon Lata’s shoulders.
Lataji started her musical career in 1942, right after the death of her father. VinayakDamodarKarnataki, a family friend helped her get jobs as an actress in Marathi and Hindi Films. Beginning years of her career were quite rocky as young Lata struggled to find her foothold in the industry. Her first song as a playback singer was ‘NaachuYaaGade, KheluSaari Mani HausBhaari’ for a Marathi film KitiHasaal with composer SadashivraoNevrekar. The song was dropped from the film before release. Her first Hindi song happened the next year in 1943, with ‘Mata EkSapoot Ki DuniyaBadal De Tu’ in the movie Gajaabhaau.
LataMangeshkar moved to Bombay in 1945. She faced numerous rejections from contemporary music composers as they found her voice too thin and sharp, as opposed to the preferred style of that time. She would often imitate famous singers like Noor Jahan to satisfy the music directors.
Apart from Master Vinayak, Lataji was mentored by music director GhulamHaider. Under his guidance, Lataji achieved her first recognition in the song ‘DilMera Toda, MujheKahinKa Na Chhora’ in the 1948 movie Majboor. Her first tumultuous hit song came with the song ‘AyegaAnewala’ presented on-screen by actress Madhubala in the film Mahal in 1949.
Lataji’s music career took off from there as she started working with all major music directors and playback singers of the time. She did playback singing for celebrated music directors like Sachin DevBurman, SalilChowdhury, Sankar-Jaikishan, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Naushad, Madan Mohan, Kalyanji-Anandji, Khayyam and PanditAmarnathHusanLalBhagat Ram. During the 1950s, she worked in successful films like BaijuBawra (1952), Mother India (1957), Devdas (1955), ChoriChori (1956) and Madhumati (1958). She won her first Filmfare Award for best Female Playback Singer in 1958 for the song ‘Aaja Re Pardesi’ from the film Madhumati with music director SalilChowdhury.
Lataji easily flitted between different genres for various music directors. She sung raga based song like ‘MoheBhool Gaye Sawariya’ based on Raga Bhairav from the 1952 film BaijuBawra. She sung western theme song like ‘AjeebDastanHainYeh’ from DilApnaaurPreetParayi (1960) as well as Bhajan like Allah TeroNaam for the movie Hum Dono in 1961. She was the voice behind the most glamorous heroines of the time, includingMadubala,MeenaKumari, Vijayanti Mala and HemaMalini. She moved dignitaries including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to tears with her rendition of the famous patriotic song ‘Ae Mere WatanKe Logon’.
She started playback singing for regional films in Tamil and Marathi. Her first song in Tamil was ‘EnthanKannalan’ in the film Vanaradham in 1956. In Marathi films, she sung for her brother HridaynathMangeshkar who was a celebrated music director, in films like Jait Re Jait. He sang playback for Bengali films for music directors like SalilChowdhury and Hemant Kumar. She made her debut in the Kannada playback industry with the song ‘BellaneBelagayithu’ composed by LakshmanBerlekar from the movie KrantiveeraSangolliRayanna in 1967. In 1974, she recorded her only Malayalam song "KadaliChenkadali" for the film Nellu, composed by SalilChowdhury, and written by VayalarRamavarma.
She collaborated with noted male playback singers like Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Hemant Kumar, MahendraKapoor, TalatMehmood and Manna Dey in many projects. She became the unrivalled queen of the playback industryand enjoyed star status. People could not praise her voice enough and every major producer, music director and actor was vying to work with her. Her duets with Mohad. Rafi and Kishore Kumar all through the 1970s and 1980s became legends of the Hindi Film Industry and are celebrated till date. Songs like ‘Jo wadakiya’fromthe film ‘TajMahal,‘Tasveerteridilmein’ from ‘Maya’, ‘Tujhejeevankidorse‘from‘AsliNaqli, ’KoraKagazka ye man mera’ from‘Aradhana’, ‘TereBinaZindagi Se’ from ‘Andhi’, ‘Tere Mere Milan Ki’ from Abhimaanand ‘Aap Ki Ankhon Me Kuch’ from ‘Ghar’, are some examples of unforgettable musical magic that these pairs created.
Lataji’s collaboration with music director duo LaxmikantPyarelal produced some of the most superhit songs of the time that are still hummed with equal enthusiasms by Indians. The duo considered Lataji instrumental in their success. ‘DilVilPyarVyar’ from ‘Shagird’ (1968), ‘SheeshaHoYaDilHo’ from ‘Asha’ (1980), ‘Mere Naseeb Mein’ from ‘Naseeb’ (1981) and ‘Ye Galiyan Ye Chaubara’ from ‘PremRog’ (1982) are some of their most popular collaborations. Other acclaimed scoresin the 1980s include title track from Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985) with music director Ravindra Jain and DikhayiDiye Yun in Bazaar (1982) with Khayyam.
1990s onwards, Lataji worked with music directors like Anu Malik, JatinLalit and A.R. Rahman. Films like ‘DilwaleDulhania Le Jayenge’, ‘Hum aapkeHainKaun’, ‘Dil Se’, ‘Rang De Basanti’ featured acclaimed songs sung by Lataji. She gradually decreased the volume of her work due to health reasons, singing selective compositions. She launched several albums during her musical career including ChalaVahi Des (1979) with Brother HridaynathMangeshkar, Ram RatanDhanPayo (1983) and Shraddanjali-My Tribute to the Immortals (1994).
LataMangeshkar also assumed the role of music director for several Marathi Films, first of which was Ram RamPavhane in 1955. Her other projects were Maratha TitukaMelvava (1963), MohityanchiManjula (1963), SadhiManase (1965) and TambadiMati (1969). She won Maharashtra State Government's Best Music Director Award for the film SadhiManase with the song ‘Airanichya Deva receiving the best song award.
As a producer, LataMangeshkar made four films - Vaadal, a Marathi language film in 1953, Jhaanjhar with C. Ramchandra as co-producer in 1953, Kanchan in 1955 and Lekin…, the directorial venture of lyricist Gulzar in 1990. She launched her own music label in 2012 called LM Music and released a Devotional album along with younger sister UshaMangeshkar.
Lataji idolises the late KundanLalSaigal as her most favourite singer. She bought every album featuring Saigal’s songs and when the radio played his songs, she would drop everything to listen. Sadly, she never met her idol during his lifetime.
Though Latajilearnt singing from her father PanditDinanathMangeshkar, unfortunately, she never did spend much time with him, as he passed away quite young.Not being able to spend time with her father remains an eternal regret.
Latajinever sang for composer O. P.Nayyar. The legendary singer was in news recently when she spoke about internet sensation, RanuMondal. Commenting on her, Lata had said in a recent interview, “Agar mere naamaurkaam se kissikobhalahotahaitoh main apne-aapkokhush-kismatsamajhtihoon (If anyone gets benefited from my name and work, then I feel fortunate).”
“But I also feel imitation is not a reliable and durable companion for success. By singing my songs or Kishoreda’s (Kumar), or (Mohd) Rafi Saab’s, or MukeshBhaiyya or Asha’s (Bhosle) numbers, aspiring singers can get short-term attention. But it won’t last,” says Lataji, at the cusp of 90.
LataMangeshkar has had an illustrious career in various roles. A God-gifted voice led her to become the most successful and celebrated female playback singer from the 1940s till 1980s. Lataji has lent her voice to all leading ladies of Bollywood. Latajiis said to have recorded songs for over a thousand Hindi films. She also has the credit of having sung in over thirty-six regional Indian languages and foreign languages. Her songs had touched the hearts of millions throughout the years and across borders. She also did some acting at the start of her career. Her attempts as a music director were not as successful as her singing career.
The title of ‘Daughter of the Nation’ conferred on her 90th birthday makes the image of LataMangheshkar more iconic and towering. Music lovers across the country regard Lataji as a rare creation of God. Here’s wishing the nonagenarian musician many more years of healthy and peaceful life.