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Lata Mangeshkar - The Nightingale

By Rajender Reddy

The nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar, who has charmed the people in India and across the globe with her melodious voice by singing over 50,000 songs as a playback singer in films at least in 14 languages. Perhaps, she must have been the most recorded voice in the history of this century.

Born on 28th September, 1929 in Indore Madhya Pradesh, Lata hails from a singers family. Her father ' Dinanath Mangeshkar' was a play back singer and owned a theatrical company and her sister Asha Bhosle remind her sole competitor still the 90's. Lata took her first music lessons from her father at the age of 5 and also studied with Aman Ali Khan Sahib and later Amanat Khan. Following her father's death in 1942 and the burden of supporting the family forced Lata to choose the singing profession at the very early age of 16. She started her singing career by the movie Kiti Hasal in 1942. In the later coming years, she also played miscellaneous roles from a producer to composer and actress for various films.

She has been defying the law of gravity for more than 50 years by staying firmly ensconced in her position, as though age has bypassed her. Lata sang innumerable songs in her awesome repertoire which cannot be denied either on merit or success and songs that contributed to shaping one of the greatest success stories of the 20th Century. Whether she sang Madhubala to eternal fame with Ayega aanewala in Mahal at the age of 20, or at 44, she immortalized Dimple Kapadia by singing Hum tum ek kamre mein band hon in Bobby or at 69, Dimple's daughter Twinkle attained an aura of stardom when Lata sang Madhosh dil ki dhadkan for her in Jab Pyar Kissise Hota Hai and a barely a year later, Preity Zinta swung and sang into action with Jiya jale in Dil Se. There is a halo of youthfulness around her. In her body language. Her sense of humor. The timbre of impishness in her voice, which lends itself so naturally to a Tabu (Hu Tu Tu) or a Manisha Koirala (Kachche Dhaage) even today at 74, Lata continues to exude the magic that has made her a legend and gives her voice with the same volume and melody to the actresses who are 1/3rd of her age as she did back in her young age. The telephone rings persistently with people calling to congratulate her on her latest achievement.

Lata Mangeshkar has sang in more than 500 films and for many Lata is the most admired singer. Along with singing, Lata also acted in 8 movies between 1942 and 1948 and her last movie being Chachha Zindabad in 1955. She also composed for the movie Sadhi Manse in 1965 and produced the movie Lekin in 1990. Lata Mangeshkar at 74 is a milestone and a speed-breaker. The breakneck pace at which music is written, rehearsed, rendered and recorded makes Lata a helpless giantess. For Lata, music is a kalpavruksh (a lush tree) whose every branch is covered with beautiful flowers and rich, green leaves. It was after India’s losses in the India-China war in 1962 that a young Lata had sung the song, "Ai Mere Watan Ke Logon, Zara Aankh Me Bhar Lo Pani" the song, written by Kavi Pradeep, moved many heartening people into tears and still remains to be one of the most patriotic song sung by her.

From early on Lata was recognized as being highly gifted musically, and her natural talent meant that she could master the vocal exercises effortlessly on first pass and marked her entrance into music world by competing with the strong and powerful voices of 1940s like Noorjehan, Shamshad Begum and Zohrabai Ambalewali and faced set backs. Lata was even rejected for Shaheed (1948) by producer S. Mukherjee who complained that her voice was too thin, but in 1949 broke with series of hits and particularly the song titled “Aaega Aanewaalaa” from Mahal, really struck home with the nation. By 1950, Mangeshkar’s high-pitched singing style had changed the industry and practically swept away the career of all the existing female singers of that era and dominated the industry till the late 1950s single handedly. With the rise of her sister Asha Bhosle in late 1950s both revolutionized the music world and remained the queens of Indian playback singing up until the 1990s.

Her phenomenal success made Lata the most powerful woman in the Film Industry and nothing stopped Lata from being the best. she rendered obsolete the heavy nasal voices of the day and in search of perfection she even learned Urdu by hiring a tutor. After working with stalwarlts like Madan Mohan, Sajjad Hussain, S. D. Burman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and R. D. Burman, Lata feels that today the music is not so encouraging. These days she sings more of classical based songs and restrains herself from singing in obscenity songs.

The evidence of Lata Mangeshkar's contribution comes from the various trophies and awards she has received. She received several doctorates from various universities varying from Pune University to New York University. Awards like Padma Bushan, Padma Vibushan and the no less prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1990 are the feathers in her Crown. Recently, she was awarded the 'Bharatha Rathna' - the highest civilian honor by the Government of India.

Lata has gradually eased herself out of the rat-race of playback singing, though she does sing an occasional number and she no longer needs to announce her retirement from films. Hindustani cinema has itself announced how much need it now has for her. There were those moments of high anguish when Lata felt diminished by the departure of contemporaries like Geeta Dutt, Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Hemant Kumar.

For Lata, along with fame came sometimes allegations that she stole her sister's Asha Bhosle songs or from several female playback singers who could not, perhaps, match her range and talent, alleging that she did not let other talented singers come up. It is not known how much truth there is in such allegations, but it is beyond dispute that Lata is undeniably the best singer India has produced. Her contribution to making music popular throughout India and the world is incalculable.

No human being gets everything in life and at a certain stage in life regrets, but today Lata is beyond all that and doesn't regret for not getting married. Lata Mangeshkar is a proud Indian and in fact a true living legend.