jeevan ki veena ka taar bole...
Presented here a few quotes that some people have said about Lata Mangeshkar. They were reproduced from Harish Bhimani's book : In search of Lata.
The one I like
the most is by V. S. KHANDEKAR (literatteur):
In these twilight years of my life, many an evening when I go for a walk, the setting sun fills me with an unspeakable longing...as I drag my old feet homewards in the gathering dusk, I feel engulfed in a deep melancholy. And then comes this heady whiff of Rajnigandha blossoms or some stray notes of a Lata Mangeshkar songs and I feel life is worth living yet...
(composer and singer):
Unparalleled - there is no other word.
JAVED AKHTAR (film
writer and lyricist):
The Earth hath but one sun, one moon and one Lata.
Lata sings....all others make a miserable effort.
USTAD BADE GHULAM
ALI KHAN (classical singer):
The 'blessed creature' never goes out of tune...what a miracle of Allah.
USTAD AMEER KHAN
What we classical musicians take 3 and 1/2 hours to accomplish, Lata does in 3 minutes.
When the voice achieves perfect harmony with a note(sur), it is as if the soul has soared up to become one with the Supreme Being. That is how I feel when I listen to Lata-ji.
ANIL BISWAS (composer):
Lata was a Godsend to us composers because with her around there was absolutely no limitations placed on our range. Such was her vocal artistry that we could explore the most complex reaches of compositions in the knowledge and confidence and that she could take it all in her stride.
I'm sure she performs some sorcery while singing so that one cannot stop humming refrains of her songs over and over again.
DILIP KUMAR (actor):
Her voice is like a shaft of pure light, a glow that illuminates this world as it were.
500 years from now, there'll be only two names which will be remembered in Indian music, Tansen and Lata.
(composer, singer and younger brother):
Does a stem know what colour and what fragrance it has imparted to the flower. Does didi know what colour she has bestowed upon the musical notes, how fragrant is our music with her voice.
Big joys come but once or twice in a lifetime. Why hanker after them? More important are those millions of moments of joy which Lata's songs give us everyday.
Nothing will remain the same and anything can be replaced by something. One thing will remain in this world that is Lataji's divine voice.
KANAN DEVI (actress
Before the advent of playback singing the songs that we actresses sang were songs only in name. It is only after Lata started giving playback, that real music happened.
The note 'Gandhaar' that resonates while playing the taanpura can be heard in its purest form in Lata's 'aayega aanewala...'.
The more she suffered, the more her art excelled.
The very heart of India throbs in her voice.
(composer and singer):
The more she hums, the more she sings, the richer our musical heritage becomes.
SALIM KHAN (film
Many an artiste has touched the pinnacle of success but Lata is rare one who, once having reached it, never
Tuning one's voice perfectly to the notes of a taanpura, is something many singers never achieve. But didi's sur is so perfect that you might tune a taanpura to her voice.
If someone were to ask "have you tasted nectar?"...millions of fans spanning three generations will answer "yes, in Lata's immortal songs".
I can only try to recreate on my violin your marvelous singing...
ANIL BISWAS (composer):
When Lata Mangeshkar came into the singing world, playback singing had barely started. Before that, we had stars and actors who couldn't sing to save their lives, but were made to do so because nothing else was available. We composers were at our wits' end trying to make non-singers sing.
Lata entered the film world at this time -- it was a refreshing breath of air that wafted to us. Composers felt that here was someone who knew music, who had the technical knowhow to understand what they wanted and deliver what they had composed. At times she even surpassed their compositions. Noorjahan was a wonderful singer, but she was a singing star -- she sang only for her own pictures.
When Lata entered I had already started playback singing in Bombay. It was started earlier in Calcutta by R C Boral and Pankaj Mallick.
The immediate effect
of Lata's entry was that composers stopped pulling their hair out trying
to compose within the negligible range of the singers. Let's say a composer
had made this fabulous tune -- but the singer's voice just couldn't do
justice to it -- he had to change it to suit the limitations
of the singer.
Now, suddenly there appeared this lady who has such a fine voice and range that composers could actually give vent to their own imaginative creativity. We felt we no longer had to limit ourselves. Composers who wanted to compose better music started doing so. We started thinking, 'now we can stretch ourselves, allow ourselves to add a few higher notes.'
She had so much polish that she could sing for anybody. Music itself changed with her coming. She came, she saw and she conquered. She refined herself so much that she could sing anything and for anybody. I think it is superfluous to say anything about her. She was supreme and she still is. No one has reached her level.
I have been told that my compositions for her were unsurpassed, but that's for listeners to decide. She does acknowledge that I taught her to breathe in and out in a way that no one could make out she was breathing.
When she started, she used to imitate Noorjahan who was very popular. But I told her, 'we have a Noorjahan, you must create your style. Her song for me, Tumhare bulaneko ji chahata hai, was sung in the Noorjahan style, but then she came into her own and moved ahead very swiftly. I told her, 'you have all the qualities needed for a singer, why do you want to imitate anyone else?'
She was one singer for whom you could actually create. It was such a pleasure -- that you could let your imagination have free rein knowing that only she could do justice to your compositions. People of the calibre of Sajjad Hussain, whom I consider an institution, conceived songs with her in mind and couldn't work without her. She has been called nightingale, queen etc. All these epithets are true -- actually what words can one use to describe her?
She was a fast learner and meticulous in her understanding and her grasp of a song. In her technical perfection too, she reached a new height. Earlier, singers, even the good ones, did not give much importance to the pronunciation of a song. So if you hear all the songs prior to Lata's entry, even if the music is attractive you will not be able to decipher the lyrics. She made lyrics clear, pronounced words carefully and made it easier for the listener to understand. This actually added to the popularity of a song.
So her contribution to our music has been immense and manifold.
SANJEEV KOHLI (composer Madan Mohan's son) :
She is very close to us. She is like a mother, and is a wonderful person. This is a relationship I cherish so much that I don't want to talk about it. I wonder why people are mentioning it.
Lataji was my father's rakhi sister. When we were young, we never realised what a great personality she was. She was just an aunt.
But we grew up and became more familiar with music and its intricacies. In fact, that was a problem when we were small children. We didn't realise the worth of our father as a composer. We were young and listened to young music. And my father was known for his old songs.
My father and Lataji were very close. In fact, when he came into films, she didn't sing for him in his first film. There was a communication problem then.
She had met him earlier when his father, that is my grandfather, was the owner of Filmistan Studios. They were making a film called Shaheed and she sung a song in it. There was a small part in the song, which had a brother and sister singing. He had sung the brother?s version, though the song wasn't kept in the film finally.
She remembers and reminds us about it and tells us that the brother and sister relationship stuck through the years.
When my father got married, he went and showed Lataji the picture of his bride-to-be. She said the bride was very nice and he got married. She was very much present at the wedding too.
And their career grew together though she was much senior to him in the industry. She started out in 42 and her first film as a singer was in 46 whereas my father became a composer in ?49.
Over the years, their relationship grew. People acknowledged that the kind of work they did together was the finest in the popular Hindi film music genre. There are people who say she sang best for him, though that might be a matter of personal opinion.
Even she gets surprised that she might have done so sometimes. Maybe he composed songs which suited her best -- that brought out something in her. I think she sang more soulfully for him.
She was close to my mother as well. She called her bhabhi and they were confidantes. I lost my father in '75, when I was 16. Lataji became closer to my mother after my father died and when I lost my mother in ?80, she became closer to us -- the children. This normally doesn't happen. Especially in this industry. You generally tend to lose contact with people in such situations. Unless it is a work-based relationship.
I had a wonderful experience when I joined the music industry. In my own personal capacity. I was too young to imbibe from my father since he died when I was really young. I couldn't go into the creative field of music at that time though the urge was there, but the confidence wasn't. I did an MBA, so I thought that the best one could do was manage music.
In ?79, I joined Polydor, which was the second major music company those days. And I had complete carte blanche to develop non-film music there. I was given the task of finding new talent in non-film music.
Also in ?75-76, some of the legendary names passed away. My father, then S D Burman, Vasant Desai and Mukesh. Also, there was a lot of disco music coming in, not to mention the action films being made, which changed the genre of music.
Music started taking a backseat and Hindi film music stopped selling, except for a few songs.You really can't remember any hit songs from that time which sustained beyond the film. Therefore, it was an uphill task to keep the romance in the songs.
So I decided to develop
ghazals as a form of music. Jagjit Singh helped me with that. I went to
Lataji those days, but had lost contact with her because I had gone to
Calcutta for my MBA. Also, when my father passed away, I wondered if I
could fall back on some good relationships, which would also be a part
of my career. I decided against it because I wanted to make it on my own.
So I never went to any of the artistes that I knew when my parents were
Lataji was a contracted artiste with HMV which meant she couldn't sing for other music companies, even for non-film music. So she couldn't record for us then. Polydor was going to distribute Richard Attenborough's Gandhi.
It didn't have any songs, but Polydor felt that an album would help. So, we thought, 'why not come out with an album of Gandhi?s favourite bhajans? This was not a part of the film at all, but we thought we could release it to coincide with the film. Naturally, Polydor was keen that Lataji sang for this since she was known for her devotional repertoire.
I went to her for the first time then. Not because I wanted her to do an album for me, but there was an occasion. We held the screening of the film for her, because she didn't know much about the film. She was inspired by it and made two albums with us. One was Gandhi Bhajans and one was Ram Ratan Dhan Paayo which became the highest-selling album then.
I was very shy, very nervous. Because she was too much of a legend. But now it is not so because of my professional relationship too. After that I recorded two live concerts, one of which was a memorable one with her and Kishore Kumar.
After that, I did a lot of albums with her. We did a bhajan album with her and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, and then I did another one called Sajda with her and Jagjit Singh. And I did one of the highest-selling albums in history called Shraddhanjali. Where she paid tribute to great singers like Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, K L Saigal and so on.
We started getting close this way again and now we are closer. She was always fond of the Madan Mohan family, but now maybe it has gone beyond that. Now, it extends to my wife and son as well.
Lataji is turning 70 and this is a landmark. I am not being biased because I do think I am very neutral in my opinion. So when I say she is the greatest singer in the world, it is because she is. There may be some people who say we are doing her a favour by talking about her, but the fact is that we are elevated to a status by doing so.
Working with her made me realise what a perfectionist she is. As children, we were not allowed to attend recordings because we had school. But we would fake illnesses and convince our father to take us to these recordings sometimes.
My father would tell me that Lataji would never go wrong with her notes. Every other singer did go wrong sometimes, but she was perfect. I am not exaggerating, I am telling the truth.
Today she is 70, and age does take its toll on people. None of us can be the same all the time. So at 70, if you can sound the way she does, it's a miracle. Today it's fashionable to say she doesn't sound so good anymore, she cannot. But the trouble is we are always comparing her with her. The fact is she still sounds better than many singers today.
In India, we always try to bring down somebody. So we are always trying to find a flaw. This happened with Mohammed Rafi. When Kishore Kumar came on the scene, Rafi had to take a backseat for four or five years. He started feeling insecure and lost his confidence completely when Aradhana was released. Kishore Kumar really hit big time with this film.
There was also a song from Pyar Ka Mausam -- Tum bin jaaoon kahan, which was sung by both singers. But Kishore Kumar's version became a big hit. This affected Rafisaab tremendously. It took a great effort to bring him back.
My father played a major role in that. Rishi Kapoor got a voice in Bobby with Shailendra Singh. But when my father got Laila Majnu, he insisted that Rishi's songs would be sung by Rafi and no one else.
The point I am making is that everybody goes through these phases and it is difficult to hold on to the glory. But Lataji has remained on top -- by virtue of a long life that God has granted her and because of the fact that she is still in demand.
She has been at the top right from the beginning. Nobody can remain that way for 54 years. We don't realise what a legend she is and we are trying to either underplay or bring her down by criticising her. Also, we give recognition to people only after they are gone.
Of course, Lata Mangeshkar has got her recognition. But what I am saying is that at 70, we need to nurture her, we need to give her more health, so she can sing a little more till the time she calls it a day.
I personally continue to work with her on various music projects. Last year, we went to the US and Canada for concerts and I helped manage the tour for her. I realised that when she stands and sings to a crowd of 20,000, the respect the audience has for her is tremendous.
When she is announced on stage, the entire audience gives her a standing ovation for at least five minutes. Nobody tells them to do it. Over there, they respect her more than we do here. They don't get to see her more often. Of course, it's very tiring. Going from city to city and singing ?she may not do these concerts now.
In her shows, there are no gimmicks. She just stands there, puts on her spectacles and reads from her collection of 25 songs. Last year, we had a show for in Bombay and it was telecast on Sony. It has been the largest grossing telecast and launched Sony as a channel.
There are so many things I get to hear from her. She fell ill during the early '60s. In fact, she always had a sinus problem, which very few people know of. It bothers her every morning.
There was a period when for six months, she had a severe infection and the first song she sang after that was for Hemant Kumar's Bees Saal Baad. The song was Kahi deep jale kahi dil. She wanted to cancel her song that day. But in those days, a song had to be recorded on a particular day, unlike today when the singer could do it whenever s/he felt better.
So the pressure was on Lataji to record it that day. She tells me that on that day at the Famous Studio, a lot of music directors went quietly to see whether she could still sing. Because their careers were dependent on her.
Lataji really arrived when she sang for some major films in ?48, which were released in ?49. They became the biggest musical sellers of all time. They were Barsaat, Badi Behen, Mahal, Ek Thi Ladki ...
It became a big problem for other singers. Because the kind of voices we were used to those days were heavy, throaty, loud voices. The style of film-making was loud too. The change in films happened with Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Raj Kapoor. Suddenly, there was a lot of subtlety in films then. Many people say that Lata Mangeshkar was partly responsible for this change because she had a softer voice.
Lataji was rejected initially when she came to the industry. S Mukherjee, who was a big producer and a partner with my grandfather, had said she would never succeed because her voice is too thin.
At that time, people didn't see the future with a microphone. People sound different when they sing into the microphone. Rafi's voice too, was soft. He would talk in whispers. But he sang the Yahoo kind of songs too.
Lataji completely overshadowed every other singer those days. Gradually, it was only her. Much later, Ashaji also joined. But Ashaji didn't sing much for heroines till after the '70s. Till then, she sang only for those films where they couldn't afford Lataji, or Lataji was not singing for that particular music director.
Like she never sang for O P Nayyar because she had a fight with him in his first film. So he had to fall back on an option. I am not denying anybody else's contribution, just telling you the history that existed then.
Lataji also fought with S D Burman for a few years. During that period, Ashaji sang for him -- in Sujatha, Lajwanti. Then came Bandini where Ashaji sang two songs, but for Mora gora rang layi le, he had to go back to Lataji.
And they patched up. My point is that Lata Mangeshkar became the voice of the Indian heroine. The heroines used to dress like her so that they suit her voice. Jaya Bachchan once told me this -- that she would dress like her because of the kind of singing she used to do. She went to the studios to see Lataji record and would use those nuances in her performance in Abhimaan.
So Lataji became the kind of voice India wanted. It's true even today, when she is singing far less out of choice than anything else. But the kind of voices we have today is so akin to her voice. Except for a few, who sound different, they all want to sound like Lataji.
So her contribution has been beyond just being so successful. When she started, till ?48, records never mentioned the names of singers. Mahal's record had Aayega aane wala as sung by Kamini, which was Madhubala's name in the film. Nobody would know who the singer was.
Then there came a time when the song became such a big hit that people wanted to know who the actual singer was.
Then Lataji started insisting that her name should be mentioned on the records. She even fought for her rights. The people who benefited from that are the generations to follow.
Another story is that about the Filmfare Awards. Till ?58, they had only one music award -- for the music director. There was no award for the singer or lyricist.
Lataji tells me this story. In ?57, Chori Chori won the best music award and the song was Rasik balma. So Jaikishen went to meet her -- he was very close to her -- and told her since they had won the award, she should come and sing the song on stage.
She refused saying since she had not won the award, she would not sing. Jaikishen insisted that she should. She refused again, saying he should get the instruments and just play the music. He was, after all, the music director. She wasn't doing this just for herself, but other singers as well.
She believed if the singer didn't sing the song, then it wouldn't be so popular. She was right. I remember there was a fight with my father as well. But he was more practical and agreed that without the singer, the song wouldn't be so popular.
Even today, with my experience in the music industry, I can say if I choose 10 of her biggest hits and mention they are all written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, it would sell around 10,000 copies. The same 10 songs, if I say, were composed by Madan Mohan, it would sell may be, 25,000 copies. But if I put Lataji's photograph on the album and say she has sung the songs, the sales would instantly shoot up to 200,000.
Since I am very close to her, she sometimes tells me, 'I don't know whether I deserved all this.' She is humble enough to admit this. My father found her voice pristine and she was able to do things that other singers couldn't. Lataji was a trained singer unlike others who were mostly star singers in those days.
The music directors
got imaginative because she could take the song to the highest note easily.
Today we say her songs are so high-pitched. But among the 30,000, we would
probably find a thousand sounding like that. She too grumbles she told
these composers not to do it this way since it strained
her voice. But they would say since she is singing, they would try and give her notes they couldn't give other singers. And the credit would go to the composer that he made her do that!
Sometimes her ability
to sing like this became a negative thing for her. She gave expression
to her songs. She has sung more light songs than you would care to remember.
She has sung Aa jaane jaa which Helen admits has been her best cabaret
number. But when we talk about her best, we talk about
In fact, somebody once asked me if she bullied others. She was known to tell the composers that if they used other singers then she wouldn't sing for them. I told them what would she do? Would she come and shoot you? Was she running the underworld? And if she refused to sing for you, then whose loss was it? The whole generation of music directors -- were they all crazy?
R D Burman, who was married to Asha Bhosle, gave his best songs to Lata Mangeshkar and admits it. We are not comparing the two here. What we are talking here is her success. Apart from her talent and perseverance, she fought a lone battle for her fraternity, which the others inherited her. She never talks about it because she is humble. We don't see that side of her.
She used to go in a train every day to audition for various music composers who would reject her. Today, it is not so difficult.
Lataji says her father told her mother that she is going to be a miracle. He knew a little about astrology. He died before she started singing. She became the breadwinner of the family at the age of 11. She acted in films till she was 15. Even small roles as extras, because she had to feed her younger siblings.
Lataji did all the hard work. Somewhere, God blessed her. So it's her talent, hard work, blessings from God and her parents that worked for her. She has transcended all age barriers by singing even today.
She is definitely the last of the living legends.
KALYANJI ANANDJI (composers):
We think Lata Mangeshkar is the only singer who delivers 100 per cent of a music director's expectations -- and in more than just the technical sense of sur and taal.
She has this uncanny instinct of knowing what exactly is going on in the composer's mind when he composes a song. Most of us composers are not good singers, and thus we cannot really sing well enough to convey all that we want out of our own compositions.
But Lata Mangeshkar does not need to be told the finer nuances at all. She guesses at them, and then delivers what is needed - cent per cent! When you hear her sing, you need not wonder how the song must have actually been when the music director had composed it -- because it must have been exactly as she has sung it!
As music directors, we have to oblige and change a note here or a scale there to accommodate a singer's request as s/he may be unable to do justice to a particular part. We have had to do this even with some senior singers and thus compromise on our original creations.
But this never happened with Lata. Some singers cannot bring in the expression we need. Others even overdo it. But Lata is just perfect. There is always an undercurrent of shastriya gaayaki (classical singing) in her vocal delivery. Yet, unlike many classically-trained artistes, she never once loses out on the emotions in the singing even as she is technically perfect.
Our association with her dates back to the early 1950s when we were musicians, and later assistants to Hemantda (Hemant Kumar). I remember her being present when I was playing the famous been piece for Nagin. She, I remember, had some really valid suggestions to offer, because of her very sharp sense of music.
Naturally, it was our dream to start out as composers with her, and our first film, Samrat Chandragupta, had all eight of its songs sung by her, which was an unforgettable beginning for us.
Among them were hits like Mujhe dekh chand sharmaaye, Chahe paas ho chahe door ho, Yeh samaa yeh mera dil jawaan. Not only did she readily agree to sing for us, but also actually helped us with suggestions.
We remember her even making us accompany her to the lyricists' houses if she wasn't satisfied with the lyrics -- we recall several trips with her from our house in Mangalwadi, Girgaum, where she would come for rehearsals, all the way to Hasrat Jaipuri's house in Khar.
We were very close for a long while, and we think that it was our common love for humour which cemented our relationship on a personal level. We used to record mainly at Filmcenter and in 90 per cent of the cases, it was an unwritten rule that she would come to our house for lunch -- she loved our Kutchi food.
We were also the first to make her overcome her fear of the stage and did several shows with her. It was a great honour for us when she won what is her only National Award to date for our song. At the same time, most of our films which won us awards -- Himalay Ki God Mein, Saraswatichandra, Kora Kagaz -- were with her singing all or most of the songs.
On a professional level, our relationship underwent a strain when certain vested interests gave her the impression that we were in the process of creating an alternative to her and constructing an anti-Lata platform.
But, how could anyone touch her heights? Besides, she herself has told us that our discovery, Sadhana Sargam, is the best among youngsters. Even today, we keep meeting at so many functions and she is always extremely courteous and cordial.
Our generation of composers -- Laxmi-Pyare, Pancham and us -- was especially lucky to work during her peak phase. All I can say is that Lata Mangeshkar is Goddess Saraswati's priceless gift to the industry.
MANNA DEY (singer) :
What can you say about Lata? I came to know her when she was not 'the Lata.'
During the Bombay Talkies days, I was rehearsing with Anil Biswas and one day, she was sitting there. I was called there for rehearsals. This girl was sitting there on one side. When I finished rehearsing my song, Anilda asked me whether I knew her. I said no and he asked me to sit and listen to her sing.
When she started, I was completely swept off my feet. Those days, we had Rajkumari, Amirbai Karnataki, Shamshad, Zohrabai Ambalewali, Geeta Dutt. Lata's singing was so different from these singers.
I asked Anilda where she had learnt to sing. Anilda told me she learned singing from her father who was a stage actor and singer. Her whole family was into singing. She had a beautifully balanced voice. A cultured voice it was.
After that, we didn't meet for a long time because she was not a full-fledged singer then. She was just trying to make it in the industry.
I wouldn't be able to tell you which was the first song I sang with her or when it happened. But it's a fact that with her entry into music, and the kind of prowess she had, music directors were so attracted to her singing that other artistes were eclipsed by her. She became a favourite with almost all the music directors.
I have been an avid follower of Lata's voice. I was very attracted to it. Other singers had their limitations, but Lata was a singer who could sing everything. That was the best part of her singing.
I was given to understand that she followed Noorjehan. I always maintained that Noorjehan was a great singer, but Lata was greater. Lata could sing a love song, an emotional song, a fast number -- she was phenomenal. I don't want to compare her to anybody because she can't be.
I would say it was my good fortune that I was her close friend and sang very good and immortal songs with her. During our recordings too, whenever she would stand next to me and sing, I would marvel at her technique. Her breath control was amazing. I have learnt so many of these techniques from her and I have imbibed them too. Breathing right when singing is very important and she knew it.
Lata was not as reserved as people thought she was. She had a tremendous sense of humour. She would make us laugh a lot. During recordings, she would tell us a lot of jokes. She had a good repertoire of them with her. And she was a good mimic. She would mimic anybody she found funny and did it very well. She is so gifted in everything. This kind of talent is not something that you learn, but something you are blessed with.
This profession is such a thing where you have to be a little choosy and careful, and some element of jealousy has to be there. When you see somebody else coming up and she is good, then you can't take it lying down. If you think she is good, then you got to catch up with her. Lata was alive to all situations.
People say that you are so famous, now allow somebody else to come up. But how many people can do it? Nobody in that position will allow it. How can she back out if she is good to maintain her position? So why blame her? Other singers say we don't get any songs because of her. But they should be like her first her first and then try and compete.
I am of this firm opinion, that these days all the female singers who sing in films have Lata as their idol. All of them look at her for inspiration. The songs she has sung over the decades will always be remembered.
Of course, now she is getting in on age and she understands that. People might make wild remarks about her now, but you can't forget what she has given the music world for all these years. It's unforgettable. She stands supreme as a singer and others are just her followers. Let people say she did not let other singers sing when she was at the top -- the fact is she was good enough to be at that position. So, nobody should really point fingers at her.
I have known her from the time she was an unknown singer to the time she became the topmost singer, and I have never found any change in her as a person. She would be modesty personified whenever we met. She was never high and mighty with us.
There were times when people misinterpreted her and there must have been reasons for that, but with us she was always the same. It is unkind to point fingers at anybody without knowing the reason for it. She must have her reasons for behaving that way.
How many people in this industry meet each other with genuine affection? Then why blame Lata for what she must have said or done? I knew that Rafi was better than me, that Kishore, was in his own way, better than me, so there was no jealousy from me. Lata was unsurpassable, how could anybody hope to compete against her?
Tell me is there anybody who can sing her old songs as well as Lata does? They can never be compared to her at all. She is blessed with a talent and that is why she is Lata.
There was a function where we all were invited and I loved the way Lata spoke there. She was so humble. That was the first time I heard Lata speak in such a humble way. She said, 'I am here because of you people. If you hadn't liked me, liked my songs, how could I hope to be what I am today?' I liked her surrendering her talent to God.
She also had an impeccable pronunciation. She pronounced her words beautifully. I always liked that and I keep listening to her songs even now.
We are a little old-fashioned, so we like songs which touch our hearts. The way she sang Laage na mora jiya or Satyam shivam sundaram nobody could match that. I can cite more examples. I listen to her and Rafi's songs and sometimes even cry at the way they have sung those songs. They really touch your heart.
The amazing thing is that they (Lata and Rafi) are from this country, but people from all over the world listen to them and rejoice. Only they were destined to have this kind of undisputed talent.
I don't think she really had to struggle much because her voice captured you at the first instance. It did with me and it did with most music directors.
If you have to talk about her struggle, then yes she had to keep her eyes and ears open. How to improve, how to really grow in stature and singing. That's why she said that she loved to listen to Noojehan and learn from her.
I have told you everything that I know about her and feel about her. I can say nothing more about her that would be anything else but appreciation for her talent.
DILIP KUMAR (actor):
She has had a glorious innings. She's been the darling of the nation. Her voice has regaled lovers of music all over the globe. She has devoted admirers in many countries other than India that bespeaks of the universal appeal and popularity of her gold voice.
And thanks to modern technology, her voice is now cherished and all her songs preserved in sound recording systems of much greater refinement. I send her my fond love and a prayer for her lasting good health.
I always had a love for music and had cherished a crazy dream to sing with her. I'd often tell this to friends -- that is music directors.
My great friend Salil (Choudhury) provided me with an opportunity to sing that song with her. The song was for Musafir which was Hrishikesh Mukherjee's first film and a kind of experiment.
This song -- Lagi naahi chhote Rama -- was sung and recorded with great abandon one evening or perhaps, one night. For me, at that time, it was quite an achievement. The words of that song are so nice, it's an old number and a very attractive one.
I've been asked if Lata was nervous singing that song but actually, it was I who was nervous. Because I had problems with the heat. Had I not had that problem I'd have taken the music and worked at it. And I was told by several knowledgeable people that I could do better.
But at that point I didn't have the time because there was so much work to be done on the sets to be worried about. I used to sit with the director, mulling over the scene, exploring the depths in them. I used to worry about these things a lot.
In music, the beat worries me -- if there are no beats, then I sing quite well; but if there is a beat, then I have to practice, do riyaz.
And that takes time -- nothing comes easy. I knew it. I've been very fond of music, particularly classical music and the light classical music that's sung in the Indian film industry. Most of the singers have been my friends -- even instrumentalists like Vilayat Khan.
Music has been a love for me. And Lata has been an exponent of music -- a very polished one.
NAUSHAD (composer, poet):
I first met Latabai in the '40s -- in 1942 or 1943. She used to come to sing for the chorus in Marathi films that were being produced by Kardar Productions.
There was a boy called Jayram in our office. He told me about this Marathi girl who was a very good singer. He asked me to listen to her and I asked him to bring her over.
That is how I met her. It was Jayram who brought her to me in my music room.
I asked her to sing. She sang the Noorjahan song, Mere liye jahan mein na chain hai na karar hai. I remember telling her it was okay, but she had to improve her pronunciation. Otherwise, I told her she had a good voice. I asked her to keep in touch and promised to do the best I could.
She used to come. Getting off at Parel from a tram. With an umbrella. Wet in the rain.
Her first song for me was a duet that she sang with G M Durrani. The song was Ae chorre ki jaat badi bewafa. I made her sing that for Rs 60 then! She was ecstatic and her hands were quivering with excitement. I had then told her it was nothing and she would make much more. Only that she would have to practise. Practise is everything. Only hard work would pay off. So, she would practise regularly.
I am not implying that I should be taking credit for her success. She practised, worshipped and worked hard and achieved success. And she practises till this day.
Her whole family had good singers. Her father Dinanathsaab, her younger brother Baal (Hridayanath Mangeshkar), who also sang his first song with me. That song was from Baiju Bawra -- Saacho tero naam Ram -- which is sung by a child in the film.
I want to say one thing. Many singers who sing on stage don?t mention music directors. But Latabai always made it a point to at least mention music directors like Madansaab (Madan Mohan) or me. This is a very good thing because behind a singer, there is always the composer. Crediting him for his work is a civil thing for the singer to do.
I have made her sing the maximum number of songs. In fact Mehboobsaab would tell me that she is a Marathi girl, her pronunciations are not right and I was making her sing a ghazal. I took the responsibility of making her perfect her pronunciation.
So, in Andaaz she sang for Nargis for the first time. I made her rehearse the song for 20 days. I told her I have accepted a challenge from Mehboobsaab that she would sing the song perfectly on the first take. Those days there were no tape recorders. We would record directly on the optical track of the film.
I rehearsed with her, got her pronunciation right. She learnt the whole ghazal by heart. I had to explain the ghazal verse by verse. She had to understand the meter so as to figure out when a line in an Urdu verse begins and ends. This helped her improvise on her breathing techniques.
I don?t know whether she remembers all this but I had made her do all this.
So I took her to Central Studios for recording, which was in Tardeo those days. Now it has turned into an AC Market. So there are no old memories left of those days.
The song was recorded there amidst Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Sardar Akhtar and Mehboobsaab. They were all sitting on the track. I told Lata that they were all deaf. Even the musicians are deaf. Only she was intelligent and knowledgeable and she should sing away confidently. So, I gave her confidence this way and she got her song right on the first take itself.
Raj Kapoor was ecstatic on hearing the song -- he lifted her up and asked me where I had found her.
These were singers who have learnt singing -- Lata, Asha, Rafi, Manna De and Mukesh -- unlike today' ssingers who are untrained.
Today?s singers copy the old singers. Old songs are still being played today because a lot of hard work went into them.
Age is always apparent. There is a lot of difference in Lata's voice then and now. Nobody can escape that. There used to be a transparency in her voice then. But it is not her fault. She still is hard working, has the same devotion, only she is older now. She can't help that.
Lata had a rare sense of loyalty. Not only would she want to sing perfectly, she would want everybody to do the same. She got her sisters to me once to sing in the chorus, because she didn't want even the chorus to go wrong. This was always very endearing about her. She always endeavoured to make things easy for me.
She wasn't alone those days. She had competition from singers like Zohrabai Ambalewali, Amirbai Karnatki, Shamshad Begum, Noorjahan. They were all good singers. But when they started retiring one by one, Lata got her chance. She sang with them too and did well. She accepted the challenge to be as good as them or be even better.
You become a legend when nature blesses you with such a talent. Not otherwise. Just because you have lived for more years doesn't make you a legend. I have done something like 67 films, that is not much from the industry's point of view. You can call me a legend because of that.
But Lata's contribution is much more. You can call Pankaj Mullick, Anil Biswas, R C Boral legends, and Lata can be called one too.
She used to be always very respectful towards me. When recently my latest book Aathwan Sur was released in London, she came for the inauguration and said a few words.
Her voice was definitely a gift from the God. Take any creative art. You can learn all the creative art that you want to, but you got to have the talent too. She had that, as did her sisters.
Today, the respect and honour that she commands is because of her talent and training. Even now music directors want her to sing their songs. So that the song is given the rare respect a Lata song gets.
This kind of luck and devotion are commanded by very few people, I am glad that Lata got that attention.
Now we are celebrating her birthday. Once before too, I had written a few lines for her birthday. I will repeat those for you. I hope you will understand the affection and respect I have for her.
Today, nobody really cares for one another and when somebody actually remembers your birthday and wants to celebrate it, then that is an amazing thing to happen.
Lata is daher
(duniya) mein jis mein khushi milti hai kam sab ko
Mubarak ho tera jashn-e-massarrat aaj hum sab ko
Tujhe nagmo ki jaan, ahele nazar yunhi nahin kehte
Tere geeton ko dil ka hamsafar yunhi nahin kehte
Suni sabne mohabbat ki jaban awaaz mein teri
Dhadakta hai dil-e-hindustan awaaz mein teri
Teri taanon mein husn-e-zindagi leta hai angdayi
Khuda rakkhe tere nagmo ka andaaz-e-masiyayi
Ke tu hai pyaar ka ek saaz is nafrat ki duniya mein
Ganimat hain teri awaaz is nafrat ki duniya mein
Dukhi hai laakh, phir bhi mutmayin hai dard ke mare
Teri awaaz ki shabnam se dhul jaate hai gam saare.
I will congratulate Lata on behalf of the music lovers in this country and my musical staff -- that she prosper more and we should be able to hear her for many more years.
What can one say about Lata Mangeshkar? One shouldn't talk about her, one should just quietly listen to her. One cannot give an opinion about her -- who are we to give an opinion? One can just give one's reactions to her.
Primarily, she is a very fine human being. To me, one thing that is most important is a sense of humour because that is a perfect reflection of one's personality. If it isn't there, you don't get fresh air. And she has a great sense of humour.
When you get to know her, you realise that it's not just her voice, but she blossoms, even as a person. Her sense of humour her decency -- these are the qualities that stand out.
In the filmi atmosphere, unfortunately, sometime or the other you get a dirty stink of humanity. But people like her seem clean? if you know what I mean. And I am not talking about just a few years -- she has been singing for over 50 years. We are fortunate that we are existing at the same time as she is.
Knowing her work, you can't help seeing her involvement and her dedication. In the films I've made -- perhaps I can claim to have made fairly good films -- I've worked with good artistes, but the involvement has come from very few people.
Where Lataji is concerned, she always asks questions like, 'how old is the actress I'm singing for?' And that suddenly makes me realise how come the heroine didn't think of asking how old is the character she is playing?
But then Lataji hasn't become what she is without the dedication she has shown for her work. She has to understand the situation, the characterisation before she sings. I've watched her rehearse with Hemant Kumar and Salil Choudhury and Madan Mohan -- she never came unprepared for a song.
Today, with this new trend of singing on readymade tracks, you find artistes becoming too casual about their singing. But Lata has the cassettes sent to her -- she listens to them and then prepares to sing.
Another thing I've noticed is that today's singers never sing a complete song -- they'll sing the mukhda, then a line of the antara. When they find that one line doesn't sound okay, they sing it again. So they complete the song in bits and pieces. How can these people be called singers?
Lataji makes it a point to sing the whole song six to seven times before she finally records. That is her dedication. That's why her songs convey an emotion, a feeling.
I once mentioned this to her -- this way of 'convenient singing' and she replied, 'I'm not so proficient to do it that way, I know no other way to sing except the way I do!' This is her humility. She is so soft-spoken and gentle.
We have grown with her voice -- she has become a part of our routine life. Perhaps, we don't exclaim at the beauty of her singing, because it's so much a part of our normal life...her voice falls onto our ears each day, so we take it for granted. When we don't hear her for a day, the day seems rather silent!
We are lucky to share her life -- those who passed away before her voice came to us were unfortunate. Of course, her voice will be there for future generations.
For me personally, she was my entry ticket to the film world. She sang my first song, Mora gora ang laile mohe shyam rang daide for Bandini. After that I met her with Hemant Kumar. But very rarely did I have the nerve to talk to her. Even when she recorded my song, I'd just stand on the side. I always thought, what are we before her? I started talking to her only after I began working with Hemantda.
I remember when I'd written the songs for Ghar there was this word badmashiyan in the song, Aapki ankhon mein... R D Burman told me to change the word as Lataji would definitely object to it.
I couldn't see why. Because when I wrote for her, I remained conscious of what I wrote. Not that I took any song lightly, but for her I used to feel there should be some outstanding quality in the song, something which will make her say 'it's good writing.' To get a pat from her was really something. At some stage, she did give me that pat. She told me, 'when I read the words of this song (Seeli hawa chhoo gayi seela badan chil gaya), I knew it was you.'
But where Ghar was concerned, Pancham kept insisting on changing this word. When Lata came to Film Centre to record the song, I remember she rehearsed the song and didn't say a word. I looked at Pancham. She noticed it and asked me the reason. And I replied, 'Deedum (that's what I called her), Pancham said you'd object to the word, badmashiyan.' At once, she asked, 'why, does it have a double meaning?' And we said, 'no.'
If you listen to the song, the way she pronounces this word -- with laughter in her voice -- makes it actually stand out.
I am happy she has sung lots of songs for me. Only she seems to understand that film singing has the rendering of a character in it -- it's not just singing -- I want to do an album with her and Hridayanath Mangeshkar.
Laxmikant and I knew the Mangeshkars much before Lata became a successful singer. Her brother Hridayanathji had formed a music group named Surel Kala Kendra. 'Surel' means in sync, though we as music directors were very out of sync where singing was concerned. So we had a nice group, which consisted of the Mangeshkar brother and sisters, we and some of our other friends. And we used to get together and sing songs.
This continued till the time when we became composers. By then, Lataji had become successful and was in a position to help us, which she did. She helped us a lot then. We always got her to sing our songs. Whether they were meant for the mother in the film or the sister or the child or the vamp, she sang most of our songs.
We liked her voice so much. Only later, when she was very busy, we had to make do with others. But she always was our first choice.
Lataji was a very accommodating person. She never refused to do anything for us. If we asked her to sing a song in a particular way, she always did it without complaints. She would never discuss money at all. Whatever we said, she agreed on that.
Many people say she is very manipulative and shrewd, but we know how soft-natured she is. Of course, like all artistes she is very moody, but she is not at all manipulative.
The thing that stands out is that she is very sincere about her work. We say she is a great singer and that her voice is like Goddess Saraswati, but all this is due to her sincerity towards her work.
Whenever she comes for a recording, she comes and sits with her head bowed. She looks like she doesn?t know anything. She always behaves like a student who has come to learn something. And she knows such a lot. She is a singer and a composer too, but she will always listen to whatever suggestions you have to make. Today, we sadly lack that kind of humility.
Music directors like Naushadji, Madan Mohan, S D Burman would take a lot of rehearsals, but when we did our first song Suno sajna with her, we just did one rehearsal and she had got it right. She had this knack that when we sing her the first lines, she would sing the second line too. She was knowledgeable in music.
We were very lucky we were there at her best time. She was at the top during the '50s and the '60s. Her voice was the best then and we could take advantage of that. Today, we miss her a lot.
Today, she is still at the top. She is singing for young heroines like Kajol despite her age. She still rules the music world. She still sings with the same sincerity that was there in the '50s. But what can I say about her singing now? She herself is mature and understanding, what can we say about what is right and what is wrong.
There will be many singers who come today, and they are good. But they are not as good as Lata is. Even today that is very apparent. To get that kind of success needs hard work. Lata is a blessed soul. She has a tremendous voice. She has sung the maximum amount of songs for us.
She started singing for Raj Kapoor because of us. Maybe that's why Rajsaab must have taken us too. He knew Laxmi and I were very close to Lata. But he never said this openly. She had not sung any songs in Mera Naam Joker, and the film didn't do well.
The next film, Bobby, had us as music directors. That is what I was saying. She has helped us indirectly many times this way. Through her, we got Rajsaab's films. To become a good singer, takes a lot of hard work and effort. These days, there's a lot of talent but no devotion. Lata is very devoted to her singing. There are a lot of singers who don?t know how to sing but still are very successful.
But those days Lata was supreme. You can make her sing at any level and she always managed to do it well. She didn't have any limitations to singing.
Singing needs sincerity and if you are bad at heart, you can never sing well. Lata has learnt all the good things from music and when she became famous, she gave the goodness back to it. It is really foolish of me to talk of her like this because most would know this already.
Even when Lata was very successful, she would never sing more than one song a day. Unless it was absolutely necessary. But she would never hurry up a music director. Whenever she would record for us, she would come and record for however much time we needed her for. And then she would go for the second one.
And then she used to joke a lot. She would make us laugh a lot. She would come in and first tell us a few jokes before starting the recording. Today, I know at least 25 of her jokes. The rest, I really don't remember. But her whole image of being serious was wrong.
I am not sure of whether those days, music directors were forced to work with her, but we preferred her at all times. So there was no question of her forcing us. I did hear rumours that she sidelined many singers, but the fact remains that she was good and nobody could compete with that. So I don't think any singer was sidelined because of her. No music director wanted anybody if they could get her to sing their songs. She used to be everybody?s first choice.
She was so helpful. Whenever we wanted her to sing for us, she always came for it. She would ask us when we wanted her to come and whatever time we told her, she would come. She would not even tell us that she would have to go for another recording that day. So if she were so accommodating, why would we even think of other singers?
There used to be no tension while working with her. She would be with us for as long as we wanted. So much has changed today. Music is not what it used to be. But because of singers like Lata Mangeshkar, there is still some hope.
ALKA YAGNIK (singer):
For me, she's like a member of my family. I've been listening to her songs since I was about four years old. She's like a goddess for me -- someone I've always followed. She has been my inspiration, I've tried to mould my career like hers.
She's perfect -- her voice, the way she sings. Her voice is so beautiful that even if she playbacks for some ordinary-looking actress, her face starts looking beautiful.
She's turning 70, and may she complete at least another 70.
Till today, when I go for work or am travelling in my car, it's not my songs or anyone else's that I listen to. They are always Lataji's songs. She has indirectly been my guru, because I'm still learning from her.
I've met her a couple of times. She's always blessed me and encouraged me. When I was 11 and was being groomed by Kalyanji-Anandji, I'd expressed the desire to watch her record a song. So they took me along for a recording.
The film was Heera and she was singing a song with Mohammad Rafi. I watched her sing and later touched her feet. I still remember what she said to me that day. She said, 'If you want to pursue music, do so. But let me tell you one thing -- finish your studies first!' I was extremely touched and it's something I'd always remember.
I feel there's a glow on her face which is a spillover of her shining voice. Her voice is a very rare combination of purity, innocence, mischief, all rolled into one. The vulnerability that comes through in her voice -- I find that on her face too.
I've heard all kinds of stories about her a lot of them, negative as well as positive. But I maintain that a person whose voice is so pure must have a pure soul. I refuse to believe that such purity does not source from a pure soul. I'm not referring to just her work, that is beyond debate today.
Whenever I'm asked to speak about her, I fall short of words. Every word sounds insipid. How can I express how much I worship and respect her?
She's turning 70 and she's still supreme, still at the top. I wish her every happiness and many more years of singing. So that this country can still enjoy her voice.
I remember when Master Ghulam had first used her to sing in Majboor. We were all surprised that he had used a new voice.
I used to be very close to him and asked him what kind of a singer she was and he'd said, 'Arre apne Dine ki ladki hai,' (she is our Dine's daughter) referring to Master Dinanath Mangeshkar who commanded a lot of respect as a foremost artiste in Maharashtra. She sang two songs for him and the film had done very well.
But when Kamal Amrohi made Mahal, he utilised her voice to its magical extent. Aayega aanewala was and will remain an all-time classic. The composer was Khemchand Prakash, but I still hand it to Kamal Amrohi to ask for this kind of song. The film was a musical mystery and the way he had utilised Lata Mangeshkar's voice is something.
I remember Ghulam Haider said at that time that if this young girl keeps her balance, she will touch the sky. His words were, 'Woh aasman ki bulundiyon ko chhuyegi. Which she did.
I first had her sing for me in Pyar Ki Baatein for Nargis Arts. The music was to be done by Bulo C Rani, but he fell ill and asked me to complete the songs. Lata sang two songs, one of them being Ab kahan jaayon pasbaan koyi nahin... This was my fourth or fifth film.
She has sung some beautiful songs for me, the one that comes to mind immediately is Ay dil-e-nadaan (Razia Sultan). I started working with Lata in 1949 and we've had a good time working together.
What can one say about her? She's God's gift to us -- to the people of this country and indeed, to the world.
KAVITA KRISHANMURTHY (singer):
My love for film music arises because of Lataji's songs. Not just her voice, she is the ideal exponent of everything to do with music. For me, there cannot be anything greater than her... I'm not talking about the pure classical format, but the light music format with words in it.
No one is greater than her as far as emotion, perception of words and the spiritual quality is concerned -- you feel it's not music for the sake of entertainment but music for the sake of reaching god -- which actually is the real purpose of music.
I remember the first time I met her. I was recording for Hemant Kumar -- I had to sing just two lines. And Hemantda told me that Lataji was coming. I was instantly nervous. This was in early '71, I was singing for a Bengali film in which she was singing.
When she came in, I was so tongue-tied that I forgot my two lines because I just kept staring at her. And she smiled at me very quietly. It was a great experience.
In fact on the way back home she stopped her car and asked if she could drop me somewhere. I was walking out with my mother and I said 'no, no we're going in the opposite direction.' I was so nervous that I started walking back towards the studio instead of away from it. Till my mother said, 'hey we're walking away from our road.' I was so overtaken with emotion -- I was overawed, I've always been overawed by her personality.
I think she's a wonderful gift to our country.
As a person too, she's great company. If you catch her in the right mood, she's extremely funny. She's a great mimic too and she can say the funniest things with a straight face. She can be so mischievous and can keep you in splits.
When I received my first Filmfare award for 1942 A Love Story, she too was being felicitated. She said so graciously, 'I'm very happy that Kavita has got the award, she deserved it.' And I felt -- as did so many others -- that acknowledgement was a greater gift than the award I was holding in my hand.
I think she epitomises
all that is great in music and she has set very great standards for all
the singers in this country.
Mangeshkar : A living legend...