With a repertory brimming with songs of innumerable numbers, spanning over her long musical career of eight decades, Lata Mangeshkar needs no special introduction whatsoever. Her honey-soaked melodious voice has mesmerized millions of music lovers across this subcontinent and its beyond over the years and will continue to enthrall people over next years and ages across the world. In the manner the legendary Egyptian singer, and thereof the musical voice of the Arab world, Umme Kulsum was dubbed the Nightingale of the Nile, Lata Mangeshkar is equally dubbed the Nightingale of the Ganges.
Her honeyed voice flows and resonates like rippling sound of running river across the sub-continent among the voices of millions of people who lend their ears to her mellifluous songs of both melodies and pathos to sooth their minds in joy & happiness and tragedies laced in hopes and despairs in different twists and turns of life. With her conspicuous presence in the world of music stretching long over eight decades as mentioned, Lata Mangeshkar has transcended the barriers of being a classic living legend and has rather become larger than life.
Born on September 28, 1929 to father Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar, a classical singer and theatre actor and mother Shudamati, Lata Mangeshkar grew up with her siblings --- Meena Khadikar, Asha Bhosle, Usha Mangeshkar and Hridayanath Mangeshkar at a Marathi family of musicians and cultural activists under the tutelage of her father Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar and acted, at the age of five, in her father's musical plays. Lata moved to Bombay in 1945 and started taking lessons in Hindustani classical music from UstadAman Ali Khan. In 1948, music director Ghulam Haider mentored her as a singer.
Haider gave Lata her first major break with the song : 'Dil Mera Toda, Mujhe Kahin Ka Na Chora' in the movie Majboor (1948). One of her first major hits was : 'Aayega Aanewala' a song in the movie Mahal (1949) lip-synced on screen by actress Madhubala. In the 1950s, Lata sang songs composed by various music directors of the time, including Anil Biswas in films such as Tarana (1951) and Heer (1956); Nausad, Shankar - Jaikishan, S.D. Burman, Amarnaath, Husanlal in films like Bari Behen (1956) Meena Bazar (1950) Aadhi Raat (1950) Choti Bhabi (1950) Afsana (1951). Aansoo (1953); and C. Ramchandra, Hemant Mukharjee, Salil Chowdhury, Khayyam, Ravi, Sajjad Hussain, Kalyanjee - Anandjee, Madan Mohan and Usha Khanna. Lata sang many raga based songs for Nausad in movies such as Deedar (1951) Baiju Bawra (1952) Amar (1954), Uran Khatola (1955) Mother India (1957). Her unforgettable songs in Deedar such as : 'Le jaye mere doyaye' : 'Tu kon hai mera Kehede Balam' : 'Dekh liya maine' : 'Sukh chain hamara chin liya'; Baiju Bawra such as : Bachpan ki mohabbat ko dil se na juda karna : 'Mohe bhul gaye sanwariya' : Jule me pawan ke aayi bahar lip-synced on screen by Meena Kumari; Amar such as : Tere sadke balam nakar koi gham : 'Na shikwa hai koyi, naa koyi gila hai' 'Jaane wale se molaqat naa hone paayi' lip-synced by Madhubala : 'Ho, tamanna loot gayi : 'Umango ko sakhi piki nagariya kaise le jaaun' : 'Khamosh hai khewanhar mera' lip-synced on screen by Nimmi and lot more in hundreds and thousands; are only like tip of ice-berg, enthrall the minds and souls of her millions fans and admirers particularly belonging to black & white era of bygone days. Who can forget her sad songs : 'Preet yeh kaise bolre duniya' : 'Aye mere dil kahin aur chal' (in female voice) : 'Khahe ko der layaiyere ayena abtak balama' sang for Daag lip-synced by Nimmi ? Lata Mangeshkar's musical renditions for films Barsaat, Awara, Aah, Poonam, Amber, Moghul-e-Azam, Ganga Jamuna, Devdas and lot more to name are indelibly imprinted in the memories of her millions fans and admirers. During the 1960S and 1970S Lata sang several Bengali songs, composed by music directors like Salil Chowdhury and Hemant Mukherjee.
Her Bengali specials like : 'Prem ekbar eshechilo nirobe, amar duare prante' : 'O, Palash, O Shimul' : 'Banshi keno guy, amare kandai', 'Gopi jono mono chor': 'O, mor maina go' etc still resonates in the ears of her fans and admirers. On January 27, 1963, against the backdrop of Sino-Indian war, Lata sang the patriotic song : 'Aye mere watan ke logo' in the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru, then the prime minister of India.
The song is said to have brought the prime minister to tears. Lata recorded two popular bhajans : 'Allah Tero Naam' and 'Prabhu Tero Naam'. She also recorded several popular songs of S.D.Burman including : 'Aaj fir jaane ki tamanna hai' : 'Piya tose' for Guide (1965) and 'Hothon pe aisi baat' for Jewel Thief (1967).In 1972 Meena Kumari's last film Pakeezah, was released.
It featured popular songs including : 'Chalte Chalte' and 'Inhi Logone' sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Lata's songs : 'Na roye dil kanhi rone se takdir badalti hai' : 'Hamara dil se na jaane dhokha na khana' : 'Haale di mai kya kahn muskil hai mere saamane' for Uran khatola lip-synced on screen by Nimmi stir the cords of bleeding hearts of lovelorn listeners.
She also sang many song of Assames language and had a very good relationship with Dada Saheb Phalke Award winner singing legend, the late Bhupen Hazarika. In the early 1970S she released her other non-film albums, such as her collection of Mirza Ghalib ghazals. I will be failing in my duties if, at their point, I don't mention the names of great lyricists of black & white era like Shakeel Badayuni, Hasrat Jaipuri, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shahir Ludhianvi, Sailendra, Tanvir Naqvi, Rajindra Krishan and other great lyricists and poets of their likes who composed songs for Lata to sing in numerous Hindi movies.
From the 1970S onward, Lata Mangeshkar staged many concerts in India and abroad, including several charity concerts. Her first concert overseas at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1974 and was first Indian to do so. Before concert began, Lata was introduced to audience by none other than the legendary actor Dilip Kumar who calls Lata as his younger sister and Lata with reverence calls Dilip Kumar as her elder brother Yousuf Bhai, In an introductory speech, Dilip Kumar spoke : '-------- Jis tarah phool ka khusboo aur mehek ka koi rong nehi hota hai, mahj khusboo hoti hai; jis tarah ubhorti huyee suroj ka kirono aur kisi masum baccho ki muskarahat ka koi mazhab aur bhedhou nehi hota hai, eisha hi Lata Mangeshkar ki awaz kudrat ki takhleeq ka ek charisma hai ------------''in his Urdu literary grandeur.
Lata Manageshkar recorded songs in over thousands Hindi films and sang songs in over thirty six regional Indian languages and foreign languages. A gifted voice, with impeccable simplicity in her characteristic feature carefully nurtured from her childhood days, Lata Mangeshkar rose to prominence to the Himalayan height by her perseverance, hard work and utmost devotion to music over the ages.
Apart from being a recipient of 4 prestigious Flimfare Award and Flimfare Life Time Achievement Award, 3 National Film Awards, 15 Bengali Film Journalist's Association Awards on several occasions, Lata Mangeshkar was bestowed with The Dada Saheb Phalke Award by the government of India in 1989. In 2001, in recognition of her contributions to the nation, she was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award. Government of France conferred on her its highest civilian award --- Officer of the Legion of Honor in 2007.
As the time flies, with the wind of changes, Lata Mangeshkar is now in the shoes of a nonagenarian walking the twilight of life in blissful solitude at her sweet home Probhu Kunj, Bandra, Mumbai, leaving her nectar-filled sweet voice abuzz like euphonious tone of nightingales and other singing birds remaining abuzz in the air to sooth the soul of nature longing for lasting bliss.
Music which is ingrained in her blood stream, Lata cannot live apart from music which, she is nourishing and in her routine prayer as I reason. Like millions of her fans and admirers, I wish her long life in good health and further wish to remain happy with her honey sweet voice for ever.
The writer is a former civil servant.