Life full of Music

Life full of Music

Latha Mangeshkar who celebrated her 85th birthday last week. Latha Mangeshkar was born at Indore in Madhya Pradesh on September 29, 1929. Her father...

I've learnt that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it, says Latha Mangeshkar who celebrated her 85th birthday last week

Latha Mangeshkar was born at Indore in Madhya Pradesh on September 29, 1929. Her father was Dinanath Mangeshkar, a Hindustani classical vocalist and a dramatist. Latha’s orginal name was Hema. She was renamed Latha, after the name of a character in one of the plays written by her father. As a child, Latha even acted in stage plays organised by her father. She was barely nine when she first gave her music performance along with her father at Solapur. As she entered into the world of music very early in life, she did not have formal education. She learnt languages like Bengali and Sanskrit as required for her singing only at home through special tutors.

Interestingly, she sang for a couple of Telugu films too. ‘Santhanam’ and ‘AakhariPoratam’ for composers Susarla Dakshina Murthy and Ilaya Raja, respectively. “Niduraporaathammudoo….” from ‘Santhanam’ has remained a haunting melody to Telugu music lovers. She also sang a few songs in Tamil and Malayalam movies. The duet she liked most was from the film ‘Milan’, “SawankaMaheena….” That she sang along with Mukesh. The film was, incidentally, a remake of the Telugu superhit ‘Moogamanasaulu’ directed by Adurthi Subba Rao. The song is the Hindi version of “Naapaata nee nota palakaalasilaka….”. Latha Mangeshkar’s Ghazal album “Saadgi” written by Javed Akhtar was released in 2007.

She was awarded National Film Awards in 1972, 1974 and 1990, Filmfare Awards in 1959, 1963, 1966 and 1970. She received the coveted Bharat Ratnain 2001. Dada Saheb Phalke Award, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Maharashtra Bhushan Award are the other prestigious awards conferred on her. She was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1999.

She gave countless concerts in various countries of the world. The Latha Mangeshkar Medical Foundation runs a Hospital in Pune named after her father Dinanath Mangeshkar.

Latha and Asha Bhosle during their younger days

In one of her interviews, in 1984, legendary playback singer Latha Mangeshkar politely but emphatically refuted the so called ‘Mangeshkar monopoly’ in Hindi films. “This is a figment of imagination ….If Asha and I are sisters and between us, we have had a lion’s share of female playback singing, it’s just merely not because we are sisters. Manipulation can never withstand fierce competition of the film industry.” Her elucidation apart, indisputably, Lathaji and her younger sister Asha Bhonsle have been the most revered and preferred female voices in the Bollywood for over half a century.

She tweeted some time ago, “I've learnt that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it”. The tweet has volumes to say about how she chiseled her entire musical career over decades. For her, the journey, rather than the destination, was more enlivening. She might be an enigma to the rest of the world but she has been a rare combination of inborn talent and cultivated professionalism.

With more than 25,000 songs in 20 languages, Lata Mangeshkar ( born on 28, September 1929) is a true singing icon of our times. Though all her siblings – Asha Bhonsle, Usha Mangeshkar, Hridaynath Mangeshkar and Meena Mangeshkar – are singers in their own right, Lathaji’s position as numeruno goes unquestioned. Asha Bhonsle, however attained celebrity status parallel to that of her elder sister Latha.

Her first song was for a Marathi film ‘Gajaabhaau’ in 1943, when she was barely 13. She had a large family comprising of her mother, three younger sisters and a younger brother to support. She was the sole bread winner for the family. To reach the studios for her recordings, she used to travel by local trains and walk long distances from Nana Chowk, Mumbai, where she lived after migrating from Indore in 1945. She admitted that when she began singing, her voice was too ‘shrill’ to suit songs sung by heroines in films. The first raving hit for Lathaji, came in 1949, the song “Aayega Anewala” (filmed on the much celebrated Madhubala), composed by Khemchand Prakash for the film ‘Mahal’.

Be it ‘Baiju Bawra’ (1952), ‘Devdas’(1955) , ‘Shree420’ (1955), ‘Chori Chori’ (1956) or ’Madhumati’ (1958), every notable Hindi film of the 50’s had her songs that contributed to the stupendous success of these films and also served as the foundation stones for her eminence that was to remain bright in the subsequent decades. Film after film, song after song reverberated across the length and breadth of India infusing vitality, soulfulness and patriotic fervor in the minds of the countrymen.

It is ironical that Lathaji’s father was against his daughter(s) finding a career in films. And they became absolute icons in the world of films through their singing potential. Some of the best numbers of Lathaji like “Ajeeb Dastan Hai Dil” (DilaApnaPreetParaya), “Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai” (Guide- 1965)), “Hoton Pe Aisi Baath” (Jewel Thief -1967), “Lag Ja Gale” (Who Kaun Thi – 1964) came during the illustrious 60’s. “There were talented music directors who could bring out the best in us and each had his own original style. Anil Biswas, Naushad Ali, S D Burman, Shyam Sunder, Vasant Desai and others,” Latha humbly acknowledges in one of her interviews, the greatness of the music directors of yester years, who patronised and groomed her in the initial years of her career.

She does not negate the influence of Noorjehan, Latha’s predecessor as a play back singer in Hindi films, “She is a great singer and had all the essentials such as style, pronunciation and a melodious voice. It is only natural that she left a great impact on my singing,” she dispassionately agrees. But, within a very short span of time, she could evolve herself as a singer with her own inimitable style and perfection.

Though labelled in the movie circles of Mumbai as somewhat a reticent, she continues to be a cult personality for millions of lovers of Indian film music.

She had her own well known fall outs with eminent personalities in the Mumbai movie Industry - From Raj Kapoor to Mohammed Rafi to S D Burman and C Ramachandra. But her position as the most sought after female voice never got relegated. Her talent and inborn originality perhaps trounced her occasional capricious upsurges. She never lost her cool and maintained a stoic attitude despite the criticism she faced.

A famous anecdote is about how Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India himself was moved to tears when Lathaji rendered (on January 27, 1963) “Ae Mere WatanKe Logon” in his presence. The song came after the Indo-china war of 1962, when Punditji was in the classic state of gloom because of the flak he had to face after the war with China. C Ramachandra composed the song.

Despite being a great celebrity, Latha retains her simple attitude and habits. Sharat and Bankim Chandra’s novels have been her favorites on her book shelf. Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan and Begum Akhthar have been her revered Ghazal singers.

“My nieces and nephews are like my own children” she proclaimed with a great heart as the head a family for over 60 years. She had remained single.

Her philosophy of life has been “to do good … and not expect anything in return … If you don’t expect, you will be happy. If the unexpected happens, you will be happier” - Latha codifies the secret of life in one of her interviews. She has remained the typical humanistic individual who never ignores interpersonal relationships. She sang the song “Angrezi me kehtehaiki I love you ….” (much to her dislike) for Rajesh Roshan, just because she did not have the heart to refuse him as she had known him right from his childhood. She always ‘relished small pleasures’ as she tweeted recently.

Long live Lathaji !

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