Lata Mangeshkar, our very own Koh-i-Noor (Mountain of Light), India’s Malika-e-Tarannum (Queen of Melody), will always be one of the brightest jewels in the crown that graces the rich cultural landscape and varied from India. She has lent her voice to generations of actors in a brilliant and magnificent career spanning more than six decades. His repertoire has spanned virtually every genre of Indian music, every major Indian language, and every possible human emotion.
Lata Mangeshkar’s singing is usually described in hyperbolic terms, but the remarkable feature of her singing abilities is that no number of hyperbolic adjectives seem to adequately capture her musical virtuosity and genius. This shouldn’t be dismissed as a manifestation of an adoring, uncritical fandom: it’s as true for its millions of fans as it is for connoisseurs.
Maestros of Hindustani classical music have commented on the perfection of his sur (pitch and key), his mastery of the laya (rhythm) and his ability to produce very subtle and tiny harkats and murkis (small rapid variations) which have perhaps be raised the melody. beyond what the musical director envisioned.
An unparalleled legend
As singers who have attempted to replicate even a fraction of those subtle touches know, those moves that sound so easy and effortless in his voice are incredibly difficult. The only singer who matches this talent is her sister Asha Bhosle.
The story of her personal life resembles the script of many films for which she sang. The tragic and premature death of her father led her to start working at the age of 13, when most girls still played with dolls. She did not attend regular school but learned to read and write at home. Her attention to language and her perfectionism can be seen in the way she enunciates the lyrics of the language in which she sings.
She first tried her hand at acting but was unsuccessful, possibly because her appearance did not match the standards of conventional female beauty of the time. Despite his prodigious talent, his entry into playback singing was not a piece of cake. But after the super-success of 1949 mahal (for which she sang “aayega aanewala”), there was no turning back. There have been excellent obituaries that capture various aspects of her life and career as she reached stratospheric heights.
Lata understood the exact emotion behind each song and conveyed that very precise feeling to her listeners, who felt that this song was sung for them individually, telling their personal story: the heady first feeling of being in love, the euphoria of the premiere the kiss, longing, expectation, longing, romantic banter, rebellion against authority, grief, dizzying heights of happiness, depths of despair, patriotic pride, spiritualism and the call to the divine, love of nature, philosophical reflections, rejecting inequality and injustice – there is a Lata song that expresses all these emotions and states of being.
proximity to power
His life has been the subject of intense scrutiny both during his lifetime and after his death. The internet is full of all kinds of half-truths and misinformation. She busted many of these myths in her conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir.
Many of the comments after his death were truly bizarre both because they had nothing to do with his music (his most defining characteristic) and because of their extreme self-righteousness that substituted for factual accuracy. She was attacked for embodying Brahmanical privilege, which was strange to say the least, since she did not come from a Brahmanical family.
Much ink has been spilled over its monopoly power. He was a superstar whose career crossed that of all the male superstars of cinema, some of whom have survived: from Raj Kapoor to Dilip Kumar via Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. Can anyone seriously argue that his exceptional musical talent did not play a role in the success of their films?
Many of us adore our male superstars but are quick to knock Lata down. During her active years, she stood tall as a colossus in a male-dominated world. If we’re determined not to discuss her music but other aspects of her personality, why not discuss how she managed to negotiate the very tough and difficult world of Bombay cinema?
She, like other superstars of Bombay sport, industry and film, was friends with Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray. One can (and should) discuss the factors that made the Shiv Sena so powerful in Mumbai and Maharashtra that they ended up developing alliances with a host of very prominent individuals.
Coming to Lata, the question to ask would be, did her closeness to the Shiv Sena prevent her from forming deep friendships and bonds with Muslims? Some of its best productions have been made in collaboration with Muslim artists – actors, musical directors, lyricists and poets.
The Sound of Inclusive India
For her, they were artists, human beings and her natural collaborators, whom she deeply respected. She never hesitated to publicly express her respect and love to them. They were as much a part of his personal life as they were of theirs and their family’s.
Its universal appeal was evident in the collective outpouring of grief and mourning into which the nation plunged upon leaving this land. It didn’t matter that his death was foretold by his recent poor health. When it happened, the shock was sincere and palpable. It was not just the Indians who were crying as if they had lost a member of their family. Grief transcended national borders.
Lata Mangeshkar sang of harmony and love and her personality united India across divides – class, caste, religion, gender and linguistics. The dastardly attempt to stir up controversy over Shah Rukh Khan’s dua at his funeral was overwhelmingly rejected. It goes to show that there is a huge number of people out there who don’t want Lata’s memory being tarnished by cheap and ugly gadgets, and dare I say, misinformed analyses.
As we collectively bow our heads in his memory, we would do well to revive and strengthen the inclusive India that is defined by the sweet sound of his music.
Ashwini Deshpande is Professor of Economics and Founding Director of the Center for Economic Data and Analysis at Ashoka University. She is passionate about Hindi film music and has written about it occasionally, including a long essay on Lata Mangeshkar as part of a debate.
This article first appeared on OpenAxis.
Read also :
Lata Mangeshkar (1929-2022): Her voice was divine and incomparable, warm and familiar
How Lata Mangeshkar Learned to Read and Write (Despite Only Being in School for One Day)