Queen of Melody, Nightingale of India: Lata Mangeshkar’s Golden Voice Touched Millions

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She is one of a handful of Indians whose name strikes a chord in distant corners of the globe.

She lifted our hearts an octave or more with love and longing, moved us to tears of joy and sorrow, sometimes introspection and other times dancing in abandonment, her voice reflecting our every emotion. , his songs spanning the cadence of time and history from the gramophone to the digital age.

Lata Mangeshkar is dead but the music continues in a seemingly endless chorus, as it has for almost eight decades and probably many more. Mangeshkar, 92, died Sunday. On February 6, in a hospital in Mumbai, sang not only in Hindi but in almost all other Indian languages, this moving singing voice for actors from generation to generation, from Madhubala to Preity Zinta and dozens of others between the of them.

It’s the golden voice that millions of South Asians listen to when they wake up and often the last thing they hear before they stop, the beating heart of a shared memory passed down from generation to generation.

The nicknames are many, “the queen of melody”, “the nightingale of India”, “the voice of the millennium” and simply “lata didi” for many.

Indore-born Mangeshkar’s first recorded song dates back to 1942 in Marathi film Kiti Hassal when she was only 13 years old. In October last year, 79 years later, Vishal Bhardwaj released ‘Theek Nahi Lagta’, a song featuring Mangeshkar’s favorite lyricist, Gulzar, which is believed to have been lost.

“This long journey is with me and this little girl is always with me. She has not gone anywhere. Some people call me Saraswati’ or say I have her blessings. They say I am this and that. C “It’s their blessing that people like everything I sing. Otherwise, who am I? I’m nothing,” Mangeshkar said in his final interview with PTI a few days after the song’s release.

His many millions of fans will disagree. To them, and even to those unfamiliar with her music, she is one of a handful of Indians whose name strikes a chord in distant corners of the globe.

The work is so overwhelming that it is impossible to take stock of it all at once, with opinions divided as to whether it was 10,000 songs, 15,000 or 25,000.

There were the gems that shimmered in the crowd – from the unfilmed tribute to the Indian soldier, “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon”, which she sang in the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1963 and famously teared it up and the classic ‘Mohe Panghat Pe’ (Mughal-e-Azam) to the romantic ‘Ajeeb Dastaan ​​Hai Ye’ (Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai) and the seductive ‘Baahon me Chale Aao’ (Anamika).

She has been awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, the Dadasaheb Phalke award and many more.

Unusually for someone so revered and so well known to the public, Mangeshkar has always been fiercely protective of her privacy. The image of the soft-spoken woman dressed invariably in white and pastels with sparkling diamonds in her ears, perhaps the only concession to her wealth and fame, has stood the test of time.

She remained single despite her much-speculated relationship with cricketer Raj Singh Dungarpur, which he spoke about and which she never did.

The much-discussed competition with sister Asha Bhosle also made headlines and rumors, but nothing she ever bothered to clarify. Just like the two Mangeshkar sisters kept silent about the persistent talk about how they were running the industry and not letting others up in the industry. There were other controversies, like his feud with Mohammed Rafi over royalties and his brief fallout with Raj Kapoor, but those were just bumps in a long career.

The beginnings were humble.

Mangeshkar was born on September 28, 1929 to Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar, a Marathi musician and Gujarati Shevanti housewife in Indore. She was the eldest of five children Meena, Asha, Usha and Hridaynath.

Her talent as a singer was discovered by chance by her father, a musician and theater artist, when she was only five years old.

The untimely death of his father placed the financial burden on the family on the shoulders of a 13-year-old Mangeshkar. A family friend, Master Vinayak, came to the family’s aid and Mangeshkar started singing and acting in his theater company.

When she went to Mumbai, producer S Mukerji rejected her as he found her voice too thin. But fame was waiting just around the corner. The song was ‘Aayega Aana Wala’, the movie mahal and the year 1949.

Playback singers were not a priority and the haunting song, one of Mangeshkar’s most beloved, was first assigned to Kamini, Madhubala’s screen name in the film.

It was such a rage that people inquired about the identity of the singer, forcing the radio station to contact HMV to ask who had sung the song, Mangeshkar recalls in Nasreen Munni Kabeer’s documentary ‘Lata Mangeshkar: In Her Own Words”. Lata Mangeshkar has been identified on air. And the star was born.

The 1950s belonged entirely to Mangeshkar who continued to work with great composers such as Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad Ali, SD Burman, Hemant Kumar and Madan Mohan. Although the money was not huge, these were busy years for Mangeshkar and sometimes saw her recording six to eight songs a day, returning home, sleeping for a few hours, then taking the train back to a recording studio.

Her voice was such a guarantee of success that major actors over the years would insist that Lata Mangeshkar be their voice and write that condition into their contracts.

In the 60s, Madhubala was again the face of Mangeshkar’s voice in the evergreen Mughal-E-Azam with the defiant ‘Jab Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya’ becoming synonymous with the rebellion of many lovers.

The 60s also marked the start of his collaboration with Laxmikant-Pyarelal with whom Mangeshkar sang over 700 songs over a span of 35 long years, most of which became huge hits.

The period saw his record duos with Mukesh, Manna Dey, Mahendra Kapoor, Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar. And of course the 70s will be remembered for Meena Kumari’s latest film Pakeezah and Abhimaan.

The 80s saw her working on films such as Silsila, Chandni, Maine Pyar Kiya, Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Prem Rog, Ram Teri Ganga Maili and Masum.

His most notable songs in the 1990s and 2000s were the film Lekin directed by Gulzar and the films of Yash Chopra Lamhe, Darr, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Dil To Pagal Hai. Mangshkar’s last full album was Veer-Zaara in 2004.

Lata Mangeshkar is gone but will never be silenced.

Whatever the theme, the girl sang

As if his song could not have an end.

It was William Wordsworth in another era. But for Lata Mangeshkar, her songs will have no end.

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