A Tribute to Lata Mangeshkar

A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Bharat Ratna and Queen of Melody Lata Mangeshkar has passed away at the age of 92 after a prolonged illness. During her seven decade long career, the legendary Indian singer recorded songs in over thirty-six Indian languages and few foreign languages. During her illustrious musical journey, the Nightingale of India was bestowed upon with three National Film Awards, 15 Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards, four Filmfare Best Female Playback Awards, two Filmfare Special Awards as well as the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award. In the year 2001, she was awarded India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, 14 years after she was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, back in 1987. Lata was also the first Indian to perform at Royal Albert Hall, London.

Watch Murtaza Ali Khan paying his heartfelt tribute to Lata Ji on TV

Lata Mangeshkar was born in Indore in the year 1929. Her father Deenanath Mangeshkar was a classical singer and theatre actor. A few years after her father’s death, she moved to Mumbai and started taking lessons in Hindustani classical music from Ustad Aman Ali Khan of Bhindibazaar Gharana. Lata sang a bhajan "Maata Tere Charnon Mein” for Master Vinayak's first Hindi-language movie,
Badi Maa (1945). In 1946, she sang the song "Paa Lagoon Kar Jori" for Vasant Joglekar's Hindi-language movie Aap Ki Seva Mein. After Vinayak's death, music director Ghulam Haider mentored her as a singer. In the year 1948, Haider gave Lata her first major break with the song "Dil Mera Toda, Mujhe Kahin Ka Na Chhora" in the movie Majboor.  In Lata’s own words: "Ghulam Haider is truly my Godfather. He was the first music director who showed complete faith in my talent.”

Lata Mangeshkar was one of those few Indian singers who were gifted with a soprano range of voice. But she was never content with what she could offer as a singer and constantly worked on her skills, developing better tone and pitch as she progressed further and further in her playback career. She even took Urdu lessons in order to master the nuances of the language and is said to have impressed even her staunchest critics with her dedication and commitment. Through the 1950s, Lata sang songs composed by the leading music directors of the period such as including Anil Biswas, Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad, S. D. Burman, Hemant Kumar, Salil Chowdhury, and Madan Mohan, among others.

Her voice would define the tempo of the 1960s by singing "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya" from Mughal-e-Azam (1960). The same year she also sung "Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh" from Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai. Against the backdrop of the Sino-Indian War on 27 January 1963, Lata sang the patriotic song "Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo" in the presence of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, which is said to have brought him to tears. During the ‘60s, while Lata continued to work with some of old collaborators, she also started her association with the likes of R.D. Burman and Laxmikant–Pyarelal. The decade is also famous for Lata’s duets with Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Manna Dey, and Mahendra Kapoor.

Lata’s supremacy in the playback singing arena continued though the ‘70s, ‘80s, and the ‘90s. In the year 2001, she established the Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune, the very same year she was bestowed with the Bharat Ratna. Her song "Wada Na Tod" was included in the 2004 Hollywood film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In 2007, she released the album Saadgi, featuring eight ghazal-like songs written by Javed Akhtar. In 2011, Mangeshkar released the album Sarhadein: Music Beyond Boundaries, containing the duet "Tera Milna Bahut Acha Lage" by Mangeshkar and Mehdi Hassan. After a hiatus, Lata came back to playback singing and recorded at her own studio the song "Jeena kya hai, jaana maine" for Dunno Y2... Life Is a Moment (2015). In 2019, Lata released the song "Saugandh Mujhe Is Mitti Ki" as a tribute to the Indian army and nation.

The legendary singer was admitted to Mumbai's Breach Candy hospital on January 8 after she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and pneumonia. Although, she recovered from COVID-19, her condition worsened on Saturday after which she was put on ventilator support. She breathed her last this morning at the age of 92. Tributes poured in for legendary singer and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first ones to pay his tribute. He tweeted, “I am anguished beyond words. The kind and caring Lata Didi has left us. She leaves a void in our nation that cannot be filled. The coming generations will remember her as a stalwart of Indian culture, whose melodious voice had an unparalleled ability to mesmerise people.” He also attended the state funeral for the singer in Mumbai. Also, a two-day national mourning is being observed in the legendary singer’s memory.

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