Lata Mangeshkar, who died in Mumbai (Sunday) at the age of 92, was one of India’s cultural icons and national treasures. She became famous in Bollywood cinema, though she did not appear only a few times on screen.
Mangeshkar, who studied Indian classical music, gained fame in the emerging Hindi film industry by performing songs on behalf of several Bollywood actresses who moved their lips and claimed to sing in movies. Her artistic career lasted more than half a century.
For decades, “Bollywood Nightingale” has been the singer with whom all the movie stars would love to sing their songs. At the same time, she sold tens of thousands of albums and the number of her songs reached 30,000 songs, which included many artistic colors and a number of languages reaching 36 languages.
‘Lots of appreciation‘
Lata Magneshkar was born in the central Indian city of Indore on September 28, 1929. Her son was a singer, theater actor and marathi music producer.
She was the eldest of five children, and her brothers followed in her footsteps and also became famous singers in India.
In one of her interviews, Mangeshkar said her family was obsessed with Indian classical music and that film music was not “highly valued”.
She never received a formal education. A housewife taught her the Marathi alphabet, and Sanskrit was taught to her by a local clergyman, while some relatives and private tutors taught her other subjects at home.
The family experienced financial hardship when her father lost money and had to close his own film and theater production company. The family moved to the western city of Pune (Today’s Pune) after their house in Sangalli, Maharashtra state, was put up for auction. After the death of her father, the family moved to Bombay (later renamed Mumbai).
Since there were not many songs in the movies in the early 1940s, the young Lata turned to acting to earn a living.
Magneshkar has starred in eight films in Marathi and Hindi, and began her career as a singer in 1943 with the film “Gagabhau”. It was a modest post, “a few sentences, a few words”.
In 1947, she was earning a reasonable income from acting in movies, but she was not happy.
“I did not like (acting) at all – cosmetics, lights … I felt like I was being commanded all the time: say this dialogue, say that dialogue,” Magneshkar said in a later media interview. Nasirn Moni Kabir.
She was shocked when a director asked her to cut her eyebrows because they were “too wide”, but she obeyed.
Then she had the opportunity she had been waiting for in 1949, when Mangeshkar sang her first full song at ‘Mahal’, which immediately caught her attention.
‘ I do not know fear‘
The golden age of Bollywood had just begun, and Magneshkar was in the right place at the right time. Over the next four decades, she sang many hit songs in films such as “Bakiza”, “Majbour”, “Awara” and “Aradana”, as well as “Dilwale Dulhania Legayingi” – an emotional comedy that breaks the record with a screen period. It lasted 20 years.
When she sang “Yemiri Watan Kilogon” (My Sons of My Country), a sad and touching song in which she greeted the souls of Indian soldiers who died in the catastrophic Indo-China war in 1962, Jawaharlal Nehru burst into tears.
Mangeshkar has sung to all Bollywood stars, from Madhu Bala in the 1940s to Kajol in the 1990s. She also sang alongside leading male singers such as Muhammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar. She has also worked with all the famous directors, from Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt to Mani Ratnam and Karan Johar.
She occasionally sang with her sister, Asha Bhosley, who is also the famous singer of the film, which avoided any word of rivalry between the two sisters despite their commitment in the field of work.
With strong character, Mangeshkar did not hesitate to challenge great male singers like Muhammad Rafi, who claimed to be superior in rating by numbers and was the first singer to demand higher income from IPR.
Mangeshkar once said, “I am a self-made woman. I learned how to fight. I have never been afraid of anyone, I do not know fear. But I never thought I would be there.”
Describing Mangeshkar’s melodic voice, Javed Akhtar, one of the leading songwriters and filmmakers, said: “It is just as clean and pure as the best crystal.”
When Lata Mangeshkar was once asked about the most popular songs in Bollywood, she said, “Love songs are the most popular. The heroine runs, the hero runs after her.”
But other than the movie songs, Mangeshkar’s musical taste was amazing.
A woman with many hobbies
She enjoyed listening to music by Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Nat King Cole, The Beatles, Barbra Streisand and Harry Belafonte. In the past, she went to see Marlene Dietrich singing on stage and also liked Ingrid Bergman’s plays.
She loved going to the movies – her favorite American movie was “Me and the King” ( The king and I.), which she said she has seen 15 times and also liked the movie “Singing in the Rain” ( Singing in the rain). The James Bond series – or at least those with Sean Connery or Roger Moore – were also among her favorites. But Bond was not the only British hero to catch her eye, as she was the author of almost every Sherlock Holmes novel.
Mangeshkar was obsessed with cars and at various stages of her life she owned Hillman, Chevrolet, Chrysler and Mercedes. She also keeps nine dogs in her home.
Mangeshkar was an ardent cricket fan, often taking breaks from recording songs to watch cricket matches, and was proud to have an autographed photo of Don Bradman.
Her hobbies were also cooking and photography, and she also enjoyed playing slot machines during her visits to the American city of Las Vegas.
She admitted this in an interview, saying: “I know it may sound weird, but when I was on holiday in America, I enjoyed spending time in Las Vegas.”
“It’s a city full of emotions. I had a lot of fun playing slots. I never played roulette or cards, but I spent all night in the slots. I was very lucky and I won many times over.”
She was also visiting the studio of Maestro Ravi Shankar, famous for his Indian classical music and there once met English artist George Harrison. In 1979, she became the first person from India to sing in the famous Royal Albert Hall ( Royal Albert Hall) in London.
Mangeshkar said: “I see happiness as something we have to share with the world, while we have to keep sadness to ourselves.”
According to Indian media, Nasirin Moni Kabir, “her timeless music has certainly made millions of Indians happy and has become the melody of their lives.”