Lata Mangeshkar – Part 2
And perhaps it is this ‘pride’ that prompted Majrooh Saab to say “It isn’t as though she always got great lines to sing. She was given the same standard of lyrics as others. It is the magic of her voice that elevates the songs that she sang’. ‘Magic in her voice’, the ‘pride in her singing’ has elicited comment and admiration from her numerous friends, admirers and colleagues.
It was during her struggling days that Lataji met Kishore Kumar. Kishore da recollects the amusing circumstances in which he met the pint – sized phenomenon. Lata was on her way to meet Khemchand Prakash for whom she later sang ‘Aayega aanewala’. When the conservative Lata saw a strange man going to the same place as her, she presumed the worst. Little knowing that their destinies would be intertwined and remembered in the many duets they sang together.
1949, was the breakthrough year for Lataji. Four years earlier composing veteran Ghulam Haider from Sind had accompanied the young Lata, to meet a leading producer in the hope that she would be given a song in the forthcoming film starring Kamini Kaushal.
The tone-deaf producer rejected the eager, nervous aspirant’s voice as too thin and soft. The outraged Haider, who had earlier discovered Noor Jehan, prophesied ‘Let me foretell today that this girl will soon put to shade everyone else including Noor Jehan. Producers and singers will fall at her feet, begging her to sing in their films’.
And so it was to be. In the year 1949, a phenomenon erupted and one after another hits followed – ‘Uthaye ja unke sitam, Aayega aanewala, Baharen phir bhi ayengi, Chale jana nahin and Jiya beqaraar hai’. Songs that set the path for Lata’s sublime musical odyssey. Noor Jehan whose singing style influenced Lataji’s early numbers has no hesitation in saluting the art of Lata Mangeshkar. Noor Jehan states ‘People say Lataji considers me a phenomenon. I say that’s her humility. Lataji is Lataji. No singer, like her has ever been born’.
Generous words and an unflinchingly honest evaluation of a music phenomenon who swept all competition out of sight.
Tuning maestro Sajjad Hussain says, preceding Lata’s renditions of ‘Ae Dilruba’ where she imitates perfectly the stretched quavering notes of Middle Eastern or distinctly Islamic music; ‘The most important aspect of a song is ‘sur’. Without it the purpose of music is defeated. To date I haven’t heard anyone as melodious as her’.
Latajis ‘sur stirtha’ or amazing mastery over pitch and scale, led even great maestro Bade Ghulam Ali Khan to exclaim ‘But she never sings off key!’
Unstinting tributes, warm gushing admiration is what Lata provokes in most people. Nargis compares Lataji’s singing to divine worship, ‘Lata doesn’t merit compliments but veneration. Listening to her voice, a spell is cast that’s hard to describe. It’s as though on visiting a place of worship one’s head is bowed in reverence and tears begin to flow freely from the eyes’
‘As long as there’s Lata I’m safe’ the exacting, perfectionist Sachin Dev Burman is said to have exclaimed, when he heard that musicians intended to strike, threatening to paralyze all recording activity. Sachin da was not the only composer of his generation to have felt safe in Lataji’s hands. Naushad, C. Ramchandra and Madan Mohan, gave their unconditional best to create musical miracles to match the perfection of Lataji.
Some of the finest compositions that Lataji has sung in her incredibly long and successful reign, were composed by Madan Mohan. This special relationship between Lata and her Madan bhaiya has left us a legacy to cherish including songs like ‘Bairan neend na aaye’, ‘Aap ki nazron ne samjha’ ‘Zara si aahat’ ‘Sapnon mein agar mere’
Such a wonderful understanding between two talented minds, provoked O.P Nayyar to comment in an interview in Dubai in 1992, ‘I don’t know whether Madan Mohan was created for Lata or Lata for Madan Mohan. But there has never been a composer like Madan Mohan nor has there been a singer like Lata’.
Lata’s dedication and unrelenting humility ensured that the rapport between her and the music director enriched every song that she sang. Even Salil Chowdhury saw no use for other female vocalists. ‘Practically all my songs have been sung by Lata. I’ve rarely felt the need to turn to someone else. Lata is a trained singer and so versatile. She can sing anything from classical to semi-classical, even frothy songs. Lata is a phenomenon. She is one of a kind’.
When Naushad composed ‘Mohe panghat pe’, he called aside Lata and said ‘ I’ve created this tune only because you’re going to render the song. Who else but you can do justice to this composition’.
Said the composer of such memorabilia as ‘pyar kiya to darna kya’ and ‘uthaye ja unke sitam’ ‘Whenver ….. she left her chappal outside the recording room, everyone passed by the door of our studio as though it was a doorway to a temple of Goddess Saraswati’.
Veteran composer Anil Biswas hit the nail on the head when he said ‘Lata was a godsend to us composers. With her around there was absolutely no limitation placed on our range. Such was her vocal artistry that we could explore the most complex reaches of composition in the knowledge and confidence that she could take it all in her stride’.
As Khaiyyam says ‘Everywhere in India and abroad she created magic. After that every heroine, film director or music composer wanted only Lata to sing. And Master Ghulam Haider’s prophecy that she’d touch the heights of the skies came true’.
Generations of composers, heroines and film makers have looked up to Lata Mangeshkar as their source of inspiration. Raj Kapoor regarded Lataji as a re-incarnation of Goddess Saraswati. He made an entire film ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ on her incredible vocal skills. Films have sold on the strength of her vocals and gone on to become history.
Lata has reigned through father and son composing teams. A rare honor for a rare artiste. Sardar Malik and Anu Malik, Roshan and Rajesh Roshan, S.D. Burman and R.D. Burman. Chitragupta and Anand Milind.