Lata Mangeskar

"Have you ever seen a waterfall retrace its path?...I have seen it...rather heard it in didi's voice. The tinkling notes of her taan tumble forth like a waterfall plunging down a cliff and then go back exactly the same way."

- Asha Bhonsle

It is a voice that no Indian can miss. Delightfully high, the notes rendered clearly to the last bar, the words pronounced with a rare panache - the voice has haunted Indians for the over five decades. The 'masseuse' of this all-pervading music and the queen empress of India's immensely popular light music industry, is a portly, dark, camera-shy, plain-as-jane, woman, Latabai Mangeshkar, who, as a playback singer, enjoys today, a clout, which even the movie moguls of the country's film industry cannot dream of.

Lata Mangeshkar's songs have captured the hearts and imagination of millions of her admirers around the world. They have become an inseparable part of the daily lives of Indians - wherever they may be.

Words fail to express the depth and scope of Lata Mangeshkar's genius. Lata Mangeshkar has come to symbolise India in a way that no one else has, or ever will for years to come.

Born September 28, 1929 in Indore, Lata Mangeshkar has been active in all walks of Indian popular and light classical music having sung film songs, ghazals, bhajans and pop. She is the supreme voice of popular Indian music, an Indian Institution. Until the 1991 edition, when her entry disappeared, the Guinness Book of Records listed her as the most recorded artist in the world with not less than 30,000 solo, duet and chorus-backed songs recorded in 20 Indian languages between 1948 and 1987. Today the number might have reached 40,000!!!

Dinanath Mangeshkar, her father, owned a theatrical company and was a reputed classical singer, a disciple of the Gwalior school. He gave her singing lessons from around the age of five. She also studied with Aman Ali Khan Sahib and later Amanat Khan. Her God-given musical gifts meant that she could master the vocal exercises effortlessly on first pass and from early on she was recognized as being highly gifted musically.

However when her father died in 1942, the onus of being the breadwinner of the family fell on Lata. Between 1942 and 1948 she acted in as many as 8 films in Hindi and Marathi to take care of the family's economic problems. She also made her debut as a playback singer in the Marathi film Kiti Hasaal (1942) but the song was edited out!

The first Hindi film in which she gave playback was Aap ke Sewa Main (1947) but her singing went unnoticed. When Lata entered the Film Industry, heavier Punjabi voices like Noor Jehan, Shamshad Begum and Zohrabai Ambalewali ruled the Industry. Ironically Lata was even rejected for Shaheed (1948) by producer S. Mukherjee who complained that her voice was too thin! However Ghulam Haider unable to use her in Shaheed gave Lata her breakthrough song with Dil Mera Toda from Majboor (1948).

1949 saw the release of four films. Barsaat, Andaaz (1949), Dulari and Mahal. The songs of all four films were runaway hits particularly Aaega Aanewaalaa from the last mentioned. By 1950 the Lata wave had changed the Industry. Her high-pitched singing rendered obsolete the heavy basy nasal voices of the day. Only Geeta Dutt and to a certain extent Shamshad Begum survived the Lata onslaught. Asha Bhosle too came up in the late 1950s and the two sisters were the queens of Indian playback singing right through to the 90s.

Lata's initial style of singing was reminiscent of Noor Jehan but she soon got over that to evolve her own distinguished style. Her phenomenal success made Lata the most powerful woman in the Film Industry. She waged battle with Mohd. Rafi in the 1960s and stopped singing with him over the issue of royalty to playback artistes. She refused to sing for S.D. Burman from 1957 - 62 and such was her clout that she had her way and they came back to her.

Though Lata sang under the baton of all the top composers barring O.P. Nayyar and with all the top playback artistes of the day, special mention must be made of her work for C. Ramchandra who made her sound her sweetest and Madan Mohan who challenged her voice like no other music director. The 1960s and 70s saw Lata go from strength to strength even as there were accusations of her monopolizing the field.

From the 80s Lata cut down on her workload to concentrate on her shows abroad. Lata Mangeshkar sings infrequently now but even today the songs of some of the biggest hits of today Dil To Paagal Hai (1997), Maachis (1997), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) and Dil Se (1998) are sung by her. From Nargis to Kajol she's sung for them all. Lata Mangeshkar is in fact that rare artist who has realized her search for excellence.

A Phalke Award winner for her contribution to Indian Cinema, the latest jewel in Lata's crown is having India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna conferred on her.

Memorable Songs :

Uthaye Ja Unke Situm - Andaaz (1949)

Jiya Bekarar Hai - Barsaat (1949)

Aayega Aanewala - Mahal (1949)

Preet Yeh Kaisi - Daag (1952)

Yeh Zindagi Usiki Hai - Anarkali (1953)

Man Dole Mera Man Dole - Nagin (1954)

Rasik Balma - Chori Chori (1956)
Chand Phir Nikla - Paying Guest (1957)
Yun Hasraton ke Daag - Adalat (1958)

Aaja re Pardesi - Madhumati (1958)

Bekas Karam Keeje - Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh - Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi (1960)

Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi - Parakh (1960)

Aap ki Nazron ne Samjha - Anpadh (1962)

Ae Mere Watan ke Logon - Non Film (1962)

Mora Gora Ang Lai Le - Bandini (1963)

Aaj Phir Jeene ki Tamana Hai - Guide (1965)
Bedardi Balma - Arzoo (1966)Aa Jaanejaa - Inteqam (1969)
Na Koi Umang Hai - Kati Patang (1970)
Bada Natkhat Hai - Amar Prem (1971)

Chalte Chalte - Pakeezah (1972)
Ae Dil-e-Nadan - Razia Sultan (1980)
Dikhayi Diye Yun - Bazaar (1982)
Jiya Jale - Dil Se (1998)