Lata Mangeshkar’s Profound Musical Impact

Posted by: Adhika | Posted on: October 5th, 2012 | No Comments

lata Mangeshkar
The thought of Lata Mangeshkar conjours many images in my mind. One bears the pillar of Indian tradition which is rooted in my Indo-Caribbean Canadian mind, and floreshes more and more vividly with each new Lataji composition I discover. With over 40 000 recorded songs to her credit I indulge my creative appetite throughly while exploring her vast repertoire. Her vocal mastery has not only impacted the Hindi cinematic industry but it has also redefined the very essence in which composed hindustani music has been interpreted and emoted to mass audiences worldwide.
It comes then as no surprise then during her 83rd birthday celebrations (which took place last week on Friday September 28th, 2012)  that she received special birthday wish from His Excellency Pope Benedict XV1 directly from the Vatican! She was emotionally touched by this gesture as he named her as ‘Lata Deenanath Mangeshkar’ in his greeting.  Feeling duly honoured, Lataji said, “It was a very pleasant surprise. The Pope is the most prominent and revered leader of the Catholic Church. To hear from him on my birthday was not just expected, it was a rare privilege.” “Not many people address me with my father’s name. That felt good. I am proud to be known as Master Deenanath Mangeshkar’s daughter,” said Lataji emotionally.



Lata Mangeshkar was born on September 28, 1929 in Indore, Madhya Pradesh into a Maharashtrian Brahmin household.  Her father was Deenanath Mangeshkar and her mother was named Shudhmati. Lata was the oldest of several children.  She had a younger brother named Hridayanath Mangeshkar, as well as three younger sisters named Asha Bhosle, Usha and Meena.
Lata Mangeshkar and familyLata Mangeshkar and family

Her exposure to music began in infancy.  Her father Deenanath was an accompanied classical vocalist and was very active in the theatre.  It is said that Lata made her acting debut at the age of five in a play in which her father was participating.


Lata as a young girl

Lata’s musical studies were not limited to hearing her father sing.  She also studied under Aman Ali Khan, and later under Amanat Khan, and acquired a good background in classical music.


Early Career

Lata’s early film career was characterized by numerous changes in direction, false starts, and a general unsteadiness.  It was not at all clear that she was destined to be a successful singer. 1942 proved to be a very crucial year in her life.  This was the year that the film “Kit Haaal” was release.  This was the first film that Lata recorded for; unfortunately her song would be cut and not make it to the finished version.  More traumatically for the young Lata, is that this was the year that her father died of a heart attack.

Lata was only 13 years old when her father died, but as the oldest child, responsibility fell upon her to help take care of her families financial needs.  She took to acting in small films in order to do this.  Her first appearance was a very small role in Pahili Mangalagaur (1942).  Later she acted in such films as “Maajhe Baal” (1944), “Chimukla Sansar” (1943), “Gajabhau” (1944), “Jeevan Yatra” (1946), “Badi Maa” (1945).

Lata Mangeshkar with tanpura The period in the early 40’s did not look promising for Lata.  Her thin voice was very different from the heavier voice quality that was in vogue (e.g., Noor Jahan).  She received numerous rejections.  It was not until 1947 that she was able to get a toehold in the industry by singing “Pa Lagoon Kar Jori Re” in the film “Aap ke Sewa Main” (1947).  Lata sang several songs in other films over the next few years, but her first big hit was in 1949 with “Aayega Aanewaala”.

There is no doubt that the partition played a role in Lata’s rise to fame.  During the partition, there was a disruption when many directors, producers and artists left Bombay, while others migrated to India from Lahore.  One of the most notable artists to leave India, was Noor Jahan, who was the undisputed queen of the filmsong at the time.  This disruption opened the doors to Lata in an industry that previously may have been harder to get into.

As the 1950’s began, Lata was firmly established as a film singer.  Music directors she sang for included such greats as Shankar-Jaikishan, and Anil Biswas.  During this period, “Mahal”, “Barsaat”, “Ek Thi Ladki” and “Badi Bahen” were just some of the famous films that used her voice.


Lata’s Peak

The next three decades would see Lata Mangeshkar reign as the undisputed queen of the Hindi film song.  She sang with almost all of the major music directors, and acquired a considerable clout in the politics of the film industry.

Lata Mangeshkar in recording sessionLata Mangeshkar in recording session

It is pointless to try and enumerate the songs that she did; however, there are a few songs which stand out.  In particular “O Sajna Barkha Bahaar Aayee” from Parakh (1960), “Aaja re Pardesi” from Madhumati (1958), “Itna na Mujhse Tu Pyaar Badhaa” from Chhaya (1961), “Allah Tero Naam” from “Hum Dono” (1961), “Ehsaan Tera Hoga Mujh par” from “Junglee” (1961), and “Yeh Sama” from “Jab Jab Phool Khile” (1965), seem particularly notable. Subsequently in later decades her melodious voice captured us again and again in this classics:  “Sun Sahiba Sun” (“Teri Ganga Maili” – 1986), “Yaara Seeli Seeli” (“Lekin” – 1990), even today stand our as some of her most memorable work. Lata also worked with most of the major music directors in this period.  Her work with, both S.D. Burman and R.D Burman were very fruitful.  She also worked with, Shankar /Jaikishan, Salil Chowdhury, Naushad and a host of others.  It is often said that her best work came with her songs for Madan Mohan and C. Ramchandra.  It is interesting to note that O.P. Nayyar was one of the few major music directors to not utilize her talents.


Lata / Asha professional rivalryRelations between Lata and Asha 
However Lata’s reign was not always a smooth one.  There was the well known professional rivalry with her sister Asha Bholse.  For some years she would not sing with Mohammed Rafi due to a long standing dispute over royalties.  For some years she would not work with the music director S.D. Burman.  During the peak of her career, she had a tremendous political clout within the film industry and is known to have exercised this freely; this created ill will in many quarters.



Lata’s Current Projects

In 2001 Lata Mangeshkar was awarded India’s highest civilian honor the “Bharat Ratna,” India’s highest civilian award presented on behalf of the Indian government. Lataji is now working on bringing to life the work of classical poets in a new rendition. She feels she has moved on from performing in mainstream Bollywood genre as she can not fully relate to the heroines of today and would like to focus on projects that resonate well with her. She is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most recorded artist in the world. She has received three national awards and eight Filmfare awards after which she stopped accepting awards in order to promote new talent. She continues to sing every now and then for Hindi movies and perform live. Truly a living legend, Lata Mangeshkar has a talent that is second to none.




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