Queen of Melody, Voice of the Nation, Voice of the Millennium, Nightingale of India – Lata Mangeshkar has been conferred with many titles. Standing true to each of these titles, Lata has gifted the world a treasure box of songs that will mesmerize every listener. When I think of Lata, I am taken back to my hometown house, where in a huge portico we sat on the ground listening to Vividh Bharathi playing her songs. The evenings were pleasant and the whiff of jasmine still remains with me. In our house, Lata has always been the best and there were never any debates on that. It was an established fact and I can’t agree more.
Born in 1929 in pre-independence India to Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar, a Marathi and Konkani musician and his wife Sevanti, she had her tryst with music right at her home. Indore, her hometown has seen music flourish. She lost her father when she was just 13. Master Vinayak (Vinayak Damodar Karnataki), the owner of Navyug Chitrapat Movie Company and a close friend of her father and the Mangeshkar family, took care of them. He encouraged her to chalk out a career as a singer and an actress.
The rest is history. In a career spanning till now, Lata Mangeshkar has brought joy, tears and nostalgia not just with people of this country but across the span of the globe. Who can say that ‘Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam’ has not given goosebumps? Starting from 1940s till now she has sung 25,000 songs in various Indian languages. Her first recorded song was in Marathi in 1940 at the tender age of 13. The abhangs and devotional songs sung by her are still a natural choice for most of us.
She and her sisters grew up in awe of music and today all of them have successfully carried the family legacy. But amongst them she has been the most prolific. She made Pandit Nehru cry with her rendition of ‘Ae mere watan ke logon’. Conferred with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award, and also bestowed with the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, the only musician after M. S. Subbulakshmi received it, and she also went on to receive international recognition. The French government conferred her highest civilian award of the Officer of the Legion of Honour, in 2007.
She has worked with most music directors of cinema. She also holds the credit of being the first Indian to perform in the Royal Albert hall in the UK. For over seven decades, she held her ardent fans captive with her mellifluous voice and dominated the Bollywood music scene all throughout her career. She aced every genre of singing effortlessly and her voice connected with the listener blending in like sugar and water. Being one of the most humble singers, Lata has conquered and enthralled her audience for the right reasons.
The legendary singer celebrated her 91st birthday on 28th September and wishes poured from her followers. As we cherish her songs, here’s wishing her many more years of music and joy.