Lata Mangeshkar dies aged 92: An Indian music legend whose legacy will never fade
The Indian music landscape has been altered forever with the death of the Indian music icon Lata Mangeshkar, a diminutive doyen known for wearing a sari and her hair in long plaits and for her gentle smile. She stood the test of time and serenaded billions of music-loving Indians for over seven decades.
Dubbed as India’s eternal nightingale and a melody queen with an arrestingly sweet voice, Mangeshkar died in Mumbai on February 6 owing to complications arising from COVID-19 and pneumonia. She was admitted to the hospital last month.
The adage, ‘it’s the end of an era’, truly applies to the extraordinarily talented Mangeshkar and her mammoth legacy that she has left behind. Fondly called ‘Latadi’, the singer who was born in Indore leaves behind a treasure trove of compelling songs in varying genres. She’s a part of the collective consciousness of any Indian born in the second half of the 20th century and beyond.
Her height at five feet, one inch was in sharp contrast to her towering influence that she enjoyed in the Hindi music scene.
The famously single vocalist has sung more than 25,000 songs in Indian films and has lent her voice to songs in over 36 Indian languages. The Bharat Ratna awardee and three-time National Award winning singer, who was the eldest of her five siblings, was prolific, powerful and poetically poignant. She elevated singing into a sacred art form.
The ‘Ajeeb Dastaan Hai’ singer began her journey as a professional singer at the age of 14 and taught several generations about the magic of first love, heartbreak, rebellion, rejection and life.
Most actresses who ruled the Bollywood scene from the 1940s to the early 2000s have famously lip-synced to her timeless songs that were strictly devoid of vulgar lyrics or profanities. The singer, who didn’t indulge in on-stage gimmicks like having dancers swaying to her voice, was one of those rare musicians who didn’t have to keep up with trends.
The humble singer defined her times and set the golden standard of hauntingly good songs that had immense recall value.
In 1974, the Guinness Book of Records listed Mangeshkar as the most recorded artist in history stating that she had reportedly recorded “not less than 25,000 solo, duet and chorus backed songs in 20 Indian languages” between 1948 and 1974. Work was worship for this singer, who is believed to have sung songs barefoot as a mark of respect. According to reports, she even took off her shoes at the Royal Albert Hall when she was performing there in 1974 and went on stage in socks as a mark of respect for her revered art form.
If the late acting legend Dilip Kumar described her voice as a ‘miracle of nature’s creativity’ and compared her voice to an innocent child who knows no religion or a cool breeze belonging to no country, veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan on her 90th birthday posted a seven-minute-long video about how ‘music is incomplete without her voice.’ When legendary lyricist and song-writer Javed Akhtar was on call to introduce her on stage, he began saying that no words of flattery would do justice to Mangeshkar’s legacy or body of work. Her name was the final word in Indian music.
“We don’t go around saying Shakespeare was a brilliant writer or that Michelangelo sculpted well or that Beethoven made great music, do we? … Her name is a flattery in itself,” said Akhtar in Hindi to a packed audience who had turned up to find out the woman behind the voice to mark her 80th birthday.
Mangeshkar — along with her four other siblings including singer Asha Bhonsle — was born into a family of performers and were classically trained from a young age. Her Maharashtrian father Dinanath Mangeshkar ran a theatre company and music folklore has it that he discovered the genius in her and encouraged her to find her true voice.
But after her father’s death, Mangeshkar took on the role of being the family’s sole provider and found a mentor in Master Vinayak after moving to Mumbai. Their family friend and composer Master Ghulam Haider gave her first break as a singer in Hindi films. When she began her journey, she was just a young teenager when she had her first Bollywood breakthrough, but her meteoric rise in the decades that followed made her the last word in music.
She never took a pause for the longest time as she began to work with a robust raft of maestros including Shankar Jaikishen, Madan Mohan, Salil Choudhury and Naushad. She was considered as India’s most beloved cultural colossus of talent and it’s believed that she made late Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru cried when she sang the patriotic song ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo’ after the Sino-India conflict in the early 1960s. Political leaders, including the late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have been her cheerleaders and regularly acknowledged her gift of voice.
Her songs such as ‘Lag Ja Gale’, ‘Ek Pyaar Ka Nagma Hai’, ‘Kabhie Kabhi’ and ‘Tere Bina Zindagi Se’ have such strong appeal that even if you were not born during her prime or her generation, you would have inevitably heard and enjoyed those evergreen classics.
Lata Mangeshkar wasn’t just a voice, she was a dignified force of nature.
While her songs were supremely enjoyable, it’s also her personality that made her a true legend. In one of her recent interviews with Subhash K Jha, Mangeshkar — who had just turned 92 — won us over with her sprightly personality and indomitable spirit.
Asked if she felt her age, all of 92, she said: “I don’t feel my age at all. I still feel young. I’ve never been weighed down by my troubles … There’s always hope in my heart.”
She might have been talking about her state of mind, but it could easily apply to all those magical songs that has always stood the test of time. Her songs are an emotion that can never lose its power to move and stir you.
Comments are closed.