I am fortunate I lived in her time
Since I have always been into singing, Lata Mangeshkar has been a part of my life practically from my birth. Listening to didi has been an integral and pleasurable part of my growing up, of my sanskaar.
As a student of classical music, I was very much aware of her songs all through, though it took a few years before I could really realise what she is. After that, it never crossed my mind that the day would come when I would actually sing with her!
I met her for the first time around 1977 when I was working as Jaidevji's assistant. She recorded that lovely song Tumhein dekhti hoon for Tumhare Liye.
But my proper introduction to her was through Ravindra Jainji. He was recording a song for Devar's Mera Rakshak and I had gone to meet him. He introduced me to her. She was very warm, and pleased to know that I was from Kolhapur, a town that was like a second home to her as she had grown up there.
She asked me to send a cassette of my recorded songs to her. I had recorded five or six songs for films by that time for Ravindra Jainji and I took a cassette of these to her house.
She heard the cassette in my presence and complimented me. Then she rang up Laxmiji (Laxmikant), Kalyanjibhai, Pancham (R D Burman) and Khaiyyaamsaab. She told them all that she was sending a new boy to them and that they should give me work if they liked me.
That's how I got my introduction to all these composers. And that's why I always feel that her aashirwad (blessing) is there with me right from the beginning of my career. That she went out of her way to do so much for a newcomer speaks volumes for her greatness.
She has been a tremendous psychological support to me. In fact for me, she is saakshaat (a manifestation of) Goddess Saraswati.
My first duet with her was recorded in 1979, for Subhash Ghai's Krodhi. The song, Chal chameli baagh mein, went on to be a great hit.
For me it was a special song in so many ways -- it was my first duet with her, it was my first song for Laxmikant-Pyarelal, and it was my first song for a big film. You can well imagine what must have gone through my mind -- a curious mix of great joy and nervous fear.
Didi sensed that and was very supportive, encouraging and caring. She advised me to concentrate on the music director's requirements. 'If you make mistakes, don't worry, we can do the song again!' she kept telling me. Later we were to record more than 25 duets together, for Hindi as well as several Marathi films like Mahananda.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have listened so much to her and even sung so much with her. In short, I am fortunate that I have lived in her time.
When we did shows together, she would ensure that I, or any other junior singer for that matter, got the same izzat (respect) as her. This is not something every big name does.
Whether at a recording or a show, she ensures that the atmosphere is totally light and even humorous. One of the ways in which she livens the environment is by her fabulous gift for mimicry -- she is a great mimic. There is this dialect peculiar to Kolhapur and she would mischievously talk to me in it.
Till today, she is very concerned about my family and me. Her enquiries demonstrate a tremendous sense of apnapan, she makes detailed enquiries even about my cousins. She leaves you feeling like a part of her family.
At the same time, she's a disciplinarian where work is concerned. For her shows, the rehearsals are endless, chiefly because didi wants her songs on stage to sound exactly like their recorded versions.
I have watched her at recordings too. She thinks of every aspect of the song, and focuses on it totally. Not a single aspect of her singing remains imperfect. All other singers tend to focus on some elements, and lose out on certain others as a result.
Didi takes a song far beyond the music director's expectations and vision. Every music director expects a singer to deliver 95 per cent of what he wants, but with didi, he gets at least 150 per cent. That's why she makes such a mark. You can learn so much from just listening to her singing, listening to all those nuances which make the difference between just delivering a song and giving those refined shades to a composition which even the composer had not imagined, even if he had created the song with didi in mind!
To sum up, I can only add in Marathi that she is what can be called Parmeshwaachaa Saakshaatkaar (manifestation of a divine existence) and that her singing is like an aatmik amrutvarsha, (a rain of the nectar of the soul).
As told to Rajiv Vijaykar
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