She never compromised on her dignity
To me, Lata Mangeshkar has been so many things. As a child, I used to sing her songs on stage right from the third standard.
At the age of 10, I remember singing the famous Ay mere watan ke logon, just after the Chinese aggression at a Navratri festival in Rajkot where I used to live. I was given Rs 51 for it by a member of the audience -- and Rs 51 was a good sum then, especially for a school kid!
I vividly remember my first meeting with her at her house in Prabhu Kunj. This must have been around '70 or '71. I had accompanied my elder brother Manharbhai who had some work with her.
It was an unforgettable experience meeting her in the flesh, as she had been my idol since childhood. She, I remember, asked Manharbhai, 'Does he also sing?' My brother replied, 'Yeh ghazalein bahut acchi gaata hain (He sings ghazals very well).'
And she asked me to sing a ghazal right there. I was very fond of Mehdi Hasan and I sang his Faiz Ahmed Faiz ghazal, Dil mein ab yoon tere bhoole hue gham aate hain. And she told me, 'You sing extremely well. Why don't you focus on singing as a career?'
Since I was already toying with the idea, I was delighted. It was, I think, the most thrilling moment of my life!
Soon after that, I got a chance to listen to her live at a function in Bombay. I was so overwhelmed by her rendition of Tum mujhe yoon bhula na paaoge that I went and took her autograph!
Later, though we were not really in touch, Lata Mangeshkar seemed to be keeping track of what I was doing. Whenever we met at any function or party, she would remark on how well I had sung that day at her house.
I got my first chance to actually record a song with her in '87. It was Aur bhalaa kya rab se maangoon for Thanedaar under Bappi Lahiri. Before that, it had been my pleasure to find my name in the same album as hers -- Laxmikant-Pyarelal's Naam -- in which both of us had solos.
After that we recorded two more duets together, and coincidentally all three were composed by Bappi Lahiri -- Gaa mere sang pyar ka geet for Gunahon Ka Faisla and Maahiya teri kasam in Ghayal. She was happy that all three of our joint efforts proved popular, and remarked as such to me.
I also had the privilege of getting Lataji to release my album, Aman in 1994. She seemed to turn it into gold, as the album went on to be a great success.
But what I cherish even more is her inviting me to sing at one of the annual functions in memory of her father Dinanath Mangeshkar. Not only am I grateful for the honour, but what was especially memorable was that she was among my audience that unforgettable evening!
My ultimate dream is to collaborate on an album with her one day, the way Jagjitji did Sajda with her.
As an artiste, she's basically a role model for any singer, irrespective of the genre of music which that singer sings.
She herself has been impeccable at every kind of music and I don't need to comment on her perfect pronunciation and enviable throw. There is a peculiar soz, a strange kashish in her voice which draws you like a magnet. Hers is an awaaz whose appeal is universal. There is a lot of soul in it as well as a technical brilliance, and this is a very rare combination.
As a person, I think she's the most intelligent woman whom I have ever come across. Her analysis of people and of songs is razor sharp.
I also feel she is very humane. She has had differences with so many associates, but never once has she aired her views on them, or hit out in print or to a third person against any of them. One has never seen any ugly side to her nature. She too must have been angry or outraged at people and things, but she has never compromised on her dignity!
As told to Rajiv Vijaykar
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