The day seems silent if we don't hear her voice
What can one say about Lata Mangeshkar? One shouldn't talk about her, one should just quietly listen to her. One cannot give an opinion about her -- who are we to give an opinion? One can just give one's reactions to her.
Primarily, she is a very fine human being. To me, one thing that is most important is a sense of humour because that is a perfect reflection of one's personality. If it isn't there, you don't get fresh air. And she has a great sense of humour.
When you get to know her, you realise that it's not just her voice, but she blossoms, even as a person. Her sense of humour her decency -- these are the qualities that stand out.
In the filmi atmosphere, unfortunately, sometime or the other you get a dirty stink of humanity. But people like her seem clean… if you know what I mean. And I am not talking about just a few years -- she has been singing for over 50 years. We are fortunate that we are existing at the same time as she is.
Knowing her work, you can't help seeing her involvement and her dedication. In the films I've made -- perhaps I can claim to have made fairly good films -- I've worked with good artistes, but the involvement has come from very few people.
Where Lataji is concerned, she always asks questions like, 'how old is the actress I'm singing for?' And that suddenly makes me realise how come the heroine didn't think of asking how old is the character she is playing?
But then Lataji hasn't become what she is without the dedication she has shown for her work. She has to understand the situation, the characterisation before she sings. I've watched her rehearse with Hemant Kumar and Salil Choudhury and Madan Mohan -- she never came unprepared for a song.
Today, with this new trend of singing on readymade tracks, you find artistes becoming too casual about their singing. But Lata has the cassettes sent to her -- she listens to them and then prepares to sing.
Another thing I've noticed is that today's singers never sing a complete song -- they'll sing the mukhda, then a line of the antara. When they find that one line doesn't sound okay, they sing it again. So they complete the song in bits and pieces. How can these people be called singers?
Lataji makes it a point to sing the whole song six to seven times before she finally records. That is her dedication. That's why her songs convey an emotion, a feeling.
I once mentioned this to her -- this way of 'convenient singing' and she replied, 'I'm not so proficient to do it that way, I know no other way to sing except the way I do!' This is her humility. She is so soft-spoken and gentle.
We have grown with her voice -- she has become a part of our routine life. Perhaps, we don't exclaim at the beauty of her singing, because it's so much a part of our normal life...her voice falls onto our ears each day, so we take it for granted. When we don't hear her for a day, the day seems rather silent!
We are lucky to share her life -- those who passed away before her voice came to us were unfortunate. Of course, her voice will be there for future generations.
For me personally, she was my entry ticket to the film world. She sang my first song, Mora gora ang laile mohe shyam rang daide for Bandini. After that I met her with Hemant Kumar. But very rarely did I have the nerve to talk to her. Even when she recorded my song, I'd just stand on the side. I always thought, what are we before her? I started talking to her only after I began working with Hemantda.
I remember when I'd written the songs for Ghar there was this word badmashiyan in the song, Aapki ankhon mein... R D Burman told me to change the word as Lataji would definitely object to it.
I couldn't see why. Because when I wrote for her, I remained conscious of what I wrote. Not that I took any song lightly, but for her I used to feel there should be some outstanding quality in the song, something which will make her say 'it's good writing.' To get a pat from her was really something. At some stage, she did give me that pat. She told me, 'when I read the words of this song (Seeli hawa chhoo gayi seela badan chil gaya), I knew it was you.'
But where Ghar was concerned, Pancham kept insisting on changing this word. When Lata came to Film Centre to record the song, I remember she rehearsed the song and didn't say a word. I looked at Pancham. She noticed it and asked me the reason. And I replied, 'Deedum (that's what I called her), Pancham said you'd object to the word, badmashiyan.' At once, she asked, 'why, does it have a double meaning?' And we said, 'no.'
If you listen to the song, the way she pronounces this word -- with laughter in her voice -- makes it actually stand out.
I am happy she has sung lots of songs for me. Only she seems to understand that film singing has the rendering of a character in it -- it's not just singing -- I want to do an album with her and Hridayanath Mangeshkar.
As told to Lata Khubchandani
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