Wish Lata


Lata mangeshkar, 70
  She is a blessed soul

Laxmikant and I knew the Mangeshkars much before Lata became a successful singer. Her brother Hridayanathji had formed a music group named Surel Kala Kendra. 'Surel' means in sync, though we as music directors were very out of sync where singing was concerned. So we had a nice group, which consisted of the Mangeshkar brother and sisters, we and some of our other friends. And we used to get together and sing songs.

This continued till the time when we became composers. By then, Lataji had become successful and was in a position to help us, which she did. She helped us a lot then. We always got her to sing our songs. Whether they were meant for the mother in the film or the sister or the child or the vamp, she sang most of our songs.

We liked her voice so much. Only later, when she was very busy, we had to make do with others. But she always was our first choice.

Lataji was a very accommodating person. She never refused to do anything for us. If we asked her to sing a song in a particular way, she always did it without complaints. She would never discuss money at all. Whatever we said, she agreed on that.

Many people say she is very manipulative and shrewd, but we know how soft-natured she is. Of course, like all artistes she is very moody, but she is not at all manipulative.

The thing that stands out is that she is very sincere about her work. We say she is a great singer and that her voice is like Goddess Saraswati, but all this is due to her sincerity towards her work.

Whenever she comes for a recording, she comes and sits with her head bowed. She looks like she doesnít know anything. She always behaves like a student who has come to learn something. And she knows such a lot. She is a singer and a composer too, but she will always listen to whatever suggestions you have to make. Today, we sadly lack that kind of humility.

Music directors like Naushadji, Madan Mohan, S D Burman would take a lot of rehearsals, but when we did our first song Suno sajna with her, we just did one rehearsal and she had got it right. She had this knack that when we sing her the first lines, she would sing the second line too. She was knowledgeable in music.

We were very lucky we were there at her best time. She was at the top during the '50s and the '60s. Her voice was the best then and we could take advantage of that. Today, we miss her a lot.

Today, she is still at the top. She is singing for young heroines like Kajol despite her age. She still rules the music world. She still sings with the same sincerity that was there in the '50s. But what can I say about her singing now? She herself is mature and understanding, what can we say about what is right and what is wrong.

There will be many singers who come today, and they are good. But they are not as good as Lata is. Even today that is very apparent. To get that kind of success needs hard work. Lata is a blessed soul. She has a tremendous voice. She has sung the maximum amount of songs for us.

She started singing for Raj Kapoor because of us. Maybe that's why Rajsaab must have taken us too. He knew Laxmi and I were very close to Lata. But he never said this openly. She had not sung any songs in Mera Naam Joker, and the film didn't do well.

The next film, Bobby, had us as music directors. That is what I was saying. She has helped us indirectly many times this way. Through her, we got Rajsaab's films.

To become a good singer, takes a lot of hard work and effort. These days, there's a lot of talent but no devotion. Lata is very devoted to her singing. There are a lot of singers who donít know how to sing but still are very successful.

But those days Lata was supreme. You can make her sing at any level and she always managed to do it well. She didn't have any limitations to singing.

Singing needs sincerity and if you are bad at heart, you can never sing well. Lata has learnt all the good things from music and when she became famous, she gave the goodness back to it. It is really foolish of me to talk of her like this because most would know this already.

Even when Lata was very successful, she would never sing more than one song a day. Unless it was absolutely necessary. But she would never hurry up a music director. Whenever she would record for us, she would come and record for however much time we needed her for. And then she would go for the second one.

And then she used to joke a lot. She would make us laugh a lot. She would come in and first tell us a few jokes before starting the recording. Today, I know at least 25 of her jokes. The rest, I really don't remember. But her whole image of being serious was wrong.

I am not sure of whether those days, music directors were forced to work with her, but we preferred her at all times. So there was no question of her forcing us. I did hear rumours that she sidelined many singers, but the fact remains that she was good and nobody could compete with that. So I don't think any singer was sidelined because of her. No music director wanted anybody if they could get her to sing their songs. She used to be everybodyís first choice.

She was so helpful. Whenever we wanted her to sing for us, she always came for it. She would ask us when we wanted her to come and whatever time we told her, she would come. She would not even tell us that she would have to go for another recording that day. So if she were so accommodating, why would we even think of other singers?

There used to be no tension while working with her. She would be with us for as long as we wanted. So much has changed today. Music is not what it used to be. But because of singers like Lata Mangeshkar, there is still some hope.

As told to Sharmila Taliculam

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