Wish Lata


Lata mangeshkar, 70
  Nobody should point fingers at her
Manna Dey

What can you say about Lata? I came to know her when she was not 'the Lata.'

During the Bombay Talkies days, I was rehearsing with Anil Biswas and one day, she was sitting there. I was called there for rehearsals. This girl was sitting there on one side. When I finished rehearsing my song, Anilda asked me whether I knew her. I said no and he asked me to sit and listen to her sing.

When she started, I was completely swept off my feet. Those days, we had Rajkumari, Amirbai Karnataki, Shamshad, Zohrabai Ambalewali, Geeta Dutt. Lata's singing was so different from these singers.

I asked Anilda where she had learnt to sing. Anilda told me she learned singing from her father who was a stage actor and singer. Her whole family was into singing. She had a beautifully balanced voice. A cultured voice it was.

After that, we didn't meet for a long time because she was not a full-fledged singer then. She was just trying to make it in the industry.

I wouldn't be able to tell you which was the first song I sang with her or when it happened. But it's a fact that with her entry into music, and the kind of prowess she had, music directors were so attracted to her singing that other artistes were eclipsed by her. She became a favourite with almost all the music directors.

I have been an avid follower of Lata's voice. I was very attracted to it. Other singers had their limitations, but Lata was a singer who could sing everything. That was the best part of her singing.

I was given to understand that she followed Noorjehan. I always maintained that Noorjehan was a great singer, but Lata was greater. Lata could sing a love song, an emotional song, a fast number -- she was phenomenal. I don't want to compare her to anybody because she can't be.

I would say it was my good fortune that I was her close friend and sang very good and immortal songs with her. During our recordings too, whenever she would stand next to me and sing, I would marvel at her technique. Her breath control was amazing. I have learnt so many of these techniques from her and I have imbibed them too. Breathing right when singing is very important and she knew it.

Lata was not as reserved as people thought she was. She had a tremendous sense of humour. She would make us laugh a lot. During recordings, she would tell us a lot of jokes. She had a good repertoire of them with her. And she was a good mimic. She would mimic anybody she found funny and did it very well. She is so gifted in everything. This kind of talent is not something that you learn, but something you are blessed with.

This profession is such a thing where you have to be a little choosy and careful, and some element of jealousy has to be there. When you see somebody else coming up and she is good, then you can't take it lying down. If you think she is good, then you got to catch up with her. Lata was alive to all situations.

People say that you are so famous, now allow somebody else to come up. But how many people can do it? Nobody in that position will allow it. How can she back out if she is good to maintain her position? So why blame her? Other singers say we don't get any songs because of her. But they should be like her first her first and then try and compete.

I am of this firm opinion, that these days all the female singers who sing in films have Lata as their idol. All of them look at her for inspiration. The songs she has sung over the decades will always be remembered.

Of course, now she is getting in on age and she understands that. People might make wild remarks about her now, but you can't forget what she has given the music world for all these years. It's unforgettable. She stands supreme as a singer and others are just her followers. Let people say she did not let other singers sing when she was at the top -- the fact is she was good enough to be at that position. So, nobody should really point fingers at her.

I have known her from the time she was an unknown singer to the time she became the topmost singer, and I have never found any change in her as a person. She would be modesty personified whenever we met. She was never high and mighty with us.

There were times when people misinterpreted her and there must have been reasons for that, but with us she was always the same. It is unkind to point fingers at anybody without knowing the reason for it. She must have her reasons for behaving that way.

How many people in this industry meet each other with genuine affection? Then why blame Lata for what she must have said or done? I knew that Rafi was better than me, that Kishore, was in his own way, better than me, so there was no jealousy from me. Lata was unsurpassable, how could anybody hope to compete against her?

Tell me is there anybody who can sing her old songs as well as Lata does? They can never be compared to her at all. She is blessed with a talent and that is why she is Lata.

There was a function where we all were invited and I loved the way Lata spoke there. She was so humble. That was the first time I heard Lata speak in such a humble way. She said, 'I am here because of you people. If you hadn't liked me, liked my songs, how could I hope to be what I am today?' I liked her surrendering her talent to God.

She also had an impeccable pronunciation. She pronounced her words beautifully. I always liked that and I keep listening to her songs even now.

We are a little old-fashioned, so we like songs which touch our hearts. The way she sang Laage na mora jiya or Satyam shivam sundaram nobody could match that. I can cite more examples. I listen to her and Rafi's songs and sometimes even cry at the way they have sung those songs. They really touch your heart.

The amazing thing is that they (Lata and Rafi) are from this country, but people from all over the world listen to them and rejoice. Only they were destined to have this kind of undisputed talent.

I don't think she really had to struggle much because her voice captured you at the first instance. It did with me and it did with most music directors.

If you have to talk about her struggle, then yes she had to keep her eyes and ears open. How to improve, how to really grow in stature and singing. That's why she said that she loved to listen to Noojehan and learn from her.

I have told you everything that I know about her and feel about her. I can say nothing more about her that would be anything else but appreciation for her talent.

As told to Sharmila Taliculam

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