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'I have always preferred laughter to tears'

February 06, 2022 11:11 IST

'If I had a chance to live it all again, I wouldn't change a thing.'

IMAGE: Lata Mangeshkar with Salil Chowdhary. Photograph: Kind courtesy, Lata Mangeshkar's 2011 calendar called Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet

The Incomparable Lata Mangeshkar passed into the ages on February 6, 2022. She was 92.

On Lata Mangeshkar's 88th birthday, the iconic singer shares some lesser-known memories from her incredible life with Subhash K Jha.d/p>

"Bahot ho gaya... apko kaisa lagta hai... aap gaati kyon nahin hain... aap ke favourite naye singers kaun hai... aap apni bahen (Asha Bhosle) se kyon nahin milti... arrey bhai, sab ho chuka hai. (It's the same old questions... What do you feel about... Why aren't you singing any more... Who are your favourites among the new singers... Why don't you meet your sister... I've answered all these questions umpteen times). Let's talk about the fun time,: she suggests.

Main aapko sach bataaoon? (Shall I tell you the truth?)?I don't feel my age at all. I still feel young.

"I've never been weighed down by my troubles.

"Everyone has her share of problems in life.

"Even when I was young and struggling, I was happy hopping from studio to studio bumping into other strugglers like Kishoreda and Mukeshbhaiyya. Those were fun times even when I had to go hungry for the entire day.

"There was no money in my purse. But there was hope in my heart and a belief that, no matter how tough the future looked, there was always hope for a better tomorrow."

During one such sweltering day, Lataji fainted during a recording.

She sets the record straight: "It has wrongly been presumed over the years that I fainted while recording a song with Salilda (Chowdhary). Aisa kuch nahin (That's not true). Of course, his songs were very complex. So were those composed by my brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar. But, because of my father's blessings, I was always up to any challenge in the recording studio.

"The incident where I fainted happened with Naushadsaab. We were recording a song on a hot summer afternoon. You know how Mumbai gets in the summer! During those days, there was no air-conditioning in the recording studios. Even the ceiling fan was switched off during the final recording. Bas, main behosh ho gayi (I fainted)."

Laughter accompanies that memory.

Says Lataji, "I had some really fun times. I remember I was recording a duet with Uma Devi, who later became the comedienne Tun Tun. Uma Devi was as khati-peeti back then as a singer as she was later as an actress. So there we were, the two of us singing into the same mike.

"Back then, duets were recorded on one mike. I was a frail, reed-like, pint-sized girl while she was quite formidable in her physical presence. I was given a stool to stand on, as I had a problem reaching the mike. I sang my lines and then, when Uma Devi moved forward to sing into the mike and nudged my shoulder, I fell to the ground."


IMAGE: Lata Mangeshkar with Kishore Kumar. Photograph: Kind courtesy On Stage With Lata by Mohan Deora and Rachana Shah

Whom did she enjoy recording with the most?

"Kishoreda," comes the reply. "Recording with him was like a whole session of fun and games. He would make me laugh so much, I could barely sing. I had to stop him. 'Kishoreda pehle gana phir masti (Let's sing first).' It was especially problematic when we were singing sad duets. Instead of tears of grief, my eyes would be sawan bhado (full of tears) with laughter."

Speaking of her sad songs, it is said that all those present at the recording wept when Lataji sang Madan Mohan's Heer in Heer Ranjha and Sachin Dev Burman's Tum mujhse door chale jana na in Ishq Par Zor Nahin.

"That's true," she admits. "Except for me, they were all crying. I've never been a weeper even when singing the most somber songs. I've always preferred laughter to tears. God has always been kind. I've never been given any reason for tears. I think I cried the most when I lost my father and mother."

Lataji's birthday thoughts: "I can't thank the listeners enough for bearing with me for 70 years. I didn't even how the time flew by. If I had a chance to live it all again, I wouldn't change a thing -- not even that fall from the stool while singing with Uma Devi."

First published on in September 2017.