Theek nahi lagta, a song written by Lata Mangeshkar's favourite lyricist Gulzar, was believed to have been lost.
The little girl who started singing professionally more than seven decades ago is still there somewhere, says Lata Mangeshkar, as she recalls the beginnings of her long career that notched another hit just last month with the release of a new song.
Theek nahi lagta, a song written by Lataji's favourite lyricist Gulzar, was believed to have been lost.
Film-maker Vishal Bhardwaj, who composed the music and recorded it for a film he wanted to make, discovered it recently and called Lataji to seek her permission to release the song.
"Vishalji told me that the song has been found and asked whether he could release it.
"I said, 'Why would I mind? It is such a beautiful song. You should release it'.
"He also told Gulzarsahab about the song. He then mixed it again and that's how the song came to be released," the music icon told PTI in a phone interview from Mumbai.
Lataji, who turned 92 on September 28, remembered her early days and said the memories are still fresh in her mind.
"That long journey is with me and that little girl is still with me. She has not gone anywhere.
"Some people call me Saraswati or say that I have the goddess's blessings. They say I am this and that. All this is nothing I believe but the blessings of my parents, our deity Mangesh, Sai Baba and God," the singing legend said.
"It is their blessing that people like whatever I sing. Otherwise who am I? I am nothing.
"There have been better singers than me; some of them are not with us today.
"I am grateful to God and to my parents for whatever I have today."
Gulzar has been an abiding favourite with Lataji, the golden voice behind more than 25,000 songs in different languages.
She said she still remembers how his words 'Meri awaaz hi pehchan hai' from the song Naam gum jaayega (Kinara, 1971) came to reflect her own journey in music.
The memory of the day she sang Naam gum jayega is still vivid in her mind.
"Everyone in the country knows that Gulzarsahab writes beautifully. He also speaks beautifully.
"When I was singing (this song), he came to me and gently said, 'Meri awaaz hi pehchan hai aur ye hai pehchan' or something like that. Later, even I started saying, 'My voice is my identity.'
"And now, whoever sings that song or writes about me says those lines," Lataji said.
Like Theek nahi lagta, many songs have got lost over time, added the legend.
"What happens is that, sometimes, there are too many songs created for a movie and it hinders the flow of the film. So they remove the song and try to put it in another film. But if it does not fit, it just stays in storage and people forget about it with time.
"Also, it is not always possible to get them released.
"Sometimes, the producer does not give permission or the film stays unreleased or the lyricist does not agree... there are many such hindrances," she pointed out.
Asked what songs she likes to hum, Lataji said, "It will create trouble if I tell you this (gadbad ho jayegi)."
She went on to recall the music directors she loved working with.
"The music that I find most unique is Sajjad Hussainsahab's. The compositions he created, I like even today.
"Both Sajjad Hussainsahab and Khayyamsahab had their own style.
"Sajjadsahab's music had an Arabic touch and he would tell you how to sing. I still like the songs he created, they are different," she said.
Lataji and Sajjadsahab worked on several hits, including Bahaar aai, lutaa dil mera hai aabaad ho kar, Aaj mere naseeb ne mujhko rula rula diya and Woh toh chale gaye ae dil.
The singer collaborated with Khayyam on songs like Ae dil-e-naadan, Aaja re o mere dilbar, Mohabbat bade kaam ki cheez hai and Phir chiddi raat.
Lataji said she loves different music styles from across the country and the fact that there are so many languages.
"I don't know whether people know this but I like the south Indian style of music.
"I love Bangla music and the Bengali songs that I have sung.
"Hindi music is also there and so is Gujarati. I have sung in all languages."
She also recalled her collaboration with the music directors, young and old.
Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, Jaidev, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, S D Burman, Naushad and R D Burman are some of her favorites from the bygone era. Among the current lot, she gives music maestro A R Rahman a thumb's up.
"Though he is doing less music, A R Rahman's music is good, I like his compositions.
"There is Ilaiyaraaja in the south, I have done playback for him. He is also good.
"I don't know the new ones but I pray that they are successful."
Her first collaboration with Bhardwaj was for Maachis in 1996.
She was initially apprehensive but was soon won over by the then budding composer's talent.
She sang five of the eight songs in the movie, including Tum gaye, Pani pani re and Bhej kahaar.
"When Vishalji came, I was initially apprehensive as I did not know what kind of music he makes but I loved the very first song he created.
"I realised he is a great music director and I was really happy to sing for him.
"I sang many songs for him in Maachis; they were really beautiful," she said.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com