As the iconic Lata Mangeshkar turns 90 on September 28, we start the celebrations early. We present beautiful features on the songstress published on Rediff.com through the years.
Lata Mangeshkar looks back at all the people, who influenced her the most in her life.
"I don’t think I’d have become a singer if my father had lived. He wouldn’t have allowed it," she tells Subhash K Jha.
My father, Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar
My father had a huge hand in shaping me into the singer that I became. He taught me music.
But do you know for a very long time, my father didn’t know I could sing?
I was scared to sing in front of him.
I would go into the kitchen and force my domestic helpers to listen to me sing.
My mother would scold me and shoo me away for wasting her time.
Then something happened.
A student of my father (who later became the very well-known Marathi actor Chandrakant Gokhale) was doing riyaaz while my father had stepped out. I was playing outside.
I was five years old.
I went inside and told Gokhale he was singing it wrong, and I sang it the way I had heard my father sing.
My father returned and made me sing it again. I sang and fled.
I’d learnt from hearing my father sing though I never had the courage to go and sing with him.
After I corrected his student, things changed.
The next morning, he told me to come to his room. I was petrified of him. He was very conservative and a disciplinarian.
All the ladies of the house, young or old, had to wear kum-kum on the forehead and bangles on their hands. We were not allowed to use powder. Those were the days of the freedom struggle.
Our home was filled with talk of anti-colonialism. (Freedom fighter) Veer Savarkar was my father’s friend.
That day when he asked me to learn music from him, he told me to take out the tanpura and showed me how to hold it.
He asked me to sing the same raga that I he had heard me sing the previous day. That’s how I was initiated into formal singing.
He taught me music regularly.
My elder sister Meena and I learnt music from our father. The other siblings were too young when he died.
My brother Hridaynath was only four when my father passed away.
My father didn’t see me become a singer but he predicted my success. He was a very good astrologer. He had prophesied that I would become so successful that no one would be able to reach my level.
He also predicted that he would not be alive when I became famous and that I’d look after the entire household.
After his death, I learnt music from others.
I consider my father as my true guru.
I don’t think I’d have become a singer if my father had lived. He wouldn’t have allowed it.
'Shashadharji felt my voice didn't match Kamini Kaushal's'
Master Ghulam Haider
There are many stories of who discovered me and who was instrumental in giving me my first big break.
Let me tell you the true story.
When I came to Mumbai, I worked for Master Vinayak.
My sister Meena and I stayed with Master Vinayak’s father while the rest of my family lived at my maternal grandparents' home.
In 1946, I told Master Vinayak that I needed to live with my family. That’s when we all started living in one home.
In 1947, Master Vinayak passed away.
Ten days after his death, a photographer who worked in his company took me to music director Harishchandra Vade.
He heard me sing and recorded two songs in my voice for a film called Love Is Blind. That film got shelved.
However, a junior-artiste supplier heard me sing. He recommended me to Master Ghulam Haider, who has just come from Pakistan.
I really respected him for his music in Khazanchi, Shahid and Khandaan. I went to meet him. This was in 1947 and I was merely 18.
I remember he was recording. He kept me waiting till evening and finally called me in at 5 pm.
When I went in, he was playing the piano.
I was frightened.
I wondered what a composer, who had worked with Noorjehan, would think of me. He asked me to sing.
I sang one of his songs from the film Humayun.
He said to sing another song. I sang a Noorjehan number.
Then he wanted to record my voice.
He asked me who my guru was. When I told him it was Amanat Ali Khan Saab, he said they were friends.
Then Master Ghulam Haider played my voice to the very successful producer Sashadhar Mukherjee who said, ‘Yeh awaaz nahin chalegi, yeh awaaz bahot patli hai, ’(this voice won’t work, it’s too thin).
Sashadharji needed a playback voice for actress Kamini Kaushal, and he felt my voice didn't match hers.
Master Ghulam Haider was livid.
He ordered me to accompany him to the Bombay Talkies studio in Malad where Majboor was being shot. He was the music composer.
He didn't say anything to me; he just made me rehearse a song.
Later when we recorded, he said, ‘People will forget everyone, including Noorjehan, when they hear you.'
The first song he recorded with me was a duet with Mukesh, Angrezi chora chala gaya. This was my first major break.
I recorded three-four songs for Majboor. Composer Khemchand Prakash heard them and signed me for Ziddi.
For this film, I sang a duet with Kishore Kumar.
Then composer Anil Biswas heard me.
That’s when my musical journey began.
Incidentally, Sashadhar Mukherjee later admitted to me he was wrong about my voice and was crazy to have rejected me. I sang for many of his films, including Anarkali and Nagin.
'I was closer to Pancham than his father'
S D Burman and R D Burman
(S D) Burman Dada was very fond of me.
It’s a well-known fact that once he made kheer and invited only me.
He would give me special paan, flavoured with dry orange peel.
I was closer to Pancham (R D Burman) than his father.
When he married my sister (Asha Bhosle), he told me to write him a letter as a wedding gift, which he stored away in his bank locker.
Pancham was very unhappy in the final years because of his career.
I had the privilege of singing in his last film as a composer 1942: A love Story.
'I was close not only to Madan Mohan but to his entire family'
We sang a duet Pinjre mein bulbul bulbul bole together in Shahid for Master Ghulam Haider. It was a song about a brother and a sister singing together but it never got released.
One day, suddenly, he came up to me and said, 'Won't you tie me a rakhi?'
From that day, he was my Madan Bhaiyya.
I was close to him, and his entire family.
I am still very close to Madan Bhaiyya’s son Sanjeev Kohli.
This special was first published in September 2013.