“Meri Aawaaz Hi Pehchan Hai,” Legendary Lata-Didi Mangeshkar-90 Years Young, Today !
‘Meri aawaz hee pehchaan hai—agar yaad rahe’, sang the par excellence vocal melody-queen ( Bday-Girl) Lata Mangeshkar under genius composer R D Burman’s baton. When you hear just the first few words of the mukhdaa of any of her hundreds of soul-stirring songs with high-octave-notes, you know it’s got to be Lata-Didi’s’s velvety voice. And you don’t even have to make an effort to remember her rich repertoire of mellifluous songs—they instantly strike an emotional chord and remain etched in your memory for a lifetime. Which is why vocal virtuoso Madame Mangeshkar was conferred with the highest Indian civilian honour of the coveted ‘Bharat Ratna’ by the Indian Government. Not surprisingly, our honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra-ji Modi is among her ardent VVIP fans and holds her in high esteem. Although she has just completed ninety years,today, her graceful dignity, alertness and passion for music is always at its peak. Known for her penchant for wearing diamond earrings and bangles, and fetish for fragrant perfumes, Lata is also a keen cricket enthusiast. The soft-spoken ‘nightingale of India’ can converse fluently about the nuances of the ‘ball-game’ and the performances of some of her favourites like batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar. She once jestfully remarked in the recent past, that like in cricket-jargon, even musical notations are known as ‘scores’ and if a song becomes a hit it ‘runs’ and that she will always remain ‘not out’ from the music industry. What is commendable about Lata-Didi, that she has sung for multiple generations of filmy heroines from 1942 till date. Whether it was Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Nargis, Nutan, Tanuja, Nanda, Vyjayanthimala, Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Sharmila Tagore, Sadhana, Priya Rajvansh, Mumtaz, Rekha, Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman, Jaya Bhaduri-Bachchan, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Kajol, Preity Zinta, ‘playback-singer’ ensured that her voice perfectly matched the star-face on the big-screen. Enthuses Lata-Didi, “ As far as possible, I make every effort to match the tonal voice-quality of the lead actress and add authenticity to the audio-visual. Moreover, I discuss with the music director and the film-director the mood of the song, the situation, the placement of the song in the narrative to blend my voice perfectly with the song-requirement.” For instance, the westernized number ‘Aaaa Jaane Jaa’ sung by versatile Lata-Didi composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal is picturised on cabaret-dancer Helen . If you watch the song on YouTube’ or in the yesteryear movie ‘Intaqam’ you actually feel Helen is singing the seductive number. Interestingly, Lata is a classy ‘mimic’ and can imitate voices, whenever she wishes to. It is intriguing that Lata was originally named ‘Hema’ at her birth. Her parents later renamed her ‘Lata’ after a female character, Latika, from one of her father’s plays . The pretty, petite songstress was born to theatre-drama actor and classical vocal maestro Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar in Indore . Wrapping the ‘pallu’ of her saree around her shoulders, the demure Lata insists, “If the lyrics sound obscene or vulgar, I have declined to sing such songs.” In 1973, she won the coveted National Award for the masterpiece song ‘Beeti Na Bitai’ ( ‘Parichay’) composed by R. D. Burman. After winning the Filmfare Award multiple times, the large-hearted Lata-Didi made the magnanimous gesture of officially ‘renouncing’ being nominated for the Filmfare Best Female Playback Award, to enable promising new vocal talents to earn accolades as well. As celebrity singer-composer-producer Anup Jalota succinctly puts it, Maa Saraswati Devi permanently resides in Lata’s throat and globally there can be ‘one and only one No: 1 ’ Lata Mangeshkar ! The iconic Lata is so co-operative and has shared the first chapter tribute to Pancham-Da in my authored memoirs book R D BurMania . It was a heart-warming memorable experience for me to converse with the modest melody-queen. Long Live Lata-Didi !
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