At 78, Lata is a living legend

New Delhi, Sep 28 (IANS) She turned 78 Friday but singing legend Lata Mangeshkar's voice still has the Midas touch and even today the melody queen is churning out hits.

New Delhi, Sep 28 (IANS) She turned 78 Friday but singing legend Lata Mangeshkar's voice still has the Midas touch and even today the melody queen is churning out hits.

From her first super hit 'Aayega aanewaala' to 'Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya' and 'Noorie' to her recent bests like 'Yeh hum aa gaye hain kahaan' and 'Luka chuppi', Lata has managed to thrill music lovers of every generation with her soulful singing.

This year Lata offered two back-to-back rare treats to her fans - she released a ghazal album, 'Saadgi', and a devotional one titled 'Sumiran'.

While her ghazal album is her first in 17 years after 'Sajda', 'Sumiran' is a 17-year-old private recording done by the angel of melody for a temple, which was unearthed by a quirk of fate. Her brother Hridayanath Mangeshkar has composed the songs of 'Sumiran'.

The septuagenarian singer loves and enjoys working with new music directors.

'I love working with new talent. In recent times I've sung the first compositions of Vishal Bharadwaj, Rahul Sharma and now Mayuresh,' she said.

From popular and light classical music to film songs, from ghazals to bhajans and pop, she has sung all kinds of songs in her more-than-five decade-long career. And Lata has worked with almost all the top music composers and singers in the industry. She has sung more than 30,000 songs in over 20 Indian languages.

'I have sung thousands of songs and I feel there are many which are not good, but there are also many songs which are the best,' she said.

Asha Bhosle, her sister and popular singer, was quoted as saying: 'Have you ever seen a waterfall retrace its path? I have seen it... rather heard it in didi's voice. The tinkling notes of her taan tumble forth like a waterfall plunging down a cliff and then go back exactly the same way.'

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan echoed her when he said: 'When the voice achieves perfect harmony with a note (sur), it is as if the soul has soared up to become one with the Supreme Being. That is how I feel when I listen to Lataji.'

Headstrong and confident, Lata also pioneered many constructive changes in Bollywood, which proved to be beneficial for singers in the long run. And not only her contemporaries but also new generations.

She was the one who introduced the royalty system for singers in the industry. She also insisted that the singer's name be published with the songs instead of actors.

However, her revolutionary ideas were not taken to kindly by many bigwigs of the era and they tried to stop her. For instance, she stopped singing with Mohammed Rafi. She even refused to sing for S.D. Burman. She had a tiff with Bollywood's biggest showman Raj Kapoor as well.

Such was her clout that she had her way and they came back to her.

 Born Sep 28, 1929, to a family of musicians settled in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Lata started learning the nuances of music at the age of five from her father Dinanath Mangeshkar, a reputed classical singer from the Gwalior school of music who used to own a theatre company.

Since singing was in her blood, Lata was able to master the vocal lessons much quicker than others in her age group. Her talent was noticeable to everyone who came in contact with her.

But the sudden demise of her father in 1942 pushed Lata and her family into bad times. Lata being the eldest among the siblings had to take the responsibility of her mother, three younger sisters and a brother. The burden of being the sole breadwinner fell on her shoulders.

She started her career as an actress with Hindi and Marathi movies and acted in eight films. While she was working as an actress, she also made her debut as a playback singer with a Marathi film, 'Kiti Hasaal', in 1942 but her song was edited.

In 1947, Lata got her first big break in the Hindi film 'Aap Ke Sewa Main' but it failed to give her any recognition. In those days, the Bollywood music industry was dominated by heavier voices like Noorjehan, Shamshad Begum and Zohrabai Ambalewali.

In fact, in the beginning it was very difficult for the young Lata to find a foothold. Well-known producer S. Mukherjee refused to engage her for his film 'Shaheed', saying her voice was too thin.

However, the film's music composer Ghulam Haider was impressed with this new singing talent and used her voice for the song 'Dil mera toda' in 'Majboor'. The film was released in 1948 and opened new avenues for the struggling singer.

The very next year Lata struck gold with 'Barsaat', 'Andaaz', 'Dulari' and 'Mahal'. All the songs from these four films were super-hits, particularly 'Aaega aanewaala' from 'Mahal', which changed Lata's fortunes forever in the industry.

Her high-pitched singing proved to be a welcome change in front of the base nasal voices of the day. Her initial style of singing was reminiscent of Noorjehan, but she soon evolved her own distinguished style. The phenomenal success of 'Mahal' made Lata the most powerful woman in the film industry during that period.

After the 1962 Indo-China war, Lata sang 'Aye mere watan ke logon' that moved the then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to tears, and he said, 'Beti toone mujhe rula diya.'

Penned by Pradeep, 'Aye mere watan ke logon' till date continues to inspire Indians and is considered one of the most moving songs extolling patriotism.

After ruling the roost for decades, from the 80s onwards Lata started cutting down on her workload to concentrate on foreign shows.

However, some of her ardent fans like Yash Chopra still insist on her voice in their directorial ventures. Chopra convinced her to sign all the songs for his crossover love story 'Veer-Zaara'.

Young filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar succeeded in having her voice for his highly acclaimed film 'Page 3'.

Satyajit Ray and Lata are the only two people to have received both the Bharat Ratna - India's highest civilian honour - and the Dada Saheb Phalke award. She is the fifth woman to receive the Bharat Ratna, the others being - Indira Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Aruna Asaf Ali and M.S. Subbalakshmi.

'There's no singer in this universe who can intonate words the way Lataji can. From the time she sang my first film lyric in 'Silsila' to this new ghazal album, it's always an honour to have her sing to my words. Even if you don't know the meaning of a word, you know through her expression what she means. That's what a lyricist craves for,' said Javed Akhtar, who was invited to write one ghazal for 'Saadgi' but he offered to do several.

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