INDIA: “Meri Awaz Hi Pehchan Hai” (My Voice Is My Identity), just like these lyrics of Late Lata Mangeshkar’s song, her voice has been her identity. India recognizes her by her voice. The voice that is a soundtrack of many lives, that reigned billion hearts & will continue to that for many forthcoming eras.
Lata Mangeshkar, the eldest daughter of a Marathi & Konkani musician Deenanath Mangeshkar & his wife Shevanti, was born on September 28, 1929, in Indore (capital of the princely state of Indore in British India), now in Madhya Pradesh. Lata Didi was the eldest child of the family. Meena, Asha, Usha & Hridaynath, in birth order, are her siblings, all are skilled singers & musicians.
Deenanath, her father adopted the surname ‘Mangeshkar’ to identify his family with his native town of Mangeshi, Goa. ‘Hema’ was the birth name of Didi, her parents later renamed her ‘Lata’ after a female character ‘Latika,’ in one of her father’s plays, Bhaav Bandhan.
Lata Didi acquired her first music lessons from her father. At the age of five, she began to work as an actress in her father’s musical plays. She learned Gujarati folk songs from her maternal grandmother.
On her first day of school, she left school because they would not allow her to bring her sister Asha with her, as she used to bring her younger sister with her often.
Career that spanned the arc of Bollywood
Commencing her career in 1942, Lata Didi had recorded 50,000 songs in 14 different languages. The Melody Queen holds a Guinness World Record for this enormous triumph. Lata Mangeshkar was 13 when her father died. Master Vinayak, the owner of Navyug Chitrapat movie company & a close friend of the Mangeshkar family, took care of them.
He also helped Lata Didi to get started in a career as a singer & actress. Lata Didi sang her first song ‘Naachu Yaa Gade, Khelu Saari Mani Haus Bhaari,’ the Marathi song which somehow never got released. Master Vinayak gave her a small role in Navyug Chitrapat’s Marathi movie ‘Pahili Mangalaa-gaur’ (1942), she sang her first-ever released song ‘Natali Chaitraachi Navalaai’ in the same movie. Her first Hindi song was ‘Mata Ek Sapoot Ki Duniya Badal De tu’ for the Marathi film Gajaabhaau (1943).
Talking about her acting career, she once stated, “I never liked it – the make-up, the lights. People ordering you about, say this dialogue, say that dialogue, I felt so uncomfortable.”
Lata Didi gained remarkable recognition by her song ‘Dil Mera Toda, Mujhe Kahin Ka Na Chhoda’ from the movie Majboor (1948). From then on, she never looked back. Like the meaning of her name, she kept climbing the mountain of greatness.
She sang her first Tamil song ‘Enthan Kannalan’ in 1956, first Bengali song ‘Na Jeo Na’, first Kannada song ‘Bellane Belagayithu’ in 1967 & first Malayalam song ‘Kadali Chenkadali’ in 1974 while ruling Hindi & Marathi audience on her way to legacy.
From all-time blockbuster & the tune of the nation ‘Aye Mere Wattan Ke Logo,’ to classic melodies ‘Lag Jaa Gale’, ‘Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’, ‘Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh’, ‘Dekha Ek Khwab’ & fresh melodies descants like ‘Mausam Ka Jaadu’, chartbuster songs from the Indian hit ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’. She holds her inspiration on every generation.
Lata Didi has sung for almost every female star then, from the 1940s to the 1990s. Her duets with Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, S.P. Balasubrahmanyam are nothing but iconic.
She made different principles for upcoming generations of female singers as she challenged the top male singers, like Mohammad Rafi. She demanded better pay & credits. She has also worked with every prominent Bollywood director from Raj Kapoor to Mani Ratnam & Karan Johar.
Melody queen’s extraordinary achievements
Besides singing, she adored theatre, movies, cars & Cricket. Cooking, taking photographs are among her other hobbies. She owned nine dogs at her home.
India’s legendary lyricist Javed Akhtar has defined her moving singing as “pure & clear as the finest pearl of crystal”.
She has been a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) between 1999 – 2005. For her contribution to Indian music, the Indian government honored her with the highest civilian award Bharat Ratna in 2001. She was awarded Padma Bhushan (1969), Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1989), Maharashtra Bhushan (1997), Padma Vibhushan (1999) & many more.
In an interview with the BBC, she once quoted, “I always think: happiness is for sharing with the world, and sorrow is for keeping to yourself.”
More than all these awards & honors, Lata Didi won billion hearts of Indians. She was famous for her humble, caring & ethical nature. She reigned Indian music for decades & will continue to do so. The music of her being will never fade away.
Also Read: Legendary Singer Lata Mangeshkar Passes Away at the Age of 92