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An Interview By Subhash Jha

Humility Personified

My first encounter with Lata Mangeshkar is still vividly etched in my memory. From the age of six, I've believed that divinity dwells in her throat. I still do.

Some years ago, a mutual friend set up an appointment with her. I couldn’t believe my luck. But she was ill, and had to miss our appointment. I consoled myself saying it was not meant to be. But the very next day, she was there in front of me: frail, warm... and real. She was full of jokes.

Since then, I’ve come to know one truth about the lady -- humility comes naturally to her.

In 1999, when Lataji missed out on the Bharat Ratna in favour of Pandit Ravi Shankar, I commented on the unfairness of Bharat's real ratna of Bharat being denied the highest civilian honour.

"Aisa aap kyoon sochte hain?" (Why do you think that) she admonished me. "You might think I am a big talent. But Panditji is far bigger than I have been or can ever hope to be.

"I still remember how nervous and excited I was when I had to sing his compositions in Anuradha. I kept wondering whether I would do justice to the creations of an artiste as great as him. Artistes like Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Bismillah Khan come once in a century. They deserve to be honoured far more than I do."

Of course, Panditji's creations in Anuradha, like Kaise din beete and Hai re woh din, attained new heights when Lataji sang them.

When Panditji tried to recreate the same magic with another voice (Vani Jairam) in his score for Gulzar’s Meera, the compositions fell flat.

Lataji refused to do Meera bhajans even though Panditji, Gulzar, even leading lady Hema Malini personally pleaded with her to do the needful. "How could I?" she reasons. "I had already done Meera bhajans for my brother Hridaynath."

This singer lives, breathes, earns and yearns only for her family. Her world begins and ends within the Mangeshkar clan of two sisters (Meena and Usha), Hridayanath, and their families. They stay together at Peddar Road, Bombay.

Inconised, and now canonised, Lata Mangeshkar is more than a singer. As director Sanjay Leela Bhansali puts it, "It doesn’t matter if she no longer sounds as she did ten years ago. At her age, it’s a miracle she can still sing. Lataji has long ago transcended human definitions of excellence."

Then, there is Dharmesh Darshan, who says he learnt direction just by listening to her voice. He used to listen to her voice on the radio during the shooting of Dhadkan, since he couldn’t get her to sing for his film.

There was a time when composers like Sachin Dev Burman and Madan Mohan waited months to get her to sing. Once, Asha Bhosle went up to Madan Mohan asking why she couldn’t sing more of his songs. "Nahin, jab tak Lata hai aur koi nahin," (As long as Lata is here, no one else will do), came the firm answer.

Forty years later, Anu Malik still sulks each time his Didi cancels his recording.

It is the love of her admirers that overwhelms Lata: "I consider it the highest honour. It is all thanks to my parents and my listeners' prayers. Bharat Ratna ke baad to ab kuch bacha hi nahin (there is nothing left after the Bharat Ratna). I don’t deserve so much recognition. There are many artistes far greater than me."

To have received the Bharat Ratna in the same year as Ustad Bismillah Khan is a matter of double joy for Lataji: "He is a sweet and simple soul, whom I have known and admired for years. Not only have I attended his concerts, he also performed at my father’s death anniversary."

Lataji's songs for Aishwarya Rai (Humko humee se chura lo -- Mohabbatein), Juhi Chawla (Khamoshiyan gunguna ne lagi -- One 2 ka 4) and Jaya Bachchan (Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham -- Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham) have soared up the charts.

Now, the legend wants to concentrate on her non-film albums. Recently, she released an album of bhajans with brother Hridayanath Mangeshkar. But she doesn't want to stop singing film songs. Especially if the filmmaker is Yash Chopra.

"I’ve got so much love and appreciation . I must give some of it back to my country. I have never considered myself an extraordinary singer," Lataji insists.

Subhash K Jha

Courtesy : Lata Mangeshkar Fan Club (Member:Vidhya Sharma)




A Recent Interview

On Bharat Ratna

Lata Mangeshkar, the singing diva of the film industry for 58 years, and renowned shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan were conferred with the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian honor, this year. The "Nightingale of India," as Mangeshkar is often referred to, said she was grateful that the ultimate recognition did not come sooner than it did.

"What has to happen happens in its own time. I feel nothing should come to a human being easily," Mangeshkar said from London, where she had flown on a vacation hours before the award was announced on Jan. 25.

"I consider it the highest honor of the land. Bharat Ratna ke baad to kuch bacha hi nahin ab (Now there is nothing left after the Bharat Ratna)," Mangeshkar told India Abroad News Service in a telephone interview.

She said she felt gratified that the award came to her just after her father's birth centenary. "It must be because of my father's blessings," Mangeshkar, 71, said. "How happy he would have been if he were alive today. He taught me how to sing."

Following are excerpts from the interview:

Q. How did you get to know about the Bharat Ratna?

A. My niece called and told me about it. I left Mumbai for London on Jan. 24, after wrapping up recordings with my brother, Hridayanath Mangeshkar, and A.R. Rahman.

Q. How does it feel to receive the Bharat Ratna?

A. For me, the greatest excitement is the fact that my father's birth centenary was in December, and I got the award in January. It must be because of my father's blessings. Even my mother always wanted the best for me. She saw me achieve a lot during her lifetime. But my father did not see me achieve anything. How happy he would have been if he was alive today. He taught me how to sing.
Other than that, I want to thank everyone who has helped me in my education as an artist. But most of all, I want to thank the public who have allowed me to sing for 58 years. They have been listening to my songs for so many years and have never stopped praying for me and blessing me. I feel it is their prayers that have translated into the Bharat Ratna. I consider it is the highest honor of the land. There is no greater award that I could possibly get after this.

Q. Everyone here says you should have got the award years ago.

A. Yes, people are saying that. But I feel fate plays a great hand in human life. What has to happen happens in its own time. I feel nothing should come to a human being easily. If that happens, a person loses her head. Though I must admit I have never got carried away by appreciation or praise. I have never considered myself an extraordinary singer. Pride is the downfall of any artist.

Q. Are you happy?

A. Very happy. What makes me really happy is that the Bharat Ratna comes from the Indian government. Even if the government of India presented me with a flower it would have been the equivalent of the Bharat Ratna for me. It is truly a great honor.

Q. What do you feel about renowned shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan winning the Bharat Ratna with you?

A. Khan Sahib deserves it. In fact, there are so many artists who deserve to be similarly honored. I am so glad Bismillah Khan Sahib has got the award. I would have liked to see him win it even earlier. I have known and admired him for many years. I have seen him at many concerts. He has also performed at my father's death anniversary. He has visited us at our home. He is a very simple and good-hearted soul.

Q. What are the changes you have witnessed in the film music industry?

A. Earlier heroines like Meena Kumari, Nargis and Madhubala were of my age. Some heroines like Madhubala and Saira Banu even mentioned in their contracts that only Lata should sing for them. That was a different era. Today, I learn how to sing a tune from composers like A.R.Rahman, Anu Malik and Jatin-Lalit, exactly the way I learned from senior composers. I never try to exercise my will over them.

Q. What are your future plans?

A. I want to concentrate on nonfilm albums. My album of bhajans (devotional songs) composed by my brother Hridayanath is almost complete. I will continue doing whatever is feasible at my age.




Dal Se Taal Mila

Asha Bhosle & Bhupen Hazarika celebrated their Birthday With Lata

Dr Bhupen Hazarika and Asha Bhosle share their birth date, September 8. Asha invited elder sister Lata Mangeshkar and Hazarika to her home on Peddar Road for a quiet dinner. Afsana Ahmed was witness to the conversation as they took a stroll down memory lane.

The cosy living room of Asha Bhosle offered an ideal occasion for the rebonding for three luminaries in Indian music. Asha spoke glowingly about Dr Bhupen Hazarika, the Dada Saheb Phalke recipient, while elder sister and Bharat Ratna recipient, Lata Mangeshkar smiles away quietly as they take their respective seats. “I was lucky to be born on the same day as the legendary Hazarika,” says Asha. Hazarika acknowledges her comment with a smile addressing Lata and Asha as “living Saraswatis”.

The singer-cum-music director completes 75 glorious years today, while Ashaji turns 68. “Hey, don’t call me ancient like them, abhi bhi mein ek youthful ladki hunh,” says the gregarious Asha breaking into peals of laughter. Lata replies with the same dynamism, “You shouldn’t forget that the modern time still needs us. We were the architects of modernism.”

It was a nostalgic trip for the trio, considering the fact that their association dates back to the year 1957. That was the year when Lata first lent her melodious voice for Junakore raati, an Assamses song written by Hazarika. “Those days were wonderful days. They are firmly etched in memory,” reveals Lata, reminiscing of the days gone by.

Hazarika, it is apparent, is fond of the two sisters. And the three have nothing but respect and love for each other. So it is no surprise when Hazarika adds, “My fondness for Lata grew after this first association with her and our association gained energy thereafter. Infact, my respect and liking for her grew so much that I composed many songs especially for her.” For instance, when Lata was angry once Hazarika wrote ‘O abhimaani bandhu’ (O my proud friend), and Mone rekho Mone rekho’ (Please bear in mind). Lata and Asha sang innumerable songs in different languages under the guidance of Hazarika. So close was their friendship that, Hazarika today solely credits Lata for educating him on Maharastrian culture.

At that point, however, Asha’s presence was insignificant in Hazarika’s record. “I never paid any attention to her (Asha),” he recalls. Ironically, when Hazarika scored his first Hindi film music for Aarop, in 1975, Asha lent her voice for the song Naine mein darpan hai darpan mein koi. That set the trend for Hazarika and Asha to work together till Darmiyaan. “But he still prefers didi over me,” complains the young-at-heart singer playfully.

The conversation then veers off to different subjects ranging from Lata and Hazarika’s friendship to their honey sweet voice. Hazarika, besides the singing of Lata, was also witness to her photography and culinary skills. “I felt like a model everytime Lata experimented with her camera, clicking me from various angles. I always compared her with the renowned photographer Cycil Beaton.” Hazarika also remembers one incident distinctly when Lata tried to cook chicken, the Assamses way while they were in Kohlapur. “Lata took me to her native place in Kohlapur and cooked chicken for me. She wanted to prepare it in the Assamese style, but it didn’t come out the way she wanted it to. Nevertheless it was very delicious,” reveals Hazarika.

While Asha freaks out on pickle and spice, Lata loves chilly and ice-cream. “It’s a myth that spice and pickle ruin the voice. My mother asked me to stop singing when one day I refused to eat pickle. Since then it’s become my favourite.” says Asha. The trio lament this era of plagiarisation, and loss of originality. Like Asha puts, “Ek tune idhaar se uthao, aur dusre ke saath jodo, and we sing those. The soul is missing. We sing, because we cannot live without singing. But we know that we sing like zombies — motor- skilled, and dead brained.”

Courtesy : Lata Mangeshkar Fan Club (Member:Amit Wagle)



Actress Sadhana On Lataji
I am a big fan of Lata Mangeshkar. When I was barely 10 years old and a student of St. Joseph's school in Mumbai, Lata was scheduled to perform at Aurora cinema. A ticket for the show cost Rs 10 - and to think my school fees for the entire month was Rs 7. But I managed to convince my mother - she always indulged me - to take me to the show. It was an unforgettable treat to hear her sing live.

But I took the initiative of putting down my feelings for Lata on paper, only four years ago. Yes, I wrote her a letter about how I would study with the radio switched on so that I could hear her songs simultaneously. In the letter I also mentioned that even in my dreams I had never thought that one day I would be giving lip sync to her songs. Lata promptly called back to acknowledge the letter and thanked me for the compliment.

Lata has never told me but I intuitively feel that she is very fond of me. Though I entered the industry in 1960, I didn't exchange a word with her for years. She exuded such an aura I would be left speechless. Finally in 1967 when she was recording the song, Kaise rahoon chup ki maine pee hi kya hai for my husband R K Nayyar's film, Intequam I mustered up the courage to speak to her. The song was to be picturised on me. I said, "My husband hummed this song to me and I was wondering what kind of song is this." I illustrated my point by rendering the song in the besura way my husband had. Lata laughed like a little girl and quizzed me, "Is this the way he rendered this song? I will sing it for you now." And lo! What a world of difference it made when she sang it.

In the song Kaise rahun chup, my character indulges in some drunken behaviour. The evening before the song was to be recorded, director Raj Khosla, a family friend, told my husband, 'There is the sound of a loud hichki (hiccup) in the song. Lata will never lend her voice to that bit.' Nayyar was very upset. He walked up to Lata next day and muttered in his boyishly endearing tone, "Is it true that you won't sing the hichki? If you don't it will spoil the effect of the song." Lata was taken aback and simply said, "But I haven't refused. Of course, I will sing it."

Though Lata largely refrained from lending her voice to cabaret numbers, she sang Intequam's 'a jaane jaa, aa mera yeh husn jawan without any hesitation. A sensuous number enacted by Helen on screen Aa jaane jaa went on to become a rage. Lata sings it at most concerts even today.

She has sung some incredible numbers for me. The Lata Mangehkar-Madan Mohan combination worked wonders in my starrers, Woh Kaun Thi and Mera Saaya. Once I was shooting a song for Raj Khosla's black-and-white whodunit, Woh Kaun Thi in Simla. Since Lata was away to America, music director Madan Mohan had temporarily dubbed the song, Naina barse rimjhim rimjhim in his own voice!

But the onlookers in Simla were obviously not aware of this and the shooting left them nonplussed. Much to our embarrassment, a member of the crowd scoffed, 'Oye chhaddon yaar, yeh picture kaun dekhega. Kudi gaa rahee hai, woh bhi mard di aawaz mein!'

Though both Lata and Asha have given playback for my songs (Lata much more than Asha) and both are very gifted singers, I think Lata's voice suited me better. If you ask me, Lata is Lata. She is peerless."

An Interview

On Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital

Seventy-two (on September 28) and still going strong. Lata Mangeshkar's talent and her continued will to excel is phenomenal. Yet in person, the simplicity of the gentle, fun-loving childlike diva takes you by surprise.

Today after receiving the Bharat Ratna (for the year 2000) , Lata devotees struggle for superlatives to define her achievements. An exclusive interview with the singer.

Last year at 71 you had a hit Hum ko hum hi se chura lo in the charts. This year you seem set to score again with Kabhi khushi kabhi gham. Kaisa lag raha hai?

Kuch khaas nahin lag raha hai. It's all due to God's and my parents' blessings. Until my health permits, I'll continue to sing. I'm bonded with music for life. Also, I'd love to do more social service. Our hospital is a step in that direction.

Tell me about the hospital that you've built in Pune.

Well, it was supposed to open in October. But there's so much nitty gritty to be taken care of like towels, sheets, soaps, etc. So the inauguration has been pushed to November. It's ten storeys high. There are beds for 450 patients and provisions for every kind of treatment. It's perhaps one of the largest private hospitals in the country. We've named it Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital.

Is the hospital your brain child?

The person who should get all the credit for this dream project's realization is my brother Hridayanath. It isn't his nature to blow his own trumpet. He always retreats and lets me and others bask in the limelight. Even in his career he never went out to seek assignments. He took what came to him.

In your long career you've helped innumerable singers and composers to find a foothold. Do you feel let down by them?

Not at all. Why should I expect anything in return? God has given me so much. It's my duty to help others if I can. However, one incident did pain me. Some years ago, a music director contacted my secretary for my dates. When my secretary told him that he would have to wait for a while, the music director turned around and said, "Gone are the days when composers and producers would wait for her. No one waits any longer." My secretary fell quiet. When he told me about this, I told him to just forget it. Anyway, that composer (who, incidentally, I had in a way brought into the industry) soon faded away. I agree, woh din gaye. Lekin woh log bhi toh gaye, na?

But is it true that composers used to wait for weeks and months for your dates?

Yes, it was well-known in the film industry that if I went out of Mumbai or was unwell, composers waited for weeks sometimes months to record their songs. And amongst them, Shankar-Jaikishan was No.1. Also, Madan Mohan. Sometimes, he was under a lot of pressure to record my song in another voice when I wasn't available. I would encourage him to do so rather than let his work suffer. But once when I told him to use another voice for a film whose producer couldn't afford to wait, Madan Mohan said, "I compose songs with you in mind. Never say no to me."

Those days composers and singers worked as a team. Today I'm not too keen to sing for films.

What do you have to say about today's film songs?

I suppose they serve their function. If we look back, we may feel nostalgic. In those days there used to be 30-40 very gifted and popular composers. And I had the opportunity to sing for all. Since every composer had his own unique style, there was a great deal of variety . It used to be great fun to sing. Today the scope for variety has shrunk drastically. There are only a handful of topnotch composers A.R.Rahman, Anu Malik, Jatin Lalit ... that's it. Of course, there are other composers doing their jobs competently. Lekin naam to inhi logon ka hai.

But in spite of the falling standards you continue to get lovely songs to sing.

I'm fortunate. It isn't as if every song nowadays is bad. Sometimes I do catch snatches of tunes I like. But don't ask me to name them. I don't ever listen to my own songs, let alone those sung by others (laughs). But I loved Rahman's music in Lagaan. The duet that my sister Asha has sung Madhuban mein jo kanhaiya is lovely. Ghanan ghanan and my bhajan, O paalan haare were also very nice. Since the film is set during the British period, the music has a flavour of the past. There were no gimmicks. Lagaan is an indication that film music is bound to improve.

You recently recorded a Hindi song for the legendary Ilaiyaraja for Lajja.

Yes, it was my first song in Hindi for Ilaiyaraja. Earlier, I had recorded Tamil and Telugu songs for him. The film's director Raj Kumar Santoshi rang up to say it was a crucial theme song, and I had to sing it. But I had work to attend to in Mumbai before flying to London. Also, I wasn't feeling well. I told Raj Santoshi I couldn't come to Chennai. So he flew to Mumbai with Ilaiyaraja on the same day that I had to leave for London. I recorded the song Kaun dagar kaun nagar until 7 in the evening before I took the flight.

Are you 72 or 27?!

(Laughs) I'm just lucky. The last one year has been very eventful. I got the Bharat Ratna. Then we constructed the hospital in Pune for which we held a charity show in Pune. It was quite an event. After the catastrophe in Gujarat I returned from London for a charity show. I was glad I was of some use. We did manage to collect a little money. What really made me happy was that singers like Suresh Wadkar, Alka Yagnik, Sadhana Sargam, Sudesh Bhosle, Udit Narayan and Kumar Sanu made an effort to be part of the charity concert. I consider it a personal favour. I wasn't here to invite them personally. My sister Usha invited them. But they all turned up, so did Hrithik Roshan and Amitabh Bachchan. The fact that I still command so much respect really means a lot to me. Aaj-kal ki duniya mein kissko parwaah hai?



$500 Million SHOULD Hurt!

Calcutta, India/Houston, TX, September 13, 2002 … Turns out the singer who bills herself as Truth Hurts WILL BE hurt by the truth! Her song "Addicted," which has been steadily climbing U.S. urban charts and has been a huge success outside the United States, has unauthorized samples from an Indian movie soundtrack owned by Saregama India Limited, an RPG Group company, based in Calcutta, India. Entertainment Attorney Dedra Davis (www.musiclw.com), a U.S. based attorney, filed a copyright infringement suit on September 12th, against Dr. Dre, Aftermath, Interscope and Universal Music Group, after repeated attempts at resolving the matter.

Attorney Davis, on behalf of her client, requests, in the legal document, that every copy of the infringing work, "Addictive," is impounded and removed from the stores, internet, radio, television, and any other medium. Attorney Davis requested that an injunction be granted to stop the continuation of the infringement, that ALL the profits be handed over to her client, that the court make a declaration of the ownership of the composition "Addictive," and in addition to the other remedies given by the Copyright Act, that punitive damages (punishment) be given in an amount (no less than $500,000,000.00) that would send a message to Dr. Dre, and company, that would serve to deter them from continuing to engage in their unlawful behavior. The lawsuit is in response to the flagrant disregard, and disrespect, for Attorney Davis' client's religious beliefs, culture and ownership of the copyright. Some of the lyrics in "Addictive" are obscene and offensive, and cause extreme offense, to the company's owners and to the sensibilities of many Hindi and Muslim people. Saregama India Limited has been in existence for over 90 years, and the misuse of the company's copyright threatens its reputation and standing.

The idea of including the track was that of producer DJ Quik, who underlaid the Hindi tra,pck, "Thoda Resham Lagta Hai," and later vocals were added with a rap from artist Rakim. The original composition was in the movie "Jyoti" (Pramod Films), and the name of the artist singing the song that was sampled, "Thoda Resham Lagta Hai," from the movie soundtrack is Lata Mangeshkar

Attorney Dedra Davis can be contacted for more details and comments at DEDRADAVIS@musiclw.com; or 1-877-MUSIC LW or 713-981- 3861, www.musiclw.com. Attorney Davis recently won the "Legal Executive of the Year" award. She is CEO of Dedra's Entertainment Group, a managing partner for Black Cinema Cafe and an action coordinator for the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment. Additionally, she is a partner in Evans' Entertainment Group, which is the parent company for the newly formed company, That's Funny! Entertainment. www.musiclw.com