Meri Awaz hi pechan hai the soul of Indian music no more

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Anupama Nair


I am numb with sorrow right now as I woke up with a very sad news – Bharat Kokila, Bharat Ratna, my favorite singer after Mallka e taranum Noor Jehan, Lataji  left us today leaving the country and Indian music in gloom. Television news channels throughout the day were playing tributes. The singing legend was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Breach Candy Hospital in South Mumbai in early January after she was tested positive for COVID-19 with mild symptoms and was also diagnosed with pneumonia. Her funeral will be held in the evening at Shivaji Park. Two-day state mourning has been declared.

When I think of Music, I always think of my favorite writer Shakespeare and his quotes “If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die”. I will take you on a journey of the Hindi film music. Hindi film music has a long history and still decide the fate of a movie. The film music from the beginning till the 1990s had poetic lyrics and melodious music. However, with the arrival of the millennium, the music lost its touch. No poetic lyrics or melodious music exist, any more, only very rarely in film like Parinita, but mostly do not exist anymore. It pains my heart to see this fall. Hope the yesteryears come back, at least for music. So, I can say, safely it is the death of India music too.

The first film in Hindi with recorded music was in the move “Alam Ara” made in 1931, and the first song had the lyrics “De khuda ke naam per”. In the 1940s they are many songs which after 80 years are still popular. Some of those songs are “Akhiyan Milake (Ratan), Jawan hai Muhabbat (Anmol Ghadi), and Awaz de Kahan hai (Anmol Ghadi). The songs sung by Suraiya and Noor Jehan are still super hits. When Bharat Ma was amputated in 1947, Noor Jehan unfortunately left for Pakistan and it enabled the rise of Lata.

She was born on September 1929 to the great Dinanath Mangeshkar and Sevanthi Bai in the princely state of Indore in Central Provinces in British India. She was born as the eldest of five siblings – Asha, Usha, Meena and Hridaynath, who were all musicians. Asha Bhosle her sister is also a famous play back singer. She did not receive any formal education and her father Dinanath ran a theatre company that produced musical plays, where Lata started acting at the young age of five. She was introduced to music at a very young age.

Lataji’s  birth name was "Hema". Later, her parents renamed, Lata, after a female character, Latika, in one of her father's plays, Bhaaw Bandhan. Her father was her first guru. In her career of more than six decades, she was the singing voice for a great number of Bollywood leading heroines like Madhubala, Nargis, Nootan, Meena Kumari, Jaya Bachan, Sharmila Tagore, Rakhi… and the list is endless. She proved there is no boundaries in music.

When Lata Mangeshkar was only 13 years old, her father died due to a heart attack. The owner of Navyug Chitrapat movie company named Master Vinayak or Vinayak Damodar Karnataki took care of them as he was a close friend of the Mangeshkar family. He helped Lata to get started in a career as a singer and actress. 

As a teenager, she struggled to support her family. She decided to try her luck in Bollywood and moved to Mumbai in 1945. She started taking lessons from Ustad Aman Ali Khan of Bhindi Bazaar Gharana in Hindustani classical music. Her first movie was Aap Ki Seva Mein in 1946, and she sang the song "Paa Lagoon Kar Jori" which was composed by Datta Davjekar.  Lata ji once said Badi Maa released in 1945, was a epoch making movie, as Lata and her sister Asha played minor roles in the movie where Noor Jehan the reigning queen was the heroine. In this movie, she also sang a Bhajan "Mata Tere Charnon Mein", and this movie led to a life long friendship with Noor Jehan.

In 1948, Vinayak died and music director Ghulam Haider mentored her as a singer. He introduced Lata to producer Sashadhar Mukherjee and she recorded the hit “Uthaye ja unke sitam” in Andaz  released in 1949, and her destiny was sealed. From this point, she gave her musical voice to every major leading lady, representing every generation of Hindi cinema from Nargis, Madhubala and Waheeda Rehman to Madhuri Dixit and finally Preity Zinta and Kajol.

Her singing contributed a great deal to the commercial films like Mahal (1949), where the song “ Ayega Ayega Aane wala, ayega”, is still a blockbuster song. Barsaat (1949), Meena Bazaar (1950), Aadhi Raat (1950), Chhoti Bhabhi (1950), Afsana (1951), Aansoo (1953), and Adl-e-Jehangir (1955) gave her a career boost. She then sang various Raag-based songs for Naushad in films like Deedar (1951), Baiju Bawra (1952), Amar (1954), Uran Khatola (1955), and Mother India (1957).  Her first song for the composer Naushad was Ae Chorre Ki Jaat Badi Bewafa, a duet with G. M. Durrani. The duo, Shankar–Jaikishan, chose Lata for Barsaat (1949), Aah (1953), Shree 420 (1955), and Chori Chori (1956).

Composer S.D Burman before the year 1957 chose Lata as the leading female singer for Sazaa (1951),  House No. 44 (1955), and Devdas (1955). In 1957, there was a rift and she did not sing his compositions again until 1962."Aaja Re Pardesi" from Madhumati (1958) won her the Filmfare award. She sang for films like Baagi (1953), Railway Platform (1955), Pocketmaar (1956), Mr. Lambu (1956), Dekh Kabira Roya (1957), Adalat (1958), Jailor (1958), Mohar (1959), and Chacha Zindabad (1959), for the great Madan Mohan.

Can we ever forget the song "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya" from Dilip Kumar, Madhubala starrer Mughal-e-Azam released in1960. Lata Ji sang this song very beautifully and is still, a blockbuster. It was composed by Naushad and lip-synced by Madhubala. "Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh" from Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960) was also sung by Lata Ji very beautifully. It was composed by Shankar–Jaikishan and lip-synced by Meena Kumari.

Lata Ji sang a patriotic song against the backdrop of the Sino-Indian War “ Ae mere watan ki logon” in the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India and it is  said that the song brought tears to former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The song was composed by C. Ramchandra and written by Kavi Pradeep. The song “Vandemataram” sung by Lata from the film Anandmath fills the heart of every Indian with patriotism.

The 1960s was beginning of the association of Lata Ji with Laxmikant-Pyarelal, the music director for whom she sang the most popular songs. It is said that she sang over 700 songs for the composer duo over a period of 35 years, many of which become hits. She sang for several movies including Parasmani (1963), Mr. X in Bombay (1964), Aaye Din Bahar Ke (1966), Milan (1967), Anita (1967), Shagird (1968), Mere Hamdam Mere Dost (1968), Intaquam (1969), Do Raaste (1969) and Jeene Ki Raah for which she got the Filmfare award.

Meena Kumari's last film ‘Pakeeza’ released in 1972 which featured popular songs like "Chalte Chalte" and Inhi Logon Ne", sung by Lata Ji and composed by Ghulam Mohammed are still popular today. She also recorded various popular songs for S.D Burman's last films like "Rangeela Re" from Prem Pujari (1970), "Khilte Hain Gul Yahaan" from Sharmeelee (1971), and "Piya Bina" from Abhimaan (1973) and for Madan Mohan's last films, including Dastak (1970), Heer Raanjha (1970), Dil Ki Rahen (1973), Hindustan Ki Kasam (1973), Hanste Zakhm (1973), Mausam (1975) and Laila Majnu (1976).

Various songs by Lata Mangeshkar were composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Rahul Dev Burman in the 1970s. Various hit songs are also sung by her with Rahul Dev Burman in the films including Amar Prem (1972), Caravan (1971), Kati Patang (1971), and Aandhi (1975). The two are noted for their songs with the lyricists Majrooh Sultanpuri, Anand Bakshi, and Gulzar. She won the 4th film fare award for the song “Biti na Bitai” from the film Parichay. She also sang Malayalam song in 1974 ""Kadali Chenkadali" for the film Nellu. It was composed by Salil Chowdhury, and written by Vayalar Ramavarma.

She won the National Award for her song “ Roothe Roothe Piya” from the movie Kora Kagaz. She started singing in many concerts from the 1970s onwards including various charity concerts. In 1974, and her first concert was at the Royal Albert Hall, London and she was the first Indian to do so. An album of Mira Bhajans was released soon. Satyam Shivan Sundaram in 1978 directed by Raj Kapoor in which Lata Ji sang the main theme song "Satyam Shivam Sundaram" become the hit of the year. 

In 1980s she sang for various movies including Karz (1980), Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981), Silsila (1981), Prem Rog (1982), Hero (1983), Pyar Jhukta Nahin (1985), Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985), Nagina (1986), and Ram Lakhan (1989). Her song "Zu Zu Zu Yashoda" from Sanjog (1985) was a hit at that time.The biggest hits of Lataji in 1980s were "Sheesha Ho Ya Dil Ho" in Asha (1980), "Tu Kitne Baras Ka" in Karz (1980), "Kitna Aasan Hai" in Dostana (1980), "Hum Ko Bhi Gham" in Aas Paas (1980), "Mere Naseeb Mein" in Naseeb (1980), "Zindagi Ki Na Toote" in Kranti (1981), "Solah Baras Ki" in Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981), "Ye Galiyan Ye Chaubara" in Prem Rog (1982), "Likhnewale Ne Likh Dale" in Arpan (1983), "Din Maheene Saal" in Avtaar (1983), "Pyar Karnewale" and "Nindiya Se Jagi" in Hero (1983), "Zu Zu Zu Yashoda" in Sanjog (1985), "Zindagi Har Qadam" in Meri Jung (1985), "Baith Mere Paas" in Yaadon Ki Kasam (1985), "Ungli Mein Anghoti" in Ram Avtar (1988) and "O Ramji Tere Lakhan Ne" in Ram Lakhan (1989).

In the 1990s she recorded with various music directors like Anand-Milind, Nadeem-Shravan, Jatin-Lalit, etc. She also launched her own production house in 1990 for Hindi movies which produced the Gulzar-directed movie Lekin. She won her third National FIlm Award for Best Female Playback Singer for the song "Yaara Sili Sili". It was composed by her brother Hridaynath. She also sung for almost all the Yash Chopra films. Even A. R Rahman had recorded a few songs with her during this period like "Jiya Jale" in Dil Se.., "Khamoshiyan Gungunane Lagin" in One 2 Ka 4, "Ek Tu Hi Bharosa" in Pukar, "Pyaara Sa Gaon" in Zubeidaa, "So Gaye Hain" in Zubeidaa, etc.

She was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor in 2001. She also established the Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune in the same year. It was managed by the Lata Mangeshkar Medical Foundation.She also donated to the 2005 Kashmir earthquake relief.

She released the album Sarhadein: Music Beyond Boundaries on 12 April 2011. It contains duet Tera Milna Bahut Acha Lage"  with the Pakistani singer Mehdi Hassan. She also recorded a song for composer Nadeem-Shravan "Kaise Piya Se" for Bewafaa (2005). Shamir Tandon also recorded a song with her "Tere Hasne Sai Mujheko" for the movie Satrangee Parachute (2011). She also recorded a song in her own studio. The song was "Jeena kya hai, jaana maine" for Dunno Y2-Life Is A Moment (2015).

Our great PM Modi shared a slew of pictures of the great Bollywood singer and wrote, "I am anguished beyond words. The kind and caring Lata Didi has left us. She leaves a void in our nation that cannot be filled. The coming generations will remember her as a stalwart of Indian culture, whose melodious voice had an unparalleled ability to mesmerise people". Akshay Kumar wrote, "Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hain, Gar Yaad Rahe…and how can one forget such a voice! Deeply saddened by the passing away of Lata Mangeshkar Ji, my sincere condolences and prayers. Om Shanti".

Former cricketer Virendra Sehwag wrote, "The Nightingale of India, a voice which has resonated with, brought joy and happiness to millions around the world leaves. Heartfelt Condolences to her family and fans. Om Shanti".

Tributes came from all around the world. Pakistan foreign minister Fawad Chaudhry said “Lata Mangeshkar was the uncrowned queen of music and her voice shall keep ruling the hearts of people for all times to come”.

My favorite song of Lata ji is “yeh zindagi usi ki hai” from the film Anarkali. Om Shanti Lataji, you will live in our hearts forever. You will never die.







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