Lata Mangeshkar needs absolutely no introduction. In a career spanning seven decades, she has sung almost every melody worth singing for all the leading B-town ladies imaginable, conveying through that indescribably beautiful voice pure love, pain and joy at the very core of existence. Now 91, the veteran singer remains remarkably alert and unspoilt by a success very few in the universe have seen and heard.
Mangeshkar recently came out of self-imposed hibernation to croon a special number, Hum Hindustani, on the occasion of India’s 75th Independence Day. Excerpts from an exclusive tête-à-tête with the living legend.
How has the lockdown time been for you?
I know my well-wishers worry about my health, but I am hale and hearty. Since I was hospitalised in 2019, I've been extremely careful about my health. So, being quarantined became a way of life for me even before Covid-19. I spend the day doing riyaz, reading, watching old films and resting. The newest addition in the family is a pet dog. She likes to spend more time with me than other members of the family.
I suppose I’ve been extremely fortunate to get the love and good wishes of Indians across the world for so many years. Mujhe aur meri awaaz ko jhelne ke liya unhein mera hardik namaskar (I salute them for tolerating me and my voice).
Jaya Bachchan once famously said, “A heroine didn’t feel she had arrived until Lata Mangeshkar sang for her.” What would you say?
Jayaji has always been generous. Both Amitji [Bachchan] and Jayaji are dear to me. I wish them good health. Last year when I heard that the entire Bachchan family had fallen ill with Covid-19, I was very depressed.
Besides Jaya, which actresses did you enjoy singing for the most?
I enjoyed singing for all of them — from Madhubala and Nargis to Hema Malini and Sadhana to Zeenat Aman and Mumtaz to Sridevi and Madhuri. I was very close to Nargisji and Meena Kumariji. Meenaji would always admire my long hair. She loved her hair and took a lot of care over it.
It always felt like you modulated your voice according to the voice on-screen. For example, in Yeh jab se hui jiya ki chori filmed on Moushumi Chatterjee, you laugh exactly like her? Was it a conscious effort?
Unfortunately, I don’t remember this song. I wish I could remember all my songs as well as you remember them. But yes, I always asked before the recording whom I was singing for and what the situation in the song was. The fact is, once I recorded the songs, I never listened to them again. Even when I hear a riff on television, I quickly switch it off.
Why is that?
Mujhe apni awaaz sunna pasand nahin hai (I don’t like listening my own voice). Instead, I like listening to other singers.
Who among the current singers do you like?
I don’t listen to contemporary film songs. But among the newer singers, Alka Yagnik, Shreya Ghosal and Sunidhi Chauhan are my favourites. From the veterans, K L Saigal is my all-time favourite.
What advice would you like to give aspiring singers?
Practise. Do your riyaz regularly. You must have a sound knowledge of classical music. Be original. Remixes and cover versions are shortcuts to success. To be able to establish yourself as a durable singer, you need to tap into your resources.
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