Lata Mangeshkar: Lucky for all
It’s been a year on February 6 without Lata Mangeshkar, the name more synonymous (and earlier so) with Hindi cinema than a Satyajit Ray, Raj Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan. And with good reason too.
To begin one’s official career (as adult, after a couple of Marathi songs earlier and a stint as child actor in Marathi and Hindi films) in 1947 (with Aap Ki Sewa Mein) and record her last song a full 72 years later (the non-film patriotic song, Saugandh mujhe iss mitti ki released on 30 March 2019 as a tribute to India and Indian Army) is an incredible feat indeed. Among other obvious factors like sheer talent, adaptability and hard work, a key factor in Lata Mangeshkar’s career was the blessing of the Gods—which brought in also the remaining factor: incredible luck.
But even more significantly, Lata Mangeshkar herself was Lady Luck for so many associates who were starting out. Actresses, co-singers and composers reaped this benefit—again, in addition to their own talent and hard work. That she could match the persona of six generations of actresses was no mean task! The youngest actress she has sung for is Kareena Kapoor Khan in Mujhse Dosti Karogi! and Bewafaa, whose career began 53 years after Aap Ki Sewa Mein!
It is said that certain actresses insisted in their contracts that Lata Mangeshkar would be their playback voice in the 1950s and 1960s. While no specific star is known for this, the sheer majority of songs she sang for Nargis and Sadhana seemed to indicate that these could be two actresses who might have had that clause, though she first sang for Nargis only in the 1949 Andaz and Barsaat and for Sadhana in her second film, Parakh.
But Lata was the first voice for actresses all the way from Nimmi (Hawa mein uddta jaaye / Barsaat) to Nutan (Hamari Beti), Nanda (Toofan Aur Diya), Saira Banu (Junglee), Babita (Raaz), Hema Malini (Sapnon Ka Saudagar), Raakhee (Jeevan Mrityu), Yogeeta Bali (Parde Ke Peechey), Zeenat Aman (Hungama), Neetu Singh (Do Kaliyan as Baby Sonia and Rickshawala as adult), Moushumi Chaterjee (Anuraag) and Dimple Kapadia (Bobby) between 1949 and 1973.
From the mid-1970s to the 1990s the list went on to further include Bindiya Goswami (Jeevan Jyoti), Ranjeeta (Laila Majnu),Tina Munim (Des Pardes), Poonam Dhillon (Trishul), Jayapradha (Sargam), Rati Agnihotri (Ek Duuje Ke Liye) Meenakshi Seshadri (Painter Babu), Amrita Singh (Betaab), Mandakini (Ram Teri Ganga Maili), Farah (Faasle), Neelam (Jawaani), Raveena Tandon (Patthar Ke Phool), Manisha Koirala (Saudagar) and Preity Zinta (Dil Se…) among some more lesser names.
S.P. Balasubramaniam began his Hindi career with the chartbuster Tere mere beech mein, recorded live with the Diva for Ek Duuje Ke Liye. Two more singers also recorded their first film songs as duets with Lata Mangeshkar—Talat Aziz with Chhota sa ghar banaye (Aurat Aurat Aurat) and Roopkumar Rathod with Kitni jaldi yeh mulaqaat (Angaar)—all three duets composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
Laxmikant-Pyarelal themselves recorded their first song with her—a duet with Subir Sen for a film that was never completed. But they later went on to record over 700 songs with Lata—the highest any composer has recorded with a singer in Hindi cinema at least.
R.D. Burman also recorded his career-first song, Ghar aaja ghir aaye for Chhote Nawab. Thanks to this song, his father, S.D. Burman, who had not recorded with Lata for a few years after an argument, made his peace with her so that his son could record with her.
Data is sadly not available on the career-first recordings of composers Shankar-Jaikishan, Kalyanji-Anandji, Ravi, Anand-Milind and a few others, but some filmmakers who got beginner’s luck with Lata-dominated scores included Manoj Kumar, Manmohan Desai, Yash Chopra, Mohan Kumar and Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
Not for nothing has she been termed the Nightingale of India.