Lata Mangeshkar, daughter of India who is gifted with the most soulful voice turns 91 on September 21. Generations have grown up listenings to her songs.
The Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner was also awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, and is only the second vocalist, after MS Subbulakshmi, to receive this. Lata Mangeshkar has sung in over 36 Indian languages and even France conferred her with its highest civilian award (Officer of the Legion of Honour) in 2007.
The nightingale of India has been the voice behind many actresses across decades. Her soulful voice has been part of Bollywood for over 70 years now. She got her first major break with the song Dil Mera Toda from the movie Majboor (1948) but her first major hit was Aayega Aanewaala from the movie Mahal (1949), which was picturised on Madhubala.
After his father’s demise, Lata Mangeshkar was the eldest sibling to handle the responsibility. That’s why she never married. There were also a lot of speculations about the competition between Lata Mangeshkar and her sister Asha Bhosle’s relationship, but the bond between the two sisters remains intact even today.
Lataji took Indian classical music lessons from Ustad Amanat Ali Khan but later started training under Amanat Khan Devaswale after her former teacher migrated to newly-formed Pakistan. She also trained under Pandit Tulsidas Sharma, who was a pupil of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.
In the 1950s Lataji had a rift with S D Burman and the two didn’t collaborate again until 1962.
On Republic Day in 1963, two months after the Indo-China war had ended, Lataji brought tears to the eyes of then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as she sang Aiye Mere Watan ke Logon celebrating the soldiers who had died.
The Guinness Book of Records listed Lata Mangeshkar as the most recorded artist in history in the year 1974. This was contested by Mohammed Rafi, who was claimed to have sung more songs than her.
It is difficult to choose from the tens of thousands of songs Lata Mangeshkar has sung even a shortlist would have hundreds of them but here are a few of her memorable songs, each with a different music director, which show her versatility and range, and which have given us much joy over the years. Two of them are from 1949, the year that launched her glorious career. Most are from an earlier time, when melody was king.