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Peerless Lata

February 8, 2022 | By

Lata Mangeshkar’s matchless music impacted countless souls over 70 years and her passing away into eternity led to the entire nation mourning the loss. Ganapathy Subramanian, who likes to call himself an “acolyte of Lata Mangeshkar” pens an emotional piece as a photo feature tribute to his idol.

Lata Mangeshkar

Black Sunday…..Lata Mangeshkar no more.

संगीतातील सात सूर म्हणजे फक्त आणि फक्त आपली…

ल ता मं गे श क र

The Seven notes of Music means only and only our Lata Mangeshkar (The name Lata Mangeshkar in Devnagari also contains 7 letters)

केवळ लोखंडाच्या निफातून उतरल्या शाईनं, जाड्या भरड्या कागदावर लताला अभिवादन करणं म्हणजे एखादया अप्सरेच्या मृदुल चरणकमला खाली गोणपाटाच्या पायघड्या अंथरण्यासारखं आहे.
– Acharya Atre

Roughly translated from Marathi, it means “praising Lata on a thick, rough paper with the ink coming out of an iron nib is similar to spreading a gunny sack carpet under the soft, tender, delicate footsteps of an Apsara”.

She was a phenomenon that has never happened in the past nor may happen in future – न भूतो न भविष्यति….

तुम न जाने किस जहां में खो गए
हम भरी दुनिया में तन्हा हो गए…

She is a part of our being, a string woven into the tapestry of our existence. We feel lucky to have cohabited the terra firma with her.

तस्याः समा न भूता न भविष्यति – the only one for whom all superlative adjectives held were absolutely true, and at the same time, probably, were they grossly inadequate?

Lata with music composer Ghulam Mohammad

Lata with music composer Ghulam Mohammad

The undisputed Melody Queen of India…the pint-sized bundle of a musical genius, a singer with moonlight in her throat, a legend in her lifetime – the TIME Magazine had described her thus.

Diminutive in size but gigantic in stature, the nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar, charmed people in India and across the globe with her melodious voice by singing over several thousand songs as a playback singer in films in at least in 14 languages. She also built an enviable body of work in non-film music. She is among the most recorded voices of the 20th century, and left her indelible mark in the 21st century as well.

Lata with music composer SD Burman

Lata with music composer SD Burman

She defied the law of gravity for more than 50 years, staying firmly ensconced in her Numero Uno position as if age had bypassed her. Lata sang innumerable songs in a remarkable repertoire, which earned their place in the history of film and non-film music, both on their merit and their success in contributing towards shaping music trends, styles and genres.

Lata with music composer Madan Mohan

Over the last 70 odd years, Lata went on to add to her laurels, enough to lose count – Filmfare awards; national honours like the National Film Awards for Best Female Playback Singer (thrice) Padma Bhushan (1969), Dada Saheb Phalke Award (1989) and Padma Vibhushan (1999) and finally India’s highest civilian award – the Bharat Ratna (2001); Doctor of Letters from several universities apart from many other national and international honours – the list of awards is endless.

At her best, she was peerless. No one who could match the purity of her voice or her control over pitch. “Kambakth kabhi besuri nahin hoti” (She never goes out of tune) is what Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saab had to say after listening to her sing, Yeh zindagi usi ki hai.

A legend who has straddled generations with seeming ease, Lata sang for numerous actresses in these past seven decades. Actress Sadhana once said that heroines felt they had ‘arrived’ when Lata Mangeshkar lent them her voice.

Lata Mangeshkar was known to do her homework about the character – her age and background, the situation of the song, etc., before recording the song so as to become one with the character. Her songs display her amazing range and a gamut of emotions.

Composer’s composer Sajjad Husain, summed it up succinctly: “Allah created Noor Jehan and Lata to sing. After that, I don’t know why Allah bothered to create another woman at all!”

The unique ability to hold pitch at an impossible octave certainly made music directors give her compositions that were pitched higher than what they would give to other singers.

Lata has such a huge corpus of work, it is impossible to pick a few favourite songs. Like Lata’s tireless years of service to music, the list of our favourites is also endless.

Her songs showcase her voice in every emotion, from joy and playfulness to heartbreak and deep sorrow.

Lata with singer-composer Hemant Kumar

Lata with singer-composer Hemant Kumar

Lata had unparalleled effect on Hindi film music. She revolutionised singing and made film songs hummable by the common man and woman of the country.

She who worshipped Maa Saraswati every year on Basant Panchami day, this year bid adieu on the day of Saraswati visarjan, 6th Feb 2022.

She is peerless…timeless…matchless!

(Pictures used in this article have been provided by the author)

More to read

Lata Mangeshkar Sings for Madan Mohan

Journey Through Lata’s Melodies

The Uncommon Roshan

The Spontaneity of Nutan That Rose Above ‘Acting’

Ganapathy Subramanian is a retired senior electrical engineering professional with 37 years of rewarding and successful experience having worked for various large & medium engineering corporations in business development and sales & marketing, handling both domestic & exports operations. He had the distinction of serving in 2 TATA Group companies. He loves reading, vintage music, writing, sports and travel.
All Posts of Ganapathy Subramanian

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