Whether it was ‘Lag jaa gale’ in 1964 or ‘Luka Chuppi’ in 2006 — legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar’s renditions have touched generations of music lovers who continue to enjoy her golden tracks. But she says she finds the “soul” missing from today’s music.
“I think playback singing has a lot to do with voice acting. I would suggest to all the youngsters to understand the character, situation and the story behind the songs. That is when you can add soul to the rendition which, I think, is missing in today’s music,” the 87-year-old told IANS in an interview at her Prabhu Kunj residence here. She observed that “perhaps that is why people still love to listen to retro songs, and new songs are going out of listeners’ memory faster”.
“As a singer, you have to bring the soul to the song,” said the industry veteran, hailed by many as the Nightingale of India. One of the most decorated singers in India, Mangeshkar has been awarded the Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Dadasaheb Phalke Award and multiple National Film Awards, among others. Adding to her portfolio of awards was an honour by radio station Big 92.7 FM, which announced a listeners’ choice award — ‘Hit Thhe Hit Rahenge’ — to commemorate the magic of Indian cinema by remembering and appreciating the evergreen movies and iconic stars in five categories.
Mangeshkar won the ‘Best Singer’ award and her song Lag Ja Gale won the ‘Best Song’ award. According to her, awards are a token of respect. “More than the trophy, it is the love and affection that people shower on me by listening to my songs years after years, that touches me. For me, awards are a token of respect that people are giving me. So no matter how many awards I am receiving, I always feel emotional,” said the melody queen, dressed in a beautiful white sari and with her trademark bindi on her forehead.
During her musical journey of over seven decades in the Hindi film industry, the singer lent her voice for many heroines of different generations. She says Meena Kumari, Nargis, Madhubala and Sadhana were some of the yesteryear actresses whose voice was quite in sync with her playback. And among the younger ones, she feels Madhuri Dixit and Kajol did justice to her songs on screen with their lip-sync and expressive faces.
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However, Mangeshkar believes Jaya Bachchan stood out when it comes to bringing all her songs alive on screen with her skilful acting. Sharing an anecdote from Abhimaan — in which she sang memorable and evergreen tracks like Piya bina piya bina, Tere mere milan ki yeh raina and Teri bindiya re for Jaya — Mangeshkar said: “Jaya-ji used to sit and observe me when I recorded all those songs. Since her presence made me conscious, I asked Hrishikesh-ji (Hrishikesh Mukherjee) the reason and he told me it was a part of her process to get a better insight of her character in the film.
“Later, when I saw the film, I was quite blown away to see her wearing red bordered white sari, red bindi and certain mannerisms like I do, unconsciously. But I must say, she did such a wonderful work. She is a very good actress.” As a singer, Mangeshkar has explored various genres in different languages, including the regional film industry. However, she has a special connection with Bengali music.
“Though I have sung in 26 langauges, after Hindi, I sang the maximum number of songs in Bengali for music directors like Salil Chowdhury, Satinath Mukherjee and Bappi Lahiri. Since Bengali and Marathi language have many similarities, I always felt as if it is my own,” she said, sometimes breaking into chaste Bengali while talking to this scribe, who also has roots in Bengal.
While her musical journey is too well known to the world, it is interesting to know that Mangeshkar is not only a food connoisseur, but also a good cook. “I love eating food and cooking for others. Unfortunately, my food habit has changed due to age and health issues and I am not allowed to eat most of my favourite dishes, specially hot and spicy food. I must tell you that I cook very good ‘mutton pasanda’ that I learnt from Majrooh Sultanpuri’s wife.
“These days, whenever I get time, I cook for my grandchildren,” she said with a smile as heart-warming as her songs.