'Music shouldn't be just a tune, it should be a touch.'
- Amit Kalantri

The aforementioned quote can be well related to the versatility of Lata Mangeshkar, the Indian playback singer. A playback singer is a singer whose songs are pre-recorded for use in films. Lata ji was a veteran artist who never failed to touch the hearts or emotions of people with her melodies. She was the pride of the Indian music industry. Lata Mangeshkar was like a personified cuckoo blessed to the industry. In order to give honor and recognition to her works, she is also known as the 'Nightingale of India.'

Born in Indore (Madhya Pradesh) on 28th September 1929 to a classical singer Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar and Shevanti. She was originally named, Hema. Her parents later changed it to Lata, inspired by a character named 'Latika' in Marathi play (Bhaaw Bandhan). She was introduced to music lessons at a very tender age of five. It is also said that her father had made a prophecy for her 'undisputed and commendable success' just by looking at her birth chart. She received the initial musical lessons from her father. She was the eldest of all her siblings, Meena, Asha, Usha, and Hridyanath in birth order. All of them are accomplished singers and musicians now. She was seen in some of her father's plays when she attained the age of nine or ten. To know about the complete musical journey of this megastar, read on.

The first song of her musical career was, 'Naachu Ya Gade, Khelu Saari Mani Haus Bhaari' couldn't be incorporated in the film as her father didn't consent her to sing for the films. In 1942, Lata ji lost her father. He passed away due to a heart ailment. This very incident was a big jolt for the Mangeshkar family. Clouds of financial security strangled the Mangeshkars. Lata ji was only thirteen but being the eldest of all her siblings realised her responsibilities and hunted for work. She did pursue acting for some films but that didn't work as Lata ji herself had no intrinsic interest in this area. In an interview, she explained the reason, 'A person should remain what he or she is. He shouldn't imitate others both in real and virtual world.' Consequently, she developed her career in her passion, that is, singing. She started learning music from Master Vinayak, friend of Lata ji's father. Later, the company of Master Vinayak shifted to Bombay. Hence, along with his teacher, Lata ji also stepped in the arc of Indian cinema. It will be surprising for the readers to know that the voice of Lata ji was rejected at the very onset of her career on account of it being low-pitched. Initially, she received some informal training from Naushad Sir. After some time, she started formally learning Indian music from Ustad Aman Ali Khan. The first earning of her life in the career of music was twenty-five rupees. She continued to head forward. In 1945, Ghulam Haider realising the inherent talent in Lata ji promised to himself to establish Lata Mangeshkar in the singing career. Lata ji herself admitted that it was largely due to the support and assistance of Ghulam Haider Sir that helped her to reach the helm in the list of Bollywood singers.

Between 1948-49, twenty-two songs sung by her became highly popular. Indeed, that was a water shedding year for Lata Mangeshkar. The song 'Aayega Aanewala' from movie 'Mahal' earned her loads of fame as that song went a super-duper hit. The career of Lata ji saw a tremendous growth during the 1950s. She worked with famous music composers, Naushad, Shankar Jaikishan and Sachin Dev Burman, and many more. In the 1960s, she monopolised the title of 'Queen of Bollywood Playback Singing' for herself. Her songs received an overwhelming response in and across the country. During the 1970s, Lata ji recorded songs for Bollywood actress in film, 'Paakezah' earned her sky-high popularity. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she worked with the children of the music composers; with whom she had worked in the past. In 1990, she established her own production house. She now focussed on the development of her career abroad. In 1974, Lata Mangeshkar became the first Indian artist to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London. She gradually reduced the volume of work for her health issues. Between the 2000-2010, Lata ji featured her voice in a lot of films. Some of the well-appraised songs are here, 'Humko Humi Se Chura Lo' (2000), 'O Paalanhare' (2001), 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham' (2001), 'Tere Liye' (2004), 'Do Pal' (2004), 'Luka Chuppi' (2006). Lata Mangeshkar launched her own music label, LM Music in 2012. Her last two recorded songs were 'Gayatri Mantra' and 'Saughand Mujhe Iss Mitti Ki'. The former was sung by her at a wedding function while the latter was sung as a tribute or a salute to the Indian army. The latter one was released in the year 2019. It was after this one can trace that she didn't record any songs either for a movie or an album. But that didn't mean in any way that she retired from singing. Singing was her life. Her passion. A prayer that she offered to the deity, Goddess Saraswati. She sang bare footed as for her singing was a prayer that she used to offer to the deity. She continued singing, retrospecting her errors each time trying to go better than the previous. She continued learning till her last breaths. Lata Mangeshkar hence, proves that learning is never circumscribed by age. It continues and just continues. Lata ji explained it all herself,

"If at all I listen to them; I feel I could have done so much better, applied my creative mind, given it a higher rendition".

It is hard to imagine that a musician of her calibre is so self-critical of her work. She had said, 'Music is my life.' I have nothing else. Even today-after all these years-I am scared that the composer will be unhappy with my rendition. When I start singing, the world disappears.

She said once, 'I can't believe I've been tolerated by music lovers for 75 years.' shows the humility of her character. She was so very down to earth. She had assumed a saint-like status in the music industry. It used to be a pleasure to see her recording a song for many.

I wouldn't fail to mention some of the masterpieces of the legendary artist, 'Tum Mujhe Yoon Bhula Naa Paaoge', 'Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram', 'Ajeeb Daastan Hai Yeh, Kaha Shuru Kaha Khatam', 'Yeh Pyaar Kaa Nagma Hai', ' Chitti Naa Koi Sandesh, Kaha Tum Chale Gaye' 'Chanda Hai Tu Mera Suraj Hai Tu', 'Aaj Phir Jeene ki Tamanna Hai' and many more.

Lata Mangeshkar's rendition of 'Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo' in 1963 against the backdrop of the Sino-Indian war made the, then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru emotional. Lata Mangeshkar's 'Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya' featuring in the epic and historical film, 'Mughal-e-Azam' also is an exemplification of her versatile and erudite personality.

The songs of Lata Ji were always filled with emotions. Though she sung sad songs often, but she also sung in areas like unrequited love or national pride. Lata ji has never failed us to give us golden tracks. Lata ji in an interview once said,

When I sang a lullaby, I became a mother. When it was a romantic song, I was a lover'.
She refused to sing only bawdy songs mentioning that it infringed her own ethical values. It should be noted that Lata ji had differences with many singers on account of some ethical matters. She never listened to her own sung songs. For this Lata ji cited, 'as she points out her own errors while listening to them back again, which caused her pain.' A philosophical outlook towards things was manifested in her character. She was a professional perfectionist as she didn't had to practice much. She used to care about every minuscule thing relating to the song describing her devotion, dedication, commitment, and passion towards music. Lata Mangeshkar took singing as a spiritual practice. Hence, spirituality was very much embedded in her melodies. Her voice was very young and youthful. It was full of expressions. She was very soft-spoken, humble, and polite in demeanour. Lata ji's voice was filled with sanctity. She was a kind and grateful woman. She had a considerable influence on the singers of the contemporary era. Hardly we hear about any controversy associated with her name. She had a very relaxed and comforted state of mind. She believed in the 'sanity of heart.' She has been an inspiration for many.

The rise of India from a colony to an independent state thereafter it's development since Independence ran in tandem with the rise of Lata ji's musical career. Lata ji had closely witnessed the transition of the Indian film world for decades. She experienced the evolution of Indian music from pre-independent India to post-independent India. She was definitely the most experienced Indian singer ever. She carried with herself the threads of history. In order to encourage new talents, she asked the organizers not to nominate her name for the competitions. Her contribution to music is immortal and shall be remembered forever. Her songs served as a connecting cord to unite people. She has had many concerts in India and abroad. The music composers used to beg Lata ji to sing for them. She had sealed her supremacy in the Indian film industry. In view of giving recognition to her works, she has been conferred many awards. Padma Bhusan ( 1969 ) and Padma Vibhusan ( 1999 ) were bestowed on her. Dada Saheb Falke Awards was also conferred on her. She is the receipent of Filmfare Awards for at least six to seven times. The Bharat Ratna awardee registered herself in the Guinness World Record by singing more than 30,000 songs. She had recorded songs in almost thirty-six languages, though primarily, in Hindi and Marathi and a few foreign languages too. She has also lent her beautiful voice to some thousand films. She was an occasional music composers too. She was an institution altogether in herself. In 2007, she received the highest civilian honour in France, that is, Legion of Honour.

Lata ji had never been to school except for a day is also flabbergasting. She had a golden seven-decade-long music career. She never married but understood the significance of love. She created songs catering to the requirements of all sorts of generations. She dedicated her entire life to her family and passion. She was a highly sophisticated person. Although not known to all, but Lata ji's sense of humour was just excellent. Lata ji had organised a concert for Goa liberation. She was a wonderful photographer and an ardent lover of wildlife too. She is an inspiration for many in the very sense that an individual can develop a prospering career in his area of interest and passion. Her character was an exemplification of the same. Lata ji was extremely fond of Cricket. She greatly admired the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar. In 1973, when India won the World Cup for the first time against West Indies, in happiness of this, she organised a free concert to elevate the enthusiasm of all and collected a sum total of twenty lakh to sponsor the cricketers. Harish Bhimani has worked out a biography on the legendary artist. The book, 'In Search of Lata Mangeshkar' authored by her biographer can help the readers to draw a greater insight into the life of the megastar.

The legendary artist breathed her last at Breach Candy Hospital, Bombay on 6th February 2022. Her mortal remains were consigned to flames at Shivaji Park accorded with complete state honours. Her death marks the end of a musical era. The legend will live on through her immortal creations. It is expected that the country will build memoirs like museums or archival materials related to the life-sketch of the artist. Lata Ji persisted her art of singing in the opinion, 'Art for Art's sake'. Her melodies crossed the borders impressing every community or clan. The legacy she has left behind her is humongous. She climbed the ladder of success without any God-father. She was regarded as the 'pride of Maharashtra'. She remains the gold standard for playback songs in India. On her 90th birth anniversary, she was bestowed with the title of 'Daughter of India' by the Indian government. She herself admitted that her voice was a gift of God. She was an icon beyond icons. No other playback singer can ever replace the timeless songs of Lata ji. The memories of Lata ji will be cherished by all of us. She documented the Indian imagination. 'The coming generations will remember her as a stalwart of Indian culture, whose melodious voice had an unparalleled ability to mesmerize people.'

'Lata ji is a celebrated singer not only in the neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, but also in some western countries.' - Shatragun Sinha, an Indian actor.

Lata ji was a prolific singer. In the contemporary era, one need not to elaborate on the artistic beauty of Lata Mangeshkar rather the name says it all. She has been rightly said, 'Queen of Melody'. Some regard her as the Pole Star in the sky of the music industry. Lata ji has been a moniker for excellence. Many people are just besotted with the melodies of Lata ji. Lata ji left behind her a treasure trove of songs vocalized in her sweet voice. She had immense love for her nation. She is the most revered playback singer in India. Lata ji left this world just a day after Saraswati Puja. It can be seen as a coincidence that the deity of art came herself to take her beloved child to the heavens. It is true that Lata ji is immortal through her melodies but with her demise, harsh reality comes into the forefront that, 'Music will never sound the same again.' Indeed, 'The heart of India throbs in the melodies of Lata Ji.'

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