Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar dies after Covid-related complications

Lata Mangeshkar, the colossal vocalist who dominated playback singing in Bollywood for nearly three quarters of a century, passed away in Mumbai on Sunday, February 6. She was 92.

Mangeshkar, who was awarded the in 2001 for her contribution to Indian music, more particularly in films, had been detected with Covid-19 on January 11 and had to be admitted to Breach Candy’s ICU.

Mangeshkar, who was unmarried, leaves behind three sisters–Asha Bhosle, Meena Khadilkar and Usha Mangeshkar–and brother Hridayanath. All her siblings have also made a mark in the world of Indian music.

A recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1989, recorded songs for over a thousand Hindi films, apart from singing in about 36 languages, though primarily in Hindi and Marathi.

In 2001, in recognition of her contributions to the nation, she was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour and is only the second vocalist, after M S Subbulakshmi, to receive this honour. France conferred on her its highest civilian award, the Officer of the Legion of Honour, in 2007.

Apart from all these, she has taken home three Film Awards, 15 Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards, four Filmfare Best Female Playback Awards, two Filmfare Special Awards, Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award and many more. In 1974, she became the first Indian to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

The eldest of five siblings, Mangeshkar was born on September 29, 1929, to Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar, a playback singer and music director, and Shevanti in Indore. She received her first music lesson from her father and began acting in his musical plays at age five.

After her father’s death in 1942, Mangeshkar and her family were looked after by family friend Vinayak Damodar Karnataki, who owned Navyug Chitrapat movie company. It was he who helped the young Lata get started in a career as a singer and actress.

In 1945, at age 16, she moved to Bombay (as Mumbai was then known) along with Karnataki’s company. She soon started taking lessons in Hindustani classical music from Ustad Aman Ali Khan. Mangeshkar sang “Paa Lagoon Kar Jori” for Vasant Joglekar’s 1946 Hindi movie Aap Ki Seva Mein, which was composed by Datta Davjekar. She and her sister Asha also played minor roles in Vinayak’s first Hindi-language movie, Badi Maa (1945), where Mangeshkar sang a bhajan, “Maata Tere Charnon Mein.” She was introduced to music director Vasant Desai during the recording of Vinayak’s second Hindi-language movie, Subhadra (1946).

After Vinayak’s death in 1948, music director Ghulam Haider mentored her and introduced Mangeshkar to producer Sashadhar Mukherjee, who was working then on the movie Shaheed (1948), but Mukherjee dismissed her voice as “too thin”. An annoyed Haider responded that in coming years producers and directors would “fall at Lata’s feet” and “beg her” to sing in their movies. Haider gave Mangeshkar her first major break with the song “Dil Mera Toda, Mujhe Kahin Ka Na Chhora” in the 1948 movie Majboor, which became her first big breakthrough film hit.

In an interview on her 84th birthday, in September 2013, Lata herself declared, “Ghulam Haider is truly my Godfather. He was the first music director who showed complete faith in my talent.”

Initially, Mangeshkar is said to have imitated the acclaimed singer Noor Jehan, but she later developed her own style of singing. One of her first major hits was “Aayega Aanewaala,” a song in the 1949 movie Mahal, composed by music director Khemchand Prakash and filmed on actress Madhubala.

The 1950s and 1960s saw Mangeshkar gradually acquiring big league status, and by the 1970s she had worked with practically every established music director in the Hindi film industry, including S D Burman, Madan Mohan, Salil Choudhary, Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishan, Khayyam and Hemant Kumar to name just a few. Apart from that she made her mark in regional languages as well, more particularly Bengali and Marathi. In the process she earned accolades and a spate of awards and was the most sought-after playback singer in Indian cinema for several years. It was a position she would continue to hold for the next three decades at least.

Beyond music

Mangeshkar was awarded the in 2001, and in same year, she set up the Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune, managed by the Medical Foundation (founded by the Mangeshkar family in October 1989). In 2005, she designed a jewellery collection called Swaranjali, which was crafted by Adora, an Indian diamond export company. Five pieces from the collection raised £105,000 at a Christie’s auction, and a part of the money was donated for the 2005 Kashmir earthquake relief. Two years earlier, in 1999, she even had a perfume brand named after her and was nominated to the Rajya that year.

By the time Mangeshkar reportedly hung up her boots on turning 90, she already had over 30,000 songs to her name. That’s more than a song a day for the 70-80 years that she has been in the business. Some feat, that.

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