Article | Blog | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ministry of Culture, Government of India


Lata last time. Long Live Lataji.

By : Lata last time. Long Live Lataji.

February 06, 2022

Last message of Lata Mangeshkar at meeting of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav 

December 18th was a particularly busy and stressful day for the team at the Amrit Mahotsav secretariat. A never-ending list had to be checked and cross checked for last minute confirmation of VIPs for the 2nd meeting of the National Committee that mentors all efforts and initiatives regarding the commemoration of 75 years of India’s independence.

Officer on Special Duty, Mr. Ratnesh Kumar Jha, was scrutinizing the name list for any inadvertent errors one more time before wrapping up work for the day. The landline phone, a relic that somehow comes into an extraordinary second life in Government offices, rang breaking his concentration. It was his senior asking if Lataji had confirmed her presence for this special meeting. Recalling his earlier conversation with her, Mr. Jha communicated to his senior about her delicate health and the decision to limit public engagement.

The call ended but something kept bothering Mr. Jha. It was the same emotion that we all have experienced but feared to articulate. A sense of foreboding – will we never hear Lataji again? We all have a Lata Mangeshkar story. A song that expressed just what we wanted to say or another that helped us tide over heartbreak or one that gave us goosebumps while going through a patriotic line up or a rendition that made us feel close to the divine power. Her voice was magic, and it will always remain so.

Mr. Jha decided to try one last time. He called back Lataji's secretary and asked for a minute to speak with her. What he said, we'll leave it for his autobiography but suffice to say she agreed to be part of the virtual meeting without appearing on the camera.         

The day of meeting arrived. There were about 100 people inside the Main Committee Room, in Parliament House Annexe building including the Prime Minister, Home Minister, members of the Union Cabinet and other dignitaries with others joining virtually from various parts of India. 

One by one the speakers gave their viewpoints. Some even extended their time. Then it was the turn of Lata Mangeshkar. Her voice came online and immediately it felt as if we had teleported ourselves out of an official meeting to the memory of a time when we would sit glued to our radio set in rapt attention.  

Lata Ji recalled her memory of 15th August 1947 and mentioned that the day of Independence was witnessed by everyone, including the Mangeshkar family. She remembered the showering of petals and flowers everywhere along with the chanting of “Hum Azad Huye, Hum Azad Huye” (We got freedom, we got freedom)

She talked about having recorded a song for the 1948 movie “Majboor” along with Mukesh, with the lyrics अब डरने की कोई बात नहीं अंग्रेजी छोरा चला गया, अंग्रेजी छोरा वो गोरा गोरा चला गया”

She stated that in the last 75 years, Prime Ministers and Ministers of the country have taken the country on the path of progress and growth, as a result of which there is prosperity and happiness today.

She conveyed her regards to the Hon'ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Government and the people of the country. She concluded with a melodious invocation of the shloka from Bhagavad Gita leaving us all quivering with emotion.

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत।

अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम्॥

परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय दुष्कृताम्।

धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय संभवामि युगे युगे

There was not a single person in that room or online who was not moved by that very special rendition. We did not know it then that this would be the last time we would hear her speak at a public function or otherwise. As you read this Mr. Jha is sitting in his office hearing her message on loop and reliving his conversation with her.

Long Live Lataji!

Lata Mangeshkar