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India’s Sur Kokila – Celebrating the magnificence of Lata Mangeshkar

By : India’s Sur Kokila – Celebrating the magnificence of Lata Mangeshkar

February 08, 2022

Lata Mangeshkar

If there is someone who can encapsulate the brilliance of Indian cinema and its music, it is Lata Mangeshkar. She was, is and shall remain unmatched.

Her voice was the voice of our actresses for over half a century. Perhaps one of the only figures of Indian cinema known just as well by Millennials and Gen Zs as by Boomers. 

Music for Lata Didi started as a means to support her family. The oldest of five siblings, she took on the reigns of her family at age 13, after her father passed away. She began by recording Marathi songs, the first of which 'Naachu Ya Gade' did not make it to the final edit of the film. She moved to Mumbai at the age of 16, still struggling to be discovered. Her breakthrough came at the age of 20 with the 1949 song 'Aayega Aanewaala' performed for the silver screen by the mesmerizing Madhubala. After this, there was no holding back. In a few short years, she became the queen of melody, working with some of the most recognized music composers of all time—S. D. Burman, Naushad Ali, Madan Mohan to name a few. 

Meticulous about the selection of the songs she voiced, she only chose songs that resonated with her ethics and values. Never taking her art for granted, she learnt Urdu just to improve her pronunciation. Her voice was one of a kind and she tweaked it to suit different actresses, all the while maintaining her trademark authenticity. She could sing lullabies and amorous notes in a swirl. Her song ‘Luka Chupi’ from Rang De Basanti, can move you to tears every single time.

Her boundless artistry was honoured vastly, including with India’s highest civilian honour of the Bharat Ratna (2001), along with Padma Vibhushan (1999) and Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1989). One of the first artists to propel the Indian film fraternity to the world stage, she received the French Legion of Honour (2009). She also holds the distinction of being the first Indian to perform at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London.

vande mataram

In addition to her magnificent film career, Lata Didi was particular about her service to her motherland. She interacted with every Prime Minister of independent India, right from Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1963, when she performed 'Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo', then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru was left teary-eyed. With her song 'Than Gayi Maut Se,' she paid tribute to Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in October 2018. When she spoke, the nation stood still and listened, and when sang, the world was mesmerized.

She never turned down an opportunity to contribute her voice for the country’s good, and she sang many melodies in the service of society, nation, and cultural events. The last song she recorded was ‘Saugandh Mujhe Is Mitti Ki’ as her homage to the Indian Army and the country. In 1971, the money earned from her concerts was used to help refugees who had come into India from Bangladesh during the conflict. Lata Didi was also a great cricket enthusiast and showed her appreciation by performing at a fundraiser to raise money to facilitate the cricketers for the 1983 World Cup Win. Her compassion for others made her a people’s favourite. 

Recalling their 'Mann ki Baat' interaction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remembered the humbleness of Lata Didi and her passion for the development of India. The PM conveyed his grief in the Lok Sabha Assembly a day after her demise. He regarded her as a real master of her craft, a patriot, and a good spirit.

A great life with an indelible mark on India indeed!