"She will live on": Lalit Pandit on his association with Lata Mangeshkar

Pandit feels blessed to have known Lataji and to have had the pleasure and opportunity of being in her company

Lalit Pandit with Lata Mangeshkar (photo: Lalit Pandit)
Lalit Pandit with Lata Mangeshkar (photo: Lalit Pandit)

Subhash K Jha

Lalit Pandit, one-half of the Jatin-Lalit duo, recalls his association with  Lataji with tremendous warmth and gratitude. “Today is Maa Saraswati Lata Didi’s birth anniversary. Even though one realises she is no more with us, it does feel she is all around us as her voice resonates and seems to follow us wherever we are. In the recent days of the Ganpati festival, her voice was all around Mumbai as her songs were being played at housing societies, streets and wherever Ganpati was being celebrated.”

Like everyone who knew her personally, Pandit feels blessed. “Lataji  compels you to think about the few lucky ones who have had the chance to be close to her and have interacted with her and know her a little. She was an extraordinary human being and her life was an extraordinary journey. Yet she surprised me by revealing that given a chance again she wouldn’t want to be born as Lata Mangeshkar. It’s unimaginable that a person who is worshipped in our country and the world over felt that her life was not what she would want. Indeed she has seen a hard struggle in her earlier days after the passing away of her father Pandit Dinanathji. It was on Lataji’s frail shoulders that the Mangeshkar family had to depend.”

Pandit feels blessed to have known Lataji and to have had the pleasure and opportunity of being in her company. “My earliest vision and memory of her is during the Film Centre studios recordings. It was a little scary for me as we as children were rehearsing to sing parts of it with Lataji and Kishore Kumar. She was a vision.”

As a child, Pandit remembers seeing Lataji recording songs. “I remember seeing Lata Didi sitting and sometimes being surrounded by female chorus sections and talking to them while rehearsals would go on. She seemed to laugh and enjoy herself with whomever she would be interacting. I knew by then that she was a great singer but I was at that time only interested to have the song done and get back to playing. Lata Didi would order ice cream for all singing children and that would feel wonderful.”

Flash-forward to his adulthood and Pandit recalls, “After I became a composer we met again of course. It was amazing how for me, life would turn and I got connected with Didi again as a music director and she was the greatest singer. It was a tremendous day when I had her for the first song she sang with us. It was actually a song we were doing for a Dev Anand film. This was our first meeting since my chorus singing days during childhood.”

Pandit recalls every detail of his first recording with Lataji. “It was again a stressful day at Bombay Lab studio where the song was to be recorded. I was worried about how I was going  to get through the day with Didi. As she walked in to the studio with a white purse and in a white saree and after Dev Saab gave her a big hug we went and did her greetings as always it was to be by touching her feet. She could understand my nervousness as I sang the song to her and she slowly and softly sang along. ”

Next came the historic songs of Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ). “Of course next was DDLJ where she sang the songs for a full film for us. Both Jatin and I were aware of the responsibility bestowed on us for this great film for a dream banner! We as composers had our dream to make our mark with Lataji singing our very best. On the final song of DDLJ, Lataji heard the whole music score and said ‘Achha kaam hua hai!’.

Pandit gets emotional speaking of the singing Goddess. "She had a tremendous heart and she was a very loving person. Her niece (Meenatai’s daughter Rachana) became my very good friend during the days of Lataji’s recording and we still are! She was an artist with endless capabilities and I learnt a lot from her and enjoyed every moment of my being with her. It feels sad to realise that she is no longer physically  with us. But she will live on and will be inspirational always for many future generations to come.”

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Published: 28 Sep 2023, 3:50 PM