When Lata Mangeshkar took on GM Durrani
Here is a story pertaining to the Indian entertainment industry’s most successful woman ever Lata Mangeshkar who not only put a badly behaved male colleague in place but also refused to sing with him
The MeToo movement gained momentum in these parts during the last two years, and it’s often alleged that women in the Indian entertainment industry are not inclined to come forward with their tales of male misconduct. However here is a historic story pertaining to the Indian entertainment industry’s most successful woman ever — Lata Mangeshkar — who not only put a badly behaved male colleague in place but also refused to sing with him.
The man in question was playback singer Ghulam Mustafa Durrani, popularly known as G.M. Durrani, who ruled the world of Hindustani playback singing in the 1930s, 40s and 50s and was eventually eclipsed by Mohd Rafi. However, in the decades before Rafi Saab, Durrani was the king of playback singing, and not afraid show it. The incident that shook the recording work happened in 1949 and the film was Chandni Raat which starred Saira Banu’s mother, the beauteous Naseem Banu.
It was the first song that Lata Mangeshkar was to sing for the composing maestro Naushad and that too a duet with the ruling playback singer G M Durrani. Lataji arrived for the recording of the duet, Hey chore ki jaat badi bewafa, but left in a huff without recording it. What happened? According to an eyewitness, “Durrani, who was quite a selfstyled charmer, began to lay on his charms thickly on the-then young petite singer thinking she would simper into submission. Lataji was 21 years old and the men in the fiercely patriarchal industry who underestimated her self-confidence lived to regret it. Durrani saab was sadly one such powerful man.
When Lataji arrived for the recording, he began to act over-friendly. He asked her what she was wearing around her neck. Lataji politely replied that it was haathi ka daant (elephant’s tusk) necklace which was a gift from her late father. Durrani dismissed her ornamental pride and said she should be wearing golden jewellery, as she had a golden voice. He then heaped praise on the newcomer thinking she’d be flattered.
But Lataji flared up and said she would not sing with this man, ever. This was a big decision for a singer who was just establishing herself. Not only was she ready to take on the biggest singer of the times she also faced the risk of incensing a formidable composer like Naushad who was giving her a break for the first time. And of course, the music industry known to protect its predators could’ve closed ranks on her. But Lataji stood her ground. And never sang with Durrani.
When I asked Lataji about the incident, she grows quiet for a while and then states, “What you’ve heard is absolutely true. Something did happen with this singer during my first recording with him. It was my first song with Naushad Saab for a film called Chandni Raat. But on that day when we were to record the duet Hey chore ki jaat badi bewafa, Naushad Saab was unwell and his assistant Ghulam Mohamed Saab was present. To cut a long story short, I didn’t like the way Durrani Saab spoke to me. I walked out of that recording and vowed never to sing with him. And I kept my promise to myself. I never sang any song with Durrani Saab in my entire career.” But the records show at least a dozen duets featuring the voices of Lataji and Durrani!
Lataji says, “In that case the records give wrong information. The fact is, I never sang any song with Durrani. I believe even that first duet in Chandni Raat is credited to Durrani and me. That’s false. Durrani was replaced in that duet by a singer called Sadat Khan. I repeat, I never sang a duet with Durrani Saab after the incident. I’d never compromise with my conscience. That’s not what my parents taught me.”