Let’s clear the 2 biggest misconceptions about the "Goddess of all Melodious Things"

So many misconceptions about the immortal Lata Mangeshkar have been allowed to fester because she never bothered to correct them. It’s time to set the record straight for the sake of posterity

Lata Mangeshkar (Photo Courtesy: Getty images)
Lata Mangeshkar (Photo Courtesy: Getty images)

Subhash K Jha

She practised a 'Mangeshkar Monopoly'. She wouldn’t let her sister sing. She was moody and cancelled song recordings. So many misconceptions about the immortal Lata Mangeshkar have been allowed to fester because she never bothered to correct them. It’s time to set the record straight for the sake of posterity.

1. That she discouraged new talent: Why didn’t anyone ever ask the new talent if the Goddess discouraged them? Suman Kalyanpur, for example, whose career is said to have suffered because she sounded somewhat like Lataji, has always maintained the highest regard for Lataji. Anuradha Paudwal, another alleged victim of the mythic Mangeshkar monopoly, used to be a disciple of Lataji’s illustrious brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar, got her first chartbuster Tu mera janu hai tu mera dilbar hai in Subhash Ghai’s Hero on Lataji’s recommendation. Sulakshana Pandit wanted to sing all her own songs on screen. But composers like Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Kalyanji-Anandji insisted on Lataji’s vocals. When Runa Laila came to India to sing for Kalyanji-Anandji, Lataji personally congratulated her. We once spoke about the mythic Mangeshkar monopoly. “Why Lata?” Lataji wondered. "Only the composers can answer that. Once a very big singer asked Madan Mohan Bhaiyya this question and he answered, ‘Jab tak Lata hai aur koi nahin.’ I never stopped any composer from using anyone’s voice. On the contrary on many occasions I’d suggest other voices for songs that came to me. I remember this one incident vividly where actor-producer, the great Om Prakash, wanted me to sing a song for one of his productions. As I was not free I suggested another singer’s name. Some days later when I met Omprakashji I asked him how the recording went. He was quiet and then he answered, ‘Gana theek gaya lekin gayika ne aapke liye bahot bura-bhala kaha (the song went well but the singer badmouthed you).’ I laughed and told Om Prakashji not to feel bad. I am used to this. Neki kari aur kuwey mein dalo (do good and let it drown).” Personally, I have heard Lataji heap praises on many singers that came after her including Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal.

2. That she was a hindrance in her sister Asha Bhosle’s career: This myth is so laughable it makes me cry. Here is the truth about the so-called rivalry: Lataji actually cleared the decks for her talented and versatile singers so that all the fast-paced westernized songs went to Ashaji. Lataji would actually tell composers that the cabaret or dance numbers were not suited to her throat— which was not true, if you’ve heard her sing Aa jaan-e-jaan for Helen and Iss qadar aap humko jo tadpayenge for Bindu, you’d know what I mean— only so that those breathy sexy numbers went to her sister. If Lataji had not agreed to make space for her sister, Ashaji’s career would have never taken off. The so-called rivalry was fuelled not by sense of mutual hostility but by well-wishers who poisoned Ashaji’s mind against her mother-like sister. Speaking sadly on this subject, Lataji had once said to me, “How can we be rivals? Why would I stop her career? She is my own sister! We had our differences. I had warned her against marrying too early and I was proven right. But as far as our professional rivalry is concerned it never existed. I could never do what Asha could do. Some troublemakers had convinced her that I snatched away Ae mere watan ke logon from her. This was not the case.”

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