Bollywood is unexciting: Lata Mangeshkar
There are times in your life which you relate with certain melodies, some songs and tunes that capture emotions and turn moments memorable. Be it love, longing, passion, patriotism, devotion, determination, anger, attitude, hurt or happiness- Lata Mangeshkar’s mellifluous voice has given words to our feelings for generations. Didi, lovingly called, is undoubtedly the Nightingale of India and people across all spectrums have been swayed by her sweet sound of music.Thousands of songs and 80 years old, Lata didi is soft spoken, genteel, shy and very honest. She admits her ignorance of technology with childlike innocence and accepts being tired and busy due to work pressure.
She shares some unknown aspects of her eventful career and life with Smita Mishra
& Shashank Chouhan
. Excerpts:Your followers struggle to sing as well as you do. Which song was a challenge to you?
I never found any song difficult in my entire life. I get emotionally involved with every song I sing. I have always put myself in the character on whom the song is picturised while singing. Among the contemporary singers, who do you rate as the best?
Well there is hardly a new singer in the industry at this point of time. Most of those who are popular today have been in the industry from quite sometime.
I really like Sonu Nigam as a singer. He sang some of the best songs before he left T-Series to join films. Among the female voices I like that of Alka Yajnik and Sunidhi Chouhan. What saddens you in today’s Hindi music scenario?
The music of 50s, 60s and 70s was very nice and had a sort of permanence attached to it - as you can see they are relished even today. Even we used to feel happy singing then.
But today the dimensions have changed. What we hear today is short lived. Music fades away within weeks. And no one wants to listen to today’s songs once the euphoria has died.People today want songs with emphasis on beat. The significance of lyrics has faded.
In fact even the movies these days are such that stirring lyrics and melodious songs do not fit in.
Sometimes I feel I do not belong to this new Bollywood.You recently recorded an album with Mehdi Hassan, isn’t it true that you had long wanted to sing with him?
(Laughs) I never had any such desire at any point in my life that I longed to sing with someone.
In fact it is Hasan Sahab who wanted to sing with me. I am fond of many of his Gazals and possess several of his music records. I feel very sorry that he is so unwell.
I also appreciate the Gazals of Ghulam Ali and Jagjit Singh. With your career spanning over six decades, any composer you really miss and think that that things would have been different had he been around?
I have worked with so many composers and they have been so different in their approach towards music that it is really impossible to zero down on someone in particular as a favourite.
I confess that I miss the music of yore because it was so different and each composer had his own style. Madan Mohan’s music was more gazal type, Jaydev’s was classical based and Salil Choudhary and Hemant Da’s compositions had a touch of folk music. Each musician had his own stamp over music, so that you could tell by merely listening to a brief tune as to who composed it. What daily schedule do you follow?
Oh…please pardon me….why would it be of interest to anyone. What’s your favourite food? Do you cook?
I am a non-vegetarian and I love almost everything I eat. In fact my brother is a vegetarian, my mother was also a vegetarian but I became a non-veg eater perhaps because my father was one. I cook sometimes for my brother’s children. You have been working since childhood, don’t you regret having worked too hard and too long?
Oh no…I have no regrets. My work has only given me pleasure and all that I am today is because of this work. And I really thank God that I am still working…though less in films now. Some reason why you have stopped singing for films?
I have not stopped singing in films. But yes, I have slowed down. The reason is there is less scope now in films that are mostly hero based. For example I sang 12-13 songs for Mughal-e-Azam. The same was with Pakizah. Earlier the female caste was the focal point around which the entire film revolved. That gave a lot of scope for quality work.
The music industry has changed tremendously. It is not exciting anymore. Your career is what legends are made of. Which is that one most memorable moment for you?
Till 1974 I never went out or sang on any platform other than in films. But in that year I was requested by Nehru Memorial to perform at a show in Albert Hall in London. I gave my assent and we went to perform at this place that was for the first time opened for an Indian. Dilip Kumar and other stars accompanied me. It was tremendous success and was loved by the audience there. The joy I felt then is yet to find a match.