Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar’s voice will linger on for ages

She was bestowed with the prestigious Bharat Ratna award

The Nightingale of India has flown away forever. The voice that soothed and enthralled millions of people all over the planet will never be heard anymore. Countless fans are in tears today after the news broke that Lata Mangeshkar the Queen of Melody had passed away.

The numerous awards that she received acknowledged the tremendous talent that she possessed. But the extent of that talent can only be felt and measured in the hearts of her ardent admirers. Mere words cannot explain the feelings that her voice could evoke among those who listened to her soulful songs.

Perhaps the closest description came from the famous thespian Dilip Kumar who once said about her: “Lata Mangeshkar ki awaaz kudrat ki takhleek ka ek karishma hai(The voice of Lata Mangeshkar is a miracle created by Nature). He sometimes used to refer to her as his Chhoti Behen (junior sister) and his affection for Lata was boundless.

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Others too have tried to describe her magic and charisma. Said Javed Akhtar once that when you are talking about Michelangelo, Beethoven or Shakespeare, the name is sufficient. The name says it all and conveys everything that the person signifies. Lata Mangeshkar’s name conjures up tunes and visions inside one’s consciousness that are indescribable.

Despite being a famed singer, she was always her own biggest critic. When she used to listen to her own songs, she would feel that she could have done better. She could have added a few subtle touches that would have made the rendition more meaningful.

She was a person who was always lost in music. Nothing else mattered in her life. There is an oft repeated story that on one occasion just as she was about to leave for a recording session, two income tax officials arrived at her house. They had orders to seize certain of her movable properties including her car. But when she met them, she remained cool and unfazed. She only asked the officers in her polite manner:

“Will you please take me to the recording studio and then take my car away?”

Now it was the turn of the officials to be caught by surprise. They had expected some harsh words, some anger and some form of resistance. But there was none.

When she was born she was encouraged to take an interest in music by her father Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar who was a theater actor and a classical singer, a disciple of the Gwalior gharana. Little did the Pandit know that one day his petite daughter would become India’s most famous and respected singer.

It is impossible to do justice to her singing ability in one single article. Perhaps even a whole book may not suffice. As a playback singer, she has recorded songs in over a thousand Hindi films and has sung songs in over thirty-six Indian languages and foreign languages. She was conferred with the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1989 by the Government of India.

More honour came her way when in 2001, in recognition of her contributions to the nation through music. She was bestowed with the prestigious Bharat Ratna award. She already had the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan awards conferred upon her earlier.

Recognition of her achievements went far beyond the boundaries of the country of her birth. France conferred on her its highest civilian award, the Officer of the Legion of Honour in 2007.

She has received three National Film awards, 15 Bengal Film Journalists’ Association awards, four Filmfare Best Female Playback singer awards, Filmfare Lifetime Achievement award and many more trophies and awards in the course of her amazing singing career.

The Encyclopedia Britannica has written that after Lata Mangeshkar recorded the hit “Uthaye ja unke sitam” in the film Andaz (1949), her destiny was made. From that point on, she voiced the songs for every major leading lady, representing every generation of Hindi cinema from Nargis and Waheeda Rehman to Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta.

Music directors such as Naushad, Madan Mohan, and S.D. Burman composed tunes specifically to exploit the potential of her wide-ranging soprano. Lata Mangeshkar’s singing contributed a great deal to the commercial success of such films as Mahal (1949), Barsaat (1949), Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), and Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) and many more big hits.

Notable among her concert performances was her wartime rendition of the poet Pradeep’s patriotic song Ae mere watan ke logo, which moved Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to tears.

But it was not only Pandit Nehru who shed tears after hearing her soulful and melodious voice. Many have been moved beyond words. Who can forget songs like Lag ja gale se phir yeh haseen raat ho na ho, Shaayad phir is janam mey mulaaquat ho na ho (from the film Woh Kaun Thi). The haunting melody and the sadness of the lyrics were perfectly brought forth by the one and only Lata. Many of her songs will be cherished forever.

Her songs and duets with male singers from films like Abhimaan (Ab To Hai Tumse, Tere Mere Milan Ki Yeh Raina) and Aandhi (Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi, Tum Aa Gaye Ho Noor Aa Gaya Hai) and Pakeezah (Inhi Login Ne, Chalte Chalte Yun Hi Koi, Mausam Hai Ashiqana), Madhumati (Aaja Re Pardesi) and many others, will remain unforgettable.

These songs are immortal. Now she has departed from our midst. But she will remain in our hearts forever. As the writer George Elliott once wrote: “Those who die are never dead unless we forget about them”.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who mainly writes on culture and sports.

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