‘Bhula Na Paunga Desia’ the lines of her songs still make the nation weep when the legendary singer of ‘Pyar Kiya toh Darna Kiya’ is no more. Now only in recording, we can listen to ‘Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon’ song in Hindi sung by Lata Mangeshkar the ever patriotic song written by Kavi Pradeep and music composed by C. Ramchandra in 1964.

She was becoming a living legend without any social media support or glamour like that of our modern times without any jealousy and the great ability to recognize the talent of others.
Maybe she did not even know that she was the great Lata Mangeshkar displaying the least ego in front of others.

Now, who will dare to write an obituary for such an immortal soul though she had to follow the mortality conditions of human life and at 92 she succumbed to death after a prolonged 28-day battle against Covid-19. Her last recorded song was the Gayatri Mantra along with a message of congratulations especially for the wedding of Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal.

The whole of India is now in tears for the ‘national treasure’ and after her death caused by multi-organ failure, India goes into national mourning. Lata Mangeshkar is the living legend for her proverbial musical career which spanned more than seven decades during which she recorded songs in more than 30 languages and did playback singing to over 1000 thousand films.

Few however knew that she sang the song “Naachu Yaa Gade, Khelu Saari Mani Haus Bhaari”, which was composed by Sadashivrao Nevrekar for Vasant Joglekar’s Marathi movie Kiti Hasaal (1942), but the song was dropped from the final cut. One of her first major hits was “Aayega Aanewaala,” a song in the movie Mahal (1949), composed by music director Khemchand Prakash and lip-synced on screen by actress Madhubala.

In 2001 Mangeshkar won India’s ‘Bharat Ratna award’ and received nearly all the  National awards including, Dada Saheb Falke Award(1987)  Padma Bhushan, Padma Bibhushan Legion of Honour in 2007 four Filmfare Best Female Playback Awards, two Filmfare Special Awards, Filmfare  Lifetime Achievement  Award and finally she was the first Indian to perform at Royal Albert Hall, London in 1974.

We still remember how PM Narendra Modi kick-started Mann Ki Baat by speaking to this legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar on the phone and he wished her a happy birthday on September 28, 2019. After her demise, the Prime Minister wrote in a tweet that he was ‘anguished beyond words’ and that Lataji ‘leaves a void ‘in India that cannot be filled.’

Her death was heart-breaking news for President Ram Nath Kovind. Born in 1929 she grew up as a singer and her vocals were lip-synched by star actors in the Bollywood industry. On her Twitter account, Lataji amassed almost 15 million followers and she described herself as ‘Playback singer since 1942 (mai ek mamuli playback singer hun).

With ‘Mughal –E Azam’ released in 1960, she got her career-defining breakthrough. All see her fame but very few knew her dedication. She used to stand without even taking any food for hours during recording and even prayed for a long time before starting a recording. Even after finishing the recording, she used to ask ‘ye sahi hua or nahi’ (if this recording is okay or not).  This is a rare humbleness for a singer of her stature. Today a Bangla song comes to my mind ‘Ki likhi tomay’ (what I will write for you).

In the 1950s, Mangeshkar sang songs composed by various music directors of the period, including Anil Biswas (in films such as Tarana (1951) and Heer (1956)) Shankar JaikishanNaushad AliS. D. BurmanSardul Singh KwatraAmarnath, Husanlal, and Bhagatram (in films like Bari Behen (1949), Meena Bazaar (1950), Aadhi Raat (1950), Chhoti Bhabi (1950), Afsana (1951), Aansoo (1953), and Adl-e-Jehangir (1955)), C. RamchandraHemant KumarSalil ChowdhuryDatta NaikKhayyamRaviSajjad HussainRoshanKalyanji-AnandjiVasant DesaiSudhir PhadkeHansraj BehlMadan Mohan, and Usha Khanna.

 She sang “Sri Lanka, Ma Priyadara Jaya Bhumi”, a song in Sinhala, for the 1955 Sri Lankan film Seda Sulang. She made her debut in Tamil playback singing with “Vanaradham” in 1956 (Uran Khotala dubbed in Tamil) with the Tamil song “Enthan Kannalan” for Nimmi in the dubbed version composed by Naushad.

Sachin Tendulkar was present at her funeral ceremony and recalled her passion for cricket and the slot machines of Las Vegas. The West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee still cherishes the moment of getting a diamond locket from her as a gift. Nearly all those who recalled their memories are in a trip down memory lane.

For the Assamese she was more than any Assamese Singer with her songs–Jonakare Rati (Era Batar Sur), Roud Puwabar Karane (Era Batar Sur,) Kopi Uthe Kio Taj Mahal (Siraj).

For the Bengali people with her 185 songs in Bangla, she was more than a Bengali singer. Jadi Baron Karo Tabe Gabo Na, Kano je Kando Bare Bare, O Jhar Jharo Jharna, etc will keep the Bengalis mesmerized for many more years. Her wonderful musical friendship with Hemanta Mukhopadhyaya brought her to Bengali singing as her great friendship with Bhupen Hazarika created a golden bonding with the Assamese musical world.  

In a similar way, he won the hearts of people all over India by singing in nearly all the regional languages and achieved global fame. She made her Kannada debut in 1967 for the film Kranthiveera Sangolli Rayanna by recording two songs for the music director Lakshman Berlekar. The song “Bellane Belagayithu” was well received and appreciated. In the 1960s, she recorded duets with Kishore KumarMukeshManna DeyMahendra Kapoor and Mohammed Rafi in spite of some misunderstanding between Rafi and Lataji.

On the immersion day of Saraswati after the Vasant Panchami Day, we have lost the Saraswati of the Musical world and the irreparable loss will be compensated by listening ceaselessly to her 40000 songs and these songs will reverberate to lead the audience to the world of Satyam Shivam Sundaram.

No producer no music director can say that his best song was not sung by Lataji. She was unique the one who was the most original voice contributing to the musical world of India. All the singers who came into her contact were either her admirers or her worshippers, were either inspired or mesmerized.

We recall what Tacitus once said ‘The young man said I don’t believe in magic. But the Old man said you will believe when you will see her. This is true of Lataji. Anyone who says he does not believe in magic will believe in it when he will listen to her songs. ‘Hum rahe na rahe’ she sang rightly and when she is no more from today she will live forever in our heart. Amitabh Bacchan once said, India can boast of two things one is the Taj Mahal and the other Lataji’s songs.  

She advised the posterity not to copy her but to follow her and she will probably live among us no less as a human being as she will be living over the ages as an illustrious singer.

 The immersion of this real Saraswati of the musical world is not possible when her body is being cremated in Shivaji Park Mumbai. My heartfelt salute to the Nightingale of India.

Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee is a senior academician and poet. He can be reached at profratanbhattacharjee@gmail.com

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