Latha Mangeshkar is no more!

March 16, 2022


Lata Mangeshkar, who sang in Sinhala, “Ma Priya Dara Jaya Boomi ( my victorious land)  in  ‘Seda Sulan’ movie (සැඩ සුළං) is no more! Born on 28 September 1929  to a Brahmin family of musicians,  affectionately known as the Queen of Melody, Nightingale of India, and Voice of the Millennium died on 6 February 2022 at the age of 92  in Mumbai. She was the daughter of Deenanath Mangeshkar and Marathi Konkani. Her father was a well-known Marathi theatre actor, a ‘Natya Sangeet’ musician and a Hindustani classical vocalist.

Musical Family

Lata Mangeshkar’s siblings are accomplished singers and musicians – Meena, Asha, Usha, and Hridaynath. At birth, Lata was  ‘Hema’ Mangeshkar. Still, later her parents changed her name to  ‘Lata’ to remember a female character named ‘Latika’ in one of her father’s musical plays. Her father trained Lata Mangeshkar to sing at the age of five, and she commenced working as an actress in her father’s musical plays.

Her father owned the ‘Navyug Chitrapat’ movie company. When her father, Deenanath Mangeshkar, died of heart disease in 1942, Lata was only thirteen years old. At this juncture, a close friend of the Mangeshkar family, Master Ghulam Haider, took care of the family and helped Lata Mangeshkar start a singing career. Gulam Haider was a well-known music composer, who worked in India and later in Pakistan. After her father’s death,  her father’s (Master Vinayak’s)  company moved its headquarters to Mumbai, and so did Lata Mangeshkar in 1945.

Ghulam Haider combined the famous Indian classical music (‘Ragas’) into the melodic framework and improvised rhythm of Panjabi music that helped raise the status of film music directors. In an interview on Lata Mangeshkar’s 84th birthday, in September 2013, she declared: “Ghulam Haider was truly my Godfather.”

Lata Mangeshkar began her singing career at 13, spanning over 73 years and recording more than 30,000 songs in 36 languages. Later she became a playback singer, music composer and producer. She produced films in 1953 (in Marathi) – an Indian language spoken mainly in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. She co-produced again in the same year with Ramachandra and continued her productions in 1954 and 1955 and 1990 films ( Hindi).

Guinness Book of Records

In 1974, The Guinness Book of World Records listed Lata Mangeshkar as the most recorded artist in singing history. She achieved  “ 25,000 solo, songs and duet and chorus songs in 20 Indian languages” between 1948 and 1974. Meanwhile, Mohammad Rafi, who was considered one of the greatest and most influential singers of the Indian subcontinent, challenged the editors of The Guinness Book of Records. He claimed that he (Rafi) had recorded around 28,000 songs during the specified period. Subsequently, Guinness editions discontinued their insertion in the Guinness Book of Records without any explanation! Nevertheless, several sources claim that Lata Mangeshkar recorded over 30,000 songs.

Lata Mangeshkar also disputed the Guinness claim of 25,000 songs (between 1948 and 1974). She said, “she did not keep a record of the number of songs recorded, and also she did not know from where Guinness Book editors got their information”. After Mohammed Rafi died in 1984, the edition of The Guinness Book of World Records revealed that Lata Mangeshkar had sung no fewer than 30,000 songs between 1948 and 1987. From the 1970s onwards, she also staged many concerts in India and abroad, including several charity concerts. Her first concert overseas was at the Royal Albert Hall, in Kensington London, in 1974.

For a brief period, during the 1960s, she was not on good terms with Mohammed Rafi over the issue of royalty payments to singers. She wanted Rafi to back her in demanding a half-share of the five per cent song royalty that the film’s producers conceded to selected composers. But Rafi took a diametrically opposite view. He believed that a playback singer’s claim on the filmmaker ended with the payment of the agreed fee for the song(s). Leading tensions between the two singers continued after an argument during the recordings of the movie Maya (1961) songs, and the duo refused to sing with each other in the movie. The music director Jaikishan negotiated a reconciliation between the two singers.

In 2011, Guinness Records reviewed her sister Asha Bhosle as ” the most recorded artist in music history, recording up to 11,000 solo, duet  and chorus-backed songs and in over 20 Indian languages since 1947″. However, Lata Mangeshkar dominated the Hindi film industry for almost five decades until the 2000s, along with her younger sister, Asha Bhosle.

Lata Mangeshkar gave her voice for over a thousand movies and participated in numerous solo concerts in India and abroad. With her lilting voice and sheer range, the enthralled music lovers enjoyed everything from patriotic songs to romantic numbers, both in films and albums. The songs Lata Mangeshkar refused to sing were cabaret numbers and pieces with bawdy or sexual lyrics, saying those did not fit her values.

Charity work

Apart from her singing career, Lata Mangeshkar established the ‘Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune, managed by Mangeshkar Medical Foundation (founded by the Mangeshkar family in October 1989) in 2000 . Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital is a large hospital in Pune, India, spread over 6 acres with over 900 beds. The hospital was named after the Marathi theatre actor, ‘Natya Sangeet’ musician and exceptional Hindustani classical vocalist Deenanath Mangeshkar. The first human milk bank in Pune was established at this hospital.

Lata  Mangeshkar helped immensely in charities in India. She displayed her generosity during the 2005 Cashmere earthquake, where over 79,000 people died,  with the number injured estimated at more than 69,000 people.

On 27 January 1963, against the backdrop of the Sino-Indian War, Lata Mangeshkar sang the patriotic song, “Oh, People of My Country” in the presence of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Her singing full of feelings brought tears to the Prime Minister’s eyes.

Towards the end

On 8 January 2022, Lata Mangeshkar tested positive for Covid-19 with mild symptoms. She was admitted to Breach Candy Hospital’s intensive care unit in Mumbai with signs of “marginal improvement” in her health. She came off the ventilator on 28 January, after her health “improved marginally”. However, she was put back on the ventilator on 5 February, after her health deteriorated, and was undergoing “aggressive treatment.” She died on 6 February 2022 from Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndromes (MODS) after undergoing twenty-eight days of constant treatment for Pneumonia and Covid-19.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi  laid a wreath next to Lata Mangeshkar’s body, wrapped with the Indian flag, as thousands, including Bollywood stars and politicians, thronged Mumbai’s, Shivaji Park . Prime Minister Modi, in a Twitter message, said, “I am anguished beyond words; she leaves a void in our nation that cannot be filled.” As seen on Indian TV,  her body was cremated amid the chanting of Vedic hymns and a special gun salute.”

India’s legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, who defined music for generations of Indians, received a state funeral. The Government of India announced two-day national mourning and the Indian national flag flew at half-mast.

May she attain the supreme bliss in heaven.

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