Lataji namaskaar, it is that time of the year again when we Lata Bhakts say a thankyou prayer to the Almighty for your presence?
Bahot dhanyavaad. Yeh toh aap logon ka pyar hai jo mujhe yahan tak laya hai. Varna main toh kuch bhi nahin hoon.
S P Balasubramaniam with whom you sang many hits, passed away?
It is very sad to have one of your colleagues go away. Balaji and I sang many hits in Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Main Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun and many others. He was a wonderful singer and an even better human being. I believe to be a good artiste you must have a pure soul.
Lataji, when you look back on your astonishing career how do you feel?
Mujhe ashcharya hota hai ke logon ne mujhe itne dinon tak kaise bardhasht kiya hai! I can't believe I've been tolerated by music lovers for 75 years. Without their love and loyalty I'd be nothing. I've never allowed success to go to my head. I've seen many artistes fall because of their pride. I've persuaded myself to stay humble and grounded. God has been very kind to me. Even my substandard songs have been accepted by my listeners. The blessings of my parents and the love of my listeners are what has kept me going.
Many of us believe there never was and there will be another Lata Mangeshkar?
I have to disagree with you. There have been many talented singers before and after me.
Comparable with you?
Yes, why not? Noor Jehanji, Shamshad Begumji , Geeta Duttji before me, and my sister Asha were all extremely talented. Among the current voices I like Alka Yagnik, Shreya Ghosal and Sunidhi Chauhan.
I have a question for you from Mrs Jaya Bachchan who idolizes you. Which actress do you feel did the optimum justice to your voice on screen?
That’s a tough one. Because each heroine from Madhubala and Meena Kumari to Sridevi and Madhuri brought something special to my songs. But if you insist on one heroine I’d have to go with Nutan. She was a singer herself. When she emoted to my songs on screen she actually sang along. The way she has performed my song ‘Mann Mohana Bade Jhothe’ (Seema) is exemplary. Jaya Bachchanji is also one of my favourites. I think the way she emoted to my song ‘Bahon Mein Chale Aao’ (Anamika) added a lot to the song’s abiding popularity
Who are your favourite heroines?
Hema Malini has always been a favourite. Among the older lot I was very close to Nargis and Meena Kumari. Meenaji and I would chat endlessly when we met. She loved the length of my hair. It used to reach to floor back then. I also used to like Pooja Bhatt a lot. Does she act anymore?
Do you watch a lot of films at home these days?
After my illness, the doctors have severely curtailed all my activities, including movie-watching. Nowadays I don’t watch much television except CID and Adaalat which have been my favourites for years.
Do you listen to your own songs?
Never! I never listen to my songs. If I did, I’d find a hundred mistakes in my singing. Even in the past, once I finished recording a song I was done with it.
Offhand which have been your career-making songs?
‘Aayega Aanewala’ in Mahal (1949) was the turning point in my career. Then I’d say ‘Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya’ in Mughal-e-Azam. Audiences would throw coins on the screen when that song came on. There have been many important songs in my career. Too many to mention. I am very fond of my album of Meera Bhajans Chale Vahe Des for which my brother Hridaynath composed the music. And the album Sajda for which I teamed up with Jagjit Singh.
Who among your composers was the toughest taskmaster?
Sajjad Husain. Sajjad Saab’s songs would often make me very apprehensive. I’d wonder if I’d be able to sing them the way he wanted me to. There were other composers whose compositions I didn’t fear singing at all because of my rapport with them. Like Madan (Mohan) Bhaiyya. Not that Sajjad Saab took me to task, but he would compose such complex numbers and would be so particular about the way they were rendered, that I would become very conscious.
Who were the other composers who challenged your talent?
Salil Chaudhary. I shared a great rapport with him. He knew which of his creations suited me. I was never scared of singing his tunes. Instead, I would be very keen to sing his songs. I love his music. I haven’t met a composer quite like him. Look at the tunes he thought up! And the sources of his composition! He used to write fluently in Bengali. His poems in Bengali were superb. You know, he used to write his own lyrics for some of the Bengali songs he composed for me. His grasp of the North-Eastern folk music was tremendous. Being a Communist he was an agnostic. So we never agreed on his views on God. Lekin woh kamaal ke music director tthe.
Which other composer would you place in this kamaal ki category?
(Promptly) Madan Mohan, of course. He had a unique style. And Shankar-Jaikishan. Jaikishan was very talented. Very creative. Even Shankarji’s songs were a treat. They did borrow from the West whenever they felt like it. But it was Salilda who was deeply influenced by Western music. He used to listen to Western symphonies and incorporate them in his compositions. And he could tell which symphony had been incorporated into which song.
O.P. Nayyar once said that RD gave his best songs to you and the rest to Asha Bhosle. Do you agree with that?
(Laughs loudly) I wouldn’t know about that. He must have had his reasons. Pancham (RD) used to interact a lot with me. He used to call me Didi, and loved me like a sister. He used to pour his heart out to me. He did compose in a special style for me. He knew instinctively which song suited (my sister) Asha and which suited me. I loved the songs Laxmikant-Pyarelal composed for me too. They were also special. For about 10-12 years they composed some really great numbers.
What is your birthday message to your millions of fans and well-wishers?
We are going through the worst possible phase in the history of civilization. Be kind and generous to those who are less privileged than you. Give generously. Do not hold back your love for fellow human beings. Now is the time to stop being tight-fisted about feelings. Jyot se jyot jalate chalo prem ki ganga bahaate chalo.
Also Read: Lata Mangeshkar On S P Balasubrahmanyam
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