The Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar speaks for the first time about the rivalry with her sister. On a cloudy monsoon morning, I bring up the ostensibly taboo topic of her sister Asha Bhosle, and Lataji’s priceless voice lights up. “Asha and I are close. We don’t meet that frequently these days because she lives far away with her son Anand. Earlier she lived right next to me and we even shared a door between our two apartments in Prabhu Kunj (the residential complex on Peddar Road, Mumbai). I know people find it hard to believe. But that’s the way it is. Of course, we’ve had our differences in the past. Which siblings don’t have differences? There were things she did in her youth that I couldn’t approve of.”
“The rivalry was all imaginary”- Lata Mangeshkar on Asha Bhosle
You mean like getting married way too early? “Yes. I knew it was too early. I could feel it would end in disaster. And it did. But it was her life and she was free to do what she liked with it. In our family, we never question one another’s decisions.”
What about the professional rivalry that the two sisters are infamous for? Lataji patiently clarifies, “There never was any professional rivalry between us. She evolved a completely different style of singing from me. What she could do, I couldn’t do. Even with Pancham(R D Burman, married to Asha Bhosle from 1980 to 1994) the songs that I sang for him were very distinct from what Asha sang for Pancham. I sang Na koi umang hai for Pancham in Kati Patang. I could never do Mera naam hai shabnam in the same film. It had to be Asha. Our individual areas of singing were clearly marked out.”
There was talk of the two illustrious sisters turning their back on one another when they sang together. “I don’t know where that started. There was some picture of the two of us recording a song while looking in opposite directions. This was taken to mean that we couldn’t see eye-to-eye. Nothing could be further from the truth. Asha and I really enjoyed singing together whenever we got the chance. There is absolutely no rivalry between us. I’ve always wished her well. And she has always looked up to me as her elder sister.”
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