San Francisco, USA – The Rough Guide series presents this week a recording, The Rough Guide to Bollywood Legends: Lata Mangeshkar
(RGNET1132CD), by Lata Mangeshkar, the queen of Bollywood; bhajans and raga-based filmi.
South Asia’s film industry is renowned for the volume of its outpourings.
Bollywood – the Bombay-based centre of the Hindi-language film industry – long
ago overtook Hollywood in terms of output and, many suspect, also in terms of
influence and worldwide market penetration. Very likely, as the lights dim and
color shatters the darkness, one voice will cut through the silence, and this
will be Lata Mangeshkar’s. Whether singing a bhajan (a Hindu devotional hymn), a
liltingly romantic song about rebirth or a raga-based film hit, she is one of
India’s greatest vocalists and one of the pre-eminent and most popular singers
of our age. In the entire history of Indian film song, the greatest playback
artist of either sex, the one that has reigned the longest, the one that
everyone looks up to, is Lata Mangeshkar.
The oldest of five siblings, Lata was born in 1929 in Indore, Madyha Pradesh.
Lata appeared as a child actress in several Marathi pictures and within a month
of her father’s death in 1942 she had begun to work to support the family. They
moved from Pune to Kolhapur before ending up in Bombay in 1944, the epicenter of
the wartime Hindi-language film industry. In between 1947 and 1949 the Bombay
film industry was transformed and during this period Lata was one of several
up-and-coming playback singers. In 1949 Lata sang the playback for a song that
was to launch her career. She sang ‘Aayega Aanewala’ for Kamal Amrohi’s
directing debut Mahal, which was one of the year’s biggest box-office successes.
Until this time playback singers were a secret albeit an increasingly leaky one,
but so many people requested ‘Aayega Aanewala’ that Radio Goa broke the taboo
and started naming Lata as the playback singer.
‘Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’ is taken from Mughal-E-Azam (1960), a film that for
generation after generation has fired people’s imagination. This film is a
sumptuous re-enactment, that reunited Lata and the commanding classical vocalist
Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, albeit it only in the opening credits. Lata has recorded
duets with the cream of India’s male playback singers, including Abhijeet, Manna
Dey and Kishore Kumar. ‘Yeh Dil Diwana Hai’ from the film Ishq Par Zor Hai
(1970) is a chance to hear Lata singing with Mohd. Rafi, the male artist who
Lata has recorded the most duets with.
‘Inhi Logon Ne’ is a song from Kamal Amrohi’s film Pakeezah (1971), one of the
greatest musical melodramas in the history of world cinema. This was Amrohi’s
last film, and it was hugely successful. Lata rose to the challenge with ‘Inhi
Logon Ne’, which makes shimmering use of footwork and ghungroos (ankle
bracelets) as a rhythm component. The title song to Raj Kapoor’s film ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ (1978) and its other songs proved to be massive hits. The film
examined love in its sacred and profane, inner and outward forms. The legend is
that Kapoor was so smitten by Lata’s voice that he regarded her as the living
embodiment of Sarasvati, the Hindu goddess of music and learning, and developed
this film as a vehicle for her vocal skills.
In ‘Sare Shaher Mein’, from the film Alibaba Aur Chalis Chor (1980), Lata sings
a duet with Asha Bhosle – her sister with whom she has sung the most female
duets with. Asha’s second husband, R.D. ‘Pancham’ Burman, composed this song.
‘Yara Seeli Seeli’ is taken from S.S. Gulzar’s film about rebirth Lekin (1990),
which brought the talents of the Mangeshkars together. Hridaynath wrote the
music, Lata produced the film, and Asha, Hridaynath and Lata all did playback.
Lata’s father, Dinanath, died oblivious to the fact that he had founded the most
successful musical dynasty in Indian musical history. ‘Kuchh Na Kaho’ is taken
from Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s film 1942 A Love Story (1994). This film gripped the
popular imagination in a way that transcended everybody’s expectations and
produced timeless, melodious songs.
The Rough Guide to Bollywood Legends: Lata Mangeshkar provides a glimpse into
the huge talents of an artist who until 1991 was listed as the world’s
most-recorded artist in the Guinness Book Of Records. Ken Hunt, a full-time
freelance writer, broadcaster and translator specializing in music, compiled