Lata Mangeshkar turns 92 today, and we’re all paying our respects to Bollywood’s nightingale. The woman who has been singing filmy gaane for more than 7 decades is an I C O N of the first class. You may know some of her greatest hits, such as:
But did you know these amazing facts about the legend that is Lata Mangeshkar?:
1. Lataji has contributed to 25,000+ songs in her career of roughly 7 decades.
That’s right; her first every recorded song, back in 1942, was for a Marathi movie and Lataji was only 13 years old! Although that one song ended up being cut from the final film, Lataji’s journey began. From 1942-2015, she has lent her voice for great songs for 73 years! Her most recent song being “Jeena Kya Hai Jaana Maine”, for a Norwegian Indo-Pak gay movie. Progressive, as always!
2. Actors and directors worship her
Naushad called Lata Mangeshkar’s recording studio her temple. Dilip Kumar famously said that her melodious voice resides in all of us. Film magazines have titled her as a singing queen, with Stardust calling her reign over film music the “Mangeshkar Monopoly”. All with good reason, obviously.
3. Contemporary Bollywood playback singers look up to Lataji
From Alisha Chinai, Alka Yagnik, to Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shilpa Rao, every female playback singer who entered the film industry has looked up to Lataji as one of the greats. And why wouldn’t they! Lata Mangeshkar was the sole woman who made songs to dance to, cry to, laugh with, feel young with, and sing along to.
4. Lata Mangeshkar was born into a family of performers
Everyone knows about her sister, the super talented and much-loved Asha Bhosle, but did you know that Mangeshkar’s whole family is talented? Her father ran a theatre and when he discovered his daughter’s singing voice, he apparently said to her mother “We have a singer at home. We never knew it.” Interestingly, her younger two sisters, Meena Khadikar and Usha Mangeshkar, were also singers. Not as famous as Lata and Asha, but skilled in their own right, and recorded many Indian songs.
5. Ghulam Haider gave her her first break
Bollywood film composer Ghulam Haider was the one who gave Lata Mangeshkar her first break. Although Haider moved to Lahore post-partition, he had already contributed to the Bollywood film industry. He offered Lata the chance to sing “Dil Mera Toda” for the movie Majboor in 1948. Once Lataji sang that song, there was no looking back.
6. She, too, had competition!
In Lataji’s initial days, her biggest competitors were her seniors — Suraiya and Shamshad Begum. But Lata Mangeshkar’s biggest competition is said to be Noor Jehan. Raju Bharatan, veteran music writer, in 2004 for Outlook Magazine, questioned whether Lata Mangeshkar would “have attained the ‘super’ status she did if Noor Jehan (as the ‘brighter’ voice) had chosen to stay on in India after Partition?” Once Noor Jehan was no longer singing for Bollywood, achieving the “Mangeshkar Monopoly” was a cakewalk for Lata.
7. Lataji’s awards are endless!
Apart from winning three National Film Awards, 12 Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards, four Filmfare Best Female Playback Awards and many other accolades, Mangeshkar is the only 2nd Indian vocalist, after MS Subbulakshmi, to have won a Bharat Ratna.
8. Of all music directors, Madan Mohan was generally Lataji’s favourite.
In a 2011 collector’s item calendar called Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet, Lata Mangeshkar said about Madan Mohan that “I shared a special relationship with Madan Mohan, which was much more than what a singer and a music composer share. This was a relationship of a brother and a sister.” They created some amazing songs together, like Zara Si Ahat Hoti Hai, Baiyan Na Dharo, Lag Jaa Gale, to name a few.
9. Apart from Hindi and Urdu, Lata Mangeshkar has recorded songs in approximately 36 languages!
Lata Mangeshkar didn’t just rule the Hindi film industry; she ruled all over India. Apart from creating legendary songs in Hindi and Urdu, Lataji is said to have recorded music in 36 different Indian languages, from Marathi, Tamil, Bhojpuri, Kannada, Bengali, Assamese — among others.
10. Lataji is also a music director!
The epitome of someone who breathes music, is fully immersed in the craft of making music, Lata Mangeshkar is not just a vocalist, but also a music director. She has composed msuic for Marathi movies, like Ram Ram Pavhana, Maratha Tituka Melvava, Mohityanchi Manjula, Sadhi Manase and Tambadi Mati.
11. Lataji has duets with every great male playback singer
From the 40s to the 70s, Lata Mangeshkar sang with the top male vocalists of the time — Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Mukesh, and others. Post-70s and during the 80s and 90s, Lata had songs out with the late SP Balasubrahmanyam, Shabbir Kumar, Shailendra Singh, Pankaj Udhas, Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu, etc. During the 2000s and beyond, Lataji graced her voice on songs with Sonu Nigam, Adnan Sami, AR Rahman, Jagjit Singh, to name a few.
12. Lataji continues to sing!
At 90, Lata Mangeshkar released a song in 2019 called Saugandh Mujhe Iss Mitti Ki as a tribute to the country’s jawans. Her command over her musical voice, breath and melody is remarkable. It’s no surprise that the nightingale of India continues to enchant us all with her gift.