Lata Mangeshkar, Bollywood's most beloved voice, dies at 92

Lata Mangeshkar, who captivated generations of Bollywood viewers as the singing voice behind the performances of many actresses, died on...


Lata Mangeshkar, who captivated generations of Bollywood viewers as the singing voice behind the performances of many actresses, died on Sunday at Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai, India. She was 92 years old.

The cause was complications from Covid-19, said Pratit Samdani, a doctor at the hospital, according to Indian media. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that he was “anguished beyond words”.

Ms. Mangeshkar leaves a legacy of tens of thousands of songs, mostly in Hindi but also in several other Indian languages. Most of her work was as a playback singer – a singer who does not appear on screen, but records a character’s songs, which are then dubbed.

In India, however, she was far from anonymous. She was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest honour, in 2001. The Home Ministry said she would have a state funeral and flags on government buildings would be flown at half-mast for two days.

Ms Mangeshkar was known for her vocal range – she could sing in four octaves – and her gift for singing with character, tailoring her voice and emotions to the actress she voiced on screen. She recorded some of Bollywood’s biggest hits, including “Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya(Why be afraid to be in love) from the 1960 film “Mughal-e-Azam”.

In this scene, a courtesan challenges an emperor at court by declaring her love for a prince. Dilip Kumarwho played the prince, called Ms Mangeshkar’s voice “a miracle of nature’s creativity”.

As a teenager, in the 1940s, Ms. Mangeshkar played minor screen roles. “I never liked it – the makeup, the lights,” she said in an interview for a book published in 2009. “People who command you, say this dialogue, say this dialogue. I felt so uncomfortable.

“The day I started working as a playback singer, I prayed to God: ‘No more comedy in movies,'” she said. “He listened to me and I got a pretty good position in playback singing.”

She would become the singing voice for generations of actresses in Hindi-language films from Bollywood, Madhubala and Meena Kumari in the 1950s and 1960s for Kajol and Preity Zinta in the 1990s and 2000s. But she also worked on many films in other Indian languages ​​including Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada and Gujarati.

“If we play his songs one by one, we could hear him for a month and never hear the same song again,” Kajol said on Twitter on Sunday. “Prolific and deep.”

Ms Mangeshkar has also had a career as a live performer, usually appearing on stage in an understated white or cream sari. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was reportedly moved to tears by his rendition of a patriotic song in Hindi, “Aye Mere Watan Ke Loginafter India’s war with China in 1962.

“She leaves a void in our country that cannot be filled,” Modi said on Twitter. Ms Mangeshkar was one of the first to support Mr Modi.

Lata Mangeshkar was born on September 28, 1929 in the city of Indore in the present state of Madhya Pradesh. She was the eldest of five children born to Shuddhamati Mangeshkar and her husband, Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar, a well-known classical musician active in Marathi language drama. His sisters Meena, Asha and Usha and brother Hridaynath, all of whom survive him, are also musicians.

The family was prosperous and lived in a large house in the town of Sangli in what is now the state of Maharashtra. Her father was her first music teacher and she performed in plays as a child, although her father was reluctant to let his daughters appear on stage. Ms Mangeshkar spent much of her childhood on the road, as the family accompanied her father’s theater company on tour in the region.

In the 2009 book, ‘Lata Mangeshkar… in Her Own Voice’, written by Nasreen Munni Kabir, Ms Mangeshkar said she dropped out of formal education on the first day of school. She had brought her 10-month-old sister, Asha, with her, and the teacher refused to let the baby into the classroom, she said.

In the late 1930s, she said, the family fell on hard times after Mr. Mangeshkar produced several films that went badly wrong. The theater company closed in 1940 and the Mangeshkars were forced to sell their house and move to Pune. Lata began singing regularly, alongside her father, at classical music concerts, which became the family’s main source of income.

In 1942, when she was 13, her father died. To support the family, she joined the Navyug Chitrapat Film Company and started acting in Marathi and Hindi films, playing minor roles. In 1945, the company moved its operations to what was then Bombay, and Ms. Mangeshkar’s family moved into a one-bedroom apartment.

His fortunes began to change in 1947. In India, the era of the singing movie star was coming to an end and filmmakers had started hiring professional singers to record the vocal parts. After Ms. Mangeshkar’s voice caught the attention of several composers and filmmakers, she started working as a playback singer.

In 1949 his first hit came out: “Aayega Aanewala” (He who is destined to return will return), from the film “Mahal”, a ghost story which was also a breakthrough for the actress Madhubala.

When “Aayega Aanewala” was first released in disc form, Ms. Mangeshkar’s name did not appear anywhere on the label. But as it was played on the radio, listeners started calling asking who the singer was. All India Radio, a public broadcaster, contacted the record company and announced Ms Mangeshkar’s name on air, making her an overnight star.

Still, she said she spent the next few years working long hours in harsh conditions, recording after the shooting day was over. The playback singers did their recordings first, with the actors then lip-syncing with them on camera. Eventually, singers like Ms. Mangeshkar worked in studios, but in the early years they recorded on film sets, which were usually dusty and hot. The fans couldn’t be turned on because of the noise they made.

“I recorded two songs in the morning, two in the afternoon, two in the evening and two at night,” she said in Ms. Kabir’s book. “I would leave the house in the morning and come back at 3am the next day and that’s when I would eat. After a few hours of sleep, I got up at six o’clock, got dressed, took the train and traveled from one recording studio to another.

Ms. Mangeshkar never married. For years, she supported her mother and her siblings, until they started their own careers. Her sister Asha Bhosle, 88, is also a well-known playback singer.

“Music is my life and God,” Ms. Mangeshkar said in Ms. Kabir’s book. “My prayer is music – it’s like a father and a mother to me.”

Mujib Mashal contributed report.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Lata Mangeshkar, Bollywood's most beloved voice, dies at 92
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