Legendary Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar, or ‘the nightingale of India’ as she is lovingly called by her admirers, has a lot of devoted fans, celebrities and otherwise, who shower praise on her, and deservedly so. However, Mangeshkar has rarely spoken about her own voice, or her influences. But there have been some occasions where she has made an exception and gotten candid about how and why she sings the way she does. Take a look.
Passion and confidence: ‘Consider yourself a guru’
Speaking to writer and filmmaker Nasreen Munni Kabir about their book In Her Own Voice, the playback singer recounted a tale of one of the earliest days of her beginnings into the profession, which displayed her passion and confidence. Talking about her singing in the film Badi Maa, Mangeshkar said she was once asked to sing a song in front of Noor Jehan.
“One day, I was on the Badi Maa set and Master Vinayak introduced us saying, ‘This is Noor Jehanji. Sing her a song.’ So I sang Raag Jaijaiwanti. She then asked me to sing a film song, so I sang R.C. Boral’s ‘Jeevan hai bekaar bina tumhaare’ from the film Wapas. While I was singing I remembered Baba’s words: ‘If you sing in front of your guru, consider yourself a guru.’ So I sang with that thought in mind and she liked my voice. She told me to practise and said I will be a very good singer someday,” Lata Mangeshkar is quoted as saying in the book.
‘Don’t restrict yourself, just sing’
A lot of people believe that Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar is naturally gifted and probably does not have to work on her voice as much as other people. However, that is not true. During an interview with NDTV, Lata Mangeshkar had revealed that she trains on her voice as much as the next person, but doesn’t necessarily likes to ‘restrict’ herself when it comes to food.
“Natural talent is 75 per cent, and the rest of it is hard work and training. People also say you have to take care of what you eat. They say don’t eat chilli, don’t consume pickle, or don’t have curd. But I don’t restrict myself. I have everything. My father used to say, ‘You don’t need to put boundaries around yourself to be a singer, if you continue singing, your voice will be fine.’ Basically, this means you should keep singing so that you are always in practice. That’s all I have done my whole life, just sing,” Mangeshkar said.
Lata Mangeshkar’s influences
Once, during an interview with lyricist Javed Akhtar, Lata Mangeshkar said that her voice and singing is able to evoke certain emotions in the audience because of a lesson taught to her by Master Ghulam Haider. “Master Ghulam Haider used to tell me, ‘Lata, gaane ke bol jo hain usko samjho. Uske liye tumko thodi Hindi aur Urdu aani chahiye. Imagine karo ki jo heroine wo dukh ya khushi mehsoos kar rahi hai, wo nai kar rahi, tum kar rahi ho uske jagah. Tumhe wo dukh hua hai, yaa tumko wo khushi mili hai (Lata, focus on the lyrics and what it is trying to say. Learn a bit of Urdu and Hindi to enunciate better. Have the vision to imagine yourself as the heroine who is experiencing the joy and pain in that moment)’.”
The art of making a song seem seamless
Further opening up about her early lessons, Lata Mangeshkar said she was also taught by ‘Anil da’ (Anil Biswas) where to leave a gap in singing and where to take a breath so that it all seemed seamless in the end. “Anil da se maine bohot kuch seekha, jaise gaane me saans kaha chorni chahiye aur kaha leni chahiye. Main mic ke saamne tak hoti thi toh logon ko pata bhi nai chalta tha maine kaha saans li aur kaha chori (Anil da taught me a lot. He taught me where to take a breath while singing and where not to. In fact, the whole process had become so seamless that people couldn’t tell how I was doing it even if I happened to be doing it on a mic right in front of them).”
Here’s wishing that Lata Mangeshkar and her inimitable voice continue to regale listeners.