Biography of Lata Mangeshkar – Nightingale of India

Jul/06/2022 / by Swarnendu Biswas
Lata Mangeshkar
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Her Voice Lives On

Lata Mangeshkar was an iconic playback singer from India. Though she sang mostly for Hindi films, Lata Mangeshkar recorded songs in over thirty-six Indian languages, and a few foreign languages too. Regarded as an institution in playback singing by many, some of her renditions have assumed seminal appeal over the years, among generations of listeners. She is known as the Nightingale of India.

Lata Mangeshkar was born on 28th September 1929, in Indore (a city of the present-day Madhya Pradesh state of India), to Deenanath Mangeshkar, and his wife Shevanti. She was the eldest among the five siblings. The family later moved to Pune (second largest city of the Maharasthra state of India), in 1941.

 She received her first music lessons from her father, who was a classical singer and a theatre actor. Lata Mangeshkar began learning music at the age of five, and was also seen as an actress in her father’s musical plays.

Initial Struggles

Lata Mangeshkar was compelled to support her large family at the tender age of 13 when her father, Deenanath Mangeshkar, died of heart disease in 1942. A close friend of the Mangeshkar family, Master Vinayak Damodar Karnataki, who was an actor-director in films back then, helped Lata to get a break as a singer and actress in films.

A biography of Lata Mangeshkar should mention that her first recorded song was Naachu Yaa Gade, Khelu Saari Mani Haus Bhaari from the Marathi film Kiti Hasaal (1942), which was dropped from the final cut. Vinayak gave her a small role in a Marathi movie named Pahili Mangalaa-gaur (1942), in which Lata again sang. She recorded her first Hindi song Mata Ek Sapoot Ki Duniya Badal De Tu in 1943 for the Marathi film Gajaabhaau. Besides singing, she also had to do acting to run the household, though she never liked acting.

She moved to Mumbai in 1945 when Master Vinayak’s movie company moved its headquarters there. Lata Mangeshkar started taking lessons in Hindustani classical music from Ustad Aman Ali Khan. Her struggle continued and after Master Vinayak’s death in 1947, Ghulam Haider, a music director, mentored her and helped develop her career.

Her Musical Glory

Her major break came with Kamal Amrohi directed Mahal (1949), a popular horror film of those days. Lata’s number Aayega Aanewaala in the filmbecame a stupendous hit. After that there was no looking back for her.

In the same year, she gave a number of hit songs for the Raj Kapoor directed Barsaat, which included Hawa Mein Udta Jaye, Jiya Beqarar Hai and Mujhe Kisi Se Pyaar Ho Gayaa among others.  Those songs quickly became very popular across the nation. Raj Kapoor and Lata Mangeshkar’s musical association lasted for close to four decades; till Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985), the last film directed by Raj Kapoor.

Soon a newly independent nation fell in love with her voice reflecting deep melody and serenity. While talking about Lata Mangeshkar it must be mentioned that over the last seven decades, Lata sang for almost all great music directors of Bollywood, with OP Nayyar being a notable exception. She went on to sing several timeless hits for great music directors like Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, Naushad Ali, SD Burman, RD Burman, Laxmikant–Pyarelal, Salil Chowdhury, Ravi, Roshan, Kalyanji-Anandji, Hemant Kumar among others through decades.

At the same time, Lata lent her timeless voice to countless heroines across three generations. From Madhubala, Nargis, Vyjayanthimala, Nutan and Meena Kumari to Sadhna, Sharmila Tagore, Asha Parekh and Mumtaz, to Zeenat Aman, Rekha and Hema Malini, to Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi, Juhi Chawla, to Kajol and Preeti Zinta and scores of other leading ladies in between, the fluid voice of Lata sang through the decades without losing its depth and charm.

And of course, she recorded hit and superhit duets with almost all leading male Bollywood singers during 1950s-1990s.

A Composer Too

Besides being an iconic singer Lata Mangeshkar was also a talented but occasional music director.  In 1955, she composed music for the first time, for a Marathi movie named Ram Ram Pavhane. In the 1960s, she composed music for four other Marathi movies, under the pseudonym of Anand Ghan.

She also composed Bengali songs besides lending her voice to 186 Bengali songs. The legendary Kishore Kumar sang for two of her composed songs in Bengali, which are titled Ami Nei and Tare Ami Choke Dekhini. Both are soul-stirring numbers.

Awards, Love and Reverence

Lata Mangeshkar was bestowed with Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, in 2001; Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of the Republic of India, in 1999; Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award of the Republic of India, in 1969 and countless other awards which includes Dada Saheb Phalke Award (1989) – India’s highest award in cinema.

But perhaps she got her greatest award in the form of continued and undiluted love and respect of her countless fans through decades.

Lata Mangeshkar died of multi-organ failure, in Mumbai, on 6th February 2022, but her voice lives on.

FAQs about Lata Mangeshkar

How many songs Lata Mangeshkar sang in her life?

Lata Mangeshkar recorded 30,000 songs and lent her voice to more than 13,000 movies across different languages.

Did Lata Mangeshkar get married?

No, she remained unmarried.

Which is the last song of Lata Mangeshkar?

Her last recorded song was Saugandh Mujhe Is Mitti Ki. The song is a tribute to the Indian Army and nation. The song was released on 30th March 2019.

At what age did Lata Mangeshkar died?

The age of Lata Mangeshkar at the time of her demise was 92.

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