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By Nazarul Islam, Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi, TIO: Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar breathed her last today, February 6, 2022 at a Mumbai hospital, and left us to meet her creator. The veteran singer, aged 92, had suffered from health issues over the past few weeks , had tested positive for Corona Virus, she was on ventilator support in the ICU. Lata Didi, as she is fondly known, is also a Bharat Ratna awardee. Her voice will echo in the hearts of music for years to come.
She was an Indian cultural icon and national treasure who made her name in Bollywood – despite only actually appearing on screen in a handful of films.
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The classically-trained star rose to fame in India’s booming film industry as a “playback singer”, providing the singing voice to Bollywood’s lip-synching movie stars over the course of a career which spanned more than half a century.
For decades, the “nightingale of Bollywood” was the country’s most in-demand singer, with every top actress wanting her to sing their songs. Her records, meanwhile, sold in the tens of thousands, and she boasted a back catalog of some 30,000 songs spanning numerous genres and a total of 36 languages.
But she was also much more than her voice. Mangeshkar was a passionate cricket fan and had a love for cars and the slot machines of Vegas. She also rubbed shoulders with some of Bollywood’s brightest stars – and at least one Beatle.
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Bollywood was just entering its golden age, and Mangeshkar was in the right place at the right time. Over the next four decades, she sang memorable and popular songs in such films as Pakeezah, Majboor, Awaara, Mughal e Zam, Shree 420, Aradhana, and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, a rom-com which ran for a record-breaking 20 years.
When she sang Ye Mere Watan ke Logon (Ye, the people of my land), a haunting and soulful tribute to slain Indian soldiers in the disastrous war with China in 1962, at a public meeting, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru teared up.
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She sang for every female star, from Madhu Bala in the 1940s to Kajol in the 1990s, and alongside top male singers, including Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar. She also worked with every leading Bollywood director, from Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt to Mani Ratnam and Karan Johar.
She also performed with her sister – another leading playback singer, Asha Bhosle – on occasion, avoiding any hint of sibling rivalry despite their parallel careers.
“We’re very close – we have never competed with each other,” Asha once shared “There’s a lot of love between us and I thoroughly enjoy singing with her.”
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Mangeshkar was feisty enough to challenge the top male singers, such as Mohammed Rafi, who claimed to have notched more singing credits in numbers and was the first female singer who demanded better pay and royalties.
“I am a self-made person. I have learned how to fight. I have never been scared of anyone. I am quite fearless. But I never imagined I would get as much as I have,” she once said.
As much, the world shall mourn the silence of the nightingale, the following lines are my tribute to the life, love, and melody of legend who is no more with us…..
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… and I realize the only way to tell the others
is through the way my voice can take these broken words
and turn it into music.
Turn it into poetry.
And I sing to make myself come alive,
but also for you,
because I’d like this to mean something.
To not disappear with the dark I will enter one day
and so now I will tell.
If not for you, then for my own heart,
because it tells me to,
and I was learning to listen.
Khuda Hafiz, my nightingale….
Curated by Humra Kidwai
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