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Lata Mangeshkar (born 28 September 1929) is an Indian playback singer and occasional music composer. She is the best-known and most respected playback singer in India. She is referred to as the Nightingale of India and the Queen of Melody. Mangeshkar’s career started in 1942 and has spanned over seven decades. She has recorded songs for over a thousand Hindi films and has sung songs in over thirty-six regional Indian languages and foreign languages, though primarily in Marathi and Hindi. She is the recipient of three National Film Awards, 12 Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards, four Filmfare Best Female Playback Awards, two Filmfare Special Awards, Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award and many more. The Dadasaheb Phalke Award was bestowed on her in 1989 by the Government of India. She is also the second vocalist, after M. S. Subbulakshmi, to have ever been awarded the Bharat Ratna in 2001, India’s highest civilian honour. She was the first Indian to perform in Royal Albert Hall in 1974. She was conferred France’s highest civilian award (Officer of the Legion of Honour) in 2007. Due to all of her achievements, many singers and musicians consider her to be one of the greatest female singers in the Hindi film industry. She has four siblings—Asha Bhosle, Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Usha Mangeshkar and Meena Mangeshkar—of which she is the eldest.
Lata Mangeshkar was born in a Marathi-speaking Gomantak Maratha family, in the princely state of Indore, part of the Central India Agency (now part of Madhya Pradesh). Her father, Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar, was a classical singer and theatre actor. Her mother Shevanti (Shudhamati) who was from Thalner, Maharashtra, was Deenanath’s second wife. The family’s last name used to be Hardikar; Deenanath changed it to Mangeshkar in order to identify his family with his native town, Mangeshi in Goa. Lata was named “Hema” at her birth. Her parents later renamed her Lata after a female character, Latika, in one of her father’s plays, BhaawBandhan. Lata is the eldest child of her parents. Meena, Asha, Usha and Hridaynath are her siblings in sequence.
Mangeshkar took her first lesson from her father. At the age of five, she started to work as an actress in her father’s musical plays (Sangeet Natak in Marathi). On the first day in school, she started teaching songs to other children. When the teacher stopped her, she was so angry that she stopped going to the school.Other sources cite that she left school because they would not allow her to bring Asha with her, as she would often bring her younger sister with her.
In 1942, when Mangeshkar was 13, her father died of heart disease. Master Vinayak (Vinayak Damodar Karnataki), the owner of Navyug Chitrapat movie company and a close friend of the Mangeshkar family, took care of them. He helped Lata get started in a career as a singer and actress.
Mangeshkar sang the song “Naachu Yaa Gade, Khelu Saari Mani Haus Bhaari”, which was composed by Sadashivrao Nevrekar for Vasant Joglekar’s Marathi movie Kiti Hasaal (1942), but the song was dropped from the final cut. Vinayak gave her a small role in Navyug Chitrapat’s Marathi movie Pahili Mangalaa-gaur (1942), in which she sang “Natali Chaitraachi Navalaai” which was composed by Dada Chandekar.Her first Hindi song was “Mata Ek Sapoot Ki Duniya Badal De Tu” for the Marathi film Gajaabhaau (1943).
Mangeshkar moved to Mumbai in 1945 when Master Vinayak’s company moved its headquarters there. She started taking lessons in Hindustani classical music from Ustad Aman Ali Khan of Bhendibazaar Gharana. She sang “Paa Lagoon Kar Jori” for Vasant Joglekar’s Hindi-language movie Aap Ki Seva Mein (1946),which was composed by Datta Davjekar. The dance in the film was performed by Rohini Bhate who later became a famous classical dancer. Mangeshkar and her sister Asha played minor roles in Vinayak’s first Hindi-language movie, Badi Maa (1945). In that movie, Lata also sang a bhajan, “Maata Tere Charnon Mein.” She was introduced to music director Vasant Desai during the recording of Vinayak’s second Hindi-language movie, Subhadra (1946).
After Vinayak’s death in 1948, music director Ghulam Haider mentored her as a singer. He introduced Mangeshkar to producer Sashadhar Mukherjee, who was working then on the movie Shaheed (1948), but Mukherjee dismissed Mangeshkar’s voice as “too thin”.An annoyed Haider responded that in coming years producers and directors would “fall at Lata’s feet” and “beg her” to sing in their movies. Haider gave Lata her first major break with the song “Dil Mera Toda, Mujhe Kahin Ka Na Chhora”—lyrics by Nazim Panipati—in the movie Majboor (1948), which became her first big breakthrough film hit. In an interview on her 84th birthday, in September 2013, Lata herself declared, “Ghulam Haider is truly my Godfather. He was the first music director who showed complete faith in my talent.”
Initially, Mangeshkar is said to have imitated the acclaimed singer Noor Jehan, but later she developed her own style of singing. Lyrics of songs in Hindi movies are primarily composed by Urdu poets and contain a higher proportion of Urdu words, including the dialogue. Actor Dilip Kumar once made a mildly disapproving remark about Mangeshkar’s Maharashtrian accent while singing Hindi/Urdu songs; so for a period of time, Lata took lessons in Urdu from an Urdu teacher named Shafi.
One of her first major hits was “Aayega Aanewaala,” a song in the movie Mahal (1949), composed by music director Khemchand Prakash and lip-synced on screen by actress Madhubala.
Lata Mangeshkar composed music for the first time in 1955 for the Marathi movie Ram Ram Pavhane. Later in the 1960s, she composed music for following Marathi movies under the pseudonym of Anand Ghan.
She won Maharashtra State Government’s Best Music Director Award for the film Sadhi Manase. The song “Airanichya Deva Tula” from the same film received best song award.
Lata Mangeshkar has produced four films:
Lata Mangeshkar has won several awards and honours, including Bharat Ratna (India’s Highest Civilian Award), Padma Bhushan (1969),Padma Vibhushan (1999), Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1989), Maharashtra Bhushan Award (1997), NTR National Award (1999), Bharat Ratna(2001), Legion of Honor (2007), ANR National Award (2009), three National Film Awards and 12 Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards. She has also won four Filmfare Best Female Playback Awards. In 1969, she made the unusual gesture of giving up the Filmfare Best Female Playback Award, in order to promote fresh talent. She was later awarded Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993 and Filmfare Special Awards in 1994 and 2004.
In 1984, the State Government of Madhya Pradesh instituted the Lata Mangeshkar Award in honour of Lata Mangeshkar. The State Government of Maharashtra also instituted a Lata Mangeshkar Award in 1992.
In 2012, Lata Mangeshkar was one of the top ten nominees in The Greatest Indian poll, which was sponsored by Reliance Mobile and conducted by Outlook magazine, in partnership with CNN-IBN and The History Channel.
Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan said kambakht, kabhi besuri na hoti (“[she] is never off-key”). Dilip Kumar once said, “Lata Mangeshkar ki awaaz kudrat ki takhleek ka ek karishma hain,” meaning “Lata Mangeshkar’s voice is a miracle from God.