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Take a look at the heroines of Hindi cinema for the past seven decades and you will notice that the faces and the expressions went through several changes, with modest to sensuous attires, to emotional journeys of a lifetime. As each decade passed, the filmmaking in general evolved. But this constant change had only one dominating voice. Lata Mangeshkar. Without her three octaves spanning, honey-sweet voice on hand, the Bollywood composers could not have given their musical imagination a free rein. For whether it is an intricate classical number like ‘Chalte chalte’ or a peppermint pronouncement like ‘Mere khaabon mein jo’, Lata has always rendered her songs with commendable felicity. She is one woman who sang from Madhubala to Madhuri, Sharmila to Sridevi, Nutan to Kajol, Vyjayanthimala to Kareena Kapoor and so on. She’s the voice that has seeped into Indian consciousness as Gandhi to India, revered and loved in equal measure.
Over the decades, a lot has been written and spoken about her but the following factoids are something which not many are aware of:
20 Little Known Facts about Lata Mangeshkar
1. Lata's voice has been found to be the 'Most Perfect' in the world by the Royal Albert Hall, London, which had technically monitored the graph of Lata's voice.
2. Although she attended school for a day, Lata has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by 6 Universities including the New York University
3. Lata Mangeshkar’s horoscope is among the top ten most powerful horoscopes of the century in India. (Others were Amitabh Bachhan, Ratan Tata, Rajiv Gandhi and Mother Teresa etc)
4. Lata’s determination was on display right from the Andaaz days when Dilip Kumar questioned her Urdu. Hiring an Urdu tutor, Lata perfected the language.
5. Lata fainted in the recording room after giving 18 takes to get a particular murki of the song ‘Tere sadke’ right. Even after regaining consciousness, the first thing Lata wanted to do was to make another attempt at the song.
6. Ayega Anewala from the film Mehal was one of the biggest hits in Lata’s career but the Gramaphone Company of India gave the credit for the playback of this film to ‘Kamini’ the name of the character that Lata sang for, she is yet to be paid for that song.
7. After India’s losses in the India-China war, in 1962, Lata had sung the song ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’. The song got the Indian Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru teary eyed and he confessed that “beti aj tune mujhe rula diya’.
8. Besides ‘Nightingale’ she was notoriously tagged as the ‘Ego-Queen’ because she waged battles with prominent people like Raj Kapoor and Shankar Jaikishen over the vulgarity in the ‘Main kya karoon Ram’ number from Sangam. When 'Rasik Balma'(Chori-Chori) won the Filmfare award for best song, Lata refused to sing it live in protest of no Female playback category.
9. During the '60s Lata raised the issue of playback singers' share in the royalties and knowing Rafi’s position, she wanted him to back her in demanding a 50% share in the music records revenue. Rafi disagreed in principle and this difference of opinion subsequently led to differences between the two and Lata declared that she would no longer sing with Rafi.
10. She has a permanent gallery reserved for her at the Lord’s stadium from where she enjoys watching her favourite game - Cricket
11. She can sing in 3 octaves, most of the singers can sing only in 2.
12. Before singing any song, she writes the song in her own handwriting and starts by writing ‘Shri’ on top of the page.
13. In order to keep her voice flexible and exercise her facial muscles, Lata chews a lot of gum. Lata's diet includes lots of kolhapuri chillies, which she insists adds sweetness to her voice.
14. Lata is the 5th woman to receive the India’s highest civilian honour ‘Bharat Ratna’. The other four are Indira Gandhi, Mother Teresa. Aruna Asaf Ali & M.S. Subbulakshmi.
15. Lata, always sings barefoot as a mark of respect to the platform where she is singing be it a concert podium or a recording studio.
16. From thousands of songs that she has sung, her favourite is ‘Kuch dil ne kaha’ from the film Anupama picturized on Sharmila Tagore.
17. In 1999, a perfume by the name of Lata was launched.
18. In November 2012, Lata Mangeshkar launched her own music label LM Music with an album of bhajans. She sang along with younger sister Usha in the album.
19. Lata is fond of diamonds and photography is one of her latest known passion.
20. Lata Mangeshkar is active on social media. She regularly tweets and has 4 million followers on Twitter.
To the world, this towering personality is no less than a Goddess. And for her countless fans, listening to her voice is more like meditation than entertainment. Masala! wishes her a happy and healthy life ahead.
Sadiq Saleem is a Dubai based entertainment journalist. He can be contacted on his page fb/sidsaidso.