Lata Mangeshkar Talks About Pandit Ravi Shankar

Lata Mangeshkar Talks About Pandit Ravi Shankar

Lata Mangeshkar recalls her interaction with one of the greatest musicians of all times

If you want to upset Lata Mangeshkar, just tell her she is as much a Bharat Ratna as Pandit Ravi Shankar. And she will give you a piece of her mind. “Donon ke Bharat Ratna hone se hum baraabar nahin ho  jaate hain (we don’t become equals just because we are both Bharat Ratnas).  Panditji had a very rare talent. He was far more than a musician.When he  played the Sitar he conversed with the  Gods. I used to be mesmerized at his concerts.”

It was at one such concert  that Lataji met Pandit for the first time. “The year was 1948, I think. I had finished recording a song and was given the princely sum of 200 rupees for it. I rushed to a concert of Panditji at Dadar (Mumbai). After an exhausting day of  recording I remember being swept into the magic of his fingers. When he  put the sitar down for a break, I impulsively got up from my seat, went  up to the stage  and  presented him the 200 rupees I had earned during my recording earlier during the day. Aap samajh sakte hain. 200 rupaye 1948 main kya  maayne rakhta tha (you can understand what  200 rupees meant  in 1948).”

What was Panditji’s reaction? Lataji fondly recalls, “He  gently refused to accept it.Then I  told him it was my token of  appreciation. He  reluctantly accepted  my  little  gesture. That’s how our association began. At the Dadar convert  I introduced myself as an aspiring singer  from the Hindi film industry.He had  heard my singing. That meant a lot to me.”

Lataji continued to attend Pandijit’s concerts even when  she became extremely  busy. “I’d make it a point to attend his  concerts whenever  possible.I  was  his biggest fan. Everyone in my family is his fan. It was the greatest honour for me when he asked me to sing  his compositions in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anuradha.”

Just how the beautiful melodies of Anuradha happened  is  a story in itself. Recalls  Lataji. “Hrishida(Mukherjee)  was  very close to me.I  sang for  most of his films and we were like family(an aside: Lataji never accepted payment for her songs in  Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s  films). When he  told  me  about Anuradha and that Panditji was  going to compose the songs  I was  thrilled. Anuradha was  about a singer (played by Leela  Naidu) and  Panditji came up with at  least three classical masterpieces  for me. It is hard  for me  or any music connoisseur to pick the favourite from  among Haye re wohdin kyon na aaye, Jaane kaise sapnon mein  kho gayi  aankhiyan and Saanwre saanwre.”

Recalling the rehearsals for  the  Anuradha songs  Lataji says, “ Do you know Panditji was  very good singer  himself. He  sang  out his Anuradha compositions for me  and I followed his voice. We both  got the Bharat Ratna  but he was a far greater artiste than I. Main toh unke saamne kuch bhi nahin  hoon(I am  nothing in front of him). I remember when he got the Bharat Ratna before me  you felt bad  about it.I thought you had gone mad.  Of course he  should and he did get it first.”

Later when  Gulzar made Meera and got Pandit Ravi Shankar to compose the Meera Bhajans  we all missed Lataji in  the  songs. Says Lataji, “Panditji never asked me to sing for Meera. He  knew I wouldn’t be  comfortable doing the Meera Bhajans again, as I had  already  sung them  for my  brother Hridaynath.My respect for him increased after this.”

How and where does Lataji rate Pandit Ravi Shankar in the field  of music? “Oh, he is right  up there  with Tansen, Beethoven and Mozart. He will be  remembered  for all times. When we speak of music  his name will automatically be mentioned.”

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