A voice for every emotion

Be it the Arabic influence in Sajjad Hussein’s music or the classical approach of Naushad, Lata Mangeshkar adapted to the demands of the illustrious composers across generations

While rehearsing, composers waited for her half-smile for it meant Lata had found a particular phrase challenging. Lyricists longed for the unsaid that she would add to their mortal words to make them timeless. Ordinary words like mulayam (soft), pani (water) acquired a deeper connotation when she rendered them in Yeh Kahan Aa Gaye Hum (Silsila) and Paani Paani Re (Maachis) Even the colloquial phrases like hoon hoon started throbbing with life in Lata’s voice as she wailed in Rudali.

Be it the Arabic influence in Sajjad Hussein’s music or the classical approach of Naushad, she adapted to the demands of the illustrious composers across generations. Her voice suited the style of melody makers like C. Ramachandra, Roshan and Ravi. Salil Chowdhury consistently pushed her out of her comfort zone and so did R.D. Burman. Lata was up to it as she retained her sweetness even in higher octaves and was not insecure about singing songs in lower notes. With Madan Mohan and Khayyam, she excelled in ghazals, while with Shankar Jaikishan, Kalyanji Anandji and Laxmikant Pyarelal she explored the mass appeal of the Hindi film song. For A.R. Rahman, Lata travelled to Chennai and broke into an impromptu magical alap when she recorded Jiya Jale (Dil Se). For recording “Luka Chhuppi (Rang De Basanti), she stood for eight hours.

Her voice pierced through the microphone and registered perfectly at the recording instrument. Recording technicians had to work the least on her voice. Her training and sensitive understanding of the intricacies of the mood of the song made her indispensable.

Lag Ja Gale (Woh Kaun Thi) sounds as ethereal as it is seductive. O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi (Parakh) is an example of her sheer control over high and lower octaves and in Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai (Guide) she captures the exuberance of a girl who has just broken some social shackles. In songs like O Beqrar Dil, and Ajeeb Dastan Hai Ye, she beautifully captured the melancholic shades of love. Who can forget the bhajan Allah Tero Naam with Jaidev or Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon that brought tears into the eyes of Pandit Nehru.

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