Many people in the west may not have heard the above name but this force of nature has died at the age of 92 after testing positive for covid-19. She was a giant in the Indian film and music world, as can be seen in the response to the news of her death.
Lata Mangeshkar, one of India’s most beloved singers, has been cremated in Mumbai with full state honours.
Mangeshkar, whose voice was the soundtrack to hundreds of Bollywood films, died aged 92 on Sunday.
PM Narendra Modi and stars of the entertainment industry attended the funeral, where large crowds gathered to pay their respects.
Her extraordinary career spanned more than half a century and she recorded thousands of songs in 36 languages.
Two days of national mourning will follow the funeral and the national flag will be flown at half-mast throughout the country.
She was what we used to call a ‘playback singer‘ in that it was her voice that was heard in the songs in films while the actor lip-synced the words. India is a nation of many languages but whatever the language of the film and whoever were the actors, it was a pretty safe bet that the singing of the female lead in the film was being done by Mangeshkar. Given that so many Indian films feature multiple songs, she was everywhere, recording thousands of songs. Even I, who watched hardly any Indian films, knew about her and could recognize her distinctive voice.
Here is an example of her singing.
Lag Ja Gale…The Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar ji singing one of her favorite songs.
Om shanti #लतामंगेशकर जी #LataMangeshkar Rest in Peace #BharatRatna भारत रत्न ओम् शांति pic.twitter.com/PGrprS8d3E
— Movies N Memories (@BombayBasanti) February 6, 2022
For many years I was wondering how all female Indian singers managed to sound like they had the very same voice. I felt bad and vaguely racist for not being able to tell them apart.
It turns out that maybe, there was nothing to tell.
Similar to seachange. I thought they all sounded the same out of some artistic choice, with studious all directing the female lead to have that aesthetic for the singing line. I really disliked the lack of variation in the female vocal lines all ‘choosing’ to have the same vocal style; I did not realise they were dubbed over by a single woman.
@Mano, you write
I’m not sure that is entirely accurate. It is certainly true to a large extent for films in Hindi but when it comes to other languages, there was more diversity if only because the sheer number of films made in India is so large that one person, no matter how hard working, is not going to have anywhere near the bandwidth required.
However, when it comes to Hindi films, Lata was pretty much the female playback singer. Other singers picked up the scraps she left behind but the first choice for any song was, for many decades, Lata Mangeshkar. This was partly due to her being a proven commodity and partly due to her alleged competitiveness with anyone who might conceivably threaten her preeminent position among female playback singers.
When she broke into movies, the big name in playback singing was Geeta Dutt. After Getta Dutt drank her way out of the industry, Lata was on top and stayed that way until the late 80s/early 90s. Her sister Asha Bhosle was generally utilized for more pop-oriented material but everything else was Lata. I have heard stories of her refusing to work with directors who utilized other playback singers ever since I started listening to Bollywood music. In fact her competitiveness extended to her own family. One of the well known stories is of her cutting off director O. P. Nayyar for daring to use her sister Asha in a way that did not meet with Lata’s approval. Of course all of this is denied by the people involved but the stories won’t go away.
@Holms, you write
Even with Lata not being a major force in Indian films for a couple decades now, the prototypical female Indian playback singer is in the Lata Mangeshkar mold. While there is more diversity in Bollywood music nowadays, the number one playback singer in Bollywood (right now, it is Shreya Ghoshal) will continue to be a Lata clone.
“Even I, who watched hardly any Indian films, knew about her and could recognize her distinctive voice.”
I never have heard about her, but Bollywood being rather popular in Suriname I immediately understood what voice you meant. Your link of course confirms. As I only have seen a few of them I never gave it a thought.
My respect for this lady.