Interview : Lata Mangeshkar

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Lata Mangeshkar, the Melody Queen of India, with a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, finally broke her ‘silence’ to come out of seclusion to record for a Bengali film.

It’s been long since honey-voiced Lata Mangeshkar has been heard as she retreated into a self-imposed silence after playback-singing for RANG DE BASANTI in 2006 under the baton of Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman. Hence as she stepped into Swarnalata Studios, Mumbai, for the recording of a Bengali song after 17 years, she created quite a sir. Here are the excerpts of the interview.

What made you stop lending your voice to films?
I have had a very long innings in music, in and out of films. I am 80 now and do not keep well all the time. Our youngest sister Usha is by my side all the time though she has a singing career as well. Some of the younger crop of singers are doing very well and are committed to their work. I had severe problems with my legs. All this put together somehow put a stop to my singing and recording.

‘The emotional backdrop & the situation of a song is mandatory for any film song I lend my voice to… ‘

Then what it is that spurred you to come out?

I have lent my voice to the directorial baton of music composer Mrinal Saab (Bandopadhyay) for five songs many years ago. This February, he requested me to sing again for another song of his for a Bangla film. I was a bit reluctant, of course, because a knee replacement surgery was due. But he was patient. He was ready to wait till I was ready just to talk it over. Then, on May 26 this year, I found myself lending voice to a Bangla song after 17 long years!

When did you last sing for Mrinal Bandopadhyay?
The last time I sang a Bengali number with the music scored by Mrinal Bandopadhyay was in 1992. He had persuaded me to sing five Bengali songs. Among these, the most popular was poth boley dao maago from the film TUMI KATO SUNDAR. I had begun to sing to his compositions in 1981 and our relationship goes back to that time. The first song under his musical baton was monomoyuri roynaa mone for the film SUKHER KACCHEY. I loved his lyrics and his music.

Is Mrinal Bandopadhyay the only reason for you to change your mind?
Not really. But he has been a major reason. Bahut asaan gaana thaa. Sur mein badi mithaas thhi. When I asked him to send me a cassette, he strummed a guitar and sang the song himself and sent it to me. I loved the song the minute I heard it. It brought back sweet memories of the old Bengali songs I sang for Bengali films many years ago. This song is similar to the ones that made me known in Bengal, with music by Mrinal Saab. My music arranger Uttam Singh arranged the music and my sister Usha sang the entire song after that. I really loved the final product. After the recording, I told him, – give music like this and I will keep on singing.

Do you know which film you lent your voice to?
Of course, I know it. It is a Bengali film called AMAAR BHALOLAGA, AMAR BHALOBASHA starring new actors I do not know at all such as Rituparna Sengupta, Firdaus and Amitabh Bhattacharya. The song is the title song of the film. The film, if I remember right, is under Rekha Films banner, produced by Saibal Chakraborty and directed by Chanchal Chakraborty.

You put in everything in every single song. What did you do this time?
I asked Mrinal Saab the emotional backdrop and the situation of the song that is mandatory for any film song I lend my voice to. The emotions that come across through the singing voice must be just right. I went for a voice-test a month before recording. I rehearsed for one full month before readying myself for the recording. I went on asking again and again if my Bangla pronunciation was right because after all, I was singing in Bangla after a very long time so it was likely that my Bangla had got rusty. I also requested Mayuresh, owner of Swarnalata Studio, to record the entire song again because he told me immediately after the recording that there was some slight technical error that can easily get corrected with the new technology we now have. But I was adamant about singing it again at once because I might not be in the mood later if a re-recording was called for and he obliged. When Mrinal Saab went back to do the mixing, I called him up again to find out if it sounded okay after remixing.

What was the studio experience like after this long gap?
I didn’t expect such a huge crowd and was a bit discomfited by it because of my indifferent state of health. But the media was nice and courteous and I was very happy to find youngsters like Udit Narayan and Shreya Ghosal in the studio waiting to meet me. I spent around three-and-a-half hours in the studio. It was tiring but it made me happy too.

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