By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Sep 23, 2019-
Lata Mangeshkar turns 90 on September 28. The playback legend opened up in an exclusive chat.
SKJ: It is that time of the year again?
Lata: You mean my birthday? What’s so special about it? It’s like any other day, isn’t it?
SKJ: No Didi. I would say it is the day the most gifted singer of civilisation was born…
Lata: Aap aisa sochte hain yeh aapka badappan hai (if you think this way it’s your greatness). I’ve never thought of myself as special.
SKJ: Some of the world’s greatest artistes, statesmen and connoisseurs of music have declared you the greatest ever…
Lata: I never thought of myself as special even when those who have heard and appreciated my singing said I was. For me, the constant effort in life has been to better myself as a person and an artiste.
SKJ: Javed Akhtar says your singing epitomises perfection. How can you improve on perfection?
Lata: Oh, there are so many of my songs that are considered flawless but are actually flawed. I can hear those flaws that you can’t. And believe me, I cringe every time I hear those flaws in my singing.
SKJ: Can you point out some of your ‘flawed’ songs?
Lata: No, why should I? Don’t you prefer to keep believing that they are flawless?
SKJ: You have said you constantly strive to improve yourself as a human being. In what way?
Lata: My biggest personality flaw was my fierce temper. Even as a child I had a major temper issue. I would get angry very quickly. This changed as I grew older. Then there came a time when my temper vanished. Now I don’t get angry at all. I sometimes wonder what happened to my fierce temper.
SKJ: In spite of your incomparable talent and success I’ve always seen you as being humble. How did you manage to remain unaffected by your phenomenal success?
Lata: I have always been like that. I was taught by my parents to forgive and forget when wronged by anyone. I’ve tried to follow that.
SKJ: Didi, I know of so many who have taken advantage of your generous and forgiving nature…
Lata: God bless them. I’ve never been vain or arrogant about my abilities, because I feel if I can sing well it is a gift that I’ve got from God and my parents. I always treated my singing as a special privilege. I nurtured it as a privilege.
SKJ: What advice would you give to upcoming aspiring singers?
Lata: Riyaaz (practice). Every singer who is serious about singing must do riyaaz. To this day I try to do my riyaaz as frequently as possible.
SKJ: Despite your partiality towards popular singing, you are extraordinarily adept at singing classical songs in films such as “Man mohana bade jhoothe” (“Seema”) and “Mose chal kiye jaa” (“Guide”).
Lata: The filmy classical song is not pure classical. Given a chance I’d have loved to sit with a tanpura on a stage to perform uninterrupted for two hours. But where was the time? I was recording songs round the clock.
SKJ: Any unfulfilled dreams?
Lata: I loved photography and painting. I wish I had time to pursue these interests.
SKJ: What is your message to the world?
Lata: Do your dharm and respect your karm. Success will follow. Nothing comes without hard work. (Agency)