When Lata Mangeshkar praised Shah Rukh Khan by saying “He redefined the idea of ​​a romantic hero”

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When Lata Mangeshkar praised Shah Rukh Khan by saying: "He redefined the idea of ​​a romantic hero"
When Lata Mangeshkar praised Shah Rukh Khan by saying “He redefined the idea of ​​a romantic hero” (Photo Credit : Lata Mangeshkar/Twitter;Shah Rukh Khan/Wikimedia)

‘Lata Mangeshkar… in her own voice’ (Niyogi Books) is a collection of fascinating conversations between Lata Mangeshkar and Nasreen Munni Kabir, an Indian-born UK TV producer, director and author. It takes us into the world of India’s most gifted singer and reveals the person behind the voice that provided the soundtrack to the lives of billions of people.

fragments:

NMK: At one point, Shah Rukh Khan said his only regret was that you could never sing for him! What about the generation after Meena Kumari?

Lata Mangeshkar: The names that come to mind right now are Waheedaji, Nimmiji, Nanda, Sadhana, Sharmila Tagore, Sairaji, Mala Sinha and Hema Malini. They recreated the songs correctly. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to see the variations and expressions I have tried to make the song work on the screen.

I really liked Jaya Bachchan’s performance in ‘Guddi’. I thought she imitated the song ‘Baahon mein chale aao’ in ‘Anamika’ so well. There is a difficult track in ‘Lekin’, ‘Suniyoji araj hamari’ and Dimple’s lip movement is flawless. From the current generation I like Kajol and Rani, especially in ‘Black’ by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Another talented actress is Karishma Kapoor.

NMK: You’ve been singing from the same family for three generations: Shobhana Samarth, her daughters, Nutan and Tanuja, and then Tanuja’s daughter, Kajol. Have you had a close personal relationship with an actress?

Lata Mangeshkar (LM): I can’t say I was close to many. I felt close to Nargisji and Meena Kumariji. We got on well and I liked the kind of people they were. They had a beautiful, charming way of speaking. The way they dressed was also beautiful – with their beautiful ghagras and saris.

I often visited Nargishi’s house. She lived in a very friendly way. Meena Kumariji had a tragic life in many ways, but when you met her, you couldn’t tell she was unhappy. Nargisji and Meena Kumariji were special people. I also love Nimmiji, Sulochana, Waheeda Rehman and Rekha.

NMK: Did any of the actresses insist that you sing for them?

LM: Madhubala was the first to tell me to sing all her songs – she even wrote it in her contract. I always thought Madhubala was influenced by Marilyn Monroe.

Later I heard that other actresses wanted me to sing for them. Male actors often insisted on the same playing artist. Raj Kapoor wanted Mukesh Bhaiya, Dilip Kumar chose Rafi Sahib and Dev Anand preferred Kishore Kumar. People came to identify a singing voice with a star.

To some extent, Mukesh Bhaiya’s voice matched Raj Kapoor’s speaking voice. So it went well. And Rafi Sahib’s voice suited Dilip Kumar.

NMK: I heard a rumor that you are a great impersonator.

LM: [Laughs] Ever since I was a kid, I liked imitating singers and actresses from the 1930s and 1940s. The first person I imitated was my father. I performed at a classical musical program in Poona and told him matter-of-factly: “Today I will sit like you and sing like you.” I went on stage and did just that. He also imitated his gestures.

A friend of my father’s said, “Baapser to beta savaser!” (The daughter is one step ahead of her father.) Baba said nothing. He just laughed.”

Everyone in the Mangeshkar family imitates quite well. People often ask me, “If you sing to Sairaji, how do you manage to look like her?” I don’t really change my voice, but when I’m singing for Saira Banu or any other star, I think to myself, “If I sing like that, it’ll look good on her.” So I add some touch to reflect her personality.

NMK: When the song is finally portrayed, it takes on a life of its own and depends on so many factors. Which movie directors have for you a good understanding of music and how the song can work on screen?

LM: Guru Dutt and Vijay Anand were the best. Although I haven’t sung many songs for Guru Dutt, I sang a few songs in his movie ‘Jaal’ and ‘Badle badle mere sarkaar’ in ‘Chaudhvin ka Chand’ — the film was produced under his own banner. But I really liked the way he visualized songs. He gave importance and weight to every song line. He was careful with camera angles and how the actor had to mimic the song to make it work. He played ‘Aji dil par hua aisa jaadoo’ in ‘Mr & Mrs 55’ so well. He was so natural. I will never forget it.

Guru Dutt was an intelligent and calm man. During the recording sessions, he sometimes explained how he wanted to film the song, but we generally communicated through SD Burman.

I also liked Vijay Anand’s approach. I believe Guru Dutt may have influenced him because Guru Dutt had worked with Dev Sahib. Vijay Anand filmed ‘Kanton se kheench ke ye anchal’ in ‘Guide’ brilliantly.

Another example of his skill is the title song ‘Tere Ghar Ke Saamne’. Rafi Sahib sang the song for Dev Anand and I sang the ‘alaap’ for Nutan. The scene shows the hero sitting at a bar and starting to sing. He thinks about the girl he loves and suddenly she appears to him in his whiskey glass. Vijay Anand was very imaginative. Chetan Anand was also a good director. And I really liked the acting of Dev Sahib.

NMK: What other directors have made memorable songs on screen?

LM: Raj Kapoor. He understood music very well. He had a great sense of how a song should be portrayed and explained to the conductor exactly what he wanted. Raj Sahib would say, “This is how I will film it. I’m going to cut here. My camera will be in this position.” So we knew what the song would look like in the movie. His songs were great.

Mehboob Sahib was also very good but had an older style of filming songs. ‘Andaaz’ was different from his usual style. In ‘Andaaz’ scenes lead to a song. There is a party and Dilip Kumar is asked to sing. He sits at the piano and sings ‘Tu kahe agar’. The child in the story has a birthday and her mother, played by Nargisji, mimics the song ‘Meri ladenli, o meri ladenli’. The same connection between song and story is made in ‘Tod diya dil mera’ and ‘Uthaye jaa unke situm’.

Every song in ‘Andaaz’ has a reason to be there. When songs are used in this way, the audience feels engaged as they contribute to the understanding of the character while advancing the story. Naushad Sahib’s contribution to matching scene and song in ‘Andaaz’ was tremendous.

NMK: Bimal Roy’s songs are also beautifully embedded in storytelling. Have you talked to him a lot?

LM: I didn’t discuss the songs directly with Bimalda. He spoke in Bengali and I hardly spoke it then. He was a serious and quiet man and never talked much. He sat silently in the recording studio and all he said to me in Bengali was, ‘Namaskar. How are you? Shall we?” Nothing more than that.

I loved his movies. Whether his songs were good or bad didn’t matter – the whole movie was good. I consider him one of our great directors.

NMK: What do you think of V. Shantaram?

LM: Shantaramji was also an excellent director. One of his special talents was his understanding of music. He couldn’t sing, but he recognized a good tune. While the songs were being rehearsed, he explained in great detail how he planned to film each line of the song. I loved his song images in ‘Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje’. The same goes for Yash Chopra. I like his movies very much.

NMK: Gulzar Sahib is a lyricist, poet, writer and film director. What do you think of his work as a director?

LM: He’s a different kind of director. I love all his movies – the serious ones and the comedies, especially ‘Angoor’. He’s a stubborn type. I know this because I worked closely with him on ‘Lekin’. He gets annoyed and insists on doing things his way, but what he delivers is of good quality.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee was also a great director. He understood how to use songs well. He loved the sitar and was very knowledgeable about classical music.

NMK: From the end of the nineties you started to sing fewer songs. But all the movie directors today including Mani Ratnam, Sooraj Barjatya, Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Ashutosh Gowariker, Rakeysh Mehra – they all want you to sing in their movies.

LM: And I sang for them all. I really like the work of these directors. I love Aditya Chopra’s movies. He explains the song situation very well. I don’t see many movies these days, but I liked Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘Munnabhai MBBS’ and ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’.

Shah Rukh Khan can act in many different types of roles. In ‘Darr’ and ‘Baazigar’ he was a villain and then in ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ he redefined the idea of ​​a romantic hero. One actor I really like is Rishi Kapoor. He has always been excellent, a good dancer and handsome too! I saw ‘Taare Zameen Par’ by Aamir Khan. He is a good director and a very good actor. I consider him a personal friend.

(Excerpt from ‘Lata Mangeshkar…in Her Own Voice’ by Nasreen Munni Kabir with permission from the publisher, Niyogi Books)

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