Hailed as the ‘Nightingale of Bollywood’, there is no doubt that Lata Mangeshkar is one of the best recognized and respected female voices in India. With a singing career spanning over seven decades in the Hindi and Indian regional film industries where most wannabe singers fizzle off even before the decade is up, Mangeshkar is surely a formidable figure to reckon with. Not only has the lady with the Golden Voice made her indelible mark on the Hindi filmdom by singing for over a thousand Hindi films, but has also lent her voice to songs in over 36 regional Indian languages and foreign languages. Singing came naturally to young Lata as she was born as the eldest daughter of a classical singer. Her father was also a theater artist and Lata and her younger siblings were exposed to the big stage from an early age. The unfortunate death of her father while she was still young forced her to become her family’s breadwinner, a duty she fulfilled to her best. For her rare achievements and contributions to the art of India, she was honored with the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award—a very rare tribute for a vocalist.
Childhood & Early Life
She was born as “Hema” in a Marathi speaking family in Madhya Pradesh as the eldest daughter of Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar and his second wife Shevanti. She was later renamed “Lata” after a character in her father’s play.
She has several younger siblings, of whom sister Asha and Usha are also reputed singers in their own right. Her father began teaching her music when she was a little girl. She was an eager learner and loved to sing.
She was just five when she began appearing in her father’s plays as an actress. She did not go to school for much long, though the reasons cited behind this vary.
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Tragedy struck the family in 1942 when Deenanath Mangeshkar succumbed to heart disease leaving behind a young family. His eldest daughter, Lata, who was just 13 years old at that time had to start working to fend for the family.
The first song that Lata sang was ‘Naachu Yaa Gade’ for the Marathi movie, ‘Kiti Hasaal’ in 1942. However the song was dropped from the final movie cut.
Her father’s friend Master Vinayak gave the little girl a small role in the Marathi movie, ‘Pahili Mangalaa-gaur’ in 1942 in which she also sang a song.
Even though she started her career as a Marathi singer and actress little did people know that this young girl would one day grow up to dominate the music of Hindi filmdom. Incidentally, her first Hindi song was also from a Marathi movie in 1943. The song was "Mata Ek Sapoot Ki Duniya Badal De Tu" from the movie ‘Gajaabhaau’.
She moved to Mumbai in 1945 along with Master Vinayak’s company. During this time she also started taking classes in Hindustani Classical music from Ustad Amanat Ali Khan.
The death of Vinayak in 1948 left another void in Lata’s life and her initial years in the Hindi film industry were a struggle. However, she scored her first hit with the song ‘Aayega Aanewala’ from the movie, “Mahal’ in 1949.
The 1950s was a period of great success for the lady who got the opportunity to sing songs composed by various music directors of those times like Anil Biswas, Shankar Jaikishan, S.D. Burman, Khayyam, etc.
A big turning point in her career was when she won a Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer for the composition ‘Aaja re Pardesi’ from the film ‘Madhumati’ in 1958.
The 1960s began with a bang for the singer with the superhit song ‘Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’ followed by another soulful number, ‘Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh’ from ‘Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai’ the same year.
She might have already made her mark as a filmi singer, but when Lata sang the patriotic song, ‘Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo’ in the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1963, she brought the then Prime Minister to tears.
The 1960s also marked the beginning of the association between the singer and the music directors Laxmikant-Pyarelal for whom she would go on to sing over 700 songs over a period of 35 long years.
Mangeshkar’s success continued over the 1970s and 1980s and she also branched out much into regional songs. Over this period she also gave many concerts and toured all around the world.
In the 1990s many new female singers had entered Bollywood yet no one could topple the reigning queen of voice of Hindi filmdom. She continued performing well into the new millennium, recording her first Hindi song with the Tamil composer, Ilaiyaraaja in 2001.
She held the Guinness Book of World Records from 1974 to 1991 for having made the most recordings in the world which over the period of 1948 to 1974 came up to be approximately 25,000 solo, duet and chorus-backed songs in 20 Indian languages.
Awards & Achievements
For her glorious achievements in the field of music, Lata Mangeshkar was honored with the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of the Republic of India in 2001. She had previously been awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award in India in 1999.
Personal Life & Legacy
Lata Mangeshkar has never been married and keeps her personal life a closely guarded secret. As the eldest sister among her siblings, she has always maintained close relations with her younger sisters and brother. Her love for cooking, reading, photography and cricket is well known.
A perfume, Lata Eau de Parfum, was launched in 1999 in the honor of this reputed Indian singer.