When some years ago a friend and I were discussing who might be the best voice in music (in the western world) whether Dana Ross was it, an eavesdropper intruded to challenge us obviously based on his preference but was immediately blown away when he asked me who I think it was and I blurted out: “Lata Mangeshkar! We were talking Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion etc. and so he felt he had some opposing contender to offer but when I virtually flung the name Lata in his face, he was clean bowled, castled. Talk ended.
I grew up listening to the lullaby-esque Lata masterpiece: “Mera Sundar sapna, beet gaya” often sung by an elder sister who in her amateurish way did real justice to that song to the extent that when I heard (the fake news) of the singer’s passing, the song came right back to me – although since my sister’s own passing I have not been able to listen to it. My sister lives on for me via that song – as Lata will definitely do for the world courtesy the many thousand others which she has gifted us.
How great is Lata? well it’s been said that even the Guinness Book of World Records has years now stopped counting the astronomical number of songs she has sung and recorded. When on our side of the world a singer records a couple songs, she is elevated to the rank of a Diva, a singing royalty of sorts, so the question is, what title do we bestow upon Lata whose musical output is beyond calculation?
The Bollywood film industry was practically sustained by her recordings as one wondered whether the movie scripts were written to coincide with her songs or whether it was the other way around.
A relevant question that might be asked sometime in the future is who was the greatest individual of the 20-21st century based on the legacy they left behind and on the quality of it and even now one is tempted to say that Lata will come miles ahead of her nearest rival as that person whose immortality is based on how at any given moment, second, somewhere in the world somebody would be singing one of her songs – as Shakespeare was voted the most significant individual of the last millennium from the point of view that his name is called every moment of the day somewhere; that he is quoted by somebody somewhere every second in a 24 hour period.
So before we wrongly bid the goddess (yes that’s the title she deserves) goodbye, let’s play another of her masterpiece again – which is endless and as India Today says her health continues to improve. Jai Hind and Lata.
By L. Siddhartha Orie