It was 28 September 1929, a happy day for the Mangeshkar family. 'She is our firstborn! A baby girl! What shall we name her, Shevanti?' Pandit? Deenanath Mangeshkar looked fondly at his daughter.
'Let us call her Hema,' said the happy mother.
But a few days later, Pandit Deenanath had another idea. He was a classical singer and theatre artist. There was a female character called Latika in a play he was acting in.
'Shevanti, I want to name the baby Lata.
So the baby was named Lata.
Lata showed potential in acting as well as music when she was quite young and started accompanying her father to the studios. At the age of five, she began to act in her father's musical plays. The parents also got her admitted to a good school.
Pandit Deenanath was surprised to see that the child stopped going to school after her first day. He asked his wife what the matter was.
Shevanti couldn't hide a smile. 'Why don't you ask her yourself? she replied.
'Lata, why have you not been going to school?' Pandit Deenanath asked his daughter.
'Well, Baba, I was only teaching songs to the other children and the teacher stopped me, I have decided not to go to school because they won't let me sing.\
Pandit Deenanath couldn't help but smile at the little girl's determined to answer. In 1942, when Lata was just thirteen, her father died of heart disease. By this time there were four more children in the family -- Meena, Asha, Usha and Hridaynath. The family faced great difficulties at this time.
A close family friend, Vinayak Damodar Karnataki came to the family's help. He was the owner of a film company, Navyug Chitrapat and helped Lata get started in her career as a singer and actress.
In the early years, Lata sang for Marathi films. When Vinayak's company moved to Bombay ( now Mumbai) in 1945, she also shifted to Bombay. She started taking lessons in Hindustani classical music and began recording songs in Hindi.
vinayak Damodar Karnataki died in 1948 and Ghulam Haider, a reputed music director, became Lata's mentor and guide. he requested a well-known producer, Sashadhar Mukherjee to give Lata a chance in his film Shaheed.
'Lata has a uniquely melodious voice, Mukherjee. If you give her a chance, you'll not be disappointed.'
Mukherjee dismissed the request. 'Her voice is too thin, Haider.'
'You are making a mistake, Mukherjee. She has a golden voice. Mark my words, a day will come when producers and directors will come to her and beg her to sing in their films.' Mukherjee did not agree to launch Lata Mangeshkar and it was Haider himself who gave Lata her first big break in his film, Majboor (1948).
There was no looking back for Lata after that. Her melodious voice enchanted all those who heard her. Soon producers and directors were lining up to request Lata to sing in their films -- just as Haider had predicted!
One of Lata's first major hits was the song 'Ayega Aanewala' from the film, Mahal (1949). Since then there have been many, many unforgettable songs from numerous films. Who can forget the immortal song, 'Pyar kiya to darna kya' from the film Mughal-e-Azam (1960)? Who can forget her songs from Pakeezah (1972)? Lata has recorded over a thousand songs that enthrall us to this day.
On 27 January 1963, Lata sang the patriotic song, "Aye Mere Watanke Logo' (Oh, people of my country!) in the presence of the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. it is said that the song brought tears to Nehru's eyes.
Lata has also recorded memorable duets with famous singers like Mukesh, manna Dey, Mahendra Kapor, Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar. She has recorded Mirabai's bhajans, Ghalib's ghazals and made an album fo Ganesh arti as well.
Since 1970, Lata has had many concerts in India and abroad. her first concert was at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in 1974. she was the first Indian to perform there
In a career spanning over seven decades, she has recorded songs for over a thousands Hindi films and has sung in over thirty-six regional languages of India.
She has received three National Film Awards, four Filmfare Best Playback singer Awards and twelve Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards. The Dadasaheb Phalke Award was bestowed on her in 1989. She has also been awarded the Padma Bhushan (1969), Padma Vibhushan (1999) and the Bharat Ratna (2001), India's highest civilian honor.
Lata Mangeshkar's melodious voice continues to enthrall us to this day. She has been rightly called the queen of melody by her innumerable fans.
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