Mangeshkar, Lata

views updated


MANGESHKAR, LATA (1929–), popular Indian vocalist. India's greatest Bollywood "playback" singer, Lata Mangeshkar's voice is known to over four generations of Indian film fans, as she has lent her voice to countless screen heroines, enhancing the impact of their portrayals through her songs. Mangeshkar's home state is Goa, which has been home to many talented musicians, but she was born in Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Her father, Dinanath Mangeshkar, was a leading actor-singer of his generation. He owned a theater company, which staged musicals throughout the former Bombay Presidency. When Dinanath heard Lata correcting one of his students, who was not singing a phrase correctly, and also humming perfectly in tune with the sarangi, he decided to give her lessons. His life, however, was cut short by alcoholism.

Mangeshkar first appeared as a child actress in a few films. Her first song was for a Marathi film, Kiti Hasal?. Her first Hindi song, for the film Aap ki Sewame, was recorded in 1947. Since then, she has sung for over 200 music directors, 300 lyricists, and has done voice-overs for 100 male and 61 female performers. Mangeshkar had to struggle in the initial phase of her career, but by 1948 she became established as a "playback" singer, creating voice-overs for films, and soon rose to prominence.

Mangeshkar studied classical music under Aman Ali Khan of the Bhendi Bazar gharana. She also received guidance from Amanat Khan and Tulsidas Sharma and the composers Ghulam Hyder and Anil Biswas. Before her, the vocalist Noorjehan was the most sought-after "playback" singer. Noorjehan left for Pakistan, however, paving the way for Mangeshkar's rise, under the influence of Kundanlal Saigal. Her early songs reflect Noorjehan's vocal style, but Mangeshkar soon developed her own unique style.

Mangeshkar's voice is supple and velvety, its mellifluous quality enriching the lyrics of her songs. She is one of India's very few multilingual singers. Her most popular songs were from films made between 1947 and 1962, considered the golden age of Hindi film music. With melodies relegated to the background in later years, the quality of Indian movie music suffered an inevitable decline. Mangeshkar was awarded India's highest civilian honor, and the president of India nominated her as a member of Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India's Parliament.

Amarendra Dhaneshwar


Bharatan, Raju. Lata Mangeshkar: A Biography. New Delhi: UBS Publishers, 1995.

Bhimani, Harish. In Search of Lata Mangeshkar. New Delhi: Indus, 1995.