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Lata Mangeshkar’s close connection to Bengali culture

Published : 07 Feb 2022 08:44 PM

Legendary Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar's born on September 28, 1929, to classical singer and theatre artist Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar and Shevanti in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. She was initially named as Hema commonly described as the India’s Nightingale, Didi and the Queen of Melody.

When she was only five years old she started singing and acting in her father Deenanath Mangeshkar’s musical plays.  Lata’s father passed away when she was only 13 years old, due to heart disease. Lata also has four younger siblings – Asha, Usha, Hridaynath and Meena. This is the reason why Lata had to leave her studies and start singing at a very young age; she took music training from Master Vinayak. She struggle a lot after training from Master Vinayak, she got training in Hindustani music from Ustad Aman Ali Khan of Bhindi Bazar Gharana.

The singer had a close connection to Bengali culture and played in mobilising funds and international opinion in favour of our Liberation War in 1971.

The story of Lata Mangeshkar’s struggle was narrated by her younger sister Meena Mangeshkar. In an interview, Meena said Didi had suffered so much, at the age of 12, she had seen so much. In such a situation, she had changed a lot at that time

She sang in 36 languages over the course of her career and gave her immortal voice to many Bengali songs including playback recordings for films and other releases that carved out an eternal place in the hearts of the Bengali audience and sang Tagore songs as well. 

During the Liberation War, the singer, who passed away in Mumbai on Sunday February 6, travelled to different cities by Indian Air Force planes. The funds raised at musical soirees where Lata Mangeshkar performed across India were channelled for the upkeep of lakhs of refugees who had crossed over to India from Bangladesh during the Liberation War.

The singer performed around 200 playback songs for Bengali movies, including ‘Prem Ekbar Eshechhilo Nirobe’, ‘Rongila Bashita’, ‘Nijhum Shondhyay’, ‘Ke Prothom Kachhe Eshechhi’, ‘Sat Bhai Champa’, ‘Ja Re Ure Ja Re Pakkhi’, ‘Bolchhi Tomar Kane’ and 'Chole Jete Jete Din Bole Jay'.

Noted music composer and singer Hemanta Mukherjee was the first to get Mangeshkar to sing Bengali songs. Salil Chowdhury was another music director who composed some of the timeless Bengali songs sung by Mangeshkar. She also sang tunes directed by eminent music directors Satinath Mukherjee and Sudhin Dasgupta.

Hemanta Mukherjee was her most common collaborator in Bengali music. It is said that her first Bengali record was ‘Prem Ekbari Eshechhilo Jibone’, which was composed by Mukherjee. The song, penned by Gauriprasanna Majumdar has endured and is still beloved.

Kanai Lal, a record collector and researcher of West Bengal, said Mangeshkar recorded several songs, written by Gouriprasanna Majumder, for the 1952 Marathi movie ‘Amar Bhoopali’.

In 1953, she sang Rabindrasangeet duets ‘Modhu Gondhe Vora’ and ‘Tomar Holo Suru’ with Hemanta.

‘Hridoy Amar Nachere’ and ‘Shaono Gogone’ are two more Tagore songs she sang the same year in the film ‘Bou Thakuranir Haat’. In Satinath’s tunes, she recorded two songs in 1956.

Lata Mangeshkar had a close relationship with Hemanta Mukherjee’s family. Mukherjee helped her to learn the Bangla language as well. He was the one who introduced her to singing Tagore songs for the first time.

‘O Palash, O Shimul’ was a song composed by Hemanta Mukherjee and written by Gauriprasanna Majumdar in 1958 that became very popular.

Lata also gave voice to many Bengali songs composed by Salil Chowdhury, another legendary music composer. The song ‘Na Jeo Na’ came out in 1959 and was a hit. Shailendra wrote a Hindi song using the same tune composed by Chowdhury which Mangeshkar sang playback for in the Hindi movie ‘Parakh’ in 1960.

‘O Sat Bhai Champa,’ was another Bengali song by Mangeshkar that has been well known since the beginning of the 1960s. Salil Chowdhury wrote the lyrics and composed the song as well.

‘O Mor Moyna Go,’ composed by Chowdhury and sung by Mangeshkar remains a popular standard for contemporary singers.

The song ‘Akash Pradip Jole,’ which was composed by Satinath Mukherjee was another of Mangeshkar’s Bengali hits. It was recorded in 1956. The same record included another Bengali song ‘Koto Nishi Gechhe’. Both were penned by Pabitra Mitra.

Another eminent Bengali music composer who worked with the singer was Sudhin Dasgupta. Mangeshkar sang playback on ‘Aj Mon Cheyechhe,’ a song composed by him for the movie ‘Shankhabela in 1966. The song remains a favourite among younger musicians.

Hemanta Mukherjee worked as music director for the movie ‘Manihar’ in 1965. Mangeshkar performed the song ‘Nijhum Sondhaya Pantha Pakhira’ - an iconic Bengali song – for the film. The song was written by Pulak Bandhopaddhaya.

‘Ashar Srabon Mane Na Mon’ is another tune from the same movie that is known by every Bengali.

A duet by Lata Mangeshkar and Hemanta Mukherjee as also quite popular. The original song in Marathi was composed by Mangeshkar’s brother, music composer Hridoynath Mangeshkar. The Bengali song, based on the same tune, was written by Salil Chowdhury and called ‘De Dol Dol Dol’. Both the Bengali and Marathi duets were hits.