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Song sung true

The Statesman
Tuesday, May 24, 2011 AT 03:48 PM (IST)
Sudipta Chanda reviews a book on the Melody Queen

Shankar Mahadevan once said, “Her voice no longer remains her own; it is now recognised as the voice of Indian films. She has become a reference point by which everything else about Indian popular music is judged.”

Lata… Voice of the Golden Era, a book penned by Mandar V Bichu, offers a glimpse into the life of the singer. The book speaks about her long association with composers from Anil Biswas, Naushad, C Ramchandra, Shankar-Jaikishan, SD Burman, Hemant Kumar, Salil Chowdhury to Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Kalyanji-Anandji, RD Burman and so many others. 

Dedicated to the composers who made the singer a legend, the book begins with a brief biography. Khemchand Prakash, a royal musician, made Mangeshkar belt out her first big hit Aayega Anewala in Mahal (1949). It can be considered the first milestone in her career. And then came Naushad, the legendary composer. He offered her the next big step ~ Mughal-e-Azam. The immortal gem Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya still haunts millions. 

Barsaat, which marked the debut of Shankar-Jaikishan, had the classic Hawa Mein Udta Jaaye. C Ramchandra made history with the gem Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon, penned by Pradeep. And then there was SD Burman whose music had variety. He once considered Kya Yeh Zindegi Hai (Yeh Gulistan Hamara) his best offering for Mangeshkar (the song also featured his voice). As for Hemant Kumar, the ace composer–singer, he came up with an upbeat version of Vaande Maataram (Anand Math) which Mangeshkar considers to be one of the greatest patriotic songs.  
Salil Chowdhury taught Mangeshkar to feel. She once said, “Salil had his unique style. His compositions often sounded simple to the ears but these were always difficult to render.” The composer was known for his tricky but melodious tracks. She won her first Filmfare award for Aja Re (Madhumati) in 1958. 

Let’s not forget her collaborations with Madan Mohan. She once said, “I had some misgivings about you and that’s why I did not sing for you earlier. I should not have believed those mischievous people who tried to spoil your name.” The rest is history. The singer also shared a close rapport with composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Kalyanji-Anandji . While the former made her belt out the sizzling Aa Jane Ja in an era when Asha Bhosle was a name to reckon with in this genre, the latter gave a gem like Dil To Hai Dil. Now to Pancham. He started his journey with Ghar Aja Ghir Aaye (Choote Nawab) and left us with Kuchh Na Kaho (1942 A Love Story). In between, the two worked on several songs.

The book also discusses her association with ace composers Ravi Shankar, Ravindra Jain, Chitragupt, Rajesh Roshan and Bappi Lahiri. It also features excellent interviews by Ameen Sayani and a chapter dedicated to controversial issues surrounding her.

But there are some drawbacks. In her biography there is no mention of songs that she composed for Kishore Kumar and the information about her songs in Malayalam for Salil Chowdhury is also missing. Also there is no mention of the songs she has rendered for Kishore Kumar in Hindi or Bengali.
Overall, it’s a brilliant book with many rare photographs sourced from the collections of Gautam Rajadkakshya, Vishwas Nerurkar, Gautam Chowdhury, Sanjeev Kohli, Pyarelal Sharma, Ravindra Jain, Rajesh Roshan and Yash Raj Films. 

Song sung true