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Features |  28 Sep 2015 18:23 |  By RnMTeam

Lata Mangeshkar: From 'Majboor' to fighting for royalties

MUMBAI: Even at the age of 86, she remains one of the country’s favourite female singers. Being honoured with the highest civilian award- the Bharat Ratna in the year 2001, ‘Queen of Melody’- Lata Mangeshkar has dominated the music industry for more than three decades. From crooning some of Bollywood’s most soulful numbers like ‘Aapki Nazro Ne Samjha’ and ‘Lag Ja Gale Se’ for veteran actresses like Mala Sinha and Nutan, to singing ‘Tere Liye’ for Preity Zinta, Mageshkar has rendered her vocals for more than one generation. She was one singer who swapped the camera for a mic, acting in Marathi films like ‘Chimukla Sansar’ in 1943 and ‘Maajhe Baal’ in 1944, before becoming a singer.

Mangeshkar entered the music industry amidst the presence of singing stalwarts like Noor Jahan and Shamshad Begum, who were renowned for their heavy nasal vocals. You would never believe that the songstress was rejected for her thin, high pitched vocals? However, it was that same voice that later earned her her first break in the film ‘Majboor’ in 1948.

Apart from being a singing ace, Mangeshkar is also known for fighting for the rights of singers. The best example of this was the inclusion of the category for singers at the Filmfare Awards, which started in 1953. At the time, the awards did not have nominations for the singers. It was the songstress who pushed the film fraternity to include that particular category, which until 1968 was shared by both, male and female singers. Mangeshkar received her first Filmfare Award in 1959 for the famous track ‘Aaja Re Pardesi’ from the film ‘Madhumati’.

In late 40s and early 50s, records did not carry the names of the singers of the films, and even failed to acknowledge their contributions. Records at the time only carried the names of the film’s actors. According to Anna Morcom’s book ‘Hindi Film Songs and the Cinema’- post the success of ‘Ayega Aanewala’ from the film ‘Mahal’ in 1949, Mangeshkar pressurised producers to print the names of singers on the record. Actor, producer and director, Raj Kapor adhered to the request and started printing the names of the singers, a step that was considered to rather crucial for singers as it gave the singing fraternity an identity.

However, the sailing has not been all smooth for Mangeshkar. She is also remembered for an infamous spat she had with singer Mohammed Rafi over royalties. The singers did not record together for about three years. Rafi’s daughter-in-law, Yasmin Khalid Rafi, in her book- ‘Mohammed Rafi: My Abba - A Memoir’ wrote, “In the beginning of 1960, there came a phase when Lata Mangeshkar fell out with Mohammed Rafi and stopped singing duets with him. They did not work together for two-three years. Lata sang with Mahendra Kapoor and Suman Kalyanpur sang with Rafi during this period.” The friction stemmed from Rafi’s opinion that if a producer pays the fee demanded by a singer, the singer should not have a share in the royalty, putting the two singing stalwarts on different pages. The rift further deepened when Mangeshkar demanded a written apology.

Nonetheless, the ‘Nightingale of India’ fought hard to get royalties, and went on to become the only singer to do so. As per an interview with VK Doobey from 11 March, 2000, Mangeshkar got royalties from the producer’s share of 10 per cent. Now, the veteran singer along with Sonu Nigam, Alka Yagnik, Kumar Sanu, Shreya Ghoshal and a few other singers, is still fighting for singers’ royalties as part of an active part organisation called ISRA.

From carving a place for herself in the Indian music industry, Mangeshkar is now helping launch new talent in the country. In January 2013 she unveiled her very own label- LM Music, to promote up and coming singers. Artists like Mayuresh Pai have been thrust into the limelight by bagging composing duties for bhajans that were released during the label’s launch.

Mangeshkar has not only won hearts for her vocals skills, but also for the kind of efforts she has put into bringing singers the kind of recognition they are getting today. In a true sense, Mangeshkar has always led the contingent, especially when it comes to the rights of singers, and in a big way, has been a torch bearer for the music industry.