As we get ready to sing Happy birthday to Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar who turns 88 today lets reminiscence some rare trivia about her.
Born as Hema, she was renamed as Latika after a character in one of the plays of her father Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar. Interestingly her dad too had changed his name from Hardikar to Mangeshkar as he was from Goa’s Mangeshi town. Later Latika was called Lata.
Lata was not only gifted but ever willing to learn. Once legend Dilip Kumar observed that she is having a Marathi accent. Instead of taking it to heart or protesting Lata immediately took diction training from an Urdu teacher named Shafi.
At 33, Lata was almost killed through slow poison which made her unconscious for three days and bedridden for three months. Her cook vanishing at that time without taking his wages meant it was probably a murder attempt by rivals/enemies. Lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri used to visit her daily and voluntarily acted as her food taster.
Lata had maximum duets with Rafi even though for some time they had professional differences on royalty and payment issues. She sang 440 duets with Rafi and 327 with Kishore Kumar.
Lata’s 1st meeting with Kishore was unique. Travelling in a local train, Kishore saw a young and simple girl (Lata) sitting near the window seat. He gave her a warm smile but got a stern look in return. When Dadar station came, she got down and hired a horse cart to move to her destination. So did he. Coincidentally he got down at the same place where the girl had stopped her horse cart and walked behind her. She flew into a rage saying, “You scoundrel, why are you chasing me like a roadside Romeo!”, before hurrying into the studio. Lata complained to music director Khemchand Prakash about a roadside ruffian chasing her. He clarified her misconception and introduced both to each other. All had a hearty laugh.
While Dada’s eccentricities are known, once Lata proved no less. They had a much-awaited show in London. The question arose as to who would sing first. Kishore suggested she sing first as she was his industry’s senior. However, Lata solved the problem by going on stage to introduce Kishore. In fact, she used to say he was her dada as he was older. Yes, he was, but only by a month. In the stage show, there were two unforeseen problems. Lata refused to sing the song “angrezi mein kehtey hai” as it had the word “Idiot” in it. She also refused to sing “Pag ghungroo” as she felt it belittled Meera Bai. Ultimately, however, their stage shows were blockbuster hits.
Lata was a cricket buff. After the Indian team won the 1983 world cup there was no money for the players. Lata agreed to do a charity show for free and each player got a Lakh each. Before the final, she had invited the team for a dinner, and after the win, Kapil Dev invited her for a dinner with the team.
Happy 88th birthday!