The Sis­ters Mangeshkar

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE -

Akhtar, Si­tara Kan­puri, Bi­na­pani Mukher­jee, Lalita De­woolkar, Uma Devi and, in time, Shamshad Begum. Geeta ( as a Roy) started out al­most along­side you, Lata, and her you never really con­quered. The Geeta nova chose to self- de­struct – how she did so is a tragic tale to be nar­rated later.

It is now al­most em­bar­rass­ing to talk of how much more ruth­lessly Lata dis­posed of the tal­ent that came later. I mean the tal­ent with which Asha, then, was really jostling. But for Lata shunt­ing such tal­ent to the flanks, Asha might never have made it in such a big way. The ‘ Lata- aid­ing- Asha’ list of those phased out, here, in­cludes Meena Kapoor, Sudha Mal­ho­tra, Su­lochana Kadam, Sandhya Mukher­jee, Mubarak Begum, Mad­hubala Jhaveri and Su­man Kalyan­pur. Su­man’s was a voice strik­ingly sim­i­lar to that of Lata. In­deed, OP Nay­yar, no less, on ra­dio mis­took Su­man for Lata in SJ’s 1968 hit Brah­machari duet with Rafi: Aa­jkal tere mere pyaar ke charchen har zubaan par. Not un­til wife Saroj Mo­hini Nay­yar told him that it was Su­man would OP, still in­cred­u­lous, be­lieve that it Chowd­hury, Ashima Ban­er­jee, An­ima Dasgupta, Usha Ti­mothy, Kamla Sista, Chan­drani Mukher­jee, Ch­haya Gan­guli, Priti Sa­gar, Dil Raj Kaur, Kan­chan, Minu Pur­shot­tam and Ka­mal Barot ( if you like). Even in­trepid in­vaders like Runa Laila and Nazia Hasan – dur­ing the mid- 1970s and at the start of the 1980s – just came and went. Parveen Sul­tana, af­ter ven­tur­ing into the highly catty Hindi film mu­sic fold, chose to stick to her orig­i­nal pur­suit – clas­si­cal mu­sic. The poles- apart Sharda, for her bel­liger­ently pro­moted part, painted her­self into a Shanker cor­ner. But only af­ter hav­ing en­dan­gered Shanker- Jaik­is­han’s fu­ture as a team.

Later as­pi­rants ( from the 1980s on­wards) like Sushma Shreshtha, Kavita Kr­ish­na­murti, Alka Yag­nik and Sadhna Sargam chose to pay un­wa­ver­ing obei­sance to Lata and Asha. They diplo­mat­i­cally looked upon the two sis­ters as god­desses of song – just to keep the play­back pen­du­lum tick­ing for them. In such a pass­ing pa­rade, Meena Mangeshkar ( as the one com­ing be­tween Lata and Asha!) had lost out early. As for the youngest sis­ter Usha Mangeshkar, she had elected, from the word go, to sing in the shadow of ei­ther Lata or Asha. I am not bring­ing in the names of such dizzy­ingly idol­ized singing stars as Khur­shid and Kanan Devi, Noor­je­han and Su­raiya. If only be­cause Lata, very early, dis­tanced her­self from these tal­is­manic per­form­ers by pro­nounc­ing her­self to be ‘ purely a play­back singer’.

.... Want pub­lished proof of her reach? Here is Kavita Kr­ish­na­murti clinch­ingly quoted from the April 1995 edi­tion of The Times Group’s Film­fare: ‘ Pan­chamda called me and asked me if I’d like to sing for him. “It’s a big film,” he said. I told him that I would sing for him any day. That’s how I got the chance to sing such a mar­vel­lous melody as Pyaar Huaa Chupke Se [ in Vidhu Vinod Cho­pra’s 1942 – A Love Story, re­leased in April 1994]. Yes, I had sung Kuchh na kaho too [ in that film]. But three days af­ter Pan­chamda’s sud­den death [ on 4 Jan­uary 1994], Vinod came over and told me that he wanted to have the song dubbed by Lata didi [ Asha’s un­fail­ing way of re­fer­ring to her ‘ el­der sis­ter’]. I was shocked. I had spo­ken to Pan­chamda at 10 pm – five hours later, I got a call, telling me he was no more. If Vinod had sug­gested any other singer, I may have had sec­ond thoughts. But since it was Lata didi I couldn’t ar­gue.’

Thus did Kuchh na Kaho get to be dubbed af­ter Pan­cham’s death when he could have no say in the mat­ter. How an of­fkey Lata ‘ un­sang’ Kuchh na kaho is by now a part of our mu­si­cal lore. ( Pub­lished with per­mis­sion from Hay

House In­dia)

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