Lata Mangeshkar
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Lata the legend: Desire to sing more!

By HT

Mumbai, Sept. 28 -- Back in 1942, when a 13 year-old girl stood in front of the mic for the first time - she sang a Marathi song, 'Natali chaitraachi navalaai' in the Marathi film, Pahili Mangalagaur - no one knew that Lata Mangeshkar would go on to become a true-blue legend. 
 
As the 'nightingale of India' turns 88 today, HT Cafe catches up with her about life, completing 75 years in the industry, and her thoughts on celebrating birthdays.
 
What do birthdays mean to you?
 
To be honest, ever since I was a kid, I was never excited about birthdays. It remains the same even now. In fact, whenever anyone would celebrate my birthday, I would get a bit sad (laughs). As a kid, on my birthdays, while someone would get me a new frock, my mother would perform aarti and give me something sweet to eat. That was the only 'birthday celebration' during our childhood. Later on, due to our [difficult] circumstances, celebrating birthdays became out of question. Now, I can celebrate my birthday, but I haven't forgotten what happened in the past. So, I have never been kicked about birthdays. Maybe, others could be but not me (laughs).
 
Do you remember any birthday gift that remains special for you?
 
My mother and father's (Deenanath Mangeshkar) blessings have always been the most special gift. Also, the fact that my father taught me music will always be priceless. After his demise, my mother took very good care of all of us, and taught a lot of good things. I cherish all those things the most.
 
In 2017, you also complete 75th year of singing. Do you feel satisfied with the way your illustrious journey has unfolded?
 
Of course, it feels very good. There were a lot of obstacles and troubles and I remember doing recordings day in and day out. Yes, the initial days were very difficult, but now everything is okay. But even now, I have a desire to sing more. If I get a chance to sing anything good, I will do that.
 
Nowadays, you don't sing for Hindi films. Do you miss it?
 
I haven't sung in films but I have sung non-film songs such as devotional songs including bhajans etc. I personally like them a lot. Honestly, I don't really like singing for films any more (smiles).
 
Of late, the trend of actors turning singers is becoming bigger...
 
There's nothing wrong. If someone understands the songs and sings well, then there's no harm in it. In the old times, actors would sing their own songs. While some of their songs weren't that good, a few of those actors could sing really well.
 
If not in films, have you - of late, sung any songs - in general?
 
It has been some time since I last sang. Now, I am planning to and I will definitely sing in the coming days. I don't know how many people will appreciate but I have recorded Gayatri Mantra, Hanuman Chalisa, recorded ghazals and other devotional songs as an offering to Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva. I am happy singing them.
 
Any special birthday wish?
 
Not just on my birthday but otherwise too, my wish is that I want to sing something again (smiles).
 
In your 75-year-long career, what has been the highlight?
 
I don't know how to answer that question. But considering all the obstacles that came my way and the fact that I still continued with all the work that I did has itself been a highlight for me. What makes me really happy - with God's blessings - is that people always liked whatever I sang. A lot of times I wouldn't like what I had sung, but people still liked it. So, I would always tell myself, 'this is God's blessings'.
 
But at this stage, are you content and happy with the way your life has shaped up?
 
Yes, I am. Today, I am satisfied that I, in a way, could pay back a part of the debt that I had, to my parents for all that they did for me.
 
Even though you aren't singing any longer in films, you must be getting lots of offers. Is it difficult to say no?
 
I ask the makers to make me hear the song, and if I like it then I will sing it. Sometimes, you have to say no but yes, it's a bit difficult to do that.