By Jivraj Burman
Mumbai, Sep 27 (IANS) Singer Lata Mangeshkar, known as the Nightingale of Bollywood for having mesmerised millions with her melodious voice for over six decades, enters her 80th year Sunday - and like every year she plans to keep it austere sans fanfare.
Lata has never celebrated her birthday in public and follows the same annual routine. She begins the day by praying at the Mahalaxmi Temple situated right across her home in Prabhu Kunj here.
This time she may attend a function at the Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital that she built in Pune in memory of her father.
From her first super hit "Aayega aanewaala" to "Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya" and "Noorie" to her recent bests like "Yeh hum aa gaye hain kahaan" and "Luka chuppi", Lata has managed to thrill music lovers of every generation with her soulful singing over her 66-year-long career and continues to do so.
From light classical music to film songs and from ghazals to bhajans and pop, she has sung a variety of numbers. Having worked with almost all top music composers and singers in the industry, Lata has sung more than 30,000 songs in over 20 Indian languages.
The singer featured in the Guinness Book of World Records from 1974 to 1991 for having made the most recordings in the world.
"That 60 years down the line and having rendered over 25,000 songs, she has been able to maintain the same position is why she is called the Bollywood living legend," composer Anu Malik told IANS.
According to him, every song of hers is a musical gem as much for her singing quality as for its pure composition.
Born Sep 28, 1929, to a family of musicians settled in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Lata's life wasn't easy. After her father Dinanath Mangeshkar, a classical singer and theatre actor, died of heart ailment in 1942, his five children - Lata, Hridayanath, Asha, Usha, and Meena - and wife Shudhhamati had to struggle for survival.
Being the eldest of them, 13-year-old Lata had to see the family through the rough patch. And she did it single-handedly until her siblings grew up, each gifted with musical talent of varying degrees.
Till the time she voluntarily cut down her singing assignments in the late 1980s, Lata faced no competition from any of the female singers, barring her sister Asha Bhosle. Though Asha's career ran parallel with hers, it was on a different note and scale musically.
Lyricist-filmmaker Gulzar said Lata's greatness lay in her complete devotion to music.
"Singing for her is not merely a profession, it is akin to worship," he said.
Alka Yagnik, who grew up listening to Lata songs and idolised her before she became a playback singer herself, referred to the queen of melody as "a pure soul."
Anuradha Paudwal said: "Lata Mangeshkar is a perfect example of a playback singer who can modulate her voice according to various song situations and suit characters as per their age and social status."
Late maestro Naushad had once told this correspondent that when on a rainy day in 1943, she had come to meet him at the now-defunct Kardar Studios in Mumbai, he was busy in his music room and told her to wait.
"When I called her over and told her to sing, she chose one of Noor Jehan's numbers. She sang it with such perfection that my heart went out to her because she was drenched completely as she had waited under the rain. You rarely see such dedication," said the composer, for whom Lata sang many memorable songs later.
Lata pioneered many constructive changes in Bollywood, which proved to be beneficial for singers in the long run.
She was the one who introduced the royalty system for singers in the industry. She also insisted that the singer's name be published with the songs instead of actors.
Music director Shamir Tandon described Lata as "a genuine human being".
"The reason why she has ruled the industry and is still around is that she has always paid attention to the art of singing, always kept on upgrading herself, besides adopting herself to the changing times," Tandon told IANS.