‘I didn’t even want Bharat Ratna’


It’s never too late to do what you want to; that’s what Lata Mangeshkar believes in. And hence, at 81, she has turned a calendar girl. The nightingale of India speaks to Sreya Basu about her new venture
We mostly associate a high-profile calendar with fashion photographs. What made you come up with a musical calendar?

Because I don’t know anything better (smiles). The idea was Hridaynath’s (brother). Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet calendar for 2011 contains my photos with 24 music directors I have worked with. I unveiled the calendar on the 110th birth anniversary of my father (Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar). So, you can say, it’s a tribute to him.

This is the second time in a row that people will get Lata Mangeshkar calendar?

Yes. Last year (2010), we made the calendar based on our family. For 2011, we thought of bringing well-known music directors together. It was very difficult for us to choose because the directors I worked with were all geniuses.

How many music composers you have worked with so far?

When we made a list, I found I had sung with 115 music directors. Now it’s not possible to put all of them into one calendar. But the calendar won’t have been completed without photos of Shankar-Jaikishan; and Khemchand Prakashji, who first made me sing Aayega Aanewala for Madhubala from the film Mahal in 1949. And how can I forget Ghulam Haidersaab! He fought with others and made me sing. He gave me the first chance to sing in 1947. After that, he went back to Pakistan. He used to call me memsaab. Before going, he told me: ‘Memsaab, tumhara itna naam hoga aur tum mujhe yaad karogi’ (you will be very famous and you will remember me).

Music has changed over the years. But do you still find one thread that’s common between the music of your time and the ones we hear today?

There have been a lot of changes in music if you compare ours and your time. But one thing is there, the songs of our times that we used to love, is still loved by today’s generation. People still love songs composed by Salil Chowdhury, SD Burman, RD Burman and Hemant Kumar.

You often say that you would love to remain in your past…

I always prefer to reminiscence my past days…I don’t think of the days that lie ahead of me. I remember my past more vividly than my present.

Is that because, like music, people too have changed?

I came to Mumbai in 1945 and since then, we lived at all kinds of strange places. At Nana Chowk, there was a Shiv mandir and we used to live in a dharmshala-kind of a place beside the temple. From there, we shifted to Walkeshwar. The Bombay of that time and the Mumbai of today is completely different. Those days were more peaceful-ek shanti aur pyaar ka mahaul tha. Today, the peace has been replaced by tall towers and buildings. There are thousands of people and lakhs of cars…the peace has escaped from people’s hearts.

The time is so bad today that now-a-days you don’t even get to hear good words from fellow-people. When you read newspapers, you come across so many weird incidents…even news channels show incidents that are hard for me to believe…little girls being raped and killed, women are murdered…every other day there are bomb blasts….how can people become so heartless! The year 2010 has not been a good year. In these turbulent times, the only one that gives me the strength to carry on is God.

You have received numerous awards in your lifetime. Which is the one award that you prize the most?

I didn’t even want Bharat Ratna. The love I have got, and still get from public, is my biggest award.

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