Lata Mangeshkar on what she doesn't like about today’s music... and what she does
Why don’t you sing much these days?
(Pauses) There are two things to it. One, I don’t find today’s music as good as it used to be. People may say, ‘Puraane khayalat ki hai’, but it’s a matter of personal choice, isn’t it? And secondly, (Smiles) I have worked for many years. I am tired now. I started singing in 1940, I think. See, I have sung so much.
So how has music changed since that time?
There is a big change. The biggest thing, however, is that all those music directors who would make something new, ‘sab dhad-a-dhad chale gaye’. The worst was when RD (Burman) passed away at such a young age. Laxmi (Laxmikant) also went away at a young age and even Madan ‘bhaiyya’ was only 54 when he passed away. I think making good music died over the years. Also, at that time, since there were so many good music directors, everyone was trying to do better than the other. There wasn’t any competitive feeling, as such, but for example, if Shankar-Jaikishen made beautiful music, the rest would get inspired to make something better. Now, there is no such trend. Music directors today don’t even have a classical background.
If you had to pinpoint the main reason behind the drastic change today, what would it be?
The lyrics. Nothing that is written today is right. Whenever you hear the words, you say, ‘Yeh kya hai?’ Today, composers make songs thinking that they will appeal to the public. They should compose from their heart. Singers don’t even record together today! ‘Woh baat nahin rahi.’
Which is the last badly written song you heard?
(Laughs) ‘Aaj kal sab gaane ajeeb lagte hain’. The last song whose lyrics I liked were from RD’s last movie, 1942 A Love Story. I even liked Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Hum Aapke Hain Koun! ‘Woh sab phir bhi theek the.’ After that, there has been nothing great.
Don’t you like the songs that you have sung over the last few years?
Two Marathi and three or four Bengali songs were good. Recently, I sang a Marathi song with Pt Jasraj and Suresh Wadkar. It was a ‘devi bhajan’ that had a very nice tune and nice words too. But that happens very rarely. That’s why, I don’t sing in Hindi films these days.
What do you think of today’s young singers?
They are good. But if you say ‘today’s’ singers, there are very few singers left today. There is a new boy who sings nicely. He sang for Jodhaa Akbar. Javed Ali, right? He is good. I also liked the Sonu (Niigaam) song, Main hoon na and there was a Sunidhi (Chauhan) song that I liked. It was a dance number but I don’t remember the words. There are only one or two songs these days that are nice.
Do you watch music reality shows and talent hunt shows?
Sometimes. There was a show called Junoon, which had a lot of Pakistani singers. There was a woman called Malini from Benaras in the same show. She was good and sang very well. But, I am strictly against such shows for children. I like the ones with adults, but no one gets work from there. They only get some stage shows, but no one ever gets work.
So why do you think there are no more Mohammed Rafis or Kishore Kumars or Lata Mangeshkars today?
We didn’t just sing in some show and become playback singers. ‘Humne kaafi paapad bele hain.’ You know, Kishoreda was Ashok Kumar’s brother, who was a big actor. But he still had to struggle and didn’t get any work until SD Burman gave him songs.
We have undergone a lot of struggle that isn’t there today. (Smiles) ‘Aaj log playback singer bas ban jaate hain’. Instantly. We all saw a lot of hardships. (Smile more) Also, if every singer would have become a Kishore Kumar or Lata Mangeshkar, we wouldn’t be valued, and you wouldn’t have asked me this. God has sent us saying, ‘Yeh tumhara kaam hai’. It was his plan.
Is there anyone among today’s singers who you think can sing as well as you?
(Laughs) Now how can I say that? You can tell me because you hear the songs. Earlier, there were a lot of singers who sang like me, but none of them worked. I feel no singer should ever copy from another singer because when you mug up a song, you will sound like a particular singer. But when you have to sing your own song, ‘phir pol khul jayegi’.