Singer Lata Mangeshkar lamented that today’s listeners seemed more interested in dance numbers shot in foreign locales than songs sung with soul.
In an interview with poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar on CNN-IBN, filmed on Saturday and airing tonight at 10 pm, Mangeshkar, who celebrates her 80th birthday today, said that listeners cared neither for lyrics nor melody but seemed satisfied with just a peppy beat.
She said that few singers today showed promise with the exception of Shreya Ghoshal and Alka Yagnik.
“Listeners’ ears have gone wrong,” she remarked in Hindi, snapping her fingers to form a beat. “This is enough for most of them.”
Mangeshkar spoke about her early life, spent learning music from her father, and her subsequent forays in to the music industry.
She talked about some of her most famous songs, like the haunting Aayega… from the film Mahal and the rousing Ae mere vatan ke logon, which reportedly brought tears to Jawaharlal Nehru eyes.
Responding to rumours about competition between herself and her sister Asha Bhosle, she said that there was no animus between the two because their styles and even the sort of songs they had sung differed immensely.
“If anything, she is the more versatile singer,” she said.
The interview will be punctuated with short video clips of film industry figures like A.R. Rahman and others wishing the singer and asking her about her life.
She spoke about her first classical music performance with her father, where she fell asleep on his lap while he continued singing.
She wistfully said that her father died soon after she recorded her first film song (for a Marathi film that was never finished), after which she found herself fending for her younger sisters and brothers through her work in the film industry.
“We were living in Grant Road, far away from the station, and most people took tongas, but I had to walk home, spending the Re 1 or Rs 2 I earned on provisions,” Mangeshkar said.
She spoke about her efforts to learn Urdu in order to better enunciate the lyrics, after a stinging remark by Dilip Kumar who, when first introduced to her, said that “Maharashtrian voices have a trace of dal-baath (dal rice).”
The audience burst out laughing when she recounted that the haunting, echoing effect in the song Aayega…aayega was achieved by her starting the song 10 ft away from the mike and walking slowly towards it, making sure that she would be at the mike when the refrain began.
Towards the end, Rahman, recalling his own precocious beginnings and remarking that it was easy to get bored with the industry, asked, “If, unfortunately, I live to be 70 or 80, how would I manage your level of interest and energy toward my music and my life?”
Mangeshkar replied that the blessings and admonitions of her family and father had pushed her to perform every song as well as she could.
“I’m sure that you will show the same vigour and passion even if you live to be a 100,” she told the younger artist.