She is at Versova’s vegetable market, buying green peas, Rs 10 for 250 grams..and checking out the prices of tomatoes and carrots. The most famous voice of Asia has stopped to bhaji-shop en route home from Swarlata studio. She was shooting there for the promotional video of her new collection of Sanskrit shlokas. Always cooler than a cucumber, Lata Mangeshkar talks on topics galore with Rachana Dubey
Why did you wait for 30 years to record an album in Sanskrit?
No, no, may I please request you not to call it an album? Sarvamangal Ganesha is a compilation of mantras and shlokas dedicated to Lord Ganesha..which I have recited. If you chant them regularly, they help you to sort out your problems, fulfill your dreams and live in peace. I'm a bhakt, I know they always work.
Besides Anup Jalota, Jagjit Singh and you, why haven't more bhajan singers become prominent on the scene today?
Indeed..there are no bhajan singers around after Jagjit Singh and Anup Jalota. Actually, there are no singers at all now. Please show me someone who really sings today. This is sad but true. I can proudly say that we had great singers in our time. <b1>
About a month ago, you released a private album of ghazals..how has Saadgi fared?
In less than four weeks, it's No 1 on the ghazal music charts. Although I record private albums on and off, this was my first ghazal CD after 17 years. Mayuresh Pai, who's like my son, came up with marvellous composition. And Javed Akhtar did a fine job too.
What's up with the album you're doing with Bally Sagoo?
Excuse me? Who Bally? Bally Sogo? No no, I'm not doing any albums with him. Some one has misinformed you.
Oops, okay. Do you ever check out the remixes of your songs which are all over the place?
I'm told that a number of my songs have been remixed. I don't find it worth my while to listen to them. Believe me, I've never heard a single remix of my song. <b2>
With all the singing contests on TV, do you think we have been able to discover new talent?
Whether we have been able to discover even one per cent of the musical talent in the country is not the question. Sorry to say, these TV shows have misguided hundreds of young boys and girls. These 20 somethings, sometimes even younger, feel they have arrived, that they have achieved success and the road ahead will be simpler. Unfortunately, this is just an illusion.
I've seen the ups and downs of life. I feel bad for these children who end up suffering for no fault of theirs. Where are the musical discoveries.. where are Abhijeet Sawant and others today?
Many of these children come here from far-off small towns, with dreams of making it big but lose their way completely. On these contests, the organisers.. the jury.. whoever.. look for performers. Ab koi naachke to gaa nahin sakta. Bhagwan jaane ye log kya dhoond rahe hain. (Now how can you sing while dancing and jumping..God knows what they are looking for?).
A search doesn't have to be launched for a singer. He or she arrives, sings and stays. Nobody finds a singer. Who found Shreya Ghoshal? But she's here and is doing well. She's one of the finest singers I've heard in recent times.
What if you were invited to judge one of those singing contests?
Please, spare me. Main in sab jhamelon se door hi raheti hoon (I keep far away from such jhamelas). I would never be a part of them.
How come you haven't sung for a Yash Raj movie after Veer Zaara?
I always sing when Yash Chopra directs a movie. Whenever he directs, he insists that I should sing for him. And I can never say no to him. Right now, the films made under his banner are by other directors. The day he decides to direct, I will sing for Yash Raj.
But why haven't you given playback for any movie..for months..the last one was the remake of Jai Santoshi Maa?
See, I don't find the music appealing enough for me to go and sing. So, I sing for select films and composers. I wouldn't be revealing a secret if I were to say that today's film music has lost its charm completely.. <b3>
Looking back, which singers would you say were jealous of you?
I don't know. I've no idea if anybody was ever jealous of me. I only focused on the songs I was given. If there was any jealousy, I wasn't aware of it.
How do you screen the songs before agreeing to sing them?
It's become a necessity now. Quite a few singers are doing this too. Even Jagjit Singh does it. We can't help it because we cannot sing cheap lyrics. We have to maintain the dignity of the profession.
It wouldn't be ethical to accept a song and opt out at the last minute. Till about a decade ago, there was no need to screen the songs. There was no room for any ambiguity then.
Do you feel that at your age, you should only do serious songs?
No, no. What kind of a question is that? Physically, I may be 77 years old but please do allow me to feel young at heart. Those who start worrying about their age stop working and living. If age was a deciding factor, I should have stopped working years ago.. retired and sat at home. <b4>
I don't think age can ever be a barrier between music and me. Umar ko peechhe chhod kar chalna zindagi hai (Life is leaving age behind and walking ahead).
What is your equation today with Asha Bhosle?
It is known that she feels like a sidestepped sister. You know beta, journalists know more about my family matters than I do. So you must update me on this. Any more questions?
Yes. Which are your favourite Asha Bhosle songs?
All of them. Over the years, she has sung so many brilliant songs that it will would be unfair to just pick a few. My sister is gifted with a magical voice. Every song she has sung is my favourite.
To wrap up, any final words?
Nothing..nothing. God bless you.