Lata Mangeshkar was cordial with politicos but was above politics
Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar shared a cordial relationship with leaders from all parties, but ensured that she remained above politics and never toed any political line. Mangeshkar, who along with her family was an ardent follower of Veer Savarkar, was never portrayed as a follower of any ideology.
She shared familiar relations with the Thackerays, right from Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray to his sons and nephew and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray. Similarly, she was very close to Bharatiya Janata Party leaders such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani, Sushama Swaraj, Arun Jaitely, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Many Congress chief ministers and leaders, too, had warm relationship with the singer. Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar helped Mangeshkar get the plot for Dinanath Mangeshkar hospital, named after her father.
Her younger brother and noted composer Hridaynath joined the Sena in 2009, but Lata and her singer sisters kept away from the political dais.
“Among all, Raj Thackeray was very close to her, and was treated like her son. It was probably because of Raj’s understanding of the music and nurturing he got from his father Shrikant Thackeray, who was a musician. She did two grand singing concerts in late 1990s and early 2000 to raise funds for Shiv Udyog Sena headed by Raj, who was with the Shiv Sena then,” said a music scholar close to the family.
Political analyst Hemant Desai, who has also authored books on music and Bollywood, said her family is a follower of the ideology of Savarkar. “Lata’s father Master Dinanath, who was a leading theatre personality and owned a producing company, had produced Savarkar’s musical play Sanyastha Khadag. They may be lovers of the literature by Savarkar, but never were portrayed as Hindutvawadi.”
Desai said barring two incidents, Lata Mangeshkar kept away from the controversies. “She had to face criticism for opposing the Pedder Road flyover and then for her decision of commercial redevelopment of Bhalji Pendharkar’s Jayprabha Studio in Kolhapur,” he said.
Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was moved by listening to Lata singing Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon, the song composed in the memory of the soldiers who lost their lives in the 1962 war against China. The 51th anniversary of the song was celebrated in the presence of PM Modi in Mumbai.
Indira Gandhi was delighted when Lata Mangeshkar presented her records of the bhajans of Mirabai when the former was the Prime Minister.
Sudhir Gadgil, who has compèred for her concerts, said many of her events were attended by Bal Thackeray. “In one such programme organised to mark the death anniversary of Dinanath Mangeshkar, Thackeray was the chief guest and had to deliver the speech. Thackeray had a sore throat and wanted me to read out his speech. We were worried if Lata didi would like it. Balasaheb rang her up and asked for permission. He was among the select few who could call her by her singular name. On the request of chief minister Uddhav Thackeray in July 2019, I met her and urged her to speak about her anecdotes related to Balasaheb. She spoke about Thackeray’s love for the nation and how he always dreamt of the prosperity of the country.”
Gadgil said very few people know that the handwritten papers on which Lata didi used to write songs and their notes before singing were handed over to Raj a few years ago by the singer. “Lata didi asked him what he wanted from her. He lovingly asked for the treasure,” he said.
Union minister Nitin Gadkari said on his request, Mangeshkar resumed her musical programmes in Nagpur. “She had a very bad experience during a concert in 1960s after which she decided to not accept any programme there. But it was after my request that she started attending them. Lata didi had attended the bhoomipujan ceremony of the Bandra Worli Sea Link in 1990s,” Gadkari said.
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