Lata Mangeshkar: The Queen of Melody

Updated on Oct 14, 2019 04:17 PM IST
The Bharat Ratna awardee has sung thousands of songs. Mangeshkar has worked with many legendary music directors including the duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Madan Mohan, SD Burman, RD Burman and AR Rahman during her seven-decade career.
Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition of Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo in 1963 made Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru emotional.(ILLUSTRATION: Mohit Suneja)
Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition of Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo in 1963 made Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru emotional.(ILLUSTRATION: Mohit Suneja)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

Famous as the Nightingale of India, her songs have figured in over a thousand Hindi films, 36 regional and foreign language during a seven-decade career. The film industry doyen has been conferred with the Bharat Ratna and Dadasaheb Phalke Award.

Born in Indore on September 28, 1929 to classical singer and theatre artist Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar and Shevanti, she was originally named Hema, her parents later changed it to Lata, inspired by a character in a Marathi play.

Growing up with four younger siblings – Meena, Asha, Usha and Hridaynath, Lata received her initial music lessons from her father. She is the eldest among her siblings. At 5, she also began acting in her father’s musical plays.


In 1942, Mangeshkar, then just 13, suffered a huge blow when her father passed away. Nudged into a career to fend for the family, she rendered a song for the Marathi film Kiti Hasaal which was dropped from the final version of the movie.

Master Vinayak, a friend who also took care of the distraught family after Pandit Deenanath’s death, offered her a minor role in Badi Maa, which was his first Hindi film. That was in 1945 and her debut song, Natali Chaitraachi Navalaai, was a song that she recorded for the Marathi film Pahili Mangalaa-gaur.

Mangeshkar moved to Bombay when Master Vinayak’s company shifted there. It was there that she also began learning Hindustani music from Ustad Aman Ali Khan of the Bhindibazaar gharana. The song Aayega Aanewala from the movie Mahal (1949) earned her sky-high popularity.

It was in 1955 that she composed music for the Marathi movie Ram Ram Pavhane. Later, during the 1960s, she did so for several other Marathi films under the pseudonym Anand Ghan.

As a singer, Mangeshkar worked with many legendary music directors including the duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Madan Mohan, SD Burman, RD Burman and AR Rahman. For instance, the 1960s hits Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha from Anpadh, Lag Jaa Gale and Naina Barse Rim Jhim from Woh Kaun Thi? were rendered in association with Madan Mohan. She teamed up with Laxmikant-Pyarelal in the 1960s and sang over 700 songs for the composer duo which spanned over 35 years including hits such as Sheesha Ho Ya Dil Ho from Asha; Tu Kitne Baras Ka from Karz and Mere Naseeb Mein from Naseeb.

The songs she recorded for SD Burman include the hits Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai, Gata Rahe Mera Dil (duet with Kishore Kumar) and Piya Tose in Guide (1965) and Hothon Pe Aisi Baat in Jewel Thief.

Mangeshkar sang RD Burman’s first and last songs – in Chote Nawaab (1961) and Kuch Na Kaho in 1942: A Love Story in 1994. Her collaborations with AR Rahman resulted in popular songs like Luka Chupi in Rang de Basanti (2006) and O Paalanhaare in the movie, Lagaan (2001).

She launched her own music label, LM Music, in November 2012. Under the label, she released an album of bhajans composed by Mayuresh Pai. On the album, she sang with her younger sister Usha. Mangeshkar sang the song, Wada Na Tod that was added as a soundtrack to the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).

She has also assumed the role of a producer and had a big hand in making four films, including Lekin…, which, in the year 1990, was lyricist Gulzar’s first directorial venture in Bollywood.

Awards & Achievements

She was bestowed with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1989. In 2001, she was awarded the Bharat Ratna and is only the second vocalist after MS Subbulakshmi to get the honour. She also was conferred with France’s highest civilian award, Officer of the Legion of Honour, in 2007. She was also the recipient of three National Film Awards, 15 Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards, four Filmfare Best Female Playback Awards and several others. In 1974, Mangeshkar became the first Indian to perform in the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Along with these honours, she also holds the distinction of being the most recorded artist in the history of Indian music in Guinness Record in 1974. Recently, the Indian government honoured her with the Daughter of the Nation award on her 90th birthday in September this year.


In 2001, she established the Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune. The hospital was managed by the Lata Mangeshkar Medical Foundation which was earlier founded in October 1989 by the Mangeshkar family.

In 2005, she designed her very own jewellery collection called Swaranjali. Five pieces from the collection raised £105,000 at a Christie’s auction part of which was donated for the 2005 Kashmir earthquake relief. The United Way of Greater Toronto invited her to perform at Maple Leaf Gardens in June 1985. Canadian singer Anne Murray requested Mangeshkar to sing her song, You Needed Me. 12,000 attendees were present at the concert, which eventually raised $150,000 for the charity.


1. Earlier there was no category for Best Female Playback Singer in the Filmfare awards. So Mangeshkar refused to sing at the Filmfare award ceremony. In 1958, Filmfare awarded her the first female playback singer award for the song Ajaa Re Paradesi in Madhumati. Till 1966, she monopolised the title. Later she requested the organisers not to include her name in the competition to promote new talents.

2. In her book Aisa Kahan Se Laaoon, poet and novelist Padma Sachdev, who was close to the singer, wrote about her close shave with death in 1962. Reportedly, Mangeshkar was slow poisoned. She began to recover after 10 days and was bedridden for nearly three months. This mystery has remained unsolved but several reports consider her cook to have had a hand in the incident.

3. Her rendition of Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo in 1963 against the backdrop of the then ongoing Sino-Indian War had made Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India very emotional.

Sources: Wikipedia,

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