Where does one begin when one has to pay homage to Lata Mangeshkar? A legend whose contribution to Hindi cinema remains unmatched. Words will always fall short when celebrating the glorious reign of this exceptional performer – a career spanning seven decades with umpteen melodies to her credit, sung in innumerable languages.
Commonly, icons are known to create history by leaving an indelible impact on the generation of that time, but it's that one in a million whose influence surpasses generations. To some she was their childhood, to others their youth. Lata's melodies impacted my grandparents just as poignantly as she touched the lives of my parents – effortlessly making her way to my generation, gently touching our hearts too.
To truly understand her impact, one must first understand the influence of music on Indian cinema. What makes Indian cinema unique to other world cinemas is the effortless weaving of poem and prose through music and dance. So, countless movie watchers have grown up engaging themselves solely in musical narratives and Lata Mangeshkar, till very recently, gave her voice for most of those movies.
The tone and texture of the voice was so unique that to date it remains unparalleled. Many have tried to emulate the exceptional voice but none come close. Words fail me as I try to describe how she soothed our souls with her melodies.
From Manna Dey to A.R.Rahman, Lata Mangeshkar worked with the best musicians from many generations. She remained the undisputed queen of melody from the 1950s to the 1980s. Even as she gracefully made way for new voices in the latter part of the 90s, her absence was strongly felt.
Romance, devotional songs, bhajans, ghazals, cabaret, kids' melodies, Lata Mangeshkar sang across all genres with natural ease. I tried to pick my favourite Lata Mangeshkar song today and found it very difficult to do so. It's hard to pick a favourite when there are so many gems to choose from and suffice to say, my Spotify selection is full of her renditions.
Music transcends borders – and her music did exactly that, generation after generation. Today her loss can be felt across the globe, but more so in South Asia, where her songs are celebrated with as much zeal and fervor as in her own country.
My WhatsApp is inundated with her songs today, as friends and family share her soulful melodies and celebrate her outstanding life. Lata Mangeshkar, thank you for nourishing our souls.