From Hemant Kumar to Salil Chowdhary: Lata’s strong bond with Bengali musical maestros (Ld)

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“You don’t have to tell him (the producer) about money. I have quarrel with them (Filmistan), not with you. I am singing this for you and not for Filmistan,” was Lata Mangeshkar’s reply when Hemant Kumar approached her to sing as a playback singer in “Anand Math” where he was the music director.

Hemant Kumar who not only was a music director but also sang numerous songs with Lata Mangeshkar wrote in his autobiography how much respect this genius had for him. It was in 1952 when producer Sudhanshu Mukhopadhyay asked Hemant Kumar to work as the music director for his latest movie ‘Anand Math’ -the famous novel of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. Hemanta wanted Lata as the playback singer but Sudhanshu said that Lata had some issues with ‘Filmistan’ and would not sing.

Hemant who had by then decided Lata would sing else they will not have that appeal, asked Sudhanshu if he could give a try. Sudhanshu said that if Lata agreed to sing then nothing could be better, but I don’t feel that she would sing,” Hemant wrote.

“At that time, she was living in a rented apartment at Nanachawk in Mumbai. One morning I went to her. After exchanging pleasantries, I approached her. She kept quiet for some time and then agreed to sing. Then when I asked her about her remuneration so that I could tell the producer, she said that I would not have to tell them anything about the money. ‘I have a quarrel with Filmistan and I am singing this only for you’. This was unbelievable,” Hemant wrote in his autobiography.

Hemant who had a life-long association with this music maestro was not the only person but Lata Mangeshkar’s love and respect for the singers and music directors of Bengal was deep-rooted and went beyond the corridors of professionalism. The ‘Nightingale of India’ didn’t know Bengali but her love for the language was so deep that she hired famous film director Basu Bhattacharyay to learn it.

She had unflinching respect and love for the famous Bengali music director Salil Chowdhury and had often said in public that Salil Chowdhury was a rare talent. Chowdhury collaborated with Lata Mangeshkar for some 35 Bengali songs including ‘Sat Bhai Champa’, ‘Na Jeo Na’, ‘Aar Kichu to Nai’, ‘Ki Je Kori’, ‘Aaj Tobe Eituku Thak’, directed by Chowdhury.

Once Lata brought some LP records of Beethoven’s ninth symphony from abroad and gifted it to Salil Chowdhury. “Dada (Elder Brother) whom can I give these things to but you?” Lata had told Salil Chowdhury. Every time Chowdhury displayed those gifts, he used to say this proudly to the people.

Much later Suchitra Sen, one of the most leading Bengali matinee idols, met Lata Mangeshkar at a recording studio in Mumbai. There Mangeshkar requested Sen to speak in Bengali — “I cannot speak well but I can understand”, Lata told Sen as per the latter’s memoirs. Lata even sang for Sen in Sanjeev Kumar starrer ‘Aandhi’.

Mangeshkar who sang in 36 Indian and foreign languages collaborated with some top-notch music directors thrown up by this city such as S.D. Burman, Hemant Kumar, and Salil Chowdhury. Mangeshkar, who sang about 185 songs in Bengali, is remembered by her fans here for classics such as ‘Akash Prodip jwole’ (The light burns in the sky) directed by Satinath Mukherjee and ‘Prem Ekbar Esechhilo Nirobe’ (love came once silently), put to music by Hemanta Mukherjee.

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