Way back in 1999, the Melody Queen Lata Mangeshkar – who attained immortality on Sunday – had made her maiden foray into exclusive merchandising.
She started with a signature perfume brand ‘Lata’, launched by a Thane-based company and manufactured by a Vapi-based chemical group.
A mega-launch event was organised in a suburban sea-facing five-star hotel with the Mumbai paparazzi turning out in full strength to cover and discover the new fragrant ‘Lata’ brand spectacle.
As the gathering appeared restless, the show started – with our own Lata Didi clad in a sparking saree, coming on the stage – with the company Aqua P & C Ltd Chairman, Managing Director, Directors, et al, beside her.
After a brief presentation on ‘Lata – Eau De Parfum’ the eager mediapersons fired questions – mostly mundane – ranging from: “What is the colour of the perfume, how is the fragrance, the bottle design, price,… etc”.
The replies came, though Lata Didi herself seemed a tad bored and the company’s top gents could be seen stifling yawns.
Then with The Week magazine (the Malayala Manorama Group) this correspondent was seated somewhere in the middle of the auditorium and harboured mild anxiety over his news-report ‘content’ on the “Lata – Eau De Parfum”.
Finally, he summoned courage – and the mic, and stood up with an innocent query, which later turned out to be akin to barging into territory shunned by Angels!
“Lata Didi… Recently, actor Shah Rukh Khan had launched his own perfume brand and had stated how much he earned from the venture… So, I would like to know how much you are getting paid for ‘Lata’ perfume,” this correspondent asked.
Suddenly, the entire media glare tuned onto him and there was furious activity on stage, and Lata Didi diplomatically said she was now aware of the financial aspects, but the company chairman could throw more light.
As she dumped the mic into the bewildered chairman’s hands, he got up, mumbled something and passed the ‘hot’ mic to the managing director next to him.
The rattled MD got up half to claim he was unaware of these aspects which are handled by the finance director – and thrust the ‘burning’ mic to the bewildered man.
As the correspondent – and the rest of the media – waited patiently for a juicy reply, the finance director took his time and rose, almost shaking.
Yet, gathering his wits a wee bit, he softly said that “the financials of the deal have still not been finalised…” but assured that whenever done, the media would be suitably informed.
Quite disappointed, this correspondent remained on his feet and maintained his ground.
Finally, Lata Didi graciously came to the aid of the party, took the mic and deployed her mellifluous voice to magically defuse the situation.
“Aap ne mujhe Didi kaha hai… Aap to mere chhote bhai jaise ho…Kya aapko achha nahin lagega agar aapki Badi Didi kuchh aur paise kamaye toh?” said Lala Didi, with her enchanting smile, as the company’s gents visibly heaved a sigh of relief.
Well… this correspondent gallantly surrendered before Lata Didi’s charms – lock, stock and barrel – and the organisers hurriedly announced lunch to prevent any more lightning bolts at the launch.
Needless to say, the next days’ media prominently ‘covered’ the incident and the attempts to ‘uncover’ the deal.
Years later, the well-known diamond merchant and Bollywood moneybags Bharat Shah had relaunched the ‘Lata – Eau De Parfum’, but its current status is not clear.
Incidentally, besides the late Lata Didi, stars like Zeenat Aman, Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Shilpa Shetty comprise the handful of elite Bollywood celebs with fragrances dedicated to them by international brands.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)