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Remembering Mangeshkar

This one's for Baba


Lata Mangeshkar is beaming ear to ear, the noise and chaos around her seems to leave her unperturbed. Dressed in her trademark white, she is happy to share the limelight with her composer brother Hridayanath as she talks about the annual event that the whole Mangeshkar clan eagerly awaits and organises every year.

The 70th death anniversary of her father, music wizard Dinanath Mangeshkar, is to be marked with a musical event on Tuesday. And for Lata it is a big day. After all, she attributes all her talent and success to her parents. Ask her about her immortal songs and she has only one answer: "It is nothing but the gift from my parents and the Almighty. "

This year, the Dinanath Mangeshkar award goes to the Pune-based Vasantrao Deshpande Foundation for reviving a musical tradition in which her father excelled - the Marathi sangeet natak. This musical tradition that goes back to the mid-nineteenth century has thrown up prodigious classical talent. Normally, the award is given to a single individual musician but as Lata points out in this time and age any organisation that promotes sangeet natak deserves all the backing it can get.

"You know the trend these days - most plays that are staged are slapstick comedies. At a time like this to experiment with sangeet natak is a big thing, " she says. One such opera, Sangeet Maan Apmaan is being staged on Tuesday. But would the family produce such an opera under the Mangeshkar banner? Lata is unsure. "Oh that is a big task, " she says. "Though we will be able to provide music under the Mangeshkar banner, to bring other aspects of theatre and different people under one roof will be difficult for us. " The family, she adds, will do its bit for sangeet natak by supporting and encouraging those who are fighting to revive the form.

Interestingly, the 70th death anniversary of her father and idol also coincides with her completion of seven decades in the industry. "My father left for his heavenly abode in April 1942. And in October of the same year, I acted in a Marathi film Pahli Magala Gaur, where I got to play the role of the heroine's sister, " she says of those turbulent, somewhat painful, years in the bereaved family's life.

She gets nostalgic when she talks about the first award she received as a 13-year-old. It was at a Marathi Natya Mahotsav where she was scheduled to sing songs from her father's play, Maan Apmaan. "I was rehearsing his song for the event. But somehow my aunt and uncle were not too happy with my singing. After the rehearsal I went to sleep. I dreamt of my father, he was blessing me. When I woke up I told my aunt about the dream. She said, don't worry. Your father has blessed you. "

"The next day, for the programme, I was made to wear a sari and an ill-fitting blouse. I went on stage and started singing the song. The response was so good I went on to sing many of my father's songs. The audience wouldn't let me go. And in the audience was the famous actress of our times, Lalita Pawar along with one Mr Pendse, a theatre patron of theatre and a magazine editor. Lalita Pawar announced a pair of golden ear studs for me. I was stunned. And then Mr Pendse announced a gift of Rs 25. Imagine my happiness. A pair of golden ear studs. And Rs 25. "

Lata says that she leaves the nitty gritty of picking candidates for the Dinanath awards to others. "We have a team, which also includes Hridaynath. They all contribute opinions and ideas and come to me in the end. I don't meddle in the everyday affairs of the team. "

Sister Asha Bhosle who has taken on an acting assignment in the film Maee is yet to confirm her presence at the event. "Accha hi hoga (It will be good), " says Lata diplomatically of her sister's new movie venture.

Even in semi-retirement, Lata has not lost her connect with contemporary Bollywood. On Shah Rukh's detention at a New York airport she quips: "I think Shah Rukh has become too thin. That's why they had difficulty in recognising him. " And she is, she says, happy to give Madhuri Dixit an award. "We have been considering her name for a long time. This year, we could give it to her because she is in India. And we would also like to wish her a happy come-back."

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