It was eighty summers ago that Lata Mangeshkar, then all of nine, presented her first musical show on a sultry evening in 1939. The GenNext of the Mangeshkar clan is rejoicing over the 80th anniversary of the diva’s Solapur concert, and a do at her Pedder Road residence is on the cards. “It’s unbelievable. How time flies. I think it happened only last month,” Mangeshkar told TOI over the telephone on Saturday.
Having begun her riyaaz at age five under her father, legendary actor-singer Master Dinanath Mangeshkar, she was keen on performing on stage in keeping with the popular jalsa (public concert) tradition of yore. Opportunity came her way when her father, who presided over a repertory theatre company, pitched his tent in Solapur in 1939.
“Several music aficionados once came home with a proposal for a jalsa. I overheard the conversation and promptly told Baba (father) that I too would share the honours with him. Baba laughed off my suggestion saying, ‘You can’t sing. You have long years of training before you. You are too young for a public concert’,” reminisced Mangeshkar, the 2002 recipient of Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour, for her sterling contribution to popular music.
The sponsors grabbed the idea with both hands though. They told Dinanathraoji that it would be a unique concert featuring two generations of the Mangeshkar family. Baba asked her to consult Maiee, her mother. The matriarch tried to dissuade her daughter but to no avail. “No one could have moved me from my Himalayan resolve,” she added.
Having finally got a nod from her father, Mangeshkar rushed to a nearby studio and finalized a photo shoot the following day. “I wore a nice frock, did my hair and rushed to the photo studio. I told the photographer, who was armed with an ancient camera, that the photograph would be used for the ad campaign of my first concert. The man was impressed,” laughed Mangeshkar who at 89 remembers every little detail of the incident with remarkable clarity.
Bhagwat Chitra Mandir auditorium was packed to capacity. She sang a composition in Raag Khambawati followed by a song from one of her father’s popular Marathi plays.
Was she nervous? “No. My father had told me before the concert not to sing under duress. ‘Think that all those present in the auditorium, including myself, are listeners and that you have to entertain them with best music’,” she said.
Having earned a prolonged applause from a select gathering of music buffs, and a couple of admiring glances from Master Dinanath, Mangeshkar subsequently sat next to her father who was all set to enthral the audience. Soon, Master Dinanath began to deliver his trademark dazzling taan while his daughter, her head rested on her father’s lap, went off to sleep. “I was a tad tired,” she said.
Four years later, Mangeshkar sang for a Marathi film produced by noted actor-director Master Vinayak Karnataki following her father’s sudden death in 1942. In 1947, she joined Hindi cinema as playback singer and within a year the melody queen was belting out hit songs in ‘Mahal’, ‘Majboor’, ‘Andaz’, ‘Badi Bahen’ and Raj Kapoor’s ‘Barsaat’, all in a row. The rest, as they say, is history. “In later years I performed in major cities of the world. I have lost count of my public shows. However, the Solapur jalsa is close to my heart,” she signed off.