‘Priceless Diamond of the Film Industry’: Asha Parekh Remembers Lata Mangeshkar
'Lata Mangeshkar would exude warmth generously,' Asha Parekh remembers.
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“Lata (Mangeshkar) didi was a solace in our solitude and always will be,” says yesteryear’s heroine Asha Parekh, “Her going away today is such a dark day for the film industry, as well as the nation. So many of us have turned to her songs and bhajans whenever we have felt alone, and especially during the endlessly stretching days and nights of the pandemic.”
The actor continues emotionally, in a conversation with The Quint, “I may have met her only on two to three occasions at public functions. She would exude warmth generously. A lady of a few words, her shy smile would make me comfortable immediately. Like all of my colleagues, I was in awe of her.”
Asha Parekh states, “Every heroine will always be in debt for enhancing their performances. Her renditions of songs could have as much pathos, as they would have a playfulness depending on whether it was a melancholic or a celebratory dance number.”
Right off, she recalls her favourites among the songs picturised on her: ‘Laage Na Mora Jiya’ (Ghunghat), ‘Suno Sajna Papihe Ne’ (Aaye Din Bahaar Ke) which was particularly difficult for its alaaps that demanded perfect breath control, ‘Lo Aa Gayi Unki Yaad Woh Nahi Aaye’ (Do Badan), ‘Bhor Hote Kaaga’ (Chirag), ‘Itna Na Tu Mujhse Pyar Badha’ (duet with Talat Mahmood, Chhaya), ‘Aaja Piya Tohe Pyar Doon’ (Baharon Ke Sapne), and the title song of Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki.
The anthemic ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’ continues to resound, the actor adds, bringing tears to the eyes when it’s played on Republic Day on the streets through loudspeakers.
Parekh recalls that Lata Mangeshkar did have issues with Hasrat Jaipuri’s lyrics for ‘Parde Mein Rehne Do’ and refused to give the playback for it. However, she was amused by Majrooh Sultanpuri’s verses for ‘Kaanta Laga’ (Samadhi) and recorded the number. “Today perhaps the remixes and videos done for Kaanta Laga have given the lyrics a crude connotation,” she surmises.
Of late, Parekh had acquired Lata Mangeshkar’s personal phone number but since the songstress’ health was fluctuating, could neither speak to her nor visit her.
She points out that Waheeda Rehman had worked with Lata didi closely, by serving as the compere at her overseas concerts. “It was always been my dream to compere one of her shows,” she rues, “but I guess I never lucked out.”
The actor remarks that besides being a legend in her own lifetime, “Lata didi was an exemplary woman. At a tender age, she was the only bread-earner for her family and kept them bonded till the end. Dignified and selfless, she is also known to have sung free for producers, who were short of money. Truly, they don’t make them like Didi anymore.”
The actor notes that Lata didi was deeply interested in photography…hopefully someday, if the family is willing we will be able to see them.
In conclusion, she states, “I can only describe Lata Didi as a pure diamond, flawless. Today, we are bereft of a priceless diamond of the film industry.”
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