Nightingales, it seem, take (u)turns at 75. If you want proof, just look at our national nightingale, Ms Lata Mangeshkar, who celebrated her 75th birthday on September 28. Her family wanted Lata to remember this birthday. They (read nephew Adinath Mangeshkar) assembled a galaxy of singers, got in touch with Mr Magnanimous of our times -- Subrata Roy, managing worker, Sahara India Pariwar -- and told the world this is going to be a birthday Lata would cherish forever. But after suffering the five and a half hour ordeal on Sahara TV, I shall vouch, even if Lata tries hard she would find it difficult to forget the night. For the proud nightingale never suffered such ignominy in her life.
As someone who strove for perfection all her life, Lata had to sit through a show that was far from perfect. According to Sahara honchos, the show was supposed to showcase the ‘latest software’ from abroad and set a benchmark for future mega events. At least that is what the curtain raiser on Sahara TV, made by none other than nephew Adinath Mageshkar, claimed. But chaos ruled the day. Errand boys were running around the stage to remove or set props like they used to do a decade back. Orchestra played cacophonies and seasoned singers were completely wasted.
For example, KS Chitra, Lata’s favourite singer among the current crop, who opened the show, was barely audiable. If her rasika balma was drowned in the what only ace percussionist Ranjit Bharot would claim live orchestra, her voice in the two stanzas of her next song was just not there. Her moving lips were only indication that she was still singing. Indeed, Sahara TV set the benchmark it strived for. And Please Mr. Bharot, by all means, do special rhythm patterns for the likes of AR. Rehman and Annu Malik, but don’t venture out in the open. Look at what his orchestra did to a brilliant Hariharan. Thus the second victim also retired hurt.
Then came deluge or Bombay Vikings. This gentleman, who is supposed to have come all the way from some forlorn land near North Pole, made Lata cringe. Yes, you guessed, he did a cover version of her song. For someone who repeatedly denounced remixes and resisted the temptation of fast bucks, this was indeed an unforgettable birthday gift from a nephew. There was more in store for the birthday girl. The Viking boy went on to claim that after he remixed Lata’s main chali main chali from film Padosan, his Swedish friends never let him play the original ever again. One saw a red-faced deputy prime minister clarifying the point with an embarrassed Lata.
There were more remixes to come. Band of Boys or the guys who were never even bathroom singers also paid tribute to Latadidi in their inimitable (read as unmusical as it can get) style. Mahalaxmi Iyer, Usha Uthup, Sunidhi Chauhan…all did remix versions of Lata didi’s immortal songs. Even Shankar Mahadevan, Sukhwinder Singh, Hans Raj Hans didn’t feel it necessary to stick to the ‘original version.’ Of course, some singers fared well. But that is not the point. The question is: why would someone, who hates remixes, peddle that to the nation on her birthday. That too, when she is celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday. Whatever is going to happen to our 5,000 year-old culture, musical heritage, didi?
The answer is simple: Heritage be damned if it helps my nephew (a failed singer and owner of a modest music company) rake in some moolah. Of course, an aunty must help her nephew. But the crorepati aunty should desist from criticising poor struggling singers who lend their voices to earn a measly Rs 2,000. After all, aunty understands very well the hardships of making a living in the music industry. The same also applies to younger aunty Asha Bhonsle, who typically stayed away from big sister’s bash. She can’t stand obscene songs and remixes, she tells every interviewer. Indeed, she cant stand them if she is not the one singing them. A case in point: she didn’t think remixes were pathetic when she hurried to claim the sole legacy of her deceased husband, composer RD Burman, and remixed some of his memorable number. (Possible revenge? If you leave zero cash in your bank account, my dear husband, I would earn it by remixing your songs. Anything to get even) Strangely, she still carps about remixes in every interview.
Lata also made a few other concessions for the nephew. She allowed the nephew to make exaggerated claims on her behalf. Examples: One newspaper quoted nephew saying it was difficult to select songs from an oeuvre of 30,000 songs. In another TV channel the nephew added another 20,000 to the list, making it 50,000. A nice, round figure, isn’t it? But everybody knows today that Ms Lata Mangeshkar didn’t sing more than 10,000-15,000 songs. That is, even if you concede that she might have made many private albums. Think of it: she barely sang 6,500 Hindi songs. Of course, when Lata’s name figured in the Guinness Book there was no figures to counter or support her claim of having sung 25,000 songs. But enterprising people have since then dusted off enough geet kosh copies to debunk her claim.
Also, why did this popular singer chose to open the gates of Andheri Sports Complex only to a few privileged few? Though Sahara TV cameras assiduously avoided showing the full view of the stadium, there were occasions when one could catch the glimpses of the small gathering, complete with vast empty stands surrounding the complex. Some participation from admiring public wouldn’t have spoiled the party for the grand old dame of Indian music, arguably the most popular singer in the country.
Even more bizarre was some messages from some overseas Indians. These Canadians were filmed speaking in their affected accents how much they loved their Lata didi. Pray, why Canada? Why not messages from Kerala or Tamil Nadu. Or West Bengal or Tripura? A mallu or tamizhan listens to Lata because he loves Lata’s voice. After all, unlike Hindi-speaking Canadians, he has a choice of variety of singers, singing in his own mother tongue, to choose from. Many of them, for example, P Susheela, S Janaki, etc. have sung brilliant numbers which even Lata would have found difficult to match. Even in her hay days. Probably, desis don’t count anymore for India’s nightingale.
PS: Poor tiger cubs (Uddav, Raj and Smita) from Bandra. So much for their mee mumbaikar campaign. They must have had a harrowing time sitting through the tributes of madrasi singers like Chitra, Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Usha Uthup and Mahalaxmi Iyer. In comparison, there was only one pure Maharashtrian: Suresh Wadkar. Time for a tiger-ban against madrasi singers?
PPS: Sahara TV claimed the show was live. They had LIVE written next to their logo till the end. Considering the show ended at 1.30 am on TV, how is it possible? Don’t we lesser mortals have a deadline of 10 pm to comply? Probably, Sahara doesn’t believe in complete transparency in its business. However, a little bird says, the show definitely exceeded the deadline by almost an hour. Anyone interested in a PIL?