‘If I start thinking I’m as good as people say, my growth as artiste would cease’ – Lata Mangeshkar
After more than 55 years of singing, you continue to be our national treasure. What summits remain for you to conquer?
(Laughs) It’s difficult to put fullstops to an artiste’s goals and achievements. Speaking for myself as a singer, new destinations have appeared during the journey of life. One needs an incentive to keep moving forward. The day an artiste feels she has done it all she’s finished. Whether it’s a writer, actor or a star he or she should never feel I’ve nothing more to achieve.
You’ve always said you don’t consider yourself an extraordinary singer.
But it’s a fact. I don’t. If I start thinking I’m as good as people say my growth as artiste would cease. Humility is the mainstay of an artiste, pride is her downfall.
People want to know why you aren’t singing more songs these days?
Accha (laughs pleasurably). Who told you this? Main jitna araam se gaa sakti hoon main gaa rahi hoon. If the younger composers feel they’ve something substantial to offer me – and I’m sure they do – why do they speak about this to others? Why don’t they ask me about it? No one has stopped them. If I want to tell them I don’t want sing for a specific reason then that’s another matter. But unless they ask me how would I know they want me to sing? Mujhe koi sapna to nahin aayega na?
Why do you think they hesitate in approaching you?
Perhaps because I’m such a senior artiste. Maybe they feel inhibited because of my seniority. But I’ve worked well with younger music directors like A.R.Rahman, Vishal, Anu Malik and Jatin-Lalit. I don’t behave any differently with them. I learn a song from them exactly the way I did from more senior composers. I never try to exercise my will on them.
Do you intend to concentrate on non-film albums now?
I do want to do non-film albums but not at the cost of my other obligations. As far as singing for films is concerned, I’ll continue to do so for filmmakers with whom I have a personal tuning, like Yashji. He’s like family. I like singing for him. My relations with Rahman are also excellent. I love singing for him. I’d love to continue doing songs like these. Whatever I can do at my age, I will. Naturally I can’t run from studio to studio all day long like I used to.
And where are the songs to run around for?
(Laughs) This is a new trend. Youngsters like things like re-mix. So many singers are re-mixing our Marathi, Gujarati and Hindi songs. This too shall pass. We cannot say anything for sure about its impact. Only when it’s done with shall we know for sure. Singers who do re-mixes and cover versions of songs by Rafi Saab, Mukesh Bhaiyya or me do not benefit in any way from singing our songs. They have no repertoire of their own. I wonder what they get out of it?
Do you find this deluge of Bhangra music to be healthy for film music?
We always had Bhangra-folk in film music but earlier it was used sensibly with reason. It’s okay for a lark but nowadays they sing and dance the Bhangra wearing anything from skirts to shorts. I can’t see myself approving of this trend and never mind if people think I belong to the ancient times (laughs).
Recently some of my Marathi compositions sung by my sister Asha were very badly re-mixed. My other sister Usha’s lavni songs from Shantaramji’s films — unka bhi halwa banaya (laughs). What to do about it? Aaj kal koi kissi ko kuch nahin keh sakta. To each his own. It’s better to remain quiet. The trend has to end somewhere. Better to sit quietly and watch the show.
At one time you were accused of indulging in a melodious monopoly. What do you call the monopoly of cacophony today?
I wouldn’t like to say about that but people who accused me of practising monopoly were wrong. The media fuelled the rumours about my monopoly. The first question I was always asked during interviews was about my supposed monopoly. Once I was even asked if I tampered with the equipment during other singers’ recordings. Ab bataayiye main kyon aisa karun?
I never bothered with what other singers were doing. When Runa Laila came to India for the first time, I went to her first recording for Kalyanji-Anandji even though I had fever. They said I was just indulging in dikhawa, that in fact I had gone to see how she sang. Arrey mujhe kya padi hai kaun kaisa gaata hai! Runa Laila met me with lots of affection. Later she too was poisoned against me. I even praised Vani Jairam. She still turned around to say I wouldn’t let her sing. Do you know Anuradha Paudwal sang the first song of her career for my brother in a Marathi film directed by Vasant Joglekar. Forget about female singers, even some male singers accused of trying to stop them from singing. Ab isska kya jawaab hai? Anyway I wish them all the best. If they were happy abusing me then all the best to them. No abuse can make a hole in my soul.