This year as her father’s 70th death anniversary is completed, Lataji also completes 70 years of singing!
Not a record that can be broken easily.
Laughing softly at the 70th anniversary of her career Lataji says, “It’s hard to believe I’ve completed 7 decades of singing. The year 1942 when my father passed away was also the year I sang my first song in Marathi for the film Kiti Hassal. I also did my first acting assignment the same year in Pehili Mangalaa-gaur. I played the heroine’s younger sister.”
Little Lata didn’t much care for acting. “I hated it. Even at that young age I knew singing was my forte. Luckily for me and for people who like my singing, I was proven right.”
About the double anniversary this month Lataji says, “In a way my father’s death and my singing career are connected. If he hadn’t passed away I might not have taken to singing in films. I had to become the family’s bread-earner by force at an age when other girls play with dolls. Did I miss out on my childhood? Perhaps. But I have no regrets. I had to look after my brother and sisters. If my father had lived who knows what I’d have done? I may not have become a playback singer at all. I might have pursued classical singing. Or perhaps I’d have become a cricketer!”
This year on her father’s very special death anniversary Lataji and her siblings would again be honouring achievers in various fields with awards named after her father. Among those who would be honoured are Tabla artiste Kumar Bose, theatre television and stage actor Vikram Gokhale, social activist Dr. Prasad Deodhar, Kannada novelist S.L. Bhyrappa and Madhuri Dixit-Nene.
Says the Nightingale, “We Mangeshkar siblings try to bring forward excellence in every field every year. We felt these achievers epitomize the spirit that our father has left behind.”
While the awards function each year was held in Pune this year’s venue would be Mumbai at the Shanmukhnanda auditoriam for the chief guest Balasaheb Thackeray’s convenience.
Says the Nightingale, “Each year we gave a token prize of Rs 50,000 to every award winner. This year we’ve doubled the prize money to 1 lakh. This may sound like a meager sum by today’s standards. But for a girl who started singing and acting at the age of 13 for Rs 100-150, it’s a fortune. I’m blessed.”