‘Lata Mangeshkar was my father’s favourite’
Lata Mangeshkar sang all the memorable songs in my father Kamal Amrohi’s films, starting with Aayega Aanewala in Mahal, back in 1949. People say it was that song that made Lata ji so popular and it was composed by the late Khemchand Prakashji. I believe Mahal was also know because of this song. Fact is, Lata ji was my father’s favourite singer and she sang for him right till Paakezah and then Razia Sultan, where she again gave us the haunting Aye Dil-e Nadaan. She was my favourite too, which is why she sang in my 1977 film Shankar Hussain as well.
‘Lata ji was fond of good food and would ask for biryani and kheema’
Lata ji used to often visit our home. She used to refer to my father as Baba and I used to call her Baji Maa. She was very fond of eating good food. She used to call up and ask, ‘Tajdar main aa rahi hoon, ghar pe kya banaya hai?’. The day I used to tell her we have Korma for lunch, she’d ask for biryani or kheema instead. She never hesitated to ask for what she loved to eat. Before arriving, she used to say, ‘Main jaldi main hoon, bas kucch hi der ke liya aayungi’. But the best part was when she used to arrive she used to stay for four-five hours. And another hallmark feature of Lata ji was her punctuality. She would always reach at the time that she’d announced.
‘When she sang Aayega Aanewala in the Royal Albert Hall in London, the auditorium echoed with applause’
When Aayega Aanewala was recorded back in the late 40s, the technology to record these songs was very different. There used to be multiple recorders, which recorded each track. The singers had to sing in a huge hall, unlike the compact studio spaces today. This was done to create an atmosphere for the recording. Also all musicians and artistes had to share microphones, because there weren’t too many to go around. Despite all these challenges, she managed to create a song that, to date, continues to command a cult following. I have heard modern singers say that they sing Aayega Aanewala as a practice song before they enter their recordings, because it sets their suur and taal right. I remember when Lata ji had performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Aayega Aanewala was the first song that she sang, right after the opening customary bhajan. When she reached the part of Khaamosh hai zamaana… and the instruments faded out and only Lata ji’s voice echoed in the hall, the audience erupted in bursts of applause, appreciating the way she sang.
‘She would prepare meticulously to get the diction of the songs right’
Chalte chalte and Thare rahiyo were her favourites from Paakeezah. In fact, Lata ji told me once that she used to look forward to every call that would inform her about singing for a Kamal Amrohi film. The reason being, she had to put in extra efforts to prepare to sing for my father’s films. That’s because my father was very particular about diction, pronunciation and language. If you have to sing with the word ‘mulaqat’ then you have to make it sound absolutely right or it would not pass muster with my father. And Lata ji, was so good with her diction and meticulous in her preparation that my father rarely even had to correct her.
‘My father loved her like she was his daughter’
Throughout his career, my father only thought about Lata ji as the voice of his songs. He used to tell Khayyam saab and Ghulam Mohammed saab, ‘Ek baat ka dhyan rakhiyega, gaana jo hai, woh Lata hi gayegi’. He always loved her like she was his daughter. He always thought she was our family member. I am absolutely heartbroken with the arrival of the new of Lata ji’s passing. The day before at night, when I watched Asha Bhosle ji speaking to the news channels and informing that Lata ji was on a ventilator and she was stable, I was just imagining that soon this ventilator will be removed and Lata ji will make a full recovery.