Kolkata: City-based businessman, cultural activist and media personality Sundeep Bhutoria met Lata Mangeshkar on a late-night flight to Mumbai in November 2002. In his own words, “Lataji had come to Kolkata on an invitation from Dona Ganguly for her Diksha Manjari school. In fact, it was Lataji who had introduced me to Dona. I saw Lataji enter the airport lounge with her niece Rachna. In those days, I used to write articles for a Hindi weekly magazine called Sabrang. I had done quite a few interviews with well-known personalities as a hobby, and had a few bylines to my credit.”
On the flight, instead of approaching the melody queen directly, Bhutoria mustered up the courage to write a note to her, requesting permission to ask a few questions, “knowing very well that she was a private person and usually kept to herself – away from the media and crowds”. Well, she acquiesced to his request, and the following interview was the outcome. Now published for the first time.
From where do you get your inspiration for music?
The inspiration was from my father. I used to watch the plays staged by Balwant Sangeet Mandali and used to listen to Kundan Lal Saigal. I was nine when I sang a song in a play called Sangeet Soubhadra with my father. I had also played the role of Narad muni in the play.
The favourite songs of Lata Mangeshkar…?
‘Chala bahi desh’, which was composed by my brother Hridayanath Mangeshkar. The bhajans of Meera also touch my heart.
What about your film career?
When I was 13, I acted in a film called Pahili Mangalaagaur as a child artiste, and sang the song ‘Natali Chaitraachi Navalaai’. It was a Marathi film, with actress Nanda in the lead and her father Master Vinayak (Vinayak Damodar Karnataki) as the . But I hated makeup and lights, and always used to pray to God that I would be a playback singer!
Who gave you the break to sing in films?
Music director Ghulam Haider gave me the first chance, and after that came Khemchand Prakash, Anil Biswas and so on. But my career took off and never looked back with the song ‘Aayega Aanewala’ from the film Mahal (1948). I learnt Urdu at the time and did many songs with (music director) Naushad sahab.
Tell us something about your childhood
My life has been a saga of one responsibility after another. First, to look after the family as I lost my father when I was very young. After that came my singing career and then the responsibility of building a hospital in my father’s name. Life has been a struggle from a very tender age, and I have passed through many different stages. Honestly, ever since, there has been no turning back. Unlike other artists, I have never thought about old age catching up.
What is the most unforgettable incident in your life?
My father’s death (when she was 13) was a big shock which I can never get over. One of my happiest moments in life was when I performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1974. I did three shows there.
Are there any regrets?
One thing that I lost to my singing is photography. I was very passionate about photography. Also, I miss the satisfaction that you get from singing classical songs. This you don’t get by singing ‘filmi’ songs.
Why didn’t Lata Mangeshkar marry?
Because of my work and career, I was never able to think about it. But I have no regrets.
There are allegations that despite being a Rajya Sabha member, you hardly attended the House…
I was never interested in politics but I could not say no to the person who requested me to be a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Apart from music, what else are you currently involved with?
I have started a hospital project in June in my father’s name in Pune.
I read somewhere that you have insured your throat?
Totally baseless. After I depart from this world, nothing will remain. My voice is God’s gift to me and at this point of my life (73 years), I think God has given me enough.
How do you pass your time?
I loved going to family picnics but now I am mostly at home watching cricket, tennis and football.
What do you think about remixes?
I don’t understand why society is destroying timeless songs, including songs sung by Rafi Sahab, by making a tamasha of it. I just want to say to today’s generation – if you cannot construct something new, don’t destroy the old.
Besides your father, who else has inspired you to sing?
After my father, Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Ustad Amanat Khan taught me. I have great respect for them as far as classical music is concerned. I also learnt a lot from Pandit Narendra Sharma – a very intelligent and talented person. He used to say, “If anybody does wrong to you, do not do any wrong to him, he will be okay with you on his own.”
Do you like reading?
Yes! I love reading Hindi poetry, Urdu shayari and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay a lot. After photography, reading is my hobby. I am also very religious. I worship Krishna Bhagwan.
What does Lata Mangeshkar want to say about her life?
I will say it in words of Ghalib’s shayari
Bazicha-e-atfal hai duniya mere aage
Hotā hai shab-o-roz tamāshā mere aage
Ik khel hai aurañg-e-Sulaimāñ mere nazdīk
Ik baat hai ejāz-e-masīhā mire aage
Juz naam nahīñ sūrat-e-ālam mujhe manzūr
Juz vahm nahīñ hastī-e-ashiyā mere aage
Hotā hai nihāñ gard meñ sahrā mere hote
Ghistā hai jabīñ ḳhaak pe dariyā mere aage…..
(The world is a child’s game before me
Night and day is a spectacle before me
The throne of Solomon is a plaything, in my view
The miracle of the Messiah is nothing much, before me
The aspect of the world is only a name, to my mind,
The existence of things is only an illusion, before me
The desert hides itself in the dust, when I’m around.
The river rubs its forehead in the dirt, before me…..)
Indiablooms News Service