Asia

Lata Mangeshkar: Beloved Indian singer dies at 92

Lata Mangeshkar, one of India’s most beloved singers who provided the soundtrack to hundreds of Bollywood films, has died aged 92.

Mangeshkar was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai in January after testing positive for Covid-19.

Her extraordinary career spanned more than half a century and she recorded thousands of songs in 36 languages.

She will receive a state funeral in Mumbai on Sunday and there will be two days of national mourning.

During this period, the national flag will be flown at half-mast throughout the country.

A the news broke, tributes began pouring in for Mangeshkar who was often called the “nightingale of Bollywood” for her role as a playback singer, recording the songs that actors would lip-sync on screen.

President Ram Nath Kovind said the news was “heart-breaking for me, as it is for millions the world over” and added that in her songs “generations found expression of their innermost emotions”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, said Mangeshkar’s death had left a “void in our nation that cannot be filled”.

Mangeshkar was a huge fan of cricket, and India’s former captain Virat Kohli said her songs had “touched millions of people around the world”.

Several Bollywood stars also expressed their condolences. Actor Hema Malini said she was “lucky” to have performed to several songs sung by Mangeshkar.

“No one can sing like her, she was very special. Her passing away is very saddening,” she told the news agency ANI.

Born in Indore in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on 28 September 1929, she began learning music at the age of five from her father, Deenanath Mangeshkar, who was active in the world of theatre.

After her father’s death, the family moved to Mumbai where a teenage Mangeshkar began singing for Marathi movies.

She also took bit roles in a few films to support her family, but would say later that her heart wasn’t in it. “I was happiest singing,” she told interviewers.

Her big break came in 1949 with the release of a haunting song titled Aayega Aanewala for the movie Mahal.

“Soon every female actor wanted her voice. But she was always busy and only a few fortunate music directors got the chance to make her sing,” music director Mohammed Zahur Khayyam later recalled.

Over the next few decades, Mangeshkar sang thousands of songs which were lip-synced by Bollywood’s biggest heroines across generations.

A unifying force

By Vikas Pandey, BBC News, India

Lata Mangeshkar’s songs are one of the rare unifying forces in a country of more than a billion people. Listening to her music was one activity everyone in my family could get behind when I was growing up.

She soothed the country’s soul in both good and bad times. While much of India has changed drastically over the decades, Lata Didi, as we fondly knew her, has been a constant presence.

As Indian history unfolded around her, she continued to produce magic with her songs in multiple languages. In her resulting work, whether you feel joyful, sad, or love-struck there is something for everyone.

And while millions of people will miss her, Mangeshkar’s songs are certain to endure.

Mangeshkar was nominated to the upper house of India’s parliament in 1999, but said later that she had been reluctant to take it up and that her tenure there was “anything but happy”.

She received India’s highest honour for civilians, the Bharat Ratna, in 2001.

In 2004, when she turned 75, one of Bollywood’s biggest directors, Yash Chopra, wrote for the BBC that he saw “God’s blessings in her voice”.

Mangeshkar, who never married, had a rich life outside her work with interests ranging from cricket to cars.

Her younger sister Asha Bhosle is also a celebrated Bollywood singer. The two always dismissed any hint of sibling rivalry and even performed together occasionally.

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