Lata Mangeshkar will remain the voice of our culture: Gulzar

Lata Mangeshkar was a miracle who can’t be bound in mere words, says Gulzar, the poet-lyricist-writer who on Sunday found himself searching for words to describe his loss at the death of his long-time collaborator.

The association with Mangeshkar that started from the song “Mora Gora Ang Layle” from 1963’s Bandini, Gulzar’s first as a songwriter, came to a full stop with 2021’s single “Theek Nahi Lagta”, which was recorded for a film 26 years ago that eventually got shelved.

In an interview with PTI, the veteran lyricist said, “Lata ji is a ‘karishma’ (miracle) in herself and this ‘karishma’ doesn’t happen always and ‘aaj ye karishma mukammal (complete) ho gaya’, she is gone. She was a miraculous singer, with a miraculous voice. It is difficult to find adjectives for her. How much ever we talk about her, it is less. You can’t bind her in words. She is beyond words.”

The duo went on to create gems in films like Khamoshi, Kinara, Lekin, Rudaali, Masoom, Libaas, Dil Se.., Satya, Hu Tu Tu, and Maachis, among others.

The song “Naam Gum Jayega” from Kinara, which Gulzar also directed, has come to define the everlasting legacy of Lata Mangeshkar and he said the track is “apt” when one talks about her.

“We had written the song for a film. I remember I had told her when you give an autograph you can use this (the lines of the song) ‘Meri awaaz hi pehchan hai aur ye hai pehchan’,” he recalled.

“I didn’t mean it thinking (it will become her identity) but it became her identity and she identified (with it),” he added.

Lata Mangeshkar, who passed away on Sunday morning following multiple organ failure at the age of 92, had said she remembers vividly the day she did the playback for the song and the lines that Gulzar spoke to her.

“Everyone in the country knows that Gulzar sahab writes beautifully. He also speaks beautifully. When I was singing (this song), he came to me and gently said, ‘Meri awaaz hi pehchan hai aur ye hai pehchan’. He said something like this. But later, I also started saying that ‘my voice is my identity’. And now whoever sings that song or writes about me says those lines,” Mangeshkar told PTI in October 2021 days after the release of “Theek Nahin Lagta”.

Gulzar also shared how nervous Vishal Bhardwaj, the then music composer of his directorial Maachis, was when he was doing his first song with Mangeshkar for the 1996 film.

She recorded two songs, “Ae Hawa” and “Pani Pani Re” for Maachis. While the latter stayed, the former didn’t make the cut because there was no situation, the singer had said last year.

“I remember when Vishal was doing the first song with her, he was very nervous. He told me he is getting very nervous. Lata ji laughed and said ‘Think of me as a newcomer and teach me’. Only a very very generous and great person like her can say this. It shows her personality,” Gulzar said.

The 87-year-old lyricist said he was “lucky” to have met and worked for Lata Mangeshkar.

Lata Mangeshkar will remain the voice of our culture: Gulzar Lata Mangeshkar with Gulzar and Amjad Khan. (Photo: Express Archive)

“I remember she had once told me ‘today songs are not so good’ and said ‘make some nice films in which there is a scope for good music and songs’,” he added.

Mangeshkar also produced Gulzar’s film Lekin, for which she also received a National Film Award for best female playback singer for “Yaara Seeli Seeli” which became particularly popular at that time.

“She produced my film ‘Lekin’. I am so happy that she won the National Award,” Gulzar said.

The film was directed by Gulzar, who also penned the lyrics.

Lekin earned five National Awards, including music direction for Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Lata Mangeshkar’s younger brother, and Gulzar for lyrics.

“You share these moments because of her blessings, not that I take (credit) for anything. She had that kind of vision. And I am glad I worked with her.”

She was the “voice of our culture” and will remain the same, Gulzar added.

“She is part of our culture. She is part of everyday culture. TV came later. There used to be radio and one would wake up listening to her voice.

“Her songs would be played during all festivals from Lohri, Holi, Eid and even weddings. She had become the voice of our culture in her lifetime and continues to be,” he said.

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