Entertainment Music 04 Jul 2016 It’s all in th ...

It’s all in the family

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SAMEENA RAZZAQ AND LIPIKA VARMA
Published Jul 4, 2016, 12:01 am IST
Updated Jul 4, 2016, 12:01 am IST
They may have come a long way since their days of professional feud, but the Mangeshkar sisters’ lives continue to stoke curious minds.
Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar at an event.
 Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar at an event.

Apart from being revered for their golden voices, sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle have also always been the poster girls for sibling rivalry in the Hindi film industry. While neither of the two has ever explicitly said it in so many words, those close to the Mangeshkar sisters have vouched that they didn’t have the most cordial of relationships. So pronounced were the differences at one point apparently, that the music industry was reportedly split into two camps — each working with one of the sisters. Given the discretion they maintained, the differences remained within the four walls of their house or the recording studio, never once manifesting itself on stage or in a public space. That is probably why stories about the supposed rivalry is only discussed in hushed tones or loud whispers till date. These whispers found stage when in 1998, director Sai Paranjape painted a story of two sisters on screen, one that was eerily similar to the plot of Lata and Asha’s life — both singers who develop persona
l differences due to a professional rivalry. Asha had said then, rubbishing the film’s similarity with her life, “It’s not true at all. To have two women in long plaits, take a couple of incidents and exaggerate them into a three hour film is such a waste of time.”

Eighteen years after their story first played out on the big screen, a television show attempted the same in March this year. Meri Awaaz hi Pehchaan Hai, curiously borrowed its title from one of Lataji’s iconic songs, but vehemently denied having anything to do with the sisters’ real life stories. Fiction Head for &TV, Vikas Gupta said, “If people find similarities, it’s just a coincidence. I don’t think scenes in the show have been taken from Asha and Lataji’s lives. Our show is a work of fiction. It’s not based on Mangeshkar sisters in any way. Lataji’s mother was the second wife of Dinanath Mageshkarji. If the show were based on their lives then we would have also shown our protagonists Kalyani and Ketki’s mother as the second wife. Similarly, we have only two sisters while the Mangeshkars are four sisters. The show may have certain similarities but it is not their story.”

Deepti Naval, who plays one of the sisters also assured that the show was ‘fiction and came only from the writers’ desk’. Zarina Wahab, who plays the other sister said, “We are not aware of the show being taken from the lives of Lataji and Ashaji. People feel so merely because it is based on two sisters’ story and they happen to be singers. We have been told that the show is totally fictional. It’s about the ups and downs in their relationship. There has to be drama for a show to run, right?” The show, which is a finite series goes off air this month. It has, however, revisited the one of the music industry’s most elusive stories.

Mohan Deep, who has written multiple books on Bollywood personalities, asserts that Lata-Asha rivalry is not a figment of one’s imagination. “I can say that the seeds of rivalry between Asha and Lata were sown when they were in their late teens. Lata started singing at the age of 12 or 13 and by the time she became an adult, rose to unparalleled fame. The two sisters had very different personalities too. Lata was more reserved, while Asha was an extrovert. It helped her make more friends in the industry.”

The professional differences started trickling in when Asha started aggressively pursuing a career in playback. “Lata was not comfortable singing all kinds of songs or saying certain phrases. Asha didn’t have those inhibitions and went all out. Because of this quality of hers, OP Nayyar took to Asha and started recording with her. This didn’t go down too well with Lata. Not one to concede, Nayyar started recording songs with anyone but Lata. He is one of the few composers who could deliver hits even without Lata,” adds Mohan.

That isn’t to say that Lata didn’t push her boundaries. Recalling a challenge that she took upon herself, Mohan recounts, “Dilip Kumar saab and Lataji would travel in the same train compartment. He once told her that she wasn’t doing justice to Urdu words in her songs — in terms of pronunciation. She took it to heart and worked hard on it until Dilipji himself complimented her on her Urdu diction.”

Theories of Lataji trying to suppress her younger sister’s career are not unheard of either. Journalist, film critic and author, Rauf Ahmed, however, doesn’t endorse them. “It’s embarrassing to say that Lataji blocked the entry of new female playback singers. Why would she do that when the leading music composers of the time were queuing up to get her to sing their songs? The mainstream industry works on one criterion: saleability. Whoever scores at box office is king. Besides, if Lataji was controlling the music scene in Bollywood, why couldn’t she lead her brother Hridayanath Mangeshkar to the top of the heap? On the other hand, Ashaji (Bhosle), did find her niche and has been dominating the scene for decades giving the new singers a run for their money.”

Speaking of associations, Lataji and Mohammed Rafi had decided not to work together after a misunderstanding. “That’s when Suman Kalyanpur got her opportunity to sing with Rafi Saab. She did quite a few hit numbers with him like Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche (Brahmachari) but soon after, Lataji and Rafi Saab patched up and came together,” he adds.

Further elaborating on the uniqueness of her voice, Rauf adds, “I remember this one time when one of the greatest classical vocalists ever, Pandit Jasraj told me while discussing about Lataji, ‘Thank God she has chosen to be a playback singer. If she had entered our field she would have given us a real tough time. Her voice is a divine blessing’.”

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