Ever since she started her singing career, Lata Mangeshkar has been active in all walks of Indian popular and light classical music having sung film songs, ghazals, bhajans and pop. Until the 1991 edition, when her entry disappeared, the Guinness Book of Records listed her as the most recorded artist in the world with not less than 30,000 solo, duet and chorus-backed songs recorded in 20 Indian languages between 1948 and 1987.
Between 1942 and 1948, Lata had to act in as many as 8 films in Hindi and Marathi to take care of the family's economic problems, after her father's death. She also made her debut as a playback singer in the Marathi film Kiti Hasaal (1942) but the song was edited out!
How She Came Into Picture?
The first Hindi film in which she gave playback was Aap ke Sewa Main (1947) but her singing went unnoticed. When Lata entered the Film Industry, heavier Punjabi voices like Noorjehan, Shamshad Begum and Zohrabai Ambalewali ruled the Industry. Ironically Lata was even rejected for Shaheed (1948) by producer S. Mukherjee who complained that her voice was too thin! However Ghulam Haider unable to use her in Shaheed gave Lata her breakthrough song with Dil Mera Toda from Majboor (1948).
1949 saw the release of four films. Barsaat, Andaaz (1949) , Dulari and Mahal. The songs of all four films were runaway hits particularly Aaega Aanewaalaa from the last mentioned. By 1950 the Lata wave had changed the Industry. Her high-pitched singing rendered obsolete the heavy basy nasal voices of the day. Only Geeta Dutt and to a certain extent Shamshad Begum survived the Lata wave. Asha Bhosle too came up in the late 1950s and the two sisters were the queens of Indian playback singing right through to the 90s.
Though Lata sang under the baton of all the top composers barring O.P. Nayyar and with all the top playback artistes of the day, special mention must be made of her work for C. Ramchandra who made her sound her sweetest and Madan Mohan who challenged her voice like no other music director. The 1960s and 70s saw Lata go from strength to strength even as there were accusations of her monopolizing the field.
From the 80s Lata cut down on her workload to concentrate on her shows abroad. Lata Mangeshkar sings infrequently now but even today the songs of some of the biggest hits of today Dil To Paagal Hai (1997), Maachis (1997), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) and Dil Se (1998) are sung by her. From Nargis to Kajol she's sung for them all. Lata Mangeshkar is in fact that rare artist who has realized her search for excellence.
A Phalke Award winner for her contribution to Indian Cinema, the latest jewel in Lata's crown is having India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna conferred on her.