Lata Mangeshkar, Bollywood’s Most Beloved Voice, Dies at 92

Ms. Mangeshkar, a revered figure in India, recorded songs for countless films — not appearing onscreen herself, but providing characters’ singing voices.

New Delhi: Lata Mangeshkar, for whom the description playback singer is something of an understatement, died in Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital on Sunday. She was 92. A funeral with state honours will be held this evening. Ms Mangeshkar was taken to the intensive care unit on January 8 after testing positive for COVID-19. Lata Mangeshkar was also being treated for pneumonia. Over the next few weeks, Ms Mangeshkar showed signs of improvement. However, on Saturday, hospital authorities said that Lata Mangeshkar had been put back on the ventilator after her health deteriorated.
Lata Mangeshkar, a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Dadasaheb Phalke Awards, was an icon of Indian cinema, having sung playback for an extensive list of Hindi films; she also sang in several regional languages including Marathi and Bengali. Ms Mangeshkar, who belonged to a prominent musical family, also composed music as well as produced a handful of films. She was popularly known as the ‘Nightingale of India.’

Lata Mangeshkar, born in 1929, was the eldest of five siblings, among them singer Asha Bhonsle who visited Mangeshkar in hospital after she was taken to ICU. Their father was classical musician Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar, who gave the young Lata Mangeshkar her first music lesson. In 1942, when her father died, 13-year-old Lata Mangeshkar began her career in music, juggling singing with acting parts in Marathi films. In 1945, Ms Mangeshkar had an early hit in the song Aayega Aanewala from the film Mahal, starring Madhubala. From there, Lata Mangeshkar’s voice and career soared to the greatest of heights. She sang raga-based compositions by Naushad in films like Baiju Bawra, Mother India and Mughal-E-Azam, Shankar-Jaikishan’s melodic hits in Barsaat and Shree 420; Salil Chowdhury’s lilting tracks in Madhumati won her a Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer; three more Filmfare Awards came by way of Bees Saal Baad, Khandan and Jeene Ki Raah.

Lata Mangeshkar won three National Awards for Best Female Playback Singer for the films Parichay, Kora Kagaz and Lekin. Other memorable films in her credits include Pakeezah, Abhimaan, Amar Prem, Aandhi, SIlsila, Chandni, Sagar, Rudali and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

Among Lata Mangeshkar’s most iconic songs is the patriotic composition Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo; the song, commemorating Indian soldiers who died in the 1962 war with China, was performed on Republic Day in 1963 at the National Stadium in New Delhi. Lata Mangeshkar sang it live in the presence of President S Radhakrishnan and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Ms. Mangeshkar was known for her range — she could sing in four octaves — and her gift for singing in character, tailoring her voice and emotions for the actress she was voicing onscreen. She sang some of Bollywood’s biggest hits, including “Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya,” from the 1960 film “Mughal e-Azam.” The film star Dilip Kumar once called her voice “a miracle of nature’s creativity.”

“She leaves a void in our nation that cannot be filled,” Mr. Modi said on Twitter.

Early in her career, in the 1940s, Ms. Mangeshkar played minor roles onscreen. “I never liked it — the makeup, the lights,” she said in an interview for a book published in 2009. “People ordering you about, say this dialogue, say that dialogue. I felt so uncomfortable.

“The day I started working as a playback singer, I prayed to God: ‘No more acting in films,’” she said. “He listened to me and I got a fairly good position in playback singing.”

Lata Mangeshkar composed music for a handful of Marathi films, winning the Maharashtra State Government’s award for Best Music Director in 1965 for the film Sadhi Manase. She also produced some films, among them 1990’s Lekin, for which she also sang.