How Lata Mangeshkar’s rise was connected to Pakistan

How Lata Mangeshkar’s rise was connected to Pakistan

How Lata Mangeshkar’s rise was connected to Pakistan

Whenever the name of legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar be recalled in Pakistan, it would bring back a lot of memories of her songs, of her journey, and of her rise as a playback singer. During the seven-decade-long career of the recently-departed songstress, she was in awe of not one but multiple singers from Pakistan, beginning with her Malika e Tarannum idol Madam Noor Jehan to her mentor Master Ghulam Haider and her collaborator in final years, Shahenshah-e-Ghazal Mehdi Hassan.

Even in the latter part of her career, she wished to sing with a couple of Pakistani music composers as well, proving that art has no boundaries. Who were the people from Pakistan who had an impact on her initial career and the ones who collaborated with her, let’s try to find out.

The Noor Jehan influence on Lata’s career

Everyone needs an idol, one they can look up to while growing up, and Lata Mangeshkar had Noor Jehan. When Lata began her career in the 1940s, Noor Jehan was already a huge star loved by all, including by the eldest daughter of the Mangeshkar clan who tried to emulate the Malika e Tarannum whenever she had the chance. The two met on the set of Badi Maa in which Noor Jehan played the lead, and Lata featured as a youngster who acted in a minor role and also sang a song.

A handful of years later when Noor Jehan was the Iron Lady of Pakistani cinema and Lata had grown into a fine playback singer, the two had a chance meeting at the ‘No Man’s Land’ outside the Wagah border where they met, they talked and held each other with tears in their eyes. Lata kept praising Noor Jehan in her interviews and Noor Jehan made sure that she met Lata and Asha Bhosle whenever she could, such was their relationship.


Lata’s godfather Master Ghulam Haider later migrated to Pakistan

When Lata Mangeshkar began her career as a playback singer, she was not just up against the best playback singers of that time but also the music composers who had their own set of frequent collaborators. However, well-known music composer Master Ghulam Haider saw talent in the teenager and tried to convince others, but failed. In such a scenario, he used his own connections and gave Lata the break she so rightly deserved, and the rest is history.

In an interview, Lata Mangeshkar admitted that had it not been for Master Ghulam Haider, she might not have made it that early in films, and he truly was her Godfather. ‘It was his confidence in my abilities that he fought for me to tuck me into the Hindi Film Industry, which otherwise had rejected me,” Lata had said while remembering the late maestro.

How Lata had her hand in Nazia Hassan, Salma Agha award wins

The 1980s saw a change in music, and in Bollywood as well where Pakistani singers with British passports made their entry easily. The two British Pakistanis to make inroads in Lata Mangeshkar’s territory included the young Nazia Hassan and the multifaceted Salma Agha, and both managed to win the Filmfare Awards for Best Singer on their first try, one in 1981, and the other two years later.


While Nazia Hassan was declared Best Female Playback singer for Aap Jaisa Koi in Qurbani and was later nominated for Boom Boom in Star, the bulk of Salma Agha’s nominations came for her songs in Nikaah in 1983, where she was nominated for three songs, and ended up winning for Dil Ke Armaan. Her fourth and last nomination came for a song in Kasam Paida Karne Walay Ki two years later but by then, newer singers had taken the centerstage.

These wins wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for one gesture shown first by Lata Mangeshkar in the early 70s (and her sister Asha Bhosle in the late 70s). They both had asked the Filmfare management to not consider them for awards, for they wanted young and new singers to have a chance towards stardom, and it was that gesture that helped Pakistani singers aim for the sky, and win awards.

And then there was Khush Rang Henna, Zeba Bakhtiar

The political scenario in India and Pakistan wasn’t ideal when Randhir Kapoor decided to complete his father’s last production Henna in the late 80s. He had everything ready except the titular character, for which he chose Pakistani actress Zeba Bakhtiar, and Lata Mangeshkar was shortlisted to be her voice.

In a recent interview. Zeba Bakhtiar remembered meeting Lata Ji for the first time and said that she was floored by her humility and down-to-earth personality. ‘I was attending a function in Bombay during the shooting of Henna when Lata Ji asked me to meet her. I had no clue why she would have wanted to meet a newbie like me, but when she told me that she wanted to observe me and my expressions so that she could incorporate them in the vocals, I was bowled over. I was no one at that time, yet she thought it was important that she knew me before doing playback singing for me!’

Mehdi Hassan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Adnan Sami Khan


Lata Mangeshkar once said that she considered Pakistani ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan’s voice as heavenly, and wanted to sing a duet with him. Her wish was finally granted in the new millennium when just one year before his death in 2012, her duet with Mehdi Hassan ‘Tera Milna Bohat Acha Lage Hai’ was released after being years in production. Not only was it composed by the late singer himself, but was also made part of an Indo-Pak album where Ghulam Ali was featured from Pakistan, and Sonu Nigam and Hariharan from India.

She also lent her vocals for the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Adnan Sami Khan in films Kachche Dhaage (1999) and Lucky: No Time For Love (2005). While her duet with Adnan Sami Khan Aik Ajnabi Sa in the latter became extremely popular, it was her four songs under Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s direction that remain timeless. Even after two decades, Dil Pardesi Hogaya and Tere Bin Nahi Jeena are still as popular as they were back at the time of their release.


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