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"Normally artistes strive for perfection. Only Lata Mangeshkar has achieved it. There're no boundaries to her excellence and reach. You know Hindi film music is so deeply rooted to our life and culture... When I go to foreign countries and to very exclusive gatherings of NRIs who are deeply conscious of their status and position, they invariably lose their inhibitions once everyone starts singing songs. More than cinema, I think Indians all over the world are bonded by film songs. Film music outlives cinema. Today we remember Lataji's songs.
But not the films they belong to. No matter how much we revere Lataji, we cannot even begin to evaluate her contribution to Indian cinema and ethos. Her body of work is beyond awesome. Listen to the nostalgia channel in Wordspace Music. 80 percent of the songs are by Lataji. She has proved perfection is possible in this imperfect world. Sometimes I think people like Lataji, Ghalib, Beethoven and Shakespeare are far removed from the normal chain of human civilization. If they were just role models, how come no one was able to achieve an iota of their perfection? They are a kind of intruders who come as reminders of the rule of mediocrity that prevails. Lataji belongs to a different league.
I'll tell you an incident that Pandit Jasraj narrated to me when from the 1950s. He was in Amritsar when he met to meet the classical genius Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan who was his God. After Pandit Jasraj got talking, Bade Ghulam Ali Saab suddenly told the young man to keep quiet. He heard the sound of the young Lata Mangeshkar singing 'Yeh Zindagi Usski Ki Hai' from Anarkali. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was enraptured. He finally said, 'Kambhakt, kabhi besuri hoti hi nahin'. That remark had the affection of a father and the envy of an artiste. I remember meeting a music scholar Chaman Bharti in Bhopal. I asked him what he found so special about Lata Mangeshkar. He explained, 'If you take a strand of hair and put it under a microscope, there would be center to that magnified view of the strand of hair. Sur kitna bhi bareeq ho usska jo exact center hai wahan Lata Mangeshkar gaati hai."