Lata Mangeshkar, about whom the music director Naushad once said, “The very heart of India throbs in your voice”, died on Sunday in Mumbai, PTI reported. She was 92.

The playback singer had been hospitalised on January 8 following a diagnosis of pneumonia and Covid-19. Although she recovered from both illnesses, she continued to be under observation at the hospital.

Mangeshkar was cremated with full state honours at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park on Sunday evening, PTI reported. Before that, her body was taken to her home in South Mumbai’s Peddar Road around 12.30 pm.

The Union government has decided to observe a two-day state mourning as a mark of respect to Mangeshkar, the agency quoted officials as saying. The national flag will fly at half mast from February 6 to February 7.

Musical career and legacy

Mangeshkar is a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Dadasaheb Phalke awards. Her career began in the 1940s and endured all the way into the present. She worked with nearly every director of repute. She was the singing voice of every major Hindi film heroine, from Madhubala to Preity Zinta.

Mangeshkar sang mostly in Hindi but also in other languages, including her native Marathi and Bengali. She even performed in Bahasa Indonesia in the 1970s and 1980s. Scholars are still debating the exact number of songs she has sung – at least 25,000, according to one account.

Mangeshkar was born on September 28, 1929, in Indore. Her father, Deenananth Mangeshkar, was a stage actor, Hindustani classical singer and composer for musical plays in the Marathi performance style known as Natya Sangeet. She was the eldest of five children. All her siblings – Meena, Asha, Usha and Hridaynath – have been involved with music either as singers or composers .

Mangeshkar first performed on the stage in Sholapur at the age of nine. The classically trained singer frequently sang in plays with her father, and also performed with him on the radio when she was 11.

The family fell on bad times in the 1940s and Deenanath Mangeshkar died in 1942.

Mangeshkar, who was 13 at the time, began acting in Marathi films to support the family. She sang a few lines for a song in Gajabhau (1943), one of the four productions in which she appeared. She also starred in Hindi movies, but preferred to go behind the microphone.

In 1945, Mangeshkar had a small role in the Hindi film Badi Maa, which starred singing star Noor Jehan – they would go on to share a strong friendship. Mangeshkar sang Mata Tere Charnon Mein in the movie. Other assignments followed in 1948 for the films Majboor and Ziddi. In 1949 came the movie that marked Mangeskhar’s ascent – Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal, which included the blockbuster song Aayega Aanewala.

Apart from emerging as one of the major star singers in Hindi cinema along with her sister, Asha Bhosle, Mangeshkar fought hard to protect her professional status. She was known to drive a hard bargain over songs credits and assignments, in the process rubbing her rivals, composers and male collaborators the wrong way. She also spoke strongly out against remixes, deriding them for their lack of imagination.

Over the years, she came to be the gold standard against which singers were measured. Mangeshkar represented “the ultimate measure of sweetness in a woman’s voice”, film critic Raghava Menon once wrote. “Its chief characteristic was the skillful use of a particular kind of falsetto which did not exist in quite the same way before her coming … Lata brought this curiously stupefying voice into our light music. And the technique narcotised all forms of light music.”

Also read:

Lata Mangeshkar, nightingale of India and occasional music composer

Los Angeles, 1975. Lata Mangeshkar takes the stage. Deafening applause

Lata Mangeshkar, a hit in Hindi as well as Bahasa Indonesia