While recording a Marathi song for singer-composer Vaishali Samant in 2014, Lata Mangeshkar remembered her association with other female musicians. Mangeshkar first mentioned Saraswati Devi, the first female composer in Indian cinema, and then Usha Khanna, who credibly broke through what had become a male bastion in Hindi cinema. Finally, she recalled the Marathi songs tuned by her sister, Meena Mangeshkar.
As an afterthought, the singer remembered another composer, whom she jokingly said she was very closely associated with: Anandghan. The composer was none other than Lata Mangeshkar. Using the pseudonym, which means “cloud of joy” in Marathi, Mangeshkar composed music for four Marathi films in the 1960s: Mohityanchi Manjula (1963), Maratha Tituka Melvava (1964), Sadhi Manasa (1965) and Tambadi Mati (1969).
Well before Anandghan made an appearance, Mangeshkar had written music for a Marathi film in 1950 under her own name. Then barely 20, she handled the score for Dinkar D Patil’s Ram Ram Pahune (1950). A prolific filmmaker, Patil made tamasha music popular in Marathi cinema. Not only was Ram Ram Pahune a big success, but also its songs were extremely popular. In a role reversal of sorts, Mangeshkar even got composer-singer C Ramchandra to sing a catchy duet for her, Mazya Shetat Sonachi Piktay, along with her sister Meena.
Mangeshkar sang the tuneful numbers Shapath Dudhachi Hya Aaichya and Tu Gupit Kunala Sangu Nako Aapule while also composing two great tamasha songs, Kashi Jadli Sang Tuzya Warti Mazi Preeti and Raya Galaat Khudkan Hasa.
The legendary Bhalji Pendharkar directed the four films for which Mangeshkar composed music under her nom de plume. Hearing the songs from each of these movies, one marvels at not just the lovely melodies, but also Mangeshkar’s rich knowledge and beautiful use of Marathi folk music. The songs she kept for herself are easily some of her best ever, which, looking at her incredibly large repertoire, is saying a lot.
Mangeshkar composed superb numbers for her siblings as well. One of Asha Bhosle’s most well-known Marathi film songs is the sensual Reshmachya Rhegani from Maratha Tikuka Melvava.
Sadhi Manasa, in particular, was a triumph. The drama about family honour and the importance of traditional values won the President’s Silver Award for the Best Marathi Film at the National awards as well as the Maharashtra State Awards for Best Film, Best Music for Anandghan and Best Playback Singer for Mangeshkar.
Sadhi Manasa contains some of Mangeshkar’s finest compositions, including Rajachya Rangmahali, Malyachya Malyamandi, Nako Devaraya Anta Aata and the standout number, Airanichya Deva Tula, which is further lifted by brilliant flute playing by Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Mangeshkar scored music for yet another National award winner for Best Marathi Film for the marital melodrama Tambadi Mati. Mangeshkar composed memorable songs for brother Hridaynath (Doul Moracha Maanacha) and herself (Maagate Man Ek Kahi, Mazya Kapalache Kunku Bhasma Vilepit and Zala Sakharpuda) in Tambadi Mati.
The film, however, proved to be her swansong as a music director. Writing music meant several sittings and discussions with lyricists, musicians, other singers and the filmmaker besides rehearsals and actual recordings. Unable to tear herself away from her packed singing schedule, which sometimes involved multiple recordings in a day, Mangeshkar retired Anandghan. The loss was keenly felt by Marathi cinema and fans of Lata Mangeshkar’s composing abilities.