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How Lata Mangeshkar’s Absence  Ruined Gulzar’s Plans

Lata Mangeshkar  has always been  known as  a one-woman industry . I remember  the wonderful Dev Anand telling me  how  erected sets had to be dismantled when she didn’t turn  for  the  recording of songs in time.

“She wasn’t temperamental, not at all.” Dev Saab once  told me. “She just wanted to make sure she gave  the  best  of herself  to every song she sang. Her logic was simple. ‘For me it’s just one opportunity to get  it  right. For thousands  of  listeners the song will be there for them to judge and  evaluate for  all times  to come.’ No wonder  she never  compromised and look at the results! Lata is perfection in  person!”

There is one  incident when she  refused  to compromise  and unknowingly caused eternal damage because of her uncompromised  quest for perfection. It  was  Gulzar Saab’s  dream project Meera, his musical interpretation of  the great life of Meerabai. Hema Malini  was chosen  to  play the  eponymous role while the mighty  composing duo  Laxmikant-Pyarelal were chosen  to  score music for Meerabai’s timeless lines.That the Melody Queen was to sing  the Meera bhajans goes without saying.

Gulzar Saab who usually worked with R D Burman on his music score chose Laxmikant-Pyarelal  for Meera  as  they were seen  more suited to the epic-historical  design .

Then something unexpected happened. Lataji refused to sing for  Gulzar’s Meera!   No matter how much Gulzar Saab  pleaded with her, she refused to relent. Hema Malini who had a great rapport  with Lataji personally requested the  Melody Queen to relent. But nothing could dissuade  Lataji.

Recalling the incident Hema Malini says, “It was a big setback to the project when Lataji refused to sing. She had already sung Meera Bhajans for her  brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar and she wouldn’t sing them  for any other composers, not even for  her favourite Laxmikant-Pyarelal.”

When Lataji backed out of Meera, Laxmikant—Pyarelal also  opted  out.

“What would  Meera be without Latabai?”  Pyarelal reminisced to me some  years ago

The project then went to the  Bharat Ratna  sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar who used the  voice of Vani Jairam  for Meera.

The  music fell flat and so did the  film.

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