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Lata Mangeshkar & Mamta Bannerjee Are Phone Buddies:“I Am Fine, And I’ve Spoken To Mamta Bannerjee”

Alarming reports on the health status of Asia’s Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar surfaced  in a section of the media on Wednesday after she postponed her meeting with Bengal’s chief minister Mamta Bannerjee to receive Bengal’s highest civilian honour,  the Banga Bibhushan.

Mamta Mannerjee was supposed to fly down from Kolkata to Mumbai on October 20 to personally give Latajithe award.

However Lataji postponed the meeting citing ill health as the reason for doing so.

In an exclusive tete-a-tete she explains, “I was unwell but nothing serious. The illness left me weak. My doctors advised me not to strain myself.So I requested Mamtaji to push the date forward from October 20 to November.That’s all.”

Bengal’s firebrand Chief Minister and India’s Melody Queen are friends and constantly connected with one another. In fact, one hears, the two high-profile ladies not only exchange gossip but also gifts.

Laughs Lataji, “One doesn’t speak about gifts. Their value is lessened by talking about them. But yes, we are on the phone with one another.She is very warm generous and affectionate. She is generous enough to say my songs are so popular in Bengal that I’m a Bangla artiste.That’s an honour , coming from her.”

Considering their closeness Lataji made it a point to speak directly to Ms Bannerejee about her change of plans. “I didn’t want her to get to know of my wish to postpone the meeting for the Banga Bibhushan from a third party. So I  called her directly. She was very concerned and accommodating. She told me we can do the token function  any time I’m up to it. Actually since I’ve already received this wonderful honour from the people of Bengal the ceremony is just a formality.We’ll do it in November.”

Lataji gets nostalgic  about her links with  Bengal. “I sang some of my best songs in Bengali forSalilda(Choudhary) and Hemantda(Kumar). Later these songs were also done in Hindi and became equally popular. I was very close to both the composers.And of course my favourite co-singer was Kishore Kumar. He was so entertaining  that I’d be in splits during the recordings of  even the most somber-mooded duets.As soon as the composer would call for the final take Kishoreda would get suddenly serious before the microphone while I’d be still giggling.”

Speaking of her ties with Bengal,the legendary filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee who considered Lataji a living embodiment of Mata Saraswati once told me she never charged a single penny for any of the songs she sang for his cinema.

When I ask Lataji about this she says, “That is again something I wouldn’t like to talk about. Gestures are demeaned when spoken about.”

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