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Long Before #MeToo Movement Lata Mangeshkar Warred With Formidable Singer G M Durrani For Misconduct

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Lata Mangeshkar

 The MeToo movement  gained momentum in these parts during the last two years, and it’s often alleged that women in the Indian entertainment  industry are not inclined  to come forward  with their tales of  male misconduct.

However  here is  a historic  story pertaining  to  the Indian entertainment industry’s most successful woman ever Lata Mangeshkar who  not only put a badly behaved male colleague in  place but also refused to sing with him.

 The man in question was playback singer Ghulam Mustafa Durrani popularly  known as  G.M. Durrani who ruled  the  world of  Hindustani playback singing in  the  1930s, 40s and  50s  and was eventually eclipsed  by Mohd Rafi.

 However in  the decades before  Rafi Saab, Durrani was  the King of playback singing , and not afraid  show it. The incident that shook the  recording work happened in 1949 and the  film was Chandni Raat which  starred Saira Banu’s mother the beauteous  Naseem Banu.

It was  the first song that Lata Mangeshkar was  to sing for the composing maestro Naushad and that too a  duet with the  ruling playback singer G  M Durrani.

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Lataji arrived  for  the  recording of the  duet Hey chore ki jaat badi bewafa.

But left in a huff without recording  it.

What happened?

According to an eyewitness,  “Durrani who was quite  a selfstyled charmer began to  lay on  his charms thickly on  the-then  young petite singer thinking she would simper into submission. Lataji was 21 years old  and the men in the fiercely patriarchal  industry who underestimated her selfconfidence  lived to regret  it. Durrani Saab was sadly one such  powerful man. When Lataji arrived  for  the  recording  he began to act  over-friendly. He asked her what  was she wearing around her neck. Lataji politely replied that it was haathi ka daant(elephant’s tusk) necklace and a gift  from  her late father.  Durrani  dismissed  her ornamental pride and said she should be wearing golden jewellery, as she had a golden voice. He then heaped praise on  the  newcomer thinking she’d be flattered. But Lataji flared up  and  said she  would not sing with this  man ,ever.This was a  big  decision   for  a singer who was just establishing herself. Not only was she ready to take  on the biggest singer of the times she also faced the risk of incensing a formidable composer like Naushad who was giving her a break for  the  first time  , and of course the  music industry known  to protect  its predators could’ve closed ranks on  her. But Lataji stood her ground.And  never sang with Durrani.”

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 When  I ask Lataji about the incident she grows quiet for a while and then  states, “What you’ve is  absolutely true. Something  did happen with this singer  during my first recording  with him. It was my first song with Naushad Saab for  a film called Chandni Raat.But on that day when we were to record the duet Hey chore ki jaat badi bewafa Naushad Saab  was unwell and  his assistant  Ghulam Mohamed Saab  was present.To cut a  long story short, I didn’t like the way Durrani Saab spoke to me . I walked out of that recording  and vowed  never to  sing with him.And I kept my promise to myself. I  never sang any song with Durrani Saab in my  entire career.”

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 But the records show at least a dozen  duets featuring the  voices  of Lataji and Durrani!!

Lataji  says, “In that case the records give wrong information. The fact is, I never sang any song with Durrani. I  believe even that first duet in Chandni Raat is credited to  Durrani and me. That’s false. Durrani was replaced in that duet by a singer called Sadat Khan. I repeat, I never  sang a duet with Durrani Saab after the incident.I’d never compromise with my conscience. That’s not what my parents taught me.”