The legendary Mumtaz who sang and danced to some of the Goddess’s most iconic songs like Bindiya chamkegi, Jai jai shiv Shankar, Chal dariya mein doob jaayen, Do ghunt mujhe bhi pilade,Sun champa sun tara and Yeh kaun aaj aaya mera dil churane , is inconsolable.
Speaking from her home in London Mumtaz says, “My tears haven’t stopped flowing ever since I heard the awful news. Lataji was the voice of Hindi cinema. To imagine cinema without her is beyond me. I am proud to say she was my voice in all my best songs.”
Mumtaz then tells me about her proudest moments. “When Lataji said in an interview that among all the heroines that she sang for Saira Banu, Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz were her favourites. Can you imagine how proud that made me? Waheedaji and Sairaji were top heroines from the time they entered the industry. But I struggled from playing a junior artiste to a heroine in B-grade films and then to the top.”
Like many of the screen legends Mumtaz felt like a trueblue star only when Lataji started singing for her. “It felt very special when she sang Sanam tu bewafa ke naam se in Khilona and Jaise Radha Ne Mala Japi Shyam Ki in Tere Mere Sapne…I felt confident on screen when she sang for me.”
Mumtaz lights up when talking of the most iconic song that Lataji sang for her . “Bindiya chamkegi is the song that I am most closely identified with. What a hit! Lataji counted it among her favourites. She performed it live at every one of her concerts. No concert of hers would be complete without two songs Ae mere watan ke logon and Bindiya Chamkegi.”
Mumtaz admits she had no clue Bindiya Chamegi would turn out so special. “Mujhe laga it’s a bit slow-paced for a dance number. But who knows what will become famous and what not? Sab Ooparwale aur public ke haath mein hain. Mujhe ek aur gana jo Dharamji ke picture mein thi bahot pasand hai(I love one more song of Lataji in a film I did with Dharamji).Main tere ishq mein marr na jaaon kahin in Loafer? Dharamji loves that song too and another song in Loafer , Aaj mausam bada beimaan hai. When I had gone to meet Dharamji when I was in India last month he had asked me, ‘Mammo—that’s what he affectionately calls me—tujhe yaad hai yeh gaane? Dharamji and Hemaji were very close to Lataji.”
Mumtaz’s association with Lataji actually began very early. “She was an amazing personality. I actually knew her from when I was 5 years old. I lived with my mother and the rest of my family in Walkeshwar, where Jackie Shroff also used to live. Lataji too lived in Walkeshwar with her family. We kids went to her home to watch 16mm films. I’ve not forgotten her warmth. Now she’s gone. There will never be another Lataji.”
She then ends hopefully, “ Lekin kya pataa, Bhagwan ko hum pe taras aa jaye .Ek aur Lataji waapas bhej den(But who knows the Gods may take pity on us and send another one like her).”