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When I Met God, Lata Mangeshkar, For The First Time

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As she recuperates slowly but surely  from the  attack by the  greatest villain  civilization has encountered   since Gabbar Singh  I  recall my  first encounter with Lata Mangeshkar which  is still vividly etched in my memory.

From the age of six, I’ve believed that divinity dwells in her throat. I still do. For years  I  wondered what she she like   in person.Or did she even  exist?!In 1995  a mutual friend set up an appointment with her at the  Shiv Sena  Bhavan where she was rehearsing  for a concert.. I couldn’t believe my luck. But she was unwell, and had to miss our appointment. I consoled myself saying it was not meant to be. But the very next day, she was there in front of me: frail, warm… and real. She was full of jokes.

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Since then, I’ve come to know one truth about the lady — humility comes naturally to her.

In 1999, when Lataji missed out on the Bharat Ratna in favour of Pandit Ravi Shankar, I commented on the unfairness of Bharat’s real ratna of Bharat being denied the highest civilian honour.”Aap  aisa kyon sochte  hain ,”  Lataji  admonished me. “You might think I am a big talent. But Panditji is far bigger than I have been or can ever hope to be.I still remember how nervous and excited I was when I had to sing his compositions in Anuradha. I kept wondering whether I would do justice to the creations of an artiste as great as him. Artistes like Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Bismillah Khan come once in a century. They deserve to be honoured far more than I do.”

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Of course, Panditji’s creations in Anuradha, like Kaise din beete and Hai re woh din, attained new heights when Lataji sang them.When Panditji tried to recreate the same magic with another voice (Vani Jairam) in his score for Gulzar’s Meera, the compositions fell flat.

Lataji refused to do Meera bhajans even though Panditji, Gulzar, even leading lady Hema Malini personally pleaded with her to do the needful. “How could I?” she reasons. “I had already done Meerabhajans for my brother Hridaynath.”

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This timeless  singer lives, breathes, earns and yearns only for her family. Her world begins and ends within the Mangeshkar clan of two sisters (Meena and Usha), Hridayanath, and their families. They stay together at Peddar Road, Bombay.

Iconised, and now canonised, Lata Mangeshkar is more than a singer. As director Sanjay Leela Bhansali puts it, “It doesn’t matter if she no longer sounds as she did ten years ago. At her age, it’s a miracle she can still sing. Lataji has long ago transcended human definitions of excellence.”

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There was a time when composers like Sachin Dev Burman and Madan Mohan waited months to get her to sing. Once, Asha Bhosle went up to Madan Mohan asking why she couldn’t sing more of his songs. “Nahin, jab tak Lata hai aur koi nahin,” (As long as Lata is here, no one else will do), came the firm answer.

It is the love of   the  latabhakhts  that overwhelms Lataji. When she  got the Bharat Ratna she was in London for her annual holiday. When I  called her to congratulate  her  she  had said, “I consider it the highest honour. It is all thanks to my parents and my listeners’ prayers. Bharat Ratna ke baad to ab kuch bacha hi nahin (there is nothing left after the Bharat Ratna). I don’t deserve so much recognition. There are many artistes far greater than me.”

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To have received the Bharat Ratna in the same year as Ustad Bismillah Khan was a matter of double joy for Lataji: “He was a sweet and simple soul, whom I have known and admired for years. Not only have I attended his concerts, he also performed at my father’s death anniversary.I’ve got so much love and appreciation . I must give some of it back to my country. I have never considered myself an extraordinary singer.”

How dud  she  assess her own career as a singer?  “If you ask me, I did okay for myself. Acha hai…Lekin aur bhi achcha ho sakta hai(I did well. But I could’ve  done better). I’ve never stoped  to admire any of my songs, ‘Wah wah kya gaana gaya hai.’But I  know what you don’t. I know the places where I’ve made mistakes in my songs.And an artiste should never be satisfied with what he or she does. There should always be  hunger to excel. That fire….look at Bachchan Saab! That’s what keeps him going. No matter what your sphere of activity there must always be that hunger to do better.As a writer I am sure you also want to do better.With my songs also I always felt I could do better, even the ones that people today think perfect.”

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Ok, so which is the song that has given Lataji maximum satisfaction?  “ The songs that I sang for my brother(Hridayanath Mangeshkar) in the album of Meerabai bhajans Chala Vahi Des. I always feel that I’ve done justice to whatever Hridaynath gave me to  do in.It has been my must successful endeavour to date.I’ve also done justice to some of the compositions by Salilda(Chowdhury), Madan Mohan and  Jaidev. Jaidev was the most challenging among the composers. He had a sound knowledge of classical music. He would say, ‘I’ve told her what to do. Now I don’t need to worry.’ Once he composed a song he left it to me to worry about it. It became my responsibility.And I’d be endlessly worried.I remember he had composed a Nepali song for me written by the King Of Nepal King Birendra(Jun Mato Na Mero in the Nepali film Maatighar).It was one of the toughest songs of my career.”

It is often said that composers like Shankar-Jaikishan and  Laxmikant-Pyarelal made Lataji sing songs at an unnecessarily  high pitch  just because she has the range?   “This is true. I’ll give you two examples  Ehsaan tera hoga mujhpar in Junglee and O mere shah-e-khuba in Love In Tokyo, both composed by Shankar-Jaikishan. Both the songs were first sung by Mohd Rafi Saab. Then they decided they wanted the same songs sung by me. They came to me after filming the songs with the leading ladies of the two films Saira Banu in Junglee and  Asha Parekh in Love In Tokyo,in the  voice of Rafi Saab. And I was asked to sing the songs exactly the same way, since it was already shot with the heroines in Rafi Saab’s voice.I was’t allowed to  lower the scale of the original tunes since it was already filmed.So I had no choice but to sing in Rafi Saab’s pitch.I remember how difficult it was for me.And I was very upset with Shankar-Jaikishan for making me do this.”

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While Lataji misses  her riyaz  she  also once made  a startling  declaration  to me. “Shall I tell you something? It is much more difficult to do playback singing for films than to sing classical vocals. When you are doing classical vocals there is room for improvisation . But when you do playback singing  you have to go exactly by the requirements of the character on screen. I used to find out what the heroine was supposed to be doing , why was she singing the song,etc…Playback singing requires tremendous amounts of precision in rendering the lyrics and tune.Har cheez sambhaalni padti hai. Maybe composers felt that Lata could pull it off.”

Once  I asked  her  to assess  herself as a singer and Lataji’s replied, “There have been better singers than me like K L Saigal Saab and Noor Jehanji and there will be better singers than me in future.I always say whatever  skills I’ve imbibed are God’s gift. I’ll also admit that it’s never been an insurmountable challenge for me to sing anything.Every artiste has a talent. What the artiste does with that talent is up to that artiste.

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Aamir Khan’s Sister Plays Shah Rukh’s Mother In Pathaan

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Aamir Khan’s Sister Plays Shah Rukh’s Mother

Ever  since Pathaan released on Wednesday, audiences  have been  curious to know who  is the woman who plays Shah Rukh Khan’s adoptive mother in Afghanistan. The stately lady  with  royal looks is none  other than the late producer  Tahir Hussain’s daughter and  Aamir Khan’s elder  sister Nikhat Khan.

 Nikhat has been  closely  associated with the  film industry  and has helped her father in the production of his  films like Dulha Bikta Hai and  Tum Mere  Ho.

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Nikhat has  acted earlier in the Akshay Kumar starrer Mission Mangal ,  Ajay Devgan’s Tanhaji and  in Sandh Ki Aankh(as a Maharani).

For Pathaan, it was Shah Rukh Khan who suggested Nikhat Khan should play his foster-mother in  Afghanistan who names him ‘Pathaan’. It proved to be  an inspired  piece of casting, as  audience have  loved Nikhat  Khan’s cameo.

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It is  heartwarming that  all three Khan superstars  are  associated with Pathaan in one  way  or the other.

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Anurag Kashyap’s New Film Is About Love Jihad

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Love Jihad, whatever  that means, is  the theme  of  Anurag Kashyap’s new film Almost Pyaar  With D  J Mohabbat.

Debutant Karan  Mehta plays a Muslim boy  in an intense relationship with  Alaya F who plays  a Hindu  girl.Kashyap has spared the  audience none of the ugliness that  such a relationship generates  among  social-media  bouncers, the self-styled  guardian of morality .

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In the hardhitting powerful and pertinent film  a  bigot is heard commenting snidely, “These people first talk about Mohabbat. Then  they talk about Mohammed.”

Happily and  surprisingly,  the Central Board Of Film Certification gave the  film a ‘UA’ certificate  with no  cuts: a  rare non-‘A’ film of Kashyap.

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So far  Kashyap and his  team have kept the Love Jihad part  of  the plot  out of all media interaction.

But the  cat is  now  out of the bag.

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Samantha Ruth Prabhu to Star Alongside Varun Dhawan in Prime Video’s Indian Original Series , Samantha Speaks

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Samantha Ruth Prabhu

Samantha Ruth Prabhu will be starring alongside Varun Dhawan in the Indian installment of the Citadel universe, the global-event series from Prime Video and the Russo Brothers’ AGBO. The untitled Citadel series based out of India is being helmed by renowned creator duo Raj & DK (Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK), who are the showrunners and directors.

 The local installment is written by Sita R. Menon, along with Raj & DK. The streaming service also confirmed that the production is currently underway in Mumbai. After this, the unit will head  to North India and then onwards to international locales like Serbia and South Africa.

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  Richard Madden (Bodyguard) and Priyanka Chopra Jonas will star in the first-to-launch series within the Citadel universe, which comes from the Russo Brothers’ AGBO along with David Weil (Hunters) and is set to premiere in 2023. Alongside Madden and Chopra Jonas, the first-to-launch Citadel series will also feature Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games saga). Additional local-language Citadel productions are also in the works, including an Italian Original series starring Matilda De Angelis (The Undoing).

  Speaking on  her participation in  The Citadel  franchise for  the  first time,Samantha says, “When Prime Video and Raj & DK approached me with this project, I decided to take it up in a heartbeat! After working with this team on The Family Man, it is homecoming for me.The Citadel universe, the interconnected storylines between the productions across the globe, and most importantly, the script of the Indian installment really excited me.”

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   Samantha  says she is  looking forward  to working with Varun Dhawan  .  “I am thrilled to be a part of this brilliant universe conceptualised by the Russo Brothers. I am also looking forward to be working with Varun for the first time, on this project. He is someone who is full of life and cheer when you’re around him.”

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Bollywood’s Achche Din Have Come

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 Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar

All you doomsday  prophets, the  booms-day  profits  are here.  Pathaan  has  opened the floodgates again for Bollywood’s  bumper  bonanza at the  boxoffice.And now there is  only the achche din ahead  for  Hindi  cinema.

In the  next   two months there are  three sureshot  blockbusters coming up, beginning with Shehzada.  An astute devilishly impish  adaptation  of  Allu Arjun’s  2020 Telugu   blockbuster  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo.The super-popular Kartik  Aaryan gives  his own  spin to the  character. This  performance will take   Kartik to the  next level of stardom. Kartik’s version of  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is  radically different  from  its Telugu  version. Shehzada  takes  the core idea of  the Telugu original  and turns it into a  something  completely different. Kartik’s  co-star in Shehzada  is  Kriti  Sanon with whom he earlier shared superhit space in Lukka Chuppi.

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 Then there  is Luv Ranjan’s ravishing rom-com   Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar. The director’s   male viewpoint on the chaos  of love relationships  crests to a comic  high in his latest. Ranjan  for  the first time, collaborates with Ranbir Kapoor for the  first time  collaborates with Shraddha  Kapoor  who badly needs a hit.This film should do the  trick. The winsome  lead pair tries  to do one  another  in a  game of Luv This is Luv Ranjan’s Hum…Aapke Hain Con. Ranjan  has in the past used  the romcom  space to  entertain his audience  to the hilt, he  says this  time the stakes are different. It is  not something we’ve seen before.

 Finally  it is   Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.  Karan  Johar’s first directorial in six years(not counting the one segment each  in Ghost Stories and  Lust Stories). This time he has assembled a dream star-cast  of Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Ranveer Singh and  the  boxoffice darling(s) Alia Bhatt.  But trust me, this one is  not about assembling stars  into a complacent plot. The writing in this  zany Romeo & Juliet is so crisp  and engrossing, the experience  is  likely to be   the visual version of a multi-flavour icrecream cone. Colour, choler and karma collide in this tragic-comic love story . Let the  box office dhamaka  begin  from the house  of Dharma.

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