Legendary Bollywood playback singer, Lata Mangeshkar, who died in Mumbai on Sunday (Feb 6), had recorded songs in over a thousand Indian films and had sung songs in over thirty-six Indian and foreign languages, but one of her biggest hit remains a non-film Hindi song, which even got India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to tears.
In 1963, a day after India's 13'th Republic day Mangeshkar sang the song 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon', written by Kavi Pradeep, at the Ramlila Maidan in the Capital, infront of Nehru. The song, composed by C Ramachandra, coupled with Mangeshkar's sweet voice and hard-hitting lyrics of Kavi Pradeep, was created in honour of the Indian Army soldiers who died in the India-China War in 1962.
"I was much relieved to get it over with. After I finished my two songs, I went backstage to relax with a cup of coffee, unaware [of] what an enduring impact the song had created. Suddenly, I heard Mehboob Khan Saab calling for me. He caught hold of my hand and said, 'Chalo, Panditji ne bulaya hai [Come, Panditji is asking for you]'. I wondered why he wanted to see me. When I went out, everyone, including Panditji, his daughter Indiraji, Radhakrishnanji stood up courteously to greet me. Mehboob Khan Saab said, 'Yeh rahi humari Lata. Aapko kaisa laga uska gaana (Here she is! Our Lata How did you like her singing?'Panditji said, 'Bahut achcha. Mere aankhon mein paani aa gaya [Wonderful! She moved me to tears]',” she had said in an interview, as reported by India Today.
The lyricist, Kavi Pradeep, was approached by producer Mehboob Khan to write a song for a fund raiser in New Delhi, and Pradeep chose music director C. Ramchandra along with Lata Mangeshkar as the singer. However, as per the legend, Pradeep only gave a day's notice to Mangeshkar, which is the latter refused to be a part of it initially. However, after some persistence, Pradeep managed to convince Mangeshkar, who only could rehearse for the song once, before her actual performance! In an interview, Pradeep had said that he he wrote the lines of the song, on the "aluminium foil" of a cigarette box, while he was taking a stroll along Mahim beach in Mumbai, and also asked for a pen from a stranger, passing by.
Having begun her music career in the 1940s, Mangeshkar sang for movies and albums until a few years ago. There was hardly any award that Lata Mangeshkar wasn’t conferred with. The Dadasaheb Phalke Award was bestowed upon her in 1989 by the Government of India. She won the Padma Bhushan in 1969, the Padma Vibhushan in 1999, and in 2001, in recognition of her contributions to the nation, she was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour.
She is only the second vocalist, after MS Subbulakshmi, to receive this honour. In 1997, she was awarded the Maharashtra Bhushan. Internationally, France conferred on her its highest civilian award, the Officer Of The Legion Of Honour, in 2007. She was also the recipient of three National Film Awards, 15 Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards, four Filmfare Best Female Playback Awards, two Filmfare Special Awards, Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award, and many more.