Almost every Indian woman from a certain era secretly craved to sing like Lata Mangeshkar. But not everyone can be Lata Mangeshkar. There is only one.
Recently there was the case of Ranu Mondal who sang herself into fame with Lataji's "Ek pyar nagma hai" from penury and anonymity.
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Himesh Reshammiya even recorded a song with the lady, who was dazed by all the attention. The euphoria and praise soon got out of hand. The rumours amplified.
There were reports that Salman Khan had bought Ronu Mondal a 50-lakh home and has offered her a chance to sing in "Dabangg 3".
Deeply embarrassed Salman issued a denial about his delusory largesse.
When I tell Lataji about Ranu Mondal's experience, Asia's resident Nightingale expresses happiness but with reservations.
"Agar mere naam aur kaam se kissiko bhala hota hai toh main apne-aap ko khush-kismat samajhti hoon (If anyone gets benefited from my name and work then I feel fortunate).
"But I also feel imitation is not a reliable and durable companion for success. By singing my songs or Kishoreda's (Kumar), or (Mohd) Rafi Saab's, or Mukesh Bhaiyya or Asha's (Bhosle) numbers, aspiring singers can get short-term attention.
"But it won't last," says Lataji, at the cusp of 90.
She feels great concern for the talent on the music shows on television. "So many children sing my songs so beautifully. But how many of them are remembered after the first flush of success? I only know of Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghosal."
Lataji's advise to aspiring singers: "Be original. By all means sing the evergreen songs by me and my colleagues. But after a point the singer must seek and find his or her own song."
Lataji gives the example of her own sister. "If Asha (Bhosle) had not insisted on singing in her own style she would have remained in my shadow forever. She is the biggest example of how far individuality can take one's talent to." [By Subhash K. Jha]