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‘Tears haven’t stopped since I heard the awful news’

‘I am proud to say she was my voice in all my best songs.’

Mumtaz, who sang and danced to some of Lata Mangeshkar’s 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 tells Subhash K Jha, “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 feels her “proudest moment” was when “Lataji said in an interview that among all the heroines she sang for, Saira Banu, Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz were her favourites.”

“Can you imagine how proud that made me? Waheedaji and Sairaji were the top heroines from the time they entered the industry. But I struggled from a junior artiste to a heroine in B-grade films and then to the top.”

Mumtaz felt like a true-blue 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.”

Bindiya Chamkegi is the song I am most closely identified with,” she adds.

“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 the 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 will not? Sab ooparwale aur public ke haath mein hain.”

Mujhe ek aur gaana 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. Also, Aaj Mausam Bada Beimaan Hai. I had gone to meet Dharamji when I was in India last month and he had asked me, ‘Mammo — that’s what he calls me affectionately — tujhe yaad hai yeh gaane? Dharamji and Hemaji (Malini) were very close to Lataji.”

Mumtaz’s association with Lataji began early.

“I knew her from when I was five years old. I lived with my mother and the rest of my family in Walkeshwar (south Mumbai), where Jackie Shroff also lived. Lataji lived in Walkeshwar too, with her family.

“We kids had gone to her home to watch 16 mm 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).”

  • Lata Mangeshkar, September 28, 1929 to Eternity

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