Lata Mangeshkar has portrayed some all-time greats in Tamil movies

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His foray into the Tamil film industry came about due to his close relationship with the late Thespian Sivaji Ganesan and his family.

Lata Mangeshkar has rendered countless movie songs in almost every Indian language and a few of them which she has sung in Tamil have become all-time greats. His foray into the Tamil film industry came about due to his close relationship with the late Thespian Sivaji Ganesan and his family.

Actor Sivaji Ganesan with Lata Mangeshkar.  Photo credit: Sivaji Ganesan's family album

Actor Sivaji Ganesan with Lata Mangeshkar. Photo credit: Sivaji Ganesan’s family album

It was in the 1950s that she made her foray into Tamil cinema, with Aan Murattu Adiyaaltamil remake of hindi movie Aan. The 50s also saw her sing in Dilip Kumar’s remake Uran Khatola in Tamil as Vanaratham. It was however in the 1980s that his combination with Illayaraja put his songs on the lips of Tamil moviegoers. His songs from the modern era of cinema became smash hits. His first song – Aararo Aararo – was for the movie Anand released, in 1987, with Sivaji Ganesan’s son Prabhu in the lead role.

Prabhu recalled, “My brother Ramkumar was keen for her to make a song for the movie. She came, sang and left for Mumbai without accepting any remuneration. She said ‘I did it for my older brother’ [Sivaji Ganesan]. He added that Lata Mangeshkar was a big fan of her father and she and her sisters affectionately call him “Anna”.

“It started in the 1960s. After watching one of his films, she came to Chennai to see it. A bond developed between him and his sisters which continued until yesterday. We became a family. She sent pictures regularly, she even did it right before the day of her hospitalization. She sent pictures of deities, Baba and my father,” Prabhu explained.

A bungalow inside Annai Illam, the residence of Sivaji Ganesan testifies to their attachment. He built it for his stay during his visit to Chennai. “My father built it in two months. Since she didn’t like hotel food, my mother cooked for her personally. There was no distilled water at that time and my mother sent him boiled water in a flask. She used to send new clothes for our family during Deepavali and we also sent them gifts. It happened until last year,” Prabhu said.

Sivaji Ganesan and Lata Mangeshkar share a lighter moment.  Photo credit: Sivaji Ganesan's family album

Sivaji Ganesan and Lata Mangeshkar share a lighter moment. Photo credit: Sivaji Ganesan’s family album

Tamil film music historian Vamanan has stated that in the 1960s when Hindi films were remade into Tamil, tunes from her hit songs were also used. His other hit song in Tamil is Engiruntho Azhaikkum For the movie In Jeevan Paaduthu, again composed by Ilayaraja. “The power of the song is because when Ilayaraja played it for his wife, she became emotional and broke down inconsolably. There is magic in his voice. Ilayaraja himself told me so,” said writer and director Suka.

But that was the songValai Osai Kala Kalavena in featured Kamal HaasanSathya(1988) which caused a sensation. The tune – a flute piece – was originally composed by Ilayaraja for his album How to name it, but it was not recorded at that time. Ilayaraja has narrated the incident behind composing the song in numerous public performances.

“When I played the melody, Kamal Haasan liked it and wanted to use it in the movie. But I said it should only be rendered by Lata Mangeshkar and he agreed,” Ilayaraja said. He also convinced lyricist Vaali to write the song with simple repeated words (known as Rettai Kilavi, which won’t make sense if separated) so that it would be easy for her to sing.” She wasn’t totally confident when I sang it for her. But when we played the song after recording, her reaction was inexplicable,” Ilayaraja said.

He would also explain how the added accent of the flutes took the song to another level.

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