Raj Kapoor to Ranbir Kapoor, the Kapoors are fans of Lata Mangeshkar

Raj Kapoor’s devotion to the voice of Lata Mangeshkar is legendary. He not only worshipped her voice he couldn’t imagine making a film without her songs.

Subhash K Jha September 28, 2022 13:06:23 IST
Raj Kapoor to Ranbir Kapoor, the Kapoors are fans of Lata Mangeshkar

Ranbir Kapoor shares his birthday with the great Lata Mangeshkar. He is also a huge fan of the singer. Once he told me he would like to make a biopic on two people: his grandfather Raj Kapoor and Lata Mangeshkar.

Ranbir had vivid memories of Lataji and his grandfather from his childhood. Or so he claimed. Sanjay Leela Bhansali who launched Ranbir in Saawariya tells me he was looking for that innocence in Ranbir’s eyes and personality that Lataji conveys in her singing.

“Lataji’s singing is not just about supreme levels of sweetness. Hearing only the sweetness is like seeing the Taj Mahal for what it is for only it whiteness. Her voice talks to God. Her songs are a conversation with divinity. I wanted to convey that quality in Ranbir’s performance,” Bhansali reveals.

None of Ranbir’s subsequent performances could convey the same level of sublimity. The closeness to Lata Mangeshkar always gave to the Kapoor family a sense of self-worth that transcended earthly considerations.

Ranbir’s father Rishi Kapoor once told me that it was inconceivable for his father Raj Kapoor to make a film without Lataji’s voice. “Her voice was that axis on which he spun his cinema.”

Raj Kapoor’s devotion to the voice of Lata Mangeshkar is legendary. He not only worshipped her voice he couldn’t imagine making a film without her songs. For a song in Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Raj Kapoor rang up Lataji at 2 am in the night. The song Aa ab laut chalen was meant to be a Mukesh solo. But Raj Kapoor being the visionary that he was, felt the song was incomplete without Lataji.

When they fell out for some years after Sangam, Raj Kapoor made Mera Naam Joker without her singing. It was a miserable flop. Raj Kapoor blamed the failure of Mera Naam Joker on the absence of Lataji’s voice. For his next do-or-die project Bobby he planned a clever strategy. He signed Laxmikant-Pyarelal to compose the music. L-P being Lataji’s protegees Raj Kapoor was convinced they would bring about a patch-up.

And they did. Post-Bobby Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram in 1977 was based entirely on Lataji’s voice. It was a film that he wanted to make fifteen years earlier with Lataji in the lead. But she refused.

“I had done some acting during my childhood. But I hated it. I never wanted to return to acting at all, no matter how tempting the offer,” Lataji once told me.

Speaking of her long association with the Kapoor family Lataji had said to me, “He was a musician himself. The music in his films had his contribution to a very large extent. He would often play the songs and then the composer would take it up. I love the sound he created for Ram Teri Ganga Maili. I’ve heard that in some rural centres audience would stop the screening of Ram Teri Ganga Maili and demand that the song Sun sahiba sun be played again.

Lataji said, “My association with the Kapoor family is very long and profound. I’d say I’m closer to Yash Chopraji’s family and Raj Saab’s family than any other family in the film industry except. I’ve known Randhir and Rishi from their childhood. After Raj Saab, Rishi and now Ranbir are my favourite actors from that family. I’ve always thought very highly of Rishiji’s acting talents. As you know my links with the Kapoor khandaan go a long way. Ranbir and I share the same birthday. In fact, Raj Saab’s daughter Reema was also born on the same day as me (September 28).”

Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.

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