A.R. Rahman seems to have riled a section of his audience in London by singing in Tamil at a concert at the Wembley stadium. Lata Mangeshkar, who has performed at the Wembley for many concerts, is distressed. “Since when have our audiences become so intolerant. In my experience of 70 years, I’ve sung songs in every regional language on stage, including Punjabi, Bengali and even Dogri. The audience then loved hearing songs in every language,” she recalls.
She feels that music has no language. “Many of Rahmanji’s most memorable songs are in Tamil. And they’ve later been translated into Hindi. Both the versions were equally popular. So many of my Hindi songs initially were composed by Hemant Kumar and Salil Chowdhary in Bengali. The Bangla version of Salilda’s Na jiya lage na (from the film Anand) and O Sajna, barkha bahaar ayi (Parakh) was as much in demand at my live concerts abroad as they were in Hindi.”
Lataji finds signs of intolerance growing into music. “This is not a healthy development. I’ve sung a beautiful Hindi-Malayalam fusion song Jiya Jale composed by Rahmanji in Mani Ratnamji’s Dil Se. The Malayalam portions added so much to the song.” In her long and illustrious career, Lataji has sung in 38 Indian regional and international languages. She even sang in English once. It was the Canadian Country singer Anne Murray’s ballad You Needed Me.
Says Lataji, “I enjoy singing in every language, though I don’t understand all of them. My only fear while singing in a regional language is that I shouldn’t get the pronunciation wrong. Luckily, no one has ever complained that I’ve got the pronunciation wrong.”