Raj Kapoor Sangam
Raj Kapoor in a still from the film Sangam

Lata shunned bawdy songs; once sent Raj Kapoor, team in a tizzy

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In her career of seven decades, Lata Mangeshkar not only lent her lilting voice to a generation of actors – from Nargis in the 1950s to Preity Zinta in the 2000s – but also crooned to a varied genre of songs, ranging from romantic ballads to heart-wrenching patriotic numbers to devotional songs.

But she was a stickler for values too, strictly staying away from cabaret numbers or songs with racy or suggestive lyrics.

Popular among film circles is the anecdote of how Lata’s refusal to sing a song in the 1964 film Sangam, sent the entire team in a tizzy and film’s producer Raj Kapoor running to placate and cajole her.

The song titled ‘Main kya karu Ram mujhe Buddha mil gaya’ had a wife (played by Vyajayantimala) teasing her husband (Raj Kapoor) by singing how she married a ‘buddha’ (an older man). The song’s lyrics were penned by Hasrat Jaipur and it was composed by Shankar-Jaikishan. But Lata found the lyrics obscene and refused to sing it. Reports say that it took a great deal of coaxing by Raj Kapoor and assurance that he will shoot the song appropriately to convince Lata to sing the song. The interesting part was while Lata sang the number, she never watched the film nor the filming of the song, which went on to become quite a hit among audiences.

Lata has shared the anecdote in her later interviews to stress her aversion for raunchy numbers and why she couldn’t do justice to them.

“I have stuck to one principle. I won’t sing an obscene song. It’s not that I couldn’t sing the cabaret numbers, but I purposely stayed away from them. They wouldn’t suit me. I think I couldn’t do justice to them the way someone else would have,” she said in a 2013 interview to DNA.

“I remember clearly that when Raj Kapoor approached me to sing Main kya karoon Ram mujhe buddha mil gaya, I refused to sing it. He convinced me that it would be picturised on a married woman teasing her husband. Till today, I haven’t seen the picturisation of that song,” she said.

Lata Mangeshkar with Raj Kapoor

In an earlier interview with film critic Rajeev Masand, the singer said that in her salad days, offers to sing several such numbers came her way, but she refused to budge from her stand and compromise on her principle.

“It has happened many times when I was offered a cabaret or rock-and-roll number, but I would refuse to sing it. But it was a long time back. When people realised I will never sing these numbers, they stopped offering me and found someone else,” she said.

Lata’s criticism for modern-day songs with suggestive lyrics and fast beat was well-known. Critical of contemporary singers who dance to “vulgar tunes and words and sing them,” she had once said that it was no wonder that such songs had a shorter shelf life and its crooners barely any identity.

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