When the internet arrived, most of the people in the US universities got email. Then USENET was invented. It was a discussion group format where people discussed stuff by email and then by newsreaders. The mother of all Indian film discussion groups was started early; the first post was on Jan 1, 1992. Its name is RMIM (rec.music.indian.misc). I wrote a book on it; you can read it on my website. Naturally there were heated discussions. Here is one involving 'balls on the table'. It happened during March 1994.
The following article is incontrovertible proof of 2 related yet different issues
1] Lata could not have sung 25000 songs in her career (and most certainly not by the time that the Guiness Book Records included it in its edition).
2] Lata was overtaken by Asha in the number of songs sung by each of them (and Rafi was nowhere in the reckoning) as early as the 70s.
Furthermore, after reading this article, Lata herself acknowledged the fact to the author that the stories of her having sung 25000 songs were most probably exaggerated.
:This is what is said in 1982 Guinness Book of World Records:
: Miss Lata Mangeshkar (b 1928) has reportedly recorded between : 1948 and 1974 not less than 25,000 solo, duet and chorus backed
: songs in 20 Indian languages. She frequently has 5 sessions in
: a day and has "backed" 1,800 films to 1974.
: Mohamad Rafi (d May 1, 1980) claimed to have recorded 28,000
: songs in 11 Indian languages between 1944 and April 1980.
> I can buy the argument that the peak number is an exaggeration. But > the assertion that Asha has more songs than Lata is a bitter pill to > swallow. This is handwaving, Janaab. Put your balls on the table > and then we'll talk; i.e., let's see the article proving # of Asha > songs > # of Lata songs.
You wanted the article, you got it. Here are the details that I was referring to. This article was part of a longer article entitled "The Lata Legend" which appeared in FILMFARE in 1987. It is a wonderful article which lovingly describes the woman behind the voice, her likes, her dislikes, her views; it also traces her career and the impact that she has had on popular Indian music.
The article has several wonderful pictures of Lata and her family. I do not have the time right now to type in the whole thing,
and opted to enter just the section relevant to the Guiness controversy. In a separate article by the same author on Asha Bhonsle entitled "Asha Bhonsle : The Voices" (MOVIE, August 1983),
there is a small table which compares the number of songs sung by Asha, Rafi and Lata, in the 50s, where Asha leads the rest. I shall append that table to the end of this article. With a little extrapolation and a basic knowledge of the big picture of music in the 60s, one can see that Asha would certainly have surpassed Lata in numbers in the 60s (Nayyar was one of the most popular and prolific composers and Lata did not sing for him; S. D.
Burman and Lata did not make music together due to some disputes,
not until the film "Guide" which was in the late 60s). By her own admittance, Lata has been in semi-retirement through the late 70s and the 80s (she apparently spends 5 months in a year in London) and the 70s saw the onset of the Disco era which belonged to Asha. So I guess that would be a handwavy way of making Rajan swallow that bitter pill :-) :-) (Note: Subsequently, figures for the 60s and 70s, which were unavailable in 1983 when the Asha article was written, became available. Hence bear the date of the article in mind while reading it).
Here is the article!! Any typos are mine.
A CONTROVERSY IN THE MAKING by Punita Bhatt
(Source: Filmfare June 1-15, 1987)
The following figures of Hindi film songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar are derived from the only authoritative work in the field, Har Mandir Singh's "ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF HINDI FILM SONGS", so far available in three volumes, 1941-50, 1951-60 and 1961-70. This very scholarly work limits itself to songs from Hindi films only;
therefore, these figures DO NOT INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING: Lata's songs from the various regional films, non-film songs, and songs from films that remained incomplete or unreleased.
THE FORTIES THE FIFTIES THE SIXTIES 1951 : 218 1961 : 153 1952 : 171 1962 : 128 1953 : 189 1963 : 107 1954 : 166 1964 : 133 1945 : 1 1955 : 209 1965 : 90 1946 : 6 1956 : 200 1966 : 129 1947 : 5 1957 : 135 1967 : 106 1948 : 48 1958 : 127 1968 : 80 1949 : 151 1959 : 193 1969 : 95 1950 : 152 1960 : 158 1970 : 122 ---- ---- ----
TOTAL : 363 1766 1143 ---- ---- ---- TOTAL FROM 1945-1970: 3272 SONGS
It all seems to have started with an article published in the March 12, 1971 issue of FILMFARE, in which Raju Bharatan observed quite casually that Lata's voice had enhanced "the tonal appeal of some 16,000 songs in a variety of languages". There was no indication of how he came upon this figure. The 16,000 jumped to 25,000 by the time the item reached the Guiness Book of World Records, and the period was said to be 1948-1971.
By the end of the seventies, it was said to be 30,000 songs.
Since then the figure has hop-skipped-and-jumped every few years,
erratically, irresponsibly and always without documentation. The last I heard was an article claiming 50,000 songs on Lata's behalf. All this when she has been semi retirement for almost a decade now.
Where are these figures coming from ? No one seems to know the source or has any concrete information to support the claims. It seems to me that once this whole thing started, it has taken on a life of its own, snowballing into increasingly ridiculous claims.
To some extent it may even have become a convenient tool, an ongoing game of one-upmanship between journalists - all at the expense of Lata Mangeshkar.
Throughout her life, Lata has refused to get involved in controversies, whatever the nature, no matter how bitter and biting their tone. She has often preferred silence over clarification,
waiting for stories to die a natural death. And they have, sooner or later. And she has emerged always, with her reputation unscathed. On this issue she has stated categorically and with a finality: "I don't know anything about it. I don't know how my name appeared in the Guinness Book or where they got their information from. Certainly, I didn't supply it. I don't keep a record of the number of songs I've done."
The sad part of all this is that numbers is not what Lata is about. Her greatness as an artiste, her contribution to the world of popular music, her stature as an imposing figure in public life - none of these derive an iota from any statistics, real or imagined.
Lata does not need 25,000 or 35,000 songs to be what she is or to retain her position in history, any more than Shakespeare needed 25,000 plays. For Lata Mangeshkar, a "mere" thousand or maybe even just one hundred songs would suffice. It is in the "quality" of her contribution to the film song, the eternal charm and magic of her voice, the dignity and class of her personality - it is in these that she stakes a claim to our hearts and to our minds. To think otherwise is to misunderstand the nature of the love she commands and to denigrate a truly great lady.
I think this terribly fixation on numbers that has infected public life in India is juvenile and hopefully will run its course.
Until then it is better to let those who need the figures compete for them, to race for the numbers and be their only claim to fame. Let us leave Lata out of the horse race.
THE FIFTIES -- ASHA BHONSLE'S DECADE
(Source: Movie August 1983)
------------------------------------------------------ Year Asha Lata Rafi ------------------------------------------------------ 1951 58 218 59 1952 69 171 61 1953 125 189 68 1954 220 166 82 1955 281 209 147 1956 280 200 125 1957 196 135 159 1958 281 127 163 1959 197 193 169 1960 185 158 203 ------------------------------------------------------ Decade Total 1892 1766 1236 ------------------------------------------------------
NOTE: These figures refer to Hindi film songs ONLY, and do not include regional or non-film music.
From Hindi Film Geet Kosh (Encyclopaedia of Hindi film songs),
Volume III, 1951-60 (compiled by Har Mandir Singh "Hamraj", Editor). Figures provided by Mr. A. Rajamamar of Shahabad (Gulbarga). Figures for the sixties and the seventies are not available.
Now You Know!
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