Since 1999

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 ( 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.

The post in reply to Dr Parrikar, was written by Preetham Gopalaswamy (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


In his article, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Rajan Purshottam Parrikar) writes:

: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.


			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.


           (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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