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  Books   28 May 2017  Book review: Lata, with malice towards none at all...

Book review: Lata, with malice towards none at all...

Published : May 28, 2017, 12:38 am IST
Updated : May 28, 2017, 12:38 am IST

The book has carefully avoided anything which has the faintest semblance of controversy.

Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar
 Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar

The ability to think big and translate the same into action is a mix of a daring and positive mindset coupled with the ability to take risks. And when the big thinking involves organising shows for Lata Mangeshkar in the US and Canada, the incentives, and correspondingly the pitfalls are considerably high.

When Mohan Deora, a chemical engineer and MBA based out of Detroit dreamt of a Lata Mangeshkar show in a humungous scale in the US, little did he realise that it would be the stepping stone to over a hundred more.

On Stage with Lata, a book co-written by Deora with Lata’s niece Rachana Shah is a recollection of memories, an ensemble of the major shows Deora and his team organised for the Nightingale. It is edited by Indian-born UK-based celebrity writer/television producer Nasreen Munni Kabir.

The book has an introduction by Lata Mangeshkar herself — a rather comprehensive one, running into 14 pages. She, in a flashback to her childhood, recalls nice-to-know stories, like her first stage show — at the age of nine — and her father’s prediction of an extremely honourable life in music.


Probably for the first time in print (in English) she confesses that singing in Calcutta has given her the most pleasure. She talks in some detail about her extremely successful show at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and how that helped her in setting a benchmark for shows outside India. She discusses incidents about her co-singers, mainly Mukesh and Kishore Kumar, and more.

The main text is structured chronologically. It covers a period of roughly 23 years. And almost all her concerts find mention here, specially the ones which were managed under the aegis of Deora.

The authors have painstakingly listed the dates, the venues, the hospitality details, the songs, and even the musicians who were part of the shows.

The book is like a ready reckoner of Lata’s shows in North America with stories that are interesting enough to hold your attention — concert or no concert.

The authors are tender with their profile of the dramatis personae. There is a very strong human element which transpires, something not usually observed in impresarios and organisers. The descriptions too are at times very visual.

Readers who have followed writings on Lata might go back in time and recall Harish Bhimani’s book — In Search of Lata Mangeshkar (also published by HarperCollins) in 1995. His story was more from the point of view of someone who had compered her shows.

Deora had worn the hat of an organiser from day one, and he limits his stand to the same. Though he became very close to Lata in the years to follow, from her first tour in 1975, he does not overstep the line dividing professional and personal domains. Even when he does, it is for a reason strong enough, and the behind-the-scene stories are worthy of publication.

Misses? Yes, a few. Shows involve multiple personalities with varying temperaments, and more often than not there are conflicts within the team. Some are ironed out. Some rubbed deep. Deep enough to create long-lasting scars.

The book has carefully avoided anything which has the faintest semblance of controversy. Given that the account is quite widespread, one is intrigued how Lata, in her introduction, glosses over Manna Dey, her equally capable co-singer while talking about the controversial 1980-trip specially when she mentions Amitabh Bachchan in the same context, who at best had a cameo role in one of the shows on the same excursion. There was a major fallout with Kishore Kumar in 1985 which drew the attention of the media then. No, this too does not find a mention.

One also might sense a preponderance of superlatives, and lack of critical analysis, which sets the reader thinking as to what is missing. After reading the book, the readers will probably have no idea about the quality of shows. They will neither be able to discuss nor debate the quality of any of the songs sung. Or, how her rendition of a particular number did not match up to her original version.

In hindsight, the plethora of sugary praises makes the book unidimensional. Unfortunately, the hagiographic approach to writing about icons by Indian writers does not take a break here — where it could have, as it is from someone who has seen it all.

To sum it up, the book, though informative and well-knit, is like a Rajshri film. All white. Forget black, there are not even light shades of grey.

Anirudha Bhattacharjee, a diehard Lata fan

Tags: lata mangeshkar, kishore kumar, book review, mohan deora, on stage with lata