Lata Mangeshkar’s TN link: Sivaji Ganesan, Ilaiyaraaja and ‘Valaiyosai’

India's nightingale would never be forgotten by the Tamil people for her 'Valayosai' romantic number, a maestro Ilaiyaraaja musical in Kamal Haasan starrer 1988 flick 'Sathya'.
Lata Mangeshkar
Lata Mangeshkar
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Lata Mangeshkar regarded colossus of Tamil cinema, late Sivaji Ganesan (1927-2001), as her elder brother, and not only the duo, but their families too shared a strong bond of friendship. India's nightingale would never be forgotten by the Tamil people for her 'Valaiyosai' romantic number, a maestro Ilaiyaraaja musical in the 1988 Kamal Haasan starrer Sathya. A duet by SP Balasubrahmanyam (SPB) and Lata Mangeshkar, its popularity has not faded even after decades.

Entertainment industry tracker M Bharat Kumar told PTI, "The pleasant mix of low and medium pitches by Lata ji perfectly suited the romantic theme of Valaiyosai song and absolutely, it is a mesmerising rendition by her". While her diction was stunning, her sweet voice made that song a quintessential romantic number, excellent in every respect, he said. SPB brilliantly equalled her and the marvellous music composition by Ilaiyaraaja and great choice of smart, rhyming words by ace lyricist Vaali and the energy shown by Kamal Haasan and Amala on screen has all made the 'Valaiyosai' song an 'everlasting duet,' he said. Though Lata Mangeshkar had sung Tamil songs right from the 1950s, these were for a couple of Tamil remakes of Hindi films and were not much noticed, the film critic said.

"Her first song in a Tamil movie happened in 1987 and it was Sivaji Production's Prabhu starrer film Anand and music was composed by Ilaiyaraaja," Bharat said. "The lyrics was by Gangai Amaran and the Aararo song was such a fantastic melody and it was Lata Mangeshkar's first song in Tamil." While Sivaji Ganesan's family was instrumental in making her sing for a Tamil song for the first time, Ilaiyaraaja played a key role in making it happen, he said. "The Engirundho Azhaikkum song in the 1988 movie En Jeevan Paduthu was also a melody and music was again by Ilaiyaraaja. So, the role of the maestro Ilaiyaraaja is unmissable. After that, she did not sing for any Tamil flick. Her collaboration with ace music composer A R Rahman is noteworthy."

On Lata's bond with Sivaji Ganesan and his family, the legendary yesteryear star's son Ram Kumar said the iconic singer regarded his father as her own elder brother. Lata Mangeshkar is a family friend and she remained in touch with them all along, he told reporters in Chennai. Every year, she used to send gifts for Deepavali to the family and similarly, his father had the practice of sending 'Seervarisai' (term to refer traditional gifts given to a sister by a brother) to her, Kumar, a film producer said. Even after his father's death and according to his wishes, the bond between the two families continued, he said. Ram Kumar recalled that his father Ganesan loved Lata Mangeshkar's songs and 'Aye mere watan ke logon' and 'Raina beeti jaye' were among the favourite songs of both his father and him, he said.

Asked on the starting point of the friendship between Lata and Ganesan, Bharat said it all began after the iconic singer watched Ganesan's Paava Mannippu (1961) and Lata and her siblings found that the actor had a resemblance to their father, Deenanath Mangeshkar. Soon, she and her family members flew down to Chennai and visited Sivaji Ganesan and Lata tied him a 'rakhi' and thus began their 'friendship forever' and this is well known, he said.

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