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Nightingale of India passes away at 92

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN, Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, February 6: India’s legendary playback singer Lata Mangeshkar passed away in a Mumbai hospital on Sunday after a prolonged illness, including Covid complications. She was 92.

Muse to some of Indian cinema’s greatest composers, recipient of the country’s highest civilian honour the Bharat Ratna, and the embodiment of Indian femininity on the movie screen for over 50 years, she breathed her last in a hospital, where she was admitted a month ago after testing Covid-positive.

Born in 1929 to Marathi classical singer and theatre actor Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar and his Gujarati wife Shevanti in Indore in Madhya Pradesh state, Mangeshkar has sung for over seven generations of female actors in India, with her voice often being described as ‘virginally pure’ and her playback for an actress symbolic of the latter having made it in Bollywood, particularly through the 1960s and 70s when the singer was at her peak.

The eldest child of the family with sisters Meena, Asha, and Usha, and brother Hridaynath, all accomplished singers and musicians, Mangeshkar began her career at the age of 13 after her father’s death by singing for a Marathi film called Kiti Hasal (1942). Her move to Mumbai in 1945 was followed by small numbers in a few movies until the big breakthrough happened with “Aayega Aanewala” composed by Naushad and picturized on Madhubala in Mahal (1949).

She worked with composers as disparate as Anil Biswas, Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad Ali, S.D. Burman, C. Ramchandra, Hemant Kumar, Salil Chowdhury, Khayyam, Ravi, Sajjad Hussain, Roshan, Kalyanji-Anandji, Madan Mohan, and Usha Khanna over the next several years.

Mangeshkar had the unique distinction of singing for around seven different generations of female actors: Madhubala and Nimmi in the 1940s, Meena Kumari , Nargis and Nutan in the ‘50s, Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh and Sharmila Tagore in the ‘60s, Mumtaz, Hema Malini , Jaya Bhaduri and Zeenat Aman in the ‘70s, Sridevi and Rekha in the ‘80s, Juhi Chawla, Karisma Kapoor and Manisha Koirala in the ‘90s and Preity Zinta and Kareena Kapoor in the 2000s.

Together with sister Asha, who was known for more sensuous songs compared with the older sister’s simple chastity, Lata Mangeshkar was widely notorious for her monopoly over the film music industry during those years. Legend has it that composers such as Hemant Kumar and Madan Mohan had waited for the singer to recover from her illness and sing for their films Bees Saal Baad (1962) and WohKaun Thi (1964).

The songs she sang after her doctors once declared that she would sing never again, such as Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil in Bees Saal Baad and Naina Barse in Woh Kaun Thi are considered Mangeshkar’s milestones. For singers and musicians who had not been treated as stars in India until then, she had brought a unique status and stardom during those years, aided by the growth and popularity of the radio.

Widely respected in the Indian film industry and affectionately called ‘Didi’ (elder sister) by all, Mangeshkar recorded songs in several thousand films across 36 regional Indian languages and foreign languages, primarily in Marathi, Hindi, and Bengali. She remains an enduring memory thanks to her signature white sari clad figure and her songs notching up views and streams endlessly across streaming platforms for newer generations to discover her.

She has also composed music for a couple of Marathi films and produced four movies, including Gulzar’s Lekin (1991). Among her exhaustive charitable work is a hospital in her father’s name in Pune called Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital and Research Centre.

Lata Mangeshkar, who remained unmarried, is survived by a large family, including her siblings and their children and a legion of fans across the world who would today swear by the words that poet and music director Naushad had once written for the singer: “The very heart of India throbs in your voice.”

 And to attend her funeral.

Tributes came in from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and countless number of celebrities and ordinary admirers from all over the world. India declared national mourning in her honour. She was laid to rest with military honours. Modi flew down to Mumbai to bid her farewell.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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