December 8, 2022

Zeba Bakhtiar from ‘Henna’: In 30 years, I have never seen another singer have the same sincerity and dedication to the craft as Lata Mangeshkar – Exclusive! – Times of India

Zeba Bakhtiar captured the imagination of India and the world when she debuted in Randhir Kapoor’s Henna back in 1991. One of the highlights of this big-ticket debut was the fact that Lata Mangeshkar sang for Zeba in beautiful songs like Main Hoon Khushrang Henna, Anar Dana and more. Speaking to ETimes across the border, Zeba reveals that she is missing Lataji and praying for her departed soul. She adds, “I feel privileged and honoured to be the only actress from Pakistan to have had Lataji sing playback for, in the movie Henna. When I signed for Henna and I found out that the film has Lata Mangeshkar songs, I really thought it was a big deal. I had grown up listening to her songs and she was already a part of my life. I grew up listening to so many romantic songs by Lataji, so naturally, there was a long association with her voice and her as an artiste. When I heard the songs of Henna, I found them to be beautiful.”

But one moment lingers fresh in her memory, the first time that she met Lata Mangeshkar. Reveals Zeba, “That memory really lives in my heart. Lataji had released an album called Sajda with Jagjit Singh ji. A big event was held for the release of that album and I was there in India at the time, shooting for Henna. I remember sitting in one corner of the auditorium, just staring at the stage and arrangements in awe and suddenly one of the organisers came up to me and told me, Lataji wanted to see me. It was like someone pulled the rug from under my feet. There was no ground to stand on. I wondered, Lataji is calling me?”

Needless to say, Zeba promptly went to meet her idol. She further adds, “She greeted me lovingly. Before I could say anything beyond Namaste and Good Evening, she told me, ‘Main aap se milna chahti thi’. Hearing that I was dumbstruck. The reason she wanted to meet me and she said, ‘Mujhe aapke gaane gane hain, toh main dekhna chahti thi ki aapke baat karne ka lehza aur aapke expressions ka kya andaz hai. Taki phir main uss andaz main gaan gaun’. This was such a huge deal for me. I had never even heard of this process. I can’t fathom something like that even now. It’s been 30-plus years that I’ve been working and I have never heard such a thing from any other singer. Her sincerity and dedication to her craft was unparalleled.”

Like so many others who have spoken about Lata Mangeshkar after her recent passing, Zeba too is awestruck by the legendary singer’s professionalism. She recalls, “To be so sincere to her work, and have so much attention and eye for detail is simply amazing. She even cared for a newcomer actress’ expressions and intonation. Technically, it shouldn’t have mattered because she was Lataji and whatever she did should have been right, but she was still so sincere and dedicated. It wasn’t just that she had a beautiful voice, she had a very deep-rooted commitment to her craft. There has never been another like Lataji. That’s why she will live forever in our hearts.”

Getting emotional over the long-distance call, Zeba says, “She has become a part of our lives and our emotions. Her voice defines the important turning points in our lives because that’s exactly what her music has affected. May she be blessed with the very best of the afterlife.”

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