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Lata Mangeshkar (1929-2022): When Jawaharlal Nehru Heard ‘Aye Mere Watan ke Logo’ For 1st Time

The then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru with Lata Mangeshkar. (Image: Instagram)

The then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru with Lata Mangeshkar. (Image: Instagram)

When Lata Mangeshkar sang ‘Aye Mere Watan ke Logo’ at the National Stadium on 27 January, 1963, the then Prime Minister’s eyes welled up

Lata Mangeshkar Passes Away: The melodious patriotic song, Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo, was written after the Sino-Indian War and has since become a symbol of Indian nationalism. When Lata Mangeshkar sang it at the National Stadium on 27 January, 1963 in the presence of President Dr S Radhakrishnan and Prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then Prime Minister’s eyes welled up. Nehru said that a true India would be completely moved by this song.

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It was initially performed at Delhi’s National Stadium at a fundraiser, organised by the film industry for Indian war widows. The song was composed by C Ramachandra and sung by Lata Mangeshkar. As the six-and-a-half-minute song was sung, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s eyes welled up. Let’s unravel some stories of the making of this much-celebrated soulful melody.

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Initially, When Lata Mangeskar refused to sing Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo, the name of Asha Bhosle was considered as a replacement. However, Kavi Pradeep managed to persuade Lata to sing it.

Written on the aluminium foil of a cigarette box:

Pradeep had revealed that the lines of Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo had come to his mind when he was taking a stroll on Mahim Beach, Mumbai. As he did not have a pen or a paper, he asked for a pen from a stranger passing by and wrote the lines on the aluminium foil of a cigarette box.

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Difference of opinion between Lata and the composer:

It was confirmed that Lata Mangeshkar would sing the song and C Ramchandra would compose it. There was a difference of opinion between the singer and the musician and Lata chose to opt out of the song.

Asha Bhosle was then asked to sing it. But Pradeep was adamant that only Lata could sing it. He felt that the feeling and justice that Lata’s voice can give to this song is unparalleled. Pradeep then went to Lata and convinced her to sing it.

Lata cried when she heard the song for the first time:

Lata is said to have cried when she heard the lyrics of the song for the first time. She immediately agreed to sing it but on the condition that Pradeep himself will be present during the rehearsals.

Lata and Asha were supposed to sing the song:

Although after listening to the song, Lata suggested that it should be sung in a duet instead of solo. Pradeep, on the other hand, wanted Lata to sing it alone. The song was rehearsed by Lata and Asha in the duet itself, but Asha distanced herself from the song. Lata tried a lot to convince her but Asha seemed to have made up her mind.

In the newspapers, both Lata and Asha were named singers. The great musician and singer Hemant Kumar tried to handle this fiasco but he too could not convince Asha. Then Lata sang it alone in Delhi.

When Lata sang it at the National Stadium in the presence of President Dr S Radhakrishnan and Prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then Prime Minister’s eyes welled up. Nehru also said that a true India would be completely moved by this song.

Kavi Pradeep was dejected when he was not invited to the National Stadium ceremony on 27 January 1963. However, two months later, when Nehru came to Mumbai for a school program, Kavi Pradeep sang this song in front of him. Pradeep also presented this song written in his handwriting to Nehru.

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first published:February 06, 2022, 10:00 IST