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“Nungshiba Magi”: Lata Mangeshkar’s Manipuri songs fondly remembered

She sung two Manipuri songs for a Manipuri movie Meichak in 1992.

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Imphal: Lata Mangeshkar’s melodious voice has won hearts and souls of several generations of people in the Indian subcontinent and people of Manipur in the eastern most corner of the country have a special reason for remembering her.

She sung two Manipuri songs for a Manipuri movie Meichak in 1992.

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Lata Mangeshkar’s journey of singing in a Manipuri film was marked with interesting events and the Director of the film Laimayum Banka Sharma said it was unthinkable in those days due to communication hurdles. Banka said he was committed and firm in his decision to make the Nightingale of India sing in his movie.

He started by sending a telegram and after confiding his mission to his mother set off for Mumbai then Bombay. It was a time when people of Manipur were demanding inclusion of Manipuri in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, Banka said.

At that time no language from the Mongoloid group was included in the Eighth Schedule. After reaching Mumbai he stood in front of the gate of Lata Mangeshkar for 15 days but could not meet her.

He came back an unhappy man and so he went to the residence of Rajkumar Chandrajitsana (RKCS) a famed painter of Manipur and requested him to paint a picture of Lata Mangeshkar. Banka said he chose a photograph from a film magazine and requested RKCS to paint it in a Manipuri Yangkok ( winnowing basket).

The picture was beautiful and packing it with a beautiful cloth he again packed off for Mumbai. The second time, he said he was able to reach the gate of Lata Mangeshkar and lots of persuasion managed to enter the house.

He said he introduced himself and told the reason for the visit and Lata Mangeshkar came out and spoke to him. Banka said he was nervous and Lata showed her some photographs of her father Pt Deenanath Mangeshkar and enquired if it can be painted.

Banka said all the family members of Lata came out and took part in the talks. Banka said he can arrange the picture. Lata Mangeshkar also arranged his journey to Imphal. He immediately came back on the next available flight and reached home. He approached RKCS again. Banka said RKCS agreed and even refused to take any money. A letter of appreciation was all he wanted, Banka said.

When the picture was completed Lata Mangeshkar’s father looked like Churachand Maharaj (a former King of Manipur) he said. Banka said when he showed the picture to Lata Mangeshkar and her family members they all cried. They offered flowers and applied sindoor on the portrait, he said.

Lata Mangeshkar’s mother called all her children and told them to do whatever Banka wanted and not to take a single pie. Lata Mangeshkar sang two beautiful songs in Manipuri, “Nungshiba Magi” and “Pammuba Nungshiba” and won hearts of the people of Manipur.

Banka said he frequently visited Mumbai and met Lata Mangeshkar but could not visit her during here last few days. The only thing I can do is to offer homage and respect to the great soul he said. 

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