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How fair were they to Mohammed Rafi?

August 23, 2006
Most Recordings: Miss Lata Mangeshker (b 1928) between 1948 and 1974, has reportedly recorded not less than 25,000 solo, duet and chorus-backed songs in 20 Indian languages. She frequently had five sessions in a day and has 'backed' 1800 films to 1974. Mohammad Rafi (d 1 Aug 1980) claimed to have recorded 28,000 songs in 11 Indian languages between 1944 and April 1980.'

The above Guinness listing woefully gets Lata's spelling wrong -- as Mangeshker instead of Mangeshkar. Also, inexcusably, Lata's year of birth wrong --- as 1928 instead of 1929. It even gets Rafi's date of death wrong - as August 1, 1980 instead of July 31, 1980. How much real store do you, in the circumstances, set by the Guinness listing?

Yet, in this 2006 year of lack of grace, the televised myth persists that Lata has sung 30,000, even 40,000, songs. When Lata has still to touch 6,000 songs after 63-plus years in films!

Never forget that Mohammed Rafi, in a 35-year singing lifetime, could aggregate but 4,516 Hindi film songs. Add to that 112 non-Hindi film songs by Rafi. Plus 328 private (non-film) numbers of Rafi. The total, in a sturdy Rafi career spanning 1945 to 1980, comes to but 4,956 songs.

Likewise Lata, in reality, has yet to reach 6,000.

Asha Bhosle it is, in fact, who occupies pride of place --- she is all set to complete 13,000 songs. And that must rate as the highest in Indian cinema -- Guinness or no Guinness.

Most important -- Guinness itself expunged the Lata listing as early as 1990. Yet we are now told that Lata's tally has gone up (from 30,000) to 40,000. Where poor Mohammed Rafi huffed and puffed, yet could not touch 5,000.

Should Rafi, therefore, have disputed the Lata Mangeshkar tally so stridently? Losing sight of the vital fact that Lata herself had never laid any claim to any record?

"I don't know anything about it," Lata is on record as saying. "I don't know how my name appeared in the Guinness Book, or where they got their information from. Certainly I didn't supply it. I don't keep a record of the number of songs I have sung."

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