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The other Mangeshkar

The youngest sister of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle rarely gets her due

Sonal Pandya

It mustn't have been easy being the younger sister of Indian cinema's best female playback singers. Usha Mangeshkar was born into a musical family; her father Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar was well-known in the Marathi theatre scene and studied classical music from Pandit Sukhdev Prasad. Her elder sisters Lata, Meena and Asha all entered the film industry to sing playback for the many different languages of India.

Lata is still known as the melody queen of Indian cinema even in semi-retirement and holds the highest civilian honour from the Indian government, the Bharat Ratna. Asha Bhonsle has been credited by The Guinness Book of Records as having recorded the most number of songs, nearly 11,000 solo, duet and chorus-backed tunes sung since 1947. Her younger brother, Hridaynath, is a noted music composer who won the National Film Award for Best Music Direction for Lekin... (1990).

Usha sung many memorable songs like 'Ye jeena hai angur ka dana' and 'Sultana mera naam hai Sultana' in such films as Khatta Meeta (1978) and Tarana (1979). Early on in her career, she accompanied her sister Lata on the song 'Apalam chapalam' from Azaad (1955). The three sisters got together to sing on Teen Bahuraniyan's 'Humare Aangan Bagiya' in 1968. Later, Usha dueted with Asha on 'Gora rang mera' from Aankhon Aankhon Mein (1972). She is most remembered today for the bhajans sung in the surprising blockbuster, Jai Santoshi Maa (1975) and on the other end of the spectrum, 'Mungda', a popular item number picturised on Helen at a dance bar.

Mangeshkar was nominated for a Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer for the song 'Main to aarti utaru re' from Jai Santoshi Ma and sung the song again in the film's 2006 remake. In recent years, Usha has moved on from singing to painting and has her works exhibited in Mumbai's galleries. Incidentally, it was a song that encouraged her to start painting, 'Suhana safar' from Madhumati (1958), composed by Salil Choudhury.