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Lata recalls Ae Mere Watan moment

Mumbai, Jan. 27: Lata Mangeshkar today wound the years back half a century to a January afternoon when a song became a hymn and moved the country’s first Prime Minister to tears.

“On January 26, 1963, all of us went to Delhi by a plane. People from the entire industry like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, music composers Shankar Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, Hemant Kumar, Mohammed Rafi. It was as if the entire industry was going to the show,” Lata told an event to mark 51 years of Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon, written in the memory of Indian soldiers who had died in the 1962 war with China.

Narendra Modi, the BJP’s 2014 mascot whom Lata had openly endorsed as her choice at a programme in Pune in November, was among those who listened as the singer spoke.

The song, written by Kavi Pradeep and composed by C. Ramachandra, was first rendered by Lata in the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was reportedly moved to tears. Nehru was later gifted a copy of the song, which went on to achieve cult status. The royalty earned from the song was pledged to the War Widows Fund.

For the singer, however, it was a tense lead-up to the show at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan.

Lata, then 33, had initially refused to sing because she had very little time to rehearse the song, but consented at Pradeep’s insistence.

“I found it an extremely difficult idea. I told C. Ramachandra to tape the song, and I listened to the tape on the flight to Delhi. I heard the song again in the night, and I memorised it. The next day, at around 3.30pm, I sang it,” she told a packed audience today at Mahalaxmi Racecourse. Among those present were families of policemen killed on 26/11.

Lata recalled her meeting with Nehru, who invited her for tea at his bungalow. “I went there with a lot of trepidation and stood in a corner. Indiraji (Gandhi) came searching for me, and told me she would introduce me to ‘your admirers’.”

She then brought along the admirers — Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi.