CHENNAI: The year was 1987 and a young assistant of legendary filmmaker K Balachander was working on his first feature film. All the stars were aligned for Suresh Krishna, who was making his directorial debut in his late 20s, with Sathyaa, a story written by Javed Akhtar, starring Kamal Haasan, with music by Ilaiyaraaja and featuring singers like SP Balasubrahmanyam and Lata Mangeshkar.
The film was released in January 1988 to rave reviews with the romantic track ‘Valaiosai’, sung by the legends, enduring as a classic.
Over three decades years later, Suresh, laments the loss of both the song’s singers in a year’s time. Suresh says, “As someone who was born and brought up in Bombay, I grew up on Lata Mangeshkar songs. To have her sing a song, and that too for my first film was a dream come true.”
His first tryst with Mangeshkar, in fact, was when he assisted Balachander in the latter’s Ek Duuje Ke Liye. The film, a remake of the film Maro Charitra, had all the heroine’s songs, but one, sung by Mangeshkar, including the cult classic, ‘Tere Mere Beech Mein’. “I remember watching her singing for that film and I knew instantly that I had to rope her in for my film as well.”
Though it took him almost a decade to bring his plan to fruition, Suresh remembers even today what it was like to watch her prepare to sing ‘Valaiosai’.
“She went to great lengths to practice and rehearse in order to get the diction right. She was very keen on getting the words right, so she kept running the lines by Balu sir (SPB). She always thought of herself as a student. The quality and dedication she showed that day was incredible. When she got in front of the mic, we knew it would be one of the biggest hits in Tamil cinema,” he recalls. “It’s sad she suffered at the hospital; it’s devastating that we have now lost her.”
Had strong bond with Sivaji Ganesan & family: Ram Kumar
Lata Mangeshkar had a strong bond with Sivaji Ganesan and his family. The legendary actor's son Ram Kumar said the iconic singer regarded his father as her own elder brother.
They became friends after she watched Ganesan's 'Paava Mannippu' (1961) and found he resembled her father Deenanath Mangeshkar. She and her siblings flew to Chennai to visit Ganesan and Lata tied him a 'rakhi'.