An old feud has been resurrected in Bollywood, and it's not between two actors but between two playback singers, one of whom died in 1980. Songstress Lata Mangeshkar, two days shy of her 83rd birthday, has created a controversy of sorts by alleging that it was she who refused to sing with Mohammed Rafi, not the other way round, and was mollified only after he wrote her a letter of apology. An outraged Shahid Rafi, the late singer's son, said in a press conference today that he will be taking legal action against Lataji if she doesn't apologise within the next 10 days.
"My father was national property. I am hurt and so are his fans. His fan following is much bigger than any other artist. If she can prove that my father had written an apology letter to her, then I am ready to apologise. But the main thing is that she should come forward and produce that letter. All I want is that the truth should come out," Shahid Rafi told reporters here at the press conference.
Shahid Rafi said that Lata Mangeshkar made these claims because she is insecure. "I think this is a publicity stunt as she is insecure with the huge fan following my father has, even after his death," he said.
Shahid Rafi said that before calling the press conference, he did not feel the need to call Lata Mangeshkar because she seemed always "busy", when he had called her up in the past.
In an interview to Mumbai Mirror yesterday, Lataji said she and Rafisaab fought over royalties and that when he proclaimed he would not sing with her at a meeting attended by other singers, she retaliated by saying that it was she who would not sing with him.
Lataji went on to say that peace was brokered by the composer Jaikishen, who got Rafisaab to write her a letter of apology. "I got the letter and ended the cold war. But whenever I'd see him, the hurt would return," Lataji told Mumbai Mirror.
Mohammed Rafi's son Shahid says no such letter was written by his father. In a separate interview to Mumbai Mirror Shahid Rafi alleged that it was Lataji who approached composer Jaikishen to mediate on her behalf because she felt insecure that Rafisaab had begun singing duets with Suman Kalyanpur. Does the letter exist? Shahid Rafi said, "If that is the case, let her show the letter. My father passed away about 25 years ago, and now she is talking about this letter? People keep valuable documents for even fifty years. Why hasn't she retained the paper which would give her dignity?"
Lataji and Rafisaab sang several famous duets including Chalo Dildar Chalo from Pakeezah, Dil Pukare from Jewel Thief and Teri Bindiya Re from Abhimaan.
By her own admission to Mumbai Mirror, Mohammed Rafi is not the only colleague Lata Mangeshkar conducted a feud with. She also stopped speaking to composer S D Burman for three or four years after he allegedly took credit for building her career. It took his son R D Burman's intervention to break the ice.
-With PTI inputs