Bollywood’s Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar says she is totally with Javed Akhtar in his fight to secure royalty rights for singers and lyricists
“I’m a 110 percent with Javed Saab. My only fear is, how will he cope with all the backlash coming his way from producers and music companies who are very angry and upset? I fought for royalty for singers in the 1960s. I had even stopped recording songs at that time, while other singers who didn’t support my cause continued to record. My mission collapsed. My colleagues didn’t get the point. If a songwriter like Javed Saab had spoken up alongside me in the 1960s, a change in copyright rules would have occurred long back. Javed Saab is fighting a much wider battle. Singers and other musicians often die in penury,” Lata said.
She feels she is being deprived of her rightful royalties. “The music company Saregama HMV has nearly all my songs. They are putting my songs in various compilations of Naushad, Salil Chowdhary, Bappi Lahiri,etc. What do I get from this? I don’t get any royalty. Now there is internet and the MP3 format. On top of that, the serials on television play my songs. It’s the music company that gives them permission to play my songs. Is that correct? There’s a popular serial Bade Acche Lagte Hain. Even the title of the serial is from a popular song by Amit Kumar.”
“Javed Saab is fighting a brave battle. But the time to fight battles for film music is gone. Where are the singers and song writers with durable content? Today I see my songs being sung on television by other singers. Even my face is used. But I am not singing. Is there any way of stopping such practices? However, what Javed Saab is doing, is fully justified. But even if the amendment becomes a law, how can the music companies be controlled,” Lata asked.
Said Javed Akhtar: “What Lataji fought to achieve in the 1960s has now come to fruition. She feels she should have spoken up in parliament about the issue. But I say, she is the queen and it up to us, her followers, to ensure her dream is fulfilled. The singer has now been given a moral right over the song. This has not happened anywhere else in the world. What more could I want? We’ve fulfilled what Lataji had set out to do for musicians 50 years ago. When she was gracious enough to come to release the Marathi translation of my poems on Saturday, I told Lataji that we’re near achieving what she had set out to achieve.”
“In recent times, the desecration of songs has attained epidemic proportions. They take the songs of Lataji and add rap and jhankar sections to them. When I hear a new version of Mera lal dupatta mal-mal ka, I feel like crying. If there are people who feel this kind of remix invites youngsters to listen to the classics, then by the same logic, strobe lights should be added to the Taj Mahal during weekends so that youngsters can go and dance in the moonlight. This is absurd logic. Now they won’t be able to make these additions without the singer’s permission,” Javed added.
The writer expressed his gratitude to the government and the opposition for passing the Copyright Bill with amendments which will ensure that writers, lyricists, singers and composers get their fair share of royalties from music companies. “The bill has been passed in Rajya Sabha. In the Rajya Sabha, a bill can only be passed if other parties support it. And I am so happy that other parties didn’t go against it. I am so grateful to the government and to the opposition. They saw the bill from the eyes of humanity,” said Akhtar who has been lobbying for the bill for the past two years.