Lata, NRN Murthy and the ‘don’t know when to quit’ syndrome

Group I: Lata Mangeshkar, Dev Anand, Kapil Dev, Asha Bhonsle and Saurav Ganguly. Group II: Sunil Gavaskar and NR Narayana Murthy. Now guess what I am talking about.

People from the first group I mentioned – there’d be a lot more if I think hard – they just don’t (or didn’t) know when to quit. These were my exact thoughts when Asha Bhonsle’s 73rd birthday was celebrated on TV last week. These two sisters – especially the elder one – make prime examples of this ‘don’t know when to quit’ syndrome.

Did you listen to the Lata version of “Kuchh Na Kaho” from “1942: A love story” back in 1995? And then in some songs in Dushman, Lata Mangeshkar again sounded like a be-sura ghost of her past. A more recent example was “Veer Zaara” where I just couldn’t tolerate her voice in a few songs (‘Hum to bhayee jaise hain‘ and one more I don’t recall right now).

Why has she not quit yet? What is her motivation in continuing to make fun of her super duper glorious past? I just don’t know. I assume she has made enough money. And being an excellent artist herself, she knows how to tell a well-sung song from a bad one. Doesn’t she herself listen to the stuff she has been dishing out recently? To tell you and her the truth, she lost some respect the day she agreed to participate in that gimmickry called “Shraddhanjali“.

Asha Bhonsle is a bit more talented than her elder sister. And that shows in the fact that a few of her old-age songs have indeed been sung well (Rangeela, Taal years). But please, don’t croon the way you did for Khallaas. I had to reach out for earplugs. Seriously Ms Bhonsle, did you ever play the song back to yourself? If you did, I hope you dropped your jaw in shame at least once. I also noticed how ‘they’ had to use another “voice” to fill in parts of the “Radha Kaise Na Jale” song that Asha just couldn’t have sung.

But our media is still gung-ho about them, “aaj bhi awwal darje ki gaayika” and what more! Please. Past was past and present is present.

In few other fields of note, there are examples of people making a living out of their past reputations.

Remember how we literally had to force Kapil Dev out of the game? Now see Saurav Ganguly. 15000+ runs in international cricket, a man with truly memorable past. But he doesn’t even get the message.

And less said about Mr evergreen Dev Anand, the better. Oh god!

People like Sunil Gavaskar and NR Narayana Murthy are rare. For these Indians knew when to quit, they left in true style. Attention, and a salute.

PS1: What is your prediction for Sachin Tendulkar. Will he be a true Gavaskar disciple? Or will he linger on till his babies grow taller than him?

PS2: Amitabh Bachchan was left untouched here on purpose.

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16 Responses

  1. You might have said a decade ago why doesnt mandela quit. Well SB the list you make out doesnt simply sit well together. Lata- Asha- I agree they should have quit on their laurels long ago and left us to enjoy the great music they helped create- or there is a parallel theory that they should have gone onto classical music like Kishori Amonkar and continued their tapasya there. Well the fact is the poeple you deride in a sense are all artistes and there is always something left to scrape at the bottom of their artistic barrels(!?). The business acumen in them also propels them ( Remember Hum aapke hain kaun, Rangeela et al). I agree they ought to have retired from playback singing and gone onto greater heights of music like Subbulakshmi and Siddheswari.

    About the two men you had a good word for- well I have my own doubts- they are pure businessmen- they know that noone would mourn their passing but their staying on would make them redundant (part SM Gavaskar who had made all the records and enemies he wanted to)- but have they really gone away- Mr SMG is very mush aroung with Prof Management Group, opinions on how much the Indian team should play etc. Trust me these SMG and NRN types are like the Terminator- they will be back- and how- they can keep their fingers from the other man’s clean dish.
    A weak voiced lata, a nasal Asha and a brave Kapil and indeed even a Dhirubhai Ambani (who for all his manipulations to his credit never went thru these hypocritical motions of pseudo-retirement)are welcome changes from these chameleons who are mediocre, become icons, and are committed to nothing else but their own benfits.

  2. hotgal, thanks for agreeing with the Lata/Asha bit.

    In general, I was talking about lingering on either against accepted norms, or even when you are reduced to a sorry image of your past. Dev Anand is the best example.

    Gavaskar quit when he could have played for a few more years purely on form. His last test inning (96 at Bangalore) was a gem, and so was his last (actually 2nd last) ODI knock (a quickfire century, his personal best). What he is doing off the field now is irrelevant.

    NRN may get back in the limelight again, but I bet that will not be via or at Infosys.

  3. Good one… The first group has fantastic examples. I agree totally on the subject of Lata and Asha.
    Though, I am very curious to know in which group you would have put Amitabh ;)

  4. i wonder why you left out that most shameless set — the politicians. It looks like Jyoti Basu at 93 is urged not to quit (by Brinda Karat — who is pretty well educated and intellectual though she mouths commie gibberish often enough!); Not to mention Vajpayee, Advani, Manmohan Singh, Arjun Singh, Deve Gowda (all past 70) and host of other leading lights. I think we should have a compulsory retirement age of 70 from all public activities — including political/legal/medical practice/performing arts/bureaucrats masquerading as advisors/honourary posts etc. /i agree with your point on the singing sisters but not on NRN or SMG ( NRN could or should have walked out from all posts not clinging on as ‘Chief Mentor’ — whatever it means; SMG is debatable !).

  5. I was trying to cover only the professional fields, hence left out politicians. Political parties are neither run professionally, nor ‘democratically’, so why talk about retirement there.

    But Namma Nadu, you are so right about Basu/Vajpayee etc. The point is, you are on a decline after say 60-70. Plus, being old, you would be out of touch with the times as well. So you must let go. Heck, pass the baton to your sons and daughters but please, go take it easy, and spare us your old age pearls of wisdom.

    I am not saying NRN / SMG did a good thing or bad. But they certainly ‘quit’ on a high.

    About Amitabh – Shruthi – I don’t know. He plays his age, and movies need actors of all ages. One could justify that way. But why not retire, take it easy and float in all the money you made? Isn’t there a thing called life to enjoy?

    One version is that people love “staying” famous for as long as they can. Another version I have heard is – you just can’t leave what you love doing. Who is to interpret which version keeps these old celebrities going?

  6. Amitabh has a reason to continue despite his age and health.. money that he has borrowed and to help people who stood by him in hard times when his ABCD company went bust… He has enacted in a bojpuri film made by his long time makeup man despite ill health shows his true self.

  7. Very good post. Generally I skimmed through the post headings. Looks very unbiased, non-judgemental types.
    I would not say much about asha, Latha or any specific people around. Generally, the person has to choose to move out & create space for others just at the time when people are enjoying his stay/talent or whatsoever. This leaves the memories best, when they try to remember them in their best or they would comment like how you did.
    I used to stay in my granny’s place just for 3-4 days & my cousins used to spend a lot of time & we used to get that request of extending my stay.. I would say next time.. It may be the strategy one will play(?) to make their presence felt better & missed in a good way..

    I didn’t comment on DS’s post for past 2 days.. This was because I was out of town & no connections to NET. DS posted me on my blog.. saying “No news” etc., This is just a strategy sometime we do sometime it just happens.

    Nothing much intended P.

  8. Hi all,

    Nice topic, but as all of you have already put in most of the points, I just feel its quite enough if I just put in an example:

    Nanaji Deshmukh of the RSS, who was in BJP (in 70’s/80’s), announced when he was chief that everyone in politics should retire after 60, and he even did so at exactly the age of 60, but Vajpayee (almost same age then) just took the baton from him and stayed on (no wonder he is still ambitious to have another go at the PMs post). After retiring Nanaji adopted a village (don’t remember where) and went to develop it, by staying along with the villagers. But recently, probably as Vajpayee felt he had disrespected Nanaji, made him a nominated RS member. (But I wasnt impressed to see Nanaji in Rajya Sabha, I hoped much from him, i.e., he should have rejected Vajpayee’s offer – maybe he too got carried away).

    Anymore examples, please send in. Even if its personal, let us learn from them.

  9. Thanks Veena. Quitting early is not the point. Point is knowing when to quit. And timing it so that people never look back at your past and take pity at your present. Or it may be that you yourself realize there are better others willing to take the baton.

    Look at present times and Tendulkar may be hitting those limits. He may score 5000 more runs over next 5 years. But if he scores 4 hundreds in SA and retires, we will wave real goodbyes to him. But if he comes back with not much to show, we will simply look back at his past.

    Bangalorean Thanks for that example. I didn’t know the Nana story. Actually politics is full of hanging-around-forever examples because some leaders tend to think they are bigger than the organization. Sadly, in many cases they are. And coalition environment seems to reward individuals more than parties.

  10. Silkboard,

    Very apt topic. I have thought about it so many times over the past several years.

    I am so glad to see that there are people who do know that Asha is more talented than Latha :)

    Latha should have quit a LONG time back. When Yesudas made that comment, entire Bollywood rallied behind Latha. I am surprised that people still go behind the ‘name tag’. I haven’t heard recent songs from Asha , but wife says they are atrocious. So, I ahve to just believe you guys.

    Another noteworthy addition to Gavaskar, NRN list is Vyjayanthimala. She quit when she was at the top. The ‘benefit’ of quitting at the right time is that people remember you at your peak. And, that’s such a big deal for the next several decades or generations.

    You cannot put people like Amitabh into any list. As you rightly said, he is aging gracefully and dons the roles suited for his age. If he still acted as a 30 year old hero, then you could out him in Group I. You also cannot categorize people like Rajkumar (Kannada). Inspite of him being in his 60’s, he did manage to act as 30-ish guy a few times, but he was immensely popular. Nobody looked at him the way latha or Kapil Dev is looked at.

    I have a strong feeling that tendulkar would go the Gavaskar way…or maybe I just hope.

  11. DS, looks like Tendulkar may go Gavaskar way, did you hear his comments about his own age? Score 2-3 hundreds in SA, shut everyone up and retire in style. You have done so much for our stupid BCCI, its now time to enjoy your life and Ferrari outside of the oval.

  12. Hi! I just found this forum and it looks really cool.

    Now, I gotta run off and read some posts. :)

  13. Whether Lata or Asha should quit or not is totally their choice. Due to age factor their voice is not as melodious as it was but still it is better than their contemprory singers. One should keep on working as long as health permits
    Why to bother others !!!!

  14. When to quit and when not to quit is entirly artist’s decision. Lata is not singing with force anymore because of age factor. It is as good as quiting.
    People still feel honoured working with her, so let them ! This should not become an issue at all.
    If you are not interested listening her songs swith off your equipment.

  15. This is about the remark made by Yesudas on Lata’s present singing, and the comment that the entire Bollywood rallied behind Lata. First of all, is it really true that Bollywood paid so much attention to Yesudas’ remarks? Secondly, have you heard the atrocious state of Yesudas’ voice for the last 15 years. He struggles on every alternate note and continues to coast on the empty. It is easy for Yesudas to pass comments on others, many of which are applicable to himself. In fact if you dig further, there are several Carnatic music enthusiasts who are severely critical of Yesudas’ performances. What has Yesudas done then?

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