A Tribute To Mukesh


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Jag Mein Reh Jaayenge Pyaare Tere Bol


My romance with Hindi film music is a fairly old one. It started at a time when I was too young to understand even the mood of a song, forget it’s words. The music collection in our home was limited and I could be forgiven to believe that only two singers sang most, if not all the songs, which two men had composed together. They would be invariably picturized on a certain Raj Kapoor and Nargis. With time, the collection increased many fold, but the fixation with Mukesh, Lata and Shankar-Jaikishan will probably accompany me to the grave. My father’s choice became my first love, but it has been unconditionally faithfully with me to this day. Remembering Mukesh three decades after he passed away, there is so much the mind wants to say and yet words aren’t so forthcoming. After all, it’s not about an individual I’ve seen or even known beyond his soulful songs. And yet as Lata said, there is always a feeling of hearing a good-natured soul singing when one hears Mukesh.


There are folks who find his singing flat, even out of sur at times, but no other singer has touched me as much through his songs as Mukesh has. Listen to him, as he sings “jhoom jhoom ke naacho aaj gaao khushee ke geet ho” and then immediately touches your emotional chord with “aaj kisiki haar hui hai aaj kisiki jeet ho”. For quite some time till I saw Andaaz, I believed all those lovely Mukesh numbers were picturised on Raj Kapoor. I had seen a fair number of films till then, but I had never seen acting elevated to such a status before as Dilip Kumar, Nargis and Raj Kapoor take it to in this film. All four Mukesh numbers in Andaaz have been picturised on Dilip Kumar. They sound characteristically flat on isolated hearing, but watch them with the film and love-jealousy-anger-sorrow all unravel themselves at incredible heights through the same flat voice coming from a handsome hero perched on the piano. It’s the same voice that Dilip Kumar wasn’t so keen on having for his playback in Yahudi about a decade later, though Mukesh justified Shankar’s faith in him by making “ye mera diwanaapan hai” one of the biggest hits in Hindi film music. And it’s the same voice that convinced Salil Choudhari at the recording studio itself that the mood of the hills and trees had been flawlessly created the moment “suhanaa safar aur ye mausam haseen” was recorded. Listening to “dil tadap tadap ke keh raha hai” in the same film and songs like “dum dum digaa digaa” or “matwaali naar thumak thumak” dispels the common myth that Mukesh could sing only sad numbers.


Films from the RK banner have been notable for the music and picturisation of songs there in. Right from “zinda hoon is tarah” to “ek din bik jaayega”, the showman literally sang in his own voice coming from a person he described as his soul. Putting aside a few one-off films with other composers and a few songs sung by Manna Dey, the Mukesh-Lata-Shailendra-Hasrat-Shankar-Jaikishan combination delivered gems with unfailing regularity. “Chhod gaye baalam”, “aawara hun”, “hum tujhse mohobbat karke sanam”, “chhotisi ye zindagaani re”, “mera joota hai jaapani”, “ramaiyya vastavaiyya”, “dost dost na rahaa”, “mera naam raju”, “aa ab lauT chale”, “hoton pe sachhai rehti hai”, “jaane kahaan gaye woh din”, “kehta hai joker”, “jeena yahaan marna yahaan”… the list is long and memorable. Mukesh’s rich voice shines brilliantly even amidst the vibrant S-J orchestration. Non-RK productions like Anadi, Kanhaiyya, Aashiq and Teesri Kasam among others had some memorable Mukesh numbers composed by S-J and picturised on Raj Kapoor. I specifically remember seeing “sab kuch seekha hamne” as it used to be played regularly on television on Chhayaageet. The staircase, KumKum’s breathtaking steps, Raj Kapoor’s portrayal of helplessness, SJ’s lilting melody all compete with and complement each other to make it a song for one’s memories. Mukesh’s soul-stirring singing of lines like “dil pe marne waale marenge bhikhaari” and Nutan’s peerless display of expressions are clear winners in my book though.


Moving to other composers, Roshan gave his dear friend some memorable numbers. “Khayaalon mein kisike” and “teri duniya mein dil lagta nahin” from Baaware Nain were among Mukesh’s earliest hits. “Aaya hai mujhe phir yaad wo jaalim” and “oh re taal mile nadee ke jal mein” followed much later, but Dil hi to hai had in my opinion, Roshan’s best number for Mukesh. While Manna Dey weaved musical magic with his classical adeptness in “laagaa chunri mein daag” and Asha cast her spell through “nigaahen milaane ko jee chaahata hai”, Mukesh delivered another masterpiece with “tum agar mujhko na chaaho to koi baat nahi”. The song has little background music while the vocals are sung but Mukesh’s pristine voice takes Sahir’s poetry to it’s deserved destination. Salil Chaudhari was another composer with very high regard for Mukesh. Madhumati, Anand, Choti si baat, Rajnigandha all had Mukesh at his versatile best. The song Mukesh made immortal though was from the RK banner’s Jaagate Raho. “Zindagee khwaab hai” picturised on Motilal was a high point of an outstanding movie. Khayyam used him in Phir Subah Hogi and then again in Kabhi Kabhi after several years. “Main pal do pal ka shaayar hoon” and “kabhi kabhi mere dil mein” were recorded not long before Mukesh’s death and they prove his voice and singing ability were still right where they were in his prime. One-off hits that come to mind with other composers are “aansoo bhari hain” with Dattaram, “bhuli hui yaadon” with Madan Mohan, “chal akela chal” with O.P. Nayyar, “tum bin jeevan kaise beeta” with Laxmikant-Pyaarelal and of course “jis gali mein tera ghar” with R.D. Burman. The senior Burman was said to be critical of Mukesh’s singing and was said to even refer to him as a non-singer. He’s said to have reluctantly given “chal ri sajni ab kyaa soche” to Mukesh after Kishor had declined to sing it and then saw it become a runaway hit. He then saw his own song from Bandini beaten in popularity by Mukesh’s “o jaane waale ho sake to laut ke aana”.


Kalyanji-Anandji were the composer duo, whom Mukesh sang most songs with. Once assistants to Shankar-Jaikishan, their early music has a distinct S-J touch. Listening to “mujhko is raat ki tanhaai mein aawaaz na do” gives an illusion of a S-J composition picturised on Raj Kapoor (or anyone but Dharmendra). “Chaand aahen bharegaa” with Raj Kumar behind the wheel keeps you locked in the melody and one realizes the naivity of the movie technology then only if he can manage to get distracted enough. Chhaliyaa and Safar were other K-A films with notable Mukesh songs, but the film through which the composer duo brought out the best of Mukesh was Saraswati Chandra. A story goes that after recording a song, Mukesh was leaving the studio at about the same time when a popular classical vocalist was entering it. After Mukesh had left, the Ustad sarcastically asked Kalyanji if he knew that this “non-trained” singer drives in an Impala while he used trains and buses ? Kalyanji asked him to sit down and took out his harmonium. He played the first line of “chandan sa badan” and asked the vocalist to sing it with the purity that Mukesh sang it with. When the Ustad couldn’t come even close, Kalyanji told him it should now be quite clear why Mukesh drives in an Impala.


Like most other singers of his era, Mukesh was said to be lavish in praise of his contemporaries. He openly confessed that had Kishor wished so, he could have thrown all other singers out of business. He was a great fan of Rafi’s voice and style of singing. He cried after listening to Lata’s “megha chhaye aadhi raat”. In spite of being her elder, he started calling her didi in respect for her vocal superiority and with a genuine desire that the world would call her by that name. He used to travel to remote locations on request from his fans and friends to perform despite his failing health. It was probably fitting that he breathed last while on a musical tour with Lata, a singer whom he admired so much. Shortly before his end, he had heard his son Nitin being received very well by the audience on the tour and had told Lata that he was confident his son was now capable of earning “daal-roti” for himself.


Mukesh sang “tu kahe agar jeevan bhar main geet sunaata jaaoon”. It was an offer hard to resist and I took it gratefully long back. He also professed “kal khel mein hum ho na ho, gardish mein taare rahenge sadaa”. The stars are surely there, but most are brighter than my senses can appreciate. Much dearer to me is that moon, which with his shadows of imperfections bathed me in a light I pray always lends me company. His songs guided me in the bad times and there wasn’t a chance they would be far in the good times either. To end this tribute though, I borrow the lines from a Talat-Lata duet –


Meri aankh ne tumko dekha nahi hai, magar dil to mera tumhe jaanataa hai Jo gam ke safar mein mera hamsafar ho, main kyun saath uskaa na dunga khushi mein Ye mere andhere ujaale na hote, agar tum na aate meri zindagee mein…


- Sachin Samant

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