Imagine I say ‘Raj Kapoor’. Someone is likely to respond with ‘Mukesh’. If I say ‘Dilip Kumar’ the response may be ‘Rafi’.

Social scientists have a name for this: ‘Paired associate words’.

I’m going to try playing this game a little more seriously. So while Mukesh is the first ‘singing paired associate’ of Raj Kapoor, Manna Dey may be another. There was a time in the mid-1950s when Manna Dey was getting to sing many romantic duets for Raj Kapoor. Think of aaja sanam and yeh raat bheegi from Chori Chori. Or pyar hua ikraar hua from Shri 420.

These were lovely songs, but would they qualify for the ‘best’ paired associate between Raj Kapoor and his playback singer? No, I don’t think so. It still has to be Mukesh! So which song would I pick as the best Raj Kapoor-Mukesh song? This is my choice:

What about Dilip Kumar? The first name that pops up is indeed Mohammed Rafi. But there was a time early in the 1950s when Talat Mehmood was also in the reckoning. For example, think of ae dil mujhe aise jaga le chal from Arzoo or the even more lilting ae mere dil kahin aur chal from Daag. Mukesh too was strongly in the mix with those four lovely solos from Andaz, suhana safar from Madhumati and yeh mera deewaanapan from Yahudi.

So which is my pick? This is not easy to decide, but I’m going to go with this one. When you listen to this song you only hear Rafi, but when you see this song the enduring image is only of Dilip Kumar!

We’ll now play the game with Dev Anand. This looks like being the toughest call because no actor has sung more good songs than Dev Anand. Rajesh Khanna, Rajendra Kumar and Shammi Kapoor also have had some really wonderful songs picturized on them, but Dev Anand heads the list.

So who are Dev Anand’s paired associates? Most of us have been ‘conditioned’ to call out Kishore Kumar. And why not? Just think of ye dil na hota bechara, phoolon ke rang se, maana janab ne pukara nahin. And, briefly with na tum hamein jano from Baat Ek Raat Ki  and hai apna dil to awara from Solva Saal, Hemant Kumar too was in the mix.

But I’m going again with Rafi. The choice is unbelievably hard even if you look at the Rafi-SDB-Dev Anand subset with songs from Guide, Kaala Pani, Tere Ghar Ke Samne etc. And then there are those magnificent Jaidev compositions in Hum Dono! But after asking my ‘inner voice’, rather like Sonia Gandhi and others, this is my selection:

I’m next moving to Shammi Kapoor. And thankfully this is going to be really easy. Shammi Kapoor’s paired associate has to be Mohammed Rafi! There was a bit of Mukesh in Ujala with duniya walon se door, and some smattering of Manna Dey with ab kahaan jaye hum also from Ujala, and meri bhains ko danda from Pagla Kahin Ka, but it really was Rafi all the way.

So what is my Shammi Kapoor-Rafi pick? Do I look at Brahmachari, Teesri Manzil, An Evening in Paris or Kashmir Ki Kali? These films have such lovely songs, but the quintessential Shammi Kapoor-Rafi song has to be this!

And finally we will look at my favourite Hindi film actor Rajesh Khanna … alas, also no more like the other actors in this selection; only Dilip Kumar is still with us. There can be no dispute about his paired associate: Kishore Kumar with a probability 1.

But Kaka had so many lovely songs picturized on him that singers like Rafi and Mukesh also enter the list strongly. The early Rajesh had a lot of Rafi. Think of akele hain chale aao and aur kuch der from Aakhri Khat, gulabhi aankhen from The Train, yeh raat hai pyasi pyasi from Chhoti Bahu and yeh jo chilman hai from Mehboob Ki Mehndi. With Mukesh songs like maine tere liye and kahin door jab dil from Anand spring to the mind. There is also jis gale mein from Kati Patang and zubaan pe dard from Maryada — that I particularly like. And then there’s Manna Dey too with zindagi kaisi hai paheli and gori tori from Mehbooba.

But my real problems start when I try to pick that one Kaka-Kishore song that best expresses their paired association. Should I look at Kati Patang or Amar Prem? Or should I consider Safar or Mere Jeevan Saathi? Even Aap Ki Kasam and Premnagar offer opportunities. But in the end, the choice must revert to that original melody that announced the arrival of Hindi cinema’s greatest shooting star.

We will resume this discussion at a later date by looking at my selections for ‘She sings for her’ even if that contest turns out to be terribly one-sided.

— I thank my ‘Twitter friend’ Shantanu Bhattacharya for pointing out two lovely Kaka-Rafi numbers to me.

11 thoughts on “He sings for him

  1. Only yesterday, my better half and I carried out a similar exercise where we could pick only one song for every playback singer. We started with easy choices and decided to give ourselves more time for the tougher ones:

    Umadevi/Tuntun: Afsana likh Rahi hoon
    Sudha Malhotra: Tum mujhe bhul bhi jao to
    Vani Jayram: Bole re papihara
    Nazia Hassan: Aap Jaisa koi
    Shardaa: Kahe tose saina yeh tori sajaniya pal pal
    Hemlata: aankhiyon ke jharokhon se
    Preeti Sagar: Tumhare bin ji na lage ghar main
    Runa Laila: Tumhe ho na ho Mujhko to itna yakin hai
    Usha Uttup: Doston se pyar kiya
    Usha Mangeshkar: Main to aarti utaroon re
    Suman Kalyanpur: rahen na rahen hum
    Shamshad Begum: pi ke ghar aaj Pyari dulhaniya chali
    Suraiya: Tere Naino ne chori kiya

  2. You are spot on with the R.D. Burman, Kishore Kumar and Rajesh Khanna trio weaving magic. I think the biggest beneficiary of the RD and KK chemistry was Rajesh Khanna.

    Unfortunately, the hindi music scene is such that the main credit goes to the singer and those wonderful musicians who contributed hardly get a mention. Ever since I heard Roop Tera Mastana, I wondered who played the accordian for that song and its only after the advent of the internet that I could research and zero in on Kersi Lord. I suggest you do a blog on those almost faceless musicians behind hindi hits to give them due credit.

    My choice of the best Kaka-Kishore song: Yeh Shaam Mastani from Kati Patang.

  3. So true. I particularly find the Md Rafi – Dev Anand pair very interesting. The song “Abhi na jao chhod kar” is a classic example as also “Main zindagi ka saath”. Kaka- Kishore I would say “Roop Tera Mastana” is probably where the emotions ( chemistry) in the music and the visuals came together beautifully. Unfortunately there are no such pairs for the heroines.

  4. Dev Anand has had all the six top male singers of the ’50s and ’60s sing for him. Besides Rafi and Kishore, there was Hemant Kumar “Haal Kaisa Hai Janab Ka” “Na Tum Humein Jaano”, etc. Talat Mahmood “Jayen To Jayen Kahan” (Taxi Driver), Mukesh “Chal Ri Sajani” (Bambai Ka Babu). There are Manna Dey from the film Mahal and Mahendra Kapoor songs as well which I can’t recall right now.

  5. I’d pick Talat Mahmood for Dilip Kumar. ‘Shaam-e-gham ki qasam’ or ‘Ye hawa ye raat ye chandni’ or ‘milte hi aankhen dil hua diwana’. There was a similarity between talat’s singing and dilip kumar’s rendition of dialogues – both were soothing, never over the top.. Rafi is my all time fav. Effortless & flawless singer. Check Rafi’s songs for Pradeep Kumar, perhaps because most of these songs were composed by the genius Roshan

  6. Very nice post. I have got many many favourites of Kishore, Rafi, Manna Dey and Heman Kumar. As you say, as soon as we hear Mukesh, we remember Raj Kapoor. Though the other singers also bring out some faces in front of our eyes when we hear the songs, Mukesh and Raj Kapoor pair is the best, I feel.

  7. Excellent post..equally excellent comments. Articles like this make Internet surfing worthwhile. Keep up the good work..BTW I second Mr. Christopher Vasanth’s suggestion that there should be an article on those fantastic musicians who played memorable solos, like ‘chura liya hai’, ‘aaja aaja mein hun pyar’, ‘chaand mera dil’, ‘ek haseena thi’, ‘neele neele ambar’, etc. Oh, did I tell you that I am a guitarist?? 😉

      • The sample size in He sings for Him & She sings for her is five. It seems your blogs are very well planned.I don’t know whether you captured the variability of the 60s & 70s through those five songs. I would have loved to have another song in each category. I give you four on five for He sings for him & 3 on five for She sings for her, not because I know music much, because it brought joy to me on those many occasions respectively. May you keep blogging like the federer on tennis court, Amitabh in hindi cinema & for some time like Sachin losing his stumps.

  8. What a wonderful post. Got me listening to a lot of gems. I almost agree with all your choices but for Mukesh – Raj Kapoor pairing, my favourite is
    Dost Dost Na Raha from movie Sangam.

    Looking for more similar posts by you Mr. Bhogle. Songs from 70s and 80s also please.

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