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.