Who is the Hindi film hero with the maximum number of popular songs picturized on him? Most would say ‘Dev Anand’ and I would agree.
Who’s next? Who’s second best? By my reckoning the name that comes after Dev Anand is ‘Rajesh Khanna’. I’m aware that there’s an upsurge of interest in Kaka songs after he passed away, but between 1969 and 1974 he sang an incredibly large number of popular songs.
And who’s third? Now this is getting interesting! While Shammi Kapoor might win more votes … and many will therefore disagree with my choice … I’m picking ‘Rajendra Kumar’. As ‘Jubilee Kumar’ he met enormous success in the 1960s; unfortunately the Kaka wave buried this success.
In fact let us start the second part of this series with Rajendra Kumar. So who is the playback singer who qualifies best to be Rajendra Kumar’s ‘paired associate’? Easy, very easy. Mohammed Rafi! While there was a bit of Mukesh at the beginning (tum roothi raho from Aas Ka Panchhi) and the end (mere pyaar bhi tu hai from Saathi and dheere dheere bol from Gora Aur Kala) of his career, it was really Rafi all the way.
Where do we start with Rajendra Kumar-Rafi? Husn wale tera jawab nahi from Gharana would be a delightful opening; in fact teri pyari pyari surat from Sasural might win even more points. Mere mehboob tujhe might today seem a little laboured but it created a sensation when the film was released. Then there was the soulful and gut-wrenching yaad na jaaye from Dil Ek Mandir, and ye mera prem patra from Sangam with a lovely opening passage that we rarely hear.
This melodious musical journey would continue with tum kamseen ho from Aaye Milan Ki Bela, the melodious trio of ae phoolon ki rani, chhalke teri aankhon se and ae nargise mastaana from Arzoo, kaun hai jo sapnon mein aaya from Jhuk Gaya Aasman. However the Rajendra Kumar-Rafi song that became the most popular was this:
While Rafi was unmistakably Rajendra Kumar’s voice things are not so simple with Sunil Dutt. To be sure Rafi has sung some memorable songs for Sunil Dutt: na main bhagwan hoon from Mother India, yeh waadiyan yeh fizayein from Aaj Aur Kal and aap ke pehlu mein aa kar from Mera Saaya. There were also some truly pleasing duets with three of Hindi cinema’s most beautiful ladies: chand sa mukhda with Asha (singing for Madhubala) in Insaan Jaag Utha, chand jane kahaan kho gaya with Lata (singing for Meena Kumari) in Main Chup Rahungi, and yeh khamoshiyaan with Asha now singing for the lovely Leela Naidu in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke.
But Sunil Dutt sang in Talat Mehmood’s voice for some of Salil Chowdhury’s finest compositions: aha rim jhim ke from Usne Kaha Tha, aansoon samajh ke and itna na mujhse pyar badha from Chhaya … and, above all, that superlative S D Burman composition: jalte hain jiske liye from Sujata. Then there was Mukesh with chhodo kal ki baatein from Hum Hindustani and sawan ka mahina in Milan, and even a bit of Kishore Kumar with kehna hai in Padosan.
Surprisingly, that’s not all. Some of Sunil Dutt’s best songs have been sung by Mahendra Kumar with Ravi’s music. Tum agar saath dena ka and kisi pathhar ki murat se from Hamraaz, aap aaye to from Gumrah … and of course that other song from Gumrah which is my best pick for Sunil Dutt and Mahendra Kapoor:
As someone with a success span of more than two full decades Dharmendra has had a lot of popular songs picturized on him. I personally favour the ‘softer’ songs picturized on him in the 1960s when he wasn’t yet ‘Garam Dharam’. Listen to Madan Mohan’s yehi hai tamanna from Aap Ki Parchhaiyan, O P Nayyar’s aap ke haseen rukh from Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi, Sonik-Omi’s kaliyon ne ghunghat khole from Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya, Madan Mohan again with ek haseen shaam ko from Dulhan Ek Raat Ki or Hemant Kumar’s ya dil ki suno from Anupama. I also like Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s chalkaye jaam and hui shaam unka from Mere Hamdam Mere Dost.
Dharmendra continued his singing ways in the 1970s but the playback voice was now increasingly Kishore Kumar. We now had LP’s jaani o jaani from Raja Jani, Kalyanji-Anandji’s pal pal dil ke paas from Blackmail, the hugely popular arey rafta rafta from Kahani Kismat Ki, LP’s kisi shaayar ki ghazal from Dream Girl and R D Burman’s ham bewafa hargiz na they from Shalimar.
However the old Punjabi connection between Dharmendra, Rafi and Pyarelal ensured that Rafi reappeared even in his dismal 1970s. There was aaj mausam bada beimaan hai from Loafer, o meri mehbooba from Dharamveer, and this racy number from Pratigya that captures the quintessential Rafi-Dharam bond.
For someone who has been around for so long Shashi Kapoor doesn’t have as many popular songs as one might expect. In particular, Shashi Kapoor sang very few solo hits. His early hits with Rafi included three Kalyanji-Anandji compositions: pardesiyon se na from Jab Jab Phool Khile, the slightly boisterous nain mila kar chain churana from Aamne Saamne, and the duet bekhudi mein sanam from Hasina Maan Jayegi. There was also a pleasing Shankar-Jaikishan composition likhe jo khat tujhe from Kanyadaan.
As we entered the 1970s, Kishore Kumar began to start replacing Rafi as Shashi Kapoor’s playback singer, although the immensely successful tum bin jaoon kahaan from Pyar Ka Mausam is picturized on Shashi in Rafi’s voice. Then followed S D Burman’s Sharmilee which was Shashi Kapoor’s biggest musical hit with khilte hain gul yahan and kaise kahen hum being Kishore Kumar’s two best solos. R D Burman’s Aa Gale Lag Jaa also had some lovely music including tera mujhse hai pehle ka nata koi. But my pick for the best Shashi-Kishore combo would be this Ravindra Jain song from Chor Machaye Shor:
We finally come to Hindi cinema’s biggest superstar: Amitabh Bachchan. In his Babu Moshai days it seemed scarcely possible that the intense actor would burst into song. Eventually Amitabh did start singing, allowing a wisp of a smile to overtake his grave demeanour as Kishore Kumar sang a beautiful R D Burman composition, kya jano main hoon kaun, for him in Bandhe Haath. Then, as a singer in Abhimaan, Amitabh discovered a bit of freedom to prance around on stage with meet na mila re manka; although he might have preferred a cordless microphone. Amitabh’s break-free moment, to Mehmood’s great surprise, came as he sang dekha na hai re soncha na in Bombay To Goa.
Now more comfortable singing on screen, Amitabh — always in Kishore Kumar’s voice — sang three lovely solos: aadmi jo kehto hai in Majboor, badi sooni sooni hai in Mili and tum bhi chalo from Zameer before Deewaar, Trishul and Kaala Patthar briefly made him the angry-brooding-man-who-won’t-sing again.
But Amitabh had by now evolved into a powerful and multi-faceted actor. So he could become a poet again to sing main pal do pal ka shaayar hoon in Kabhi Kabhie (sung by Mukesh), become the adorable my name is Anthony Gonsalves in Amar Akbar Anthony, pine for his childhood love in Muqaddar ka Sikandar’s tere bina bhi kya jeena, or become a singer again with aplomp in rim jhim gire saawan (Manzil) or chhukar mere man ko (Yaarana).
There was also a brief period when Amitabh sang his songs himself: mere angne mein in Lawaaris and rang barse in Silsila, but there was no doubt that Kishore Kumar was Amitabh Bachchan’s voice; in fact my pick for the Amitabh-Kishore combo would be this song:
— I want to thank, again, Shantanu Bhattacharya, for his corrections and suggestions.