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(On the occasion of Mukesh’s death anniversary August 27 )

By Tulsidas Mishra

For the music buffs of today’s ‘Honey Sing-Shreya—Sunidhi’ generation, Mukesh might not mean much. Some might recognize him as the grand-father of current cine celebrity Neil Nitin Mukesh.

mukeshBut ask anyone who was young in the decades of 1950s and 1960s and his or her eyes might get misty, remembering and humming some songs which Mukesh sang in that era. Along with Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey, Mukesh too was a musical sensation of that period.

Mukesh was born Mukesh Chand Mathur in Delhi on 22nd July, 1923.

Black and White era veteran Hindi film artiste Motilal was his distant cousin. He discovered the musical talent of Mukesh and brought him to Mumbai in 1940 and arranged for his singing lessons. After a few years, Motilal played patron once again and Mukesh got his first break as a playback singer. The film was Motilal starrer ‘Pehli Nazar’(1945) and the song was ‘Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De’. Like Kishore Kumar and Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh too worshipped K.L.Saigal and imitated his singing style initially. It is said that hearing the above song, even Saigal got confused. “That’s strange, I don’t recall singing that song”—he is supposed to have remarked.

But Naushad advised Mukesh to stop imitating Saigal and develop his own style.

Mukesh with Raj Kapoor
Mukesh with Raj Kapoor

Think of Raj Kapoor and songs of Mukesh automatically come to the lips. Mukesh was the singing voice of Raj Kapoor’s swinging screen persona. And from his side, Raj Kapoor too gave a body to the musical soul of the singer. Thus it was a seamless fusion of shadow and substance. Voice and vision. Interestingly enough, both Raj and Mukesh entered the film industry during the same time and bloomed and prospered together. Perhaps they were made for each other and were destined to form a team. All those songs that Mukesh sang for Raj Kapoor in Awara, Shree 420, Jis Desh Men Ganga Bahati Hai, Sangam, Mera Naam Joker and in numerous other films, became mellifluous musical experiences then and keep enthralling the listeners even now.

Mukesh also lent voice to the songs Dillip Kumar, the other reigning star of that era. And the result was very refreshing. Who can forget the musical movie gems like ‘Tu Kahe Agar Jeevan Bhar’(Andaz), Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai (Yahudi) or that way ‘Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam Haseen’ and ‘Dil Tadap Tadap Ke’ from Bimal Roy’s Madhumati. Mukesh musicals all, they became delightful audio-visual experience, courtesy the dazzling and dashing screen presence of a young and handsome Dillip Kumar.

Many years later, taking a cue from Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar too made Mukesh his on-screen singing voice in almost all his films.

With Raj Kapoor & Shankar
With Raj Kapoor & Shankar

Mukesh had a great bonding with Shankar-Jaikishan no doubt. But his musical rapport with the other reigning duo Kalyanji-Anandji too was mesmerizing. If Shankar-Jaikishan songs took Mukesh to a glorious height, he ruled there courtesy Kalyanji-Anandji compositions.

The K-A-Mukesh combination gave numerous popular songs like “Chhalia mera naam…”, “Mere toote hue dil se…”, “Dum dum diga diga” (Chhalia/1959), “Mujhko iss raat ki tanhai mein…” (Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere/1960), “Hum chhod chale hain mehfil ko…” (Ji Chahta Hai), “Humne tumko pyar kiya hai jitna…” (Dulha Dulhan),”Main to ek khwab hoon…” and “Chand si mehbooba ho…” (Himalay ki God Mein/1965),”Waqt kartaa jo wafaa…” (Dil Ne Pukara),”Deewanon se yeh mat poochho…” (Upkar), “Khush raho har khushi hai…” (Suhaag Raat),”Chandi ki deewaar…”(Vishwas/1969), “Koi jab tumhara hriday tod de…” (Purab Aur Paschim), “Darpan ko dekha…” (Upaasna), ” and Jo tumko ho pasand…” (Safar). In fact, Mukesh sang the maximum number of songs of his career in Kalyanji-Anandji’s direction.

Laxmikant-Pyarelal made a grand musical entry in 1963 with Parasmani and let Mukesh sing the duet ‘Chori Chori Jo Tumse Mili’ with Lata Mangeshkar in their debut film. Even half a century of after its release, this flirtatious duet has not lost its flavor. Mukesh was very fond of this duo. From their side Laxmi-Pyare too held him in high regard. Film ‘Milan’ fetched LP their second Filmfare trophy. If their first Filmfare winner ‘Dosti’ resonated with Rafi numbers, ‘Milan’ was a Mukesh musical marvel. Songs like ‘Sawan Ka Mahina’, ‘Main To Deewana Deewana’, ‘Ram Kare Aisa Ho Jaye’ must have worked like clinchers to tilt the award in LP’s favor. ‘Do Rang Duniya Ke’(Do Raaste), ‘Ek Pyar Ka Nagma Hai’ (Shor), ‘Main Na Bhulunga’ (Roti Kapda Aur Makan), ‘Chanchal Sheetal’ (Satyam Shivam Sundaram) are a few more LP compositions that Mukesh made memorable with his singing.

MukeshMukesh received the National Award for Best Male Playback Singer in 1974 for the song ‘Kai Baar Yuhin Dekha Hai’ (Rajnigandha/Salil Choudhury). He was feted with four Filmfare Awards for ‘Sab Kuch Seekha Humne’ (Anari), ‘Sabse Bada Naadan’ (Pehchaan), ‘Jai Bolo Be-imaan Ki’ ( Be-Imaan) and ‘Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Men’(Kabhi-Kabhie).

The silken soft and sweet voice of Mukesh suited best for somber songs. Most of his songs had a latent tragic tone. It was as if he represented and reflected the hurt, humiliation and despair of all the devastated lovers, who have lost the bait. And along with that the beloved too. All those who felt waylaid by the wily world found words of solace in his songs.

Mukesh died of a heart attack on 27th August 1976 in Detroit, Michigan, USA, where he had gone to perform in a concert. His body was flown to India by Lata Mangeshkar. Cine celebrities thronged to pay tribute to the departed soul. Raj Kapoor broke down on hearing the news. ‘I have lost my voice,’ he mourned.

Geniuses like Mukesh never die. They live forever in the hearts of the listeners and keep caressing them with their cool voice and balmy and beautiful ballads. They are smiling flowers, dazzling dew drops who live in eternity.

Long live Mukesh. R.I.P.

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The author, a film maker, is an alumnus of FTII, Pune and is active in Film and Television sector for last twenty years. Presently he is based in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. He can be contacted at [email protected]