Mahendra Kapoor : The Vibrant Voice of India

Mahendra Kapoor

Mahendra Kapoor

Mere Desh Ki Dharti Sona Ugle
Ugle Heere Moti
Mere Desh Ki Dharti

The song with the everlasting patriotic fervor went on to become almost a second national anthem when Manoj Kumar came up with the brand of patriotism with his memorable film ‘Upkaar’ in 1967. ‘Mere Desh Ki Dhari’ was originally supposed to get recorded by Mohammad Rafi but unexpectedly it went to Mahendra Kapoor, who later became the unparalleled voice for Manoj Kumar and also an unmatched singer for any patriotic song. ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’, recorded in the year of 1967 was again listed in 2000 as one of the most popular tracks among audiences of all ages by BBC.

Mahendra Kapoor was born on 9th of January in 1934 in Amritsar, Punjab. A great admirer of Mohammad Rafi since his childhood, Kapoor took his music lessons Pandit Hussainlal, Ustad Abdul Rehman Khan, Pandit Jagannath Bua, Ustad Niaz Ahmed Khan and Pandit Tulsidas Sharma.

Mahendra Kapoor

Mahendra Kapoor

He took part and won the Metro-Murphy all India musical competition which led him to playback under C. Ramchandra for ‘Navrang’ in 1958. Naushad, C. Ramchadra, Madan Mohan, Anil Biswas and Vasant Desai were the highly acclaimed judges of the contest. ‘Aadha Hai Chandrama, Raat Aadhi, Reh Naa Jaaye Teri Meri Baat Aadhi, Mulaqat Aadhi’ from ‘Navrang’ became hugely popular and it just settled the idea that Mahendra Kapoor was there to stay.

His association has been very close to B. R. Chopra and Manoj Kumar. Later when O. P. Nayyar had a major clash with Mohammad Rafi, he too used Mahendra Kapoor as his leading male singer for all his compositions from 1966 to 1969.

Neele Gagan Ke Tale, Dharti Ka Pyaar Pale
Aise Hi Jag Mein, Aati Hain Subhaein, Aise Hi Shaam Dhale
Neele Gagan Ke Tale, Dharti Ka Pyaar Pale

Though stamped to be the best while rendering patriotic songs, Mahendra Kapoor with B. R. Chopra gave out a handful of romantic songs that are still popular. ‘Neele Gagan Ke Tale’, ‘Kisi Patthar Ki Moorat Se’ from ‘Humraaz’, ‘Aa Bhi ja’, ‘Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se’, ‘Tujhko Mera Pyar Pukaare’ from ‘Gumrah’, ‘Maine Ek Khwab Sa Dekha Hai’ from ‘Waqt’, ‘Tere Pyar Ka Aasra Chahta Hoon’, ‘Jhukti Ghata Gaati Hawa’, ‘Jo Tum Muskuraa Do’ from ‘Dhool Ka Phool’, all were among his best renditions.

Mahendra Kapoor

Mahendra Kapoor

Mahendra Kapoor did most of his duets with Asha Bhosle for the B. R. Chopra films. In 1988, B. R. Chopra again turned to Mahendra Kapoor for singing the title track of the historic television series of ‘Mahabharat’.

Aur Nahi Bas Aur Nahi, Gham Ke Pyaale Aur Nahi
Dil Mein Jagah Nahi Baaki
Rok Nazar Apni Saaki
To Aur Nahin Bas Aur Nahi

Manoj Kumar and Mahendra Kapoor were almost an inseparable pair of combination. On-screen if it was the face of Manoj Kumar then off-screen, it had to be the voice of Mahendra Kapoor. Their association produced some of the most memorable tracks that are unforgettable even today. While ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’ by them was nothing less than another national anthem for India, his other tracks for Manoj Kumar were no less.

Manoj Kumar in 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti' from 'Upkar'

Manoj Kumar in ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’ from ‘Upkar’

‘Bharat Ka Rehna Waala Hun, Bharat Ki Baat Sunaata Hun’ from ‘Purab Aur Paschim’, ‘Ab Ke Baras’ from ‘Kranti’, ‘Aur Nahin Bas Aur Nahin’ from ‘Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan’, ‘Ik Taara Bole’ from ‘Yaadgaar’ are famous tracks by Mahendra Kapoor. He also rendered ‘O Mera Rang De Basanti Chola’ along with Lata Mangeshkar and Mukhesh for Manoj Kumar Starring ‘Shaheed’.

He won the Filmfare Award for the Best Playback Singer Male for ‘Aur Nahi Bas Aur Nahin’ in 1975. The National Award for Best Male Playback Singer was also awarded to Mahendra Kapoor for ‘Mere Desh Ki Dhari’ in 1967.

Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega, Woh Gaana Gaayega
Deewaana Saikdo Mein Pehchaana Jaayega

Mahendra Kapoor had a good association with Raj Kapoor as well. During a trip to Russia, where Raj Kapoor has been nothing less than another God, Raj Kapoor requested Mahendra Kapoor to play the harmonium while he sing his songs. Mahendra Kapoor gladly agreed and played the harmonium as Raj Kapoor kept on singing.

Mahendra Kapoor with Lata Mangeshkar, Dilip Kumar and others

Mahendra Kapoor with Lata Mangeshkar, Dilip Kumar and others

Mahendra Kapoor’s ‘Neele Gagan Ke Tale’ was also a huge hit in Russia. Mahendra Kapoor requested someone to translate the song in Russian language for him. After Raj Kapoor’s exit from the stage, he sang the song on stage in Russian and the crowd went frenzy. The audiences cheered for Mahendra and the loud applaud even surprised the showman, Raj Kapoor, who said that ‘Only a Kapoor can beat another Kapoor’.

On their return to India, Raj Kapoor offered Mahendra Kapoor to sing ‘Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega, Woh Gaana Gaayega’ along with Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar for ‘Sangam’.

 

Mahendra Kapoor with Mohammad Rafi

Mahendra Kapoor with Mohammad Rafi

Mahendra Kapoor’s admiration towards Mohammad Rafi grew when he was only 12. During their long time friendship, many of the times Mohammad Rafi had advised and taught particular tunes to Mahendra Kapoor. As their voices sounded identical at times, Mohammad Rafi always feared about people creating rift between them as he never wanted to spoil his relation with Mahendra Kapoor. Yet time and again, they were compared. With a rift between O. P. Nayyar and Rafi in 1966 and also owing to the royalty row between Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi, Mahendra Kapoor took away the crown.

Naushad dropped Mohammad Rafi and made Mahendra render the chartbuster song of ‘Chand Chupa Aur Taare Doobe’ from ‘Sohni Mahiwal’ in 1958. In 1968, a duet of Mohammad Rafi and Talat Mahmood was recorded by Naushad for ‘Aadmi’ starring Manoj Kumar and Dilip Kumar. After the recording of the song the voice of Talat Mahmood didn’t sound impressive in comparison with Mohammad Rafi.

Mahendra Kapoor and Mukesh

Mahendra Kapoor and Mukesh

The track failed to express the competing fight through the voice rendition. Manoj Kumar at that instant suggested Naushad to replace Talat Mahmood with Mahendra Kapoor, as he thought only Kapoor had the voice that can touch the zenith of Mohammad Rafi’s rendition. The song ‘Kaisi Haseen Hai Aaj Bahaaron Ki Raat’ from ‘Aadmi’ remains to be the only one single duet of Mohammad Rafi and Mahendra Kapoor till date.

While most of the music directors in the clan were divided in the Mahendra Kapoor versus Mohammad Rafi illusion, Kapoor actually got to work with almost all the major music directors of the era. Kalyanji-Anandji, Naushad, Khayyam, C. Ramachandra, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Shankar-Jaikishan, O. P. Nayyar, no one could actually do without him. He was even resonant in S. N. Tripathi’s devotional music which was again from a complete different school of music.

Mahendra Kapoor

Mahendra Kapoor

Mahendra Kapoor had been active in Gujarati, Marathi and Punjabi movies as well. His contribution to Marathi cinema as a playback singer is also very significant.

He took his last breath on the 27th of September 2008 due to heart failure. He still remains to be the most favoured and unmatched singer for patriotic songs in India. Whether it is the Independence day or the Republic Day, ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’ still is being played throughout these years without any exception. His vibrant renditions of patriotic numbers made him the most ‘Vibrant Voice of India’.

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