‘I have lost my voice’
-This is what Raj Kapoor said when he learnt that his long-time companion and friend took his last breath 8000 miles away from India in United States. This friendship and bond is what Bollywood remembers even today. If you ever wondered how come ‘Awara Hoon, Ya Gardish Mein Hun Aasmaan Ka Taara Hun’ appears so magical with Raj Kapoor in ‘Awara’, then you must have missed noticing the real bond between the actor on- screen and the singer off-screen.
Mukesh, the evergreen original voice of Hindi cinema became the favourite singer for almost all the contemporary actors of his time. From Dilip Kumar, Manoj Kumar to Raj Kapoor, Mukesh lent his lustrous voice to every actor for almost three decades. The current generation audiences might recognise him as the grandfather of the suave actor Neil Nitin Mukesh. However, the recognition should come from the other way round as Neil’s being his grandson.
Mukesh was the sixth among the eleven children to his father Lala Zorawar Chand Mathur, who was an engineer in government sector. His becoming a singer was almost impossible and unpredictable. It was in his sister’s wedding ceremony where his voice and singing was noticed by the then popular actor Motilal Rajvansh, who later became the mentor and founder of this profound discovery of Mukesh’s voice.
Motilal brought him to Mumbai in-spite of Mukesh’s father’s doubts after his matriculation. He learnt music under the guidance of Pandit Jagannath Prasad and stayed at Motilal’s house just like his another son. Motilal eventually became a godfather to this young budding teenager.
His good looks and his incomparable voice attracted a lot of film makers towards him. He got his first break to act on screen and to sing as well in the film ‘Nirdosh’. His first song in the movie was ‘Dil Hi Bujha Hua Ho To’. He went on to act in movies like ‘Sukh Dukh’, ‘Adab Arz’ in 1942 and ‘Mashooqa’ in 1953 opposite Suraiya. By the 1950s, Mukesh curbed down his acting career and was slowly evolving as a main stream popular singer. His last film as an actor was ‘Anurag’ in 1956.
Mukesh also gave his voice to his mentor Motilal in his film ‘Moorti’ in 1945. The track ‘Maana Ke Tum Haseen Ho’ from the film brought him under major limelight.
Mukesh, a vivid admirer of K. L. Saigal, when rendered the song ‘Dil Jalta Hai’ from ‘Pehli Nazar’ left the entire industry awestruck and almost a majority of experts thought it to be a piece by K. L. Saigal. But the most amazing fact about the song is yet to be told. When Saigal sahab heard it, he complained saying, ‘I don’t remember about recording the song!’ Mukesh’s admiration for K. L. Saigal is evident from each note of the song and one can’t help but remember K. L. Saigal only while hearing it.
Music directors like Naushad and Anil Biswas, helped Mukesh to come out of the Saigal effect and build up a voice of his own. Naushad and Mukesh together produced some unforgettable tracks for Dilip Kumar like ‘Gaye Jaa Geet Milan Ke’ .
The biggest break of his life came along with the Raj Kapoor, Nargis and Dilip Kumar starred ‘Andaaz’. Music director Naushad let him render four major solo tracks for the film that includes ‘Jhoom Jhoom Ke Nacho Aaj’, ‘Hum Aaj Kahiin Dil Kho Baithe’, ‘Tu Kahe Agar’ and ‘Toote Na Dil Toote Na’. The movie was one of the top grossers at the box office and the songs were smashing hits. Mukesh was now a star singer in town and soon would become the stamped voice for the ‘showman’ Raj Kapoor.
‘Andaz’ was also a big break for Lata Mangeshkar as Naushad gave her almost six tracks to render from the film. Many might not know but it was Mukesh who took her to Naushad, thus commencing a bond which continued until his death. Lataji considered Mukesh as her brother and their duets together mark a dignified number of 152. They both sang together for the first time in Raj Kapoor’s ‘Barsaat’. Composed by Shankar-Jaikishan, ‘Chod Gaye Balam Mujhe’ and ‘Patli Kamar Hai’ are their very first duets from the film.
‘Awara Hun, Ya Gardish Mein Hun Aasman Ka Taara Hun…Awara Hun’
–Raj Kapoor walks down the road while humming this song in the film ‘Awara’. The mere sound of it reminds us of the actor and the voice on which he lip-synced. Mukesh and Raj Kapoor became inseparable after this.
He became Raj Kapoor’s voice in almost all his films and thus began the journey of Mukesh and Raj Kapoor, who were often regarded as the ‘body and soul’ together. Mukesh sang for Raj Kapoor from his very first film ‘Neel Kamal’ and this association continued until the demise of Mukesh. There came a time when a singing Raj Kapoor on screen was unimaginable without Mukesh’s voice!
Shankar Jaikishan, Hasrat Jaipuri, Shailendra, Mukesh – This music team of Raj Kapoor continued for years. They created unforgettable hits at the chart busters and generated innumerable brilliant musical pieces.
Suhaana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam Haseen, Humein Darr Hai Hum Kho Na Jaaye Kahiin
– Rendered for Dilip Kumar by Mukesh in Bimal Roy’s blockbuster hit ‘Madhumati’. The song is still embedded in our hearts even after decades. Even ‘Dil Tadap Tadap Ke’ is another heart melting track from the film. Mukesh eventually also mastered Dilip Kumar’s voice in-spite of the latter’s doubts.
Mukesh has often been tagged as a ‘tragedy king’ by his critics. But someone well acquainted with his tracks would never make such a claim. He was the man who rendered
Mera Joota Hai Japani, Yeh Patloon Englishtani, Sar Pe Laal Topi Roosi, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani
– an evergreen track from Raj Kapoor’s ‘Shree 420′. Can anyone forget the voice that rendered this brilliant whimsical piece? Another example of his versatility would be ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’, a duet with Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar from the very same movie. Tragedy, romance or fun, Mukesh lent his voice to every genre of music. His voice and music had a class that was beyond any comparison.
‘Sajan Re Jhoot Mat Bolo, Khuda Ke Paas Jaana Hai’ depicting pain and grief or the comical ‘Dum Dum Diga Diga, Mausam Bheega Bheega, Bin Piye Main To Gira, Main To Gira, Main To Gira, Haye Allah… Surat Aapki Subhan Allah’, Mukesh made his mark in whatever he touched.
Remember the playful tracks from Manoj Kumar’s ‘Sanyasi’? ‘Chal Sanyasi Mandir Mein’, ‘Sun Baal Brahmachaari’, ‘Yeh hai Geeta Ka Gyaan’ are the duets of Mukesh and Lata for Manoj Kumar and Hema Malini in the film ‘Sanyasi’ which remains to be unforgettable even today.
Manoj Kumar and Mukesh had a memorable association which produced popular soulful tracks like ‘EK Pyar Ka Naghma Hai, Maujon Ki Ravaani Hai, Zindagi Aur Kuch Bhi Nahin, Teri Meri Kahaani Hai’ from the tragic ‘Shor’. The pair did hit the chord with many more tracks like ‘Gore Gore Chand Se Mukh Pe’ or ‘Tum Bin Jeevan Kaise Beeta’ from ‘Anita’ in 1967.
With time the new generation actors evolved. But Mukesh lent his voice to the younger generation too. The soft and brooding voice singing ‘Kahiin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaaye, Saanjh Ki Dulhan Badan Churaaye, Chupke Se Aaye’ for Rajesh Khanna in ‘Anand’ is literally unforgettable. One can’t even get over from drooling once he hears ‘Maine Tere Liye Hai Saat Rang Ke Sapne Chune, Sapne Surile Sapne’. Rajesh Khanna’s voice which was held as a tag-lined authority of Kishore Kumar, was magically suited and synchronised beautifully with Mukesh’s significant vocal.
Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein Khayaal Aata Hai
Ki Jaise Tujhko Banaya Gaya Hai Mere Liye
Tu Ab Se Pehle Sitaaron Mein Bas Rahi Thi Kahiin
Tujhe Zameen Pe Bulaaya Gaya Hai Mere Liye
Remember the angry young man of Bollywood singing this song in in Yash Chopra’s ‘Kabhi Kabhi’ or even the ‘Main Har Ek Pal Ka Shayar Hun, Har Ek Pal Meri Kahaani Hai’ is embedded in our minds forever. Who thought that Mukesh’s soft and soothing vocal would match Amitabh Bachchan’s heavy and ponderous personality? But the wonder took place here as well. Mukesh swooned over the audiences with these two marveling tracks from ‘Kabhie Kabhie’.
He sang the last songs from his dear friend Roshan’s composition before Roshan passed away, he also completed the incomplete film that was to be produced by Motilal in-spite of the tremendous financial difficulties. He was a man of honour who was there to help anyone and everyone in need and also received the same in return.
Mukesh was genuinely romantic at heart. He fell in love with a girl from a well-to-do Gujarati family and firmly arranged for an elopement with his wife with whom he had three children later. He celebrated his 30th marriage anniversary before his demise in 1976. He left for USA after 5 days from the day of his anniversary and never came back again.
Mukesh attended four big concerts in Delhi, Africa, Mauritius and his last was the USA/Canada tour. He was extremely fond of his song ‘Jaane Kahaan Gaye Woh Din’ from ‘Mera Naam Joker’. He rendered the song in every concert he attended.
On August 22nd and 23rd of the year 1976 at the USA concert, Lata Mangeshkar requested his son, Nitin, to render a few songs to give a bit of rest to Mukesh’s sore throat. As Nitin held the mic and started to sing, the proud father within Mukesh smiled and took a back seat at the audiences’ wing. May be he already had the premonition of his last days and he was satisfied with the realisation that his next generation was ready to take over him now.
On 27th August, few hours before his next show in Detroit, he complained about being unwell. Being all alone and still a young lad, Nitin, rushed for help to Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh was admitted in hospital. In-spite of the rush he could not survive and took his last breath just a few hours before the concert.
On the eve of 27th, Nitin was singing all his father’s songs alone on stage with Lata Mangeshkar. When the man already departed from the human world, may be somewhere his soul was happy seeing his son at his place. His body was brought down by Lata Mangeshkar from USA to India the very next day. He received a grand funeral attended my millions of his fans and in presence of almost half of the film fraternity.
He is no more with us but still his voice echoes with clarity when we hear him singing:
Ek Din Bik Jaayega Maati Ke Mol
Jag Mein Reh Jaayenge Pyaare Tere Bol
Duje Ke Hothon Ko Dekar Apne Geet
Koi Nishaani Chod, Phir Duniya Se Dol
Ek Din Bik Jaayega Maati Ke Mol