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24 January 2014

The Legends: Mukesh

22.07.1923 - 27.08.1976
I am on record as having stated that Mukesh is an extremely limited singer. 'Limited' in the sense that he did not have the vocal range that Mohammed Rafi had, for instance, or the technical mastery over sur that Manna Dey did. His voice perhaps spanned an octave and a half, and the nasal tinge in his voice did not endear him to a much-younger me. Besides, I was weaned on Mohammed Rafi; Talat Mahmood's silken vocals came next, followed by a rollicking Kishore, though I liked his serious (not necessarily 'sad') songs just as much. And I liked Manna Dey and Hemant Kumar at various times, though if pushed to pick a favourite male singer, I would have chosen Rafi above all else. (I still would.) If asked when I was in college for instance, I would have placed Mukesh at the bottom of the totem pole of favourite singers. 

And I was wrong. As regular readers of my blog know, I was brought up on a steady diet of all things Raj Kapoor. Now, it is difficult to grow up with Raj Kapoor and not know, or like, the voice of his soul - Mukesh Chand Mathur. Exploring his songs while still a young adult, I came to several discoveries - that Mukesh's voice touched me deeply; that his songs did not depend on whether Mukesh could skip from a lower octave to a higher without losing a note; that it did not depend on the range of his voice, or his knowledge of classical music (he was the least classically-trained of his contemporaries), or his technical mastery over sur - Mukesh went besur often, and what is more, knew that he did so. One of the more endearing stories told about him is how, when he and Lata Mangeshkar were recording a duet, a violinist was so constantly hitting the wrong note, forcing them to record the song again and again that everyone was getting frustrated, even Lata, who was usually very even-tempered inside the recording room. Mukesh stopped, looked around and said jovially, "Who is copying me?" The tension in the room diminished at once.

It is one of the secrets of his success that Mukesh sang with great feeling. His songs touched people's hearts because of the emotion he invested in them. His songs became popular because unki aawaaz mein ek ajeeb si kashish thi - his voice had charm, it connected with the people, and it ensured Mukesh Chand Mathur his rightful place among the pantheon of the greats.

Mukesh proved that 'being perfect' is not always necessary to be 'great'. There are many technically superior singers out there who do not have a quarter of the genius that this unassuming singer possessed. And listening to his songs for the purposes of this post (thanks to a challenge by fellow blogger, Songs of Yore, who will not let me forget that I said Mukesh was a limited singer), I'm struck by how many of his (non-Raj Kapoor) songs are among my favourites. 

Young Mukesh Chand Mathur had a dream - to be an actor. Spotted by his distant cousin, Motilal, a successful actor, when he sang at his sister's wedding, Mukesh jumped at Motilal's offer, and soon came to Bombay chasing his dream.  Once there, he began voice training under Pandit Jagannath Prasad because, in those days, one had to know how to sing if one wanted to be an actor. His first recorded song was Dil hi bujha hua toh in Nirdosh (1941), where he was also the hero opposite a teenaged Nalni Jaywant. His first break as playback singer was for his cousin Motilal. The film was Pehli Nazar (1945) and the song was Dil jalta hai. Music director Anil Biswas recollected in an interview that the young Mukesh had come to him determined to sing like his idol, KL Saigal. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams - it is said that when Saigal heard the song, he remarked that he didn't remember recording it. It was the beginning of Mukesh's long and successful journey.

To Anil Biswas also goes the credit of honing Mukesh's natural talent - he is said to have told Mukesh that they had showed the world how he could do a Saigal; now it was time for him to prove to the world that he could be original. So he gave him Jeevan sapna toot gaya in Anokha Pyar (1948), to be picturised on Dilip Kumar. The same year, music director Naushad signed him for Mela, another Dilip Kumar starrer. He was another music director who was responsible for removing Mukesh's Saigal fixation. Raj Kapoor, for whom Mukesh had given playback in his first film Neel Kamal, would offer Mukesh Aag the same year, though it was only after Barsaat that the long and unusually close actor-singer collaboration began, an association which saw Mukesh become Raj Kapoor's alter-ego.

Mukesh slowly and steadily climbed the ladder of success, firmly staking his place among illustrious contemporaries such as Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mahmood, Manna Dey and later, Kishore Kumar. But the acting bug continued to trouble him, and he tried, disastrously, in one film after another, even producing a few himself. It proved a setback to his singing career, allowing both Rafi and Kishore to outrun him in the popularity stakes (and in the number of songs sung), and offering an opening to another under-utilised genius - Manna Dey - to set a foot into his fiefdom - the RK camp. 

In the meantime, he had fallen in love, and eloped with a young Gujarati Brahmin girl, Saral, whose wealthy parents disapproved of her relationship with a man who had neither his own house nor a steady income, and besides, was involved with films.  They were married quietly with cousin Motilal doing the kanyadaan. Despite naysayers who predicted divorce, the couple would celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary just before Mukesh left on that fateful US tour. Mukesh recorded his last song Chanchal sheetal nirmal komal - fittingly enough, for Satyam Shivam Sundaram, from his friend Raj Kapoor's banner. He also left behind a bottle of liquor with Raj Kapoor's major domo - to be presented to the showman after the song was shot. Alas, by the time the bottle was given to Raj Kapoor, Mukesh had left him soul-less.

'My soul' is what Raj Kapoor called him. Lata Mangeshkar referred to him as 'bhala aadmi' and he was always her 'Mukesh bhaiya'. (He called her 'Didi' even though he was older.) To Salilda, the maverick music director from Bengal, after Hemant Kumar whom he called the 'voice of God', it was Mukesh who was his favourite male singer in Hindi films: "Nobody could sing like him."  (After Naushad, it was Salil Choudhary who utilised Mukesh the most.)

On August 27th 1976, on a tour of America, where he and Lata Mangeshkar were the first Indian artistes to appear at the Kennedy Center, Mukesh suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 53. The voice that could evoke a thousand emotions was stilled. Raj Kapoor had lost his soul, the music world had lost one of its most shining luminaries, and the world had lost a good man.  

Earlier that year, Mukesh had sung -  
Kal aur aayenge naghmon ki khilti kaliyaan chhoonewaale
Mujhse behtar kehnewaale tumse behtar sun-ne-waale
Kal koi mujhko yaad kare kyun koi mujhko yaad kare
Mazroof zamaana mere liye kyun waqt apna barbaad karein?

(My father always says of the song: 'aram pattiya paatu' - it did seem like the song foreshadowed Mukesh's death.) 

But Mukesh was wrong. He is not forgotten. Even today, listening to his songs is not 'a waste of time'. And as Anil Biswas remarked on the occasion of Mukesh's death: "There was hardly a man who was not his friend and I hardly remember a man who was his enemy. Better musicians probably will come and go but Mukesh will remain Mukesh."  

It is a fitting epitaph.  

Here, in no particular order, are some of my favourite Mukesh solos; he may have been Raj Kapoor's voice, but as the following songs stand witness, he sang for many others, and successfully, at that. 
1. Gaaye ja geet milan ke (Mela/1948) Naushad/Shakeel Badayuni 
I dithered between this, and songs from Andaz (three of the four solos). I chose this for two reasons: one, because this is a happy song. I found the hero's happiness at his prospective meeting with his beloved unintentionally ironic. Because we, as the audience, know that she has already been married off, and in fact, his cart passes her doli. 
Kaahe chhalke nainon ki gagri, kaahe barse jal
Tum bin sooni saajan ki nagri, pardesiya ghar chal
Pyaase hai deep gagan ke tere darshan ke
Sajan ghar jaana hai
Two, this was a Naushad composition - so was Andaz, but this was the first film for which Naushad had signed Mukesh.

This was the perfect use of a song, not just as a filler, but as something that pulls the narrative along. The play on words - sajan ghar jaana hai -  made it even more poignant. He is returning to his village, to his beloved, having bought a wedding dress and bangles for her; she has been married off to a widower with children who are older than her, and is on her way to her husband's house. 

Interestingly, Dilip Kumar had been waffling on whether to sign Mela or not when he was summoned by the director of the film, who played for him Mera dil todnewale which had been recorded by music director Naushad, in Mukesh's (and Shamshad Begum's) voice. Mesmerised by Mukesh's rendition, Dilip Kumar signed the film on the spot - the first and last time the thespian ever did such a thing.  

In Andaz that followed the next year, Naushad gave Mukesh four solos, all of them to be picturised on Dilip Kumar. When he heard the songs, Dilip Kumar was dejected - they were simple tunes, he complained, not one of them matching the complexity of Uthaye jaa unke sitam that was sung by Lata. Naushad persisted. Mukesh's 'straight' singing, he said, would be the nations' voice when the film released. And so it proved. In an interview after the singer's death, Dilip Kumar was to say of the singer whose voice had captured well the emotions he expressed on screen: "Mukesh's range may have been limited, but within that range, he was superb."

2.  Suhana safar aur ye mausam haseen (Madhumati/1958) Salil Choudhary/ Shailendra
A whimsical fable of a love that transcends death, with a vengeful ghost and reincarnation, Salilda's magical melodies moved from the haunting to the chirpy, running the gamut between whimsical, romantic, portentous, grief-stricken and eager in between. According to Dwijen Mukherjee, Suhana safar was inspired by Sudhin Dasgupta's Ei chhaya ghera; he narrates how Salilda directly asked Sudhin Dasgupta whether he could adapt the song for a Hindi film he was working on, and the latter agreed immediately. Salilda adhered to the melody, changed its tempo and gave us a brand new song. Dwijen Mukherjee was his original choice to render this song in Madhumati, but Dilip Kumar demurred. His choice was Mukesh, and so, it fell to Mukesh to make it his own. 

Suhana safar is the first song in the film, and is an expression of a traveller's wonder as he feasts his eyes on nature's bounty. Mukesh sings it with such joy, such open-eyed wonder in his voice that the listener thrills to the song. As Dilip Kumar ambles through the misty hills and vales, exulting in the view around him, and wondering whether his dreams will come true, here, amidst all this beauty, Mukesh's voice echoes through the countryside, happiness in every note. Just sublime. 
Woh aasman jhuk raha hain zameen par
Ye milan humne dekha yaheen par
Meri duniya mere sapne milenge shaayad yahi
Suhana safar aur ye mausam haseen

Interestingly, veteran music director Abhijeet Bandopadhyay related that Shyamal Mitra, who had listened to the score of Madhumati long before its commercial release, was so besotted by Mukesh's O-ho-ho and its echoing effect just before the third antara of Suhana safar that, on his return to Calcutta, he composed and sang Ei paathe jai chole , the mukhda  of which was inspired by those notes.

3. Haan diwana hoon main gham ka maara hoon main (Saranga/1960) Sardar Malik/Bharat Vyas
I know that Saranga teri yaad mein is the more famous song from this film, but while it is a beautiful composition, I like this one better. Composed by Sardar Malik, and filmed on Sudesh Kumar, Mukesh gave voice to Bharat Vyas' lyrics that sang of the grief of losing someone you love. This is angst at its best. (Or worst, depending on your mood.) However, Sardar Malik's music made it seem less dirge-like than the lyrics make it sound.
Maangi khushiyaan magar gham mila pyar mein
Dard hi bhar diya dil ke har taar mein
Aaj koi nahin mere sansaar mein
Chhod ke chal diye mujhe majhdhaar mein

This was Mukesh at his quintessential best - someone once commented that with Mukesh's death, heartbreak went away from Hindi films.   

4. Jaaoon kahan bata ae dil (Chhoti Bahen/1959) Shankar- Jaikishen / Hasrat Jaipuri
While Chhoti Bahen is not one of my favourite films, I have to admit that S-J knew how to come up with a score that tugs at your heartstrings. Add Hasrat's heartfelt lyrics to the mix, and serve it all up in Mukesh's mellifluous voice, and you have a winner on your hands. Of course, this song is just the sort of 'existential angst' number that I used to despise. But I have changed my mind - this is not a dirge. It is so full of remorse for dreams that have soared and crashed, regret for past wrongs, and a conflict on how to move forwards. 

Haay is paar to aansuon ki dagar
Jaane us paar kya ho kise hai khabar

A known devil is better than an unknown angel. 

As Mukesh's voice ebbed and flowed, mimicking every emotion in Shailendra's words - Chaandni aaye ghar jalaane... one can only listen and grieve over the fact that even cool moonlight can destroy a house - the allegory is unmistakeable.

5. Zindagi khwab hai (Jaagte Raho/1956) Salil Choudhary/Shailendra  
This is, bar none, my favourite nasha song of all time. I love it for its music, for its lyrics and for its picturisation. Shailendra's lyrics celebrate a philosophy of hedonism (much like the lifestyle of the actor it was picturised on - Motilal), and is somewhat similar to Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya - only it is more selfish.  

The song is amusingly cynical, sung (on screen) by a dilettante who seems to have no trouble living life the way he desires. He has no qualms presenting a man dying of thirst with his solution for all ills - alcohol. It can even bring a corpse back to life, he claims...
Ek pyaali bhar ke maine gham ke maare dil ko di
Zehar ne maara zehar ko, murde mein phir jaan aa gayi

But it is a personal cynicism:
Dil ne humne jo kaha, humne waisa hi kiya
Phir kabhi fursat mein sochenge bura tha, ya bhala
Complementing Motilal's onscreen shenanigans was his protégé, Mukesh, his voice light and effervescent, filled with bonhomie towards one and all. 

6. Main pal do pal ka shaayar hoon (Kabhi Kabhie/1976) Khayyam/Sahir Ludhianvi
Sahir's philosophical lines, Khayyam's music, Mukesh's rendition, all combined to make this song a favourite, growing up. I must confess to going for the lyrics first, much to my husband's dismay. (He listens to the music first.) By this time, Aradhana had catapulted Kishore Kumar into the limelight, and even veteran singers like Mohammed Rafi had fallen by the wayside before the juggernaut. When the Amitabh wave swept Rajesh Khanna off his celluloid feet, Kishore easily transitioned to becoming the voice of the reigning superstar. However, Khayyam insisted on Mukesh for this song, and funnily enough, while you are watching the film you don't notice the incongruity between Amitabh's deeper voice and Mukesh's nasal enunciation. It is the feeling that touches you, the emotions in Sahir's lyrics vocalised so effectively by Mukesh.  

Mujhse pehle kitne shaayar aaye aur aakar chale gaye
Kucch aahein bhar kar laut gaye, kucch naghme gaakar chale gaye
Woh bhi ik pal ka hissa they, main bhi ik pal ka hissa hoon
Kal tumse juda ho jaaoonga woh aaj tumhaara hissa hoon... 
One facet that everyone remembers about Mukesh is his humility. The other is his sense of humour. At the HMV party for the music release of Kabhi Kabhie, the title poem in Amitabh's compelling baritone was being played for the audience.  People sitting next to Mukesh were privileged to hear him say quietly, 'Just wait and hear me after this... Talk of the ridiculous following the sublime.' 

7. Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye (Anand/1971) Salil Choudhary/Yogesh
This song is a moment of quiet, hidden grief in a film where the eponymous protagonist is always cheerful, always talking. Coming to terms with his own mortality, Anand allows himself to grieve not just for his own short life, but also for a short-lived romance in his past. 
Kabhi yunhi jab hui bojhal saansein
Bhar aayi baithe baithe jab yunhi aankhein
Tabhi machalke, pyar se chalke,
Chhue koyi mujhe par nazar na aaye

Yogesh's lyrics complemented that sense of loss, while Salilda's music emphasised the poignancy of the two different types of loss - one that's gone before, and one that is to come soon. Mukesh voiced that loss without becoming maudlin.  

8. Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai  (Rajnigandha/1974) Salil Choudhary/Yogesh 
Like one of his most famous songs, Jaanewale ho sake toh laut ke aana, in this song as well, the picturisation may show the hero, but the song itself is sung from the heroine's perspective. Salilda's composition won for Mukesh the National Award for Best Singer. It's a song about choices, about the grass seeming greener, about a past lover and a present one, about loving two people at the same time, and the dilemma that confronts the person at the apex of a triangle. 
Janoon na, janoon na, uljhan ye janoon na
Suljhaaon kaise kuch samajh na paaoon
Kis ko meet banaaoon, kis ki preet bhulaaoon
Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai ye jo man ki seema rekha hai
Man todne lagta hain
Anjaani pyaas ke peeche anjaani aas ke peeche
Man daudne lagta hai

This is not a quintessential 'Mukesh' song. He sounds thoughtful, rather than sad. 

9. Raat nikhri hui (Hum Hindustani/1960) Usha Khanna/ K Manohar (Manohar Lal Khanna)
And I grew up thinking Mukesh could only be sad and plaintive, if not downright whiny? If some of the earlier songs I have listed did not change my mind, then this one would surely turn the scales: this is as passionate a song (and a situation that must have raised quite a few eyebrows at the time the film was released) as anything one can imagine Mohammed Rafi singing. 
Ye sama tham gaya ye haseen adayein dekhke
Dhadkane so gayi ye nasheeli aankhein dekhke
Raat nikhri hui zulf bikhri hui
Har ada teri phoolon ki dali
Aaj subah nahin honewaali
Quiet, but passionate. And Mukesh infuses it with just the right mixture of romance, passion and promise.

10. Hiyaa jarat rahat din rain (Godan/1963) Ravi Shankar/Anjaan
Another wonderful song that breaks down the Mukesh stereotype. Redolent of the gaanv ki mitti, this song, for some odd reason, reminds me of Hariyala dhol bajata aaya from Do Bigha Zameen. No, not the melody, but its ethos. Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar composed music for only five Hindi films - Neecha Nagar, Dharti ke Lal, Anuradha, Godaan and  Meera.  

This song is 'new' to me. The composition that I knew, and loved very much, was Rafi's Piparake patwa mein. This song, Hiyaa jarat rahat din rain, is as melodious, and I love the musical accompaniment - a flute, sitar, mandolin, sarod, sarangi, violins, even castanets... it's such a joy to hear real instruments, especially when they are as prominent as in this song. 

Baswaari mein madhur sur baaje
Birhi papihara bolan laage
Madhure madhur madhu bain o ramaa
Jarat rahat din rain
A simple song, describing a rural landscape, and all the more stirring because it is so simple. 

11. Kaise manaoon piyawa (Char Diwari/1961) Salil Choudhary/Shailendra
Why is it that music directors tended to use male singers to voice a female viewpoint? I have already mentioned Jaanewaale ho sake toh laut ke aana and listed Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai, as examples. This is another song that plays in the background, in the context of a suhaag raat. Salilda's music, barely there, complements the anticipation and the nervousness implicit in Mukesh' rendition.

I can't really say I'm enamoured of lyrics that go  Kaise manaoon piyawa, gun mere ek hoon naahi, or the feelings of gratitude at being 'accepted' by her husband - 
Main anjaan paraayi, dwaar tihaare aayi
Tumne mujhe apnaaya, preet ki reet nibhaayi
Haay re man ki kaliyaan phir bhi khil na paayi 

but Shailendra did capture the nervousness of a new bride in:
Saajan mere aaye, dhadkan badhti jaaye
Naina jhukte jaaye, ghoonghat dhalti jaaye
Tujhse kyun sharmaaye, aaj teri parchhaain

12. Nain ka chain churakar le gayi (Chandramukhi/1960) SN Tripathi/Bharat Vyas
This is a song from what would have been considered a B-grade film in those days, and I wonder how many such songs have been relegated to the backyards of our memories because of the fate of the films in which they were picturised. It is one of the happiest lovesongs I have heard, and Mukesh's voice trips gaily along as the hero complains lovingly of the after-effects of falling in love as he describes his beloved in glowing terms.
Akhiyaan neeli aur nasheeli
Dil mein bas gayi woh lajeeli
Chaandni si madbhari si
Gagan se utri pari si
Yaad hai woh din suhaana
Woh suhaani shaam...

It is definitely a song that deserves to be better known, and it is thanks to the Internet that such songs make their way out of the depths, after having languished in relative obscurity for decades. The SN Tripathi-Bharat Vyas combination make their presence felt with both music and lyrics, and Mukesh complements both tune and feeling with heartfelt emotion. Lovely!

13. Humein ae dil kahin le chal (Chandni Chowk/1954) Roshan
This was definitely one of Mukesh's 'sad' numbers, the ones I didn't like very much when I was younger. Today, I'm better able to appreciate both the melancholy in the lyrics and the pathos in Mukesh's voice. One of Meena Kumari's earliest films, she stars alongside Shekhar, and the obviously star-crossed lovers have their own plaintive melodies.
Tamannaon se badli hai
Na badlegi kabhi kismet
Likha hai jo muqaddar mein
Wohi teri kasam hoga
Hamare dum pe hai har gham  
Na hum honge na gham hoga...

Roshan composed a beautiful score for this nondescript film and if you listen carefully to Tera dil kahan hain, you will hear the genesis of Rahe na rahe hum from Mamta, which would be made more than a decade later. 
14. Aa laut ke aaja mere meet (Rani Roopmati/1957) SN Tripathi/Bharat Vyas
The plaintive call of a man for his lover, this song from Rani Roopmati is the sort of song that is reminiscent of Mukesh. He sings of how bereft his music feels without his beloved,  and Mukesh' voice lifted what could have been a whiny, self-pitying song into a beautiful romantic melody. 
Mera soona pada re sangeet 
Tujhe mere geet bulate hain
Barse gagan mere barse nayan
Dekho tarse hai man ab toh aa ja
Sheetal pavan ye lagaaye agan
O sajan ab toh mukhda dikha ja
Tu-ne bhali re nibhaayi preet
Tujhe mere geet bulate hain

As the mood swings from the loneliness of a man separated from his love to that of one coaxing his lover to come, visit, by describing the cool breezes that ignites his senses, Mukesh' voice takes on the same lilt - loving, coaxing, pleading... it is hard to resist the call; this is the stuff romantic dreams are made of

15. Nain hamare saanjh sakare (Annadata/) Salil Choudhary/Yogesh
As if in testimony to my statement that Salilda knew how to use Mukesh and when, here is a very different song from Annadata. Again, (I can almost see SoY grinning at the thought of my having to eat the proverbial crow) not a quintessential 'Mukesh song'. Filled with gravitas, surely, but not sad, or whiny, or even plaintive. It is a ruminative song, and Mukesh sings it with just the right touch of unsurety. This is a man who is in love, but can clearly see how (and why) that love may never come to fruition; should, in fact, not come to fruition. Yet he cannot help but dream; who knows if they will come true?
Man ye kahe dukhi na ho dukhon se haar ke
Likhte rahe jo aansuon se geet pyaar ke 
Geet woh chahe roye koyi hans ke gaaye
Sach ye kahin honge ya nahin
Koyi jaane na... yahaan...  

These are but a few of my favourites. As you can see, I have also managed to squeeze in more than the requisite 15 by plugging other songs that were on my short list. Yes, I do realise that after writing a lot about how Mukesh was Raj Kapoor's soul, I do not have a single Raj Kapoor song in this list. That is because there are so many Mukesh songs that are picturised on Raj Kapoor that I like very much. So, funnily enough, this will be the first 'Legends' post that will have two parts - solos and duets as always, and an addendum in the form of my favourite Mukesh melodies for Raj Kapoor. (I'm sure Songs of Yore will laugh himself silly at the irony of my plight. In my defence, let me say that I'm allowed to be contradictory, and change my mind. 

Tell me, what would you add to this list?


  1. Mukesh!
    Not really one of my favourite singers. And I can hardly say that most of the songs, which you have listed are my favs.
    But the ones by Salil Choudhary are surely nice and I like them. And also I have caught myself humming jaaon kahan bataye dil
    I always preferred him with S. D. Burman and later on Salil Choudhary, the songs which you have already listed.
    my fav Mukesh songs would be

    ae dil-e-awara chal from Dr. Vidya
    o jaane wale ho sake to laut ke aana
    kahin karti hogi o mera intezaar (it is not purely a solo, but in the film, there is a version, which is a solo).
    chal ri sajani ab kya soche
    and then some duets like
    ye kisne geet chedha from meri surat teri aankhen
    baagon me dekho from Chupke Chupke
    pyar ka fasana bana le il deewana from Teesra Kaun
    zindagi me aap aaye from Chhalia (70s)

  2. As you mentioned, Mukesh might not be the top favourite singer of anyone, but there are times when nothing but his songs would do. There was a time when I couldn't stop listening to 'Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai ...'. His collaboration with Salil da have given us some melodies that will stand the test of time for many many years, and will serve as shining examples of his singing capabilities.

    Here are some more songs outside your list that I love,

    - Suhani chandni raatein hamen sone nahi deti
    - Aya hai mujhe phir yaad wo zalim
    - Yeh mera deewanapan hai
    - Chalat musafir

    - Yeh kaun chitrakar hai
    - Koi jab tumhara hridaya tod de
    - O re taal mile nadi ke jal se

    And although it has nothing to do with Mukesh, but my ringtone is the first few notes of 'Haan diwana hoon main'. Nice to know others like it as well.

    Thanks for the well written post, as always. Will listen to your list at leisure.

    Sandeep P

  3. Hiya, Harvey, you don't have to like him as a singer. :) Where would we be if we all liked the same singers and the same songs? Despite that you have listed quite a few songs that you liked of his. I think that is true of a lot of us - not our favourite singer, but yet, there are songs of his that we like very, very much. I was just surprised when I sat down to recollect my favourite songs, to find out just how many Mukesh songs I really, really loved. And not just because of the songs (tune/melody/lyrics. etc.) but because of the way he sung them.

    Ps: I'm trying to link the songs you mentioned, Let me see if I succeed.

  4. Hello, and welcome, Sandeep. Thank you for reading and commenting, and for the kind words of appreciation as well. Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai is, as I mentioned in my post, one of all-time favourite songs.
    I agree with you that even though Naushad has the hoary credit of honing Mukesh's original talent, I really, really like his collaborations with SalilDa. And of course, I'm totally biased. :)

    Thank you for the links to the songs you like. I had Ye mera deewanapan hai on my list, but decided to go in for a 'happier' tune. Dilip and Mukesh both have a reputation for tragic songs. I wasn't in the mood. :) Ye kaun chitrakar hai and O re taal mile nadi ke jal se are both songs that I can listen to any time. I'm glad you posted them here, because my other favourites squeezed them out. Koi jab tumhara hriday tod de is definitely not a favourite - it is one of the most condescending, misogynistic songs it's been my misfortune to hear. :) :)

    Let me link the songs, though, so others can listen/watch. Thanks once again.

  5. I quite like Mukesh as a singer ... which I realized after a while was surprising for I mostly disliked who he sung those songs for : ) For example, Dil Ki Nazar Se, nazron Ke Dil Se from Anari. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k2EloeVFwc
    (Raj Kapoor showing that stiff armed The Tramp walk quite out of context but a lovely song). The movie had Kisiki Muskurahaton Pe Ho Nisar, but I didn't even link to that lovely song as it pains me to even see a screenshot.

    Hamming way through trying to depict every word by gesture ? Check. Tacky, garish set ? Check. Weird ideas (rail tracks crisscrossing stage with a wagon ? FX not worthy of a pre-school ? I mean, WTF ?) But still, redeemed by Mukesh. Ik Din ik Jaayega Maati Ke Mol http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGYjHQbV1KE

    And it was not just Raj Kapoor. Shashi for some reason decided to disguise his essential cleancut chirpy face USP with shrubbery trying to ruin Mukesh's rendition of Suhaani Chaandni Raatein.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKsIfx0GrBk

    And of course, how could this man not leave his cloven hooves all over ? Jis Gali Mein Tera Ghar Na Ho Balma. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt55vNy-GU0


    (Nice, post, enjoyed the links and the discussions, BTW. Always glad to contribute a drop or so of the milk of human kindness meself).

  6. Thank you for commenting. :) I will take your 'milk of kindness' comment with a huge pinch of salt, if you will forgive me for mixing up my metaphors. I absolutely adore Dil ki nazar se so I will even forgive you your opinion of Raj Kapoor. And yes, Jis gali mein tera ghar na ho balma; so I have a question to ask of you - is it that you just hate people with the intials RK? *grin*

  7. Ah, I'm the same boat as you, Anu. Mukesh was never a favourite with me when I was younger - that nasality in his voice put me off. In fact, it wasn't until I did a list post on my blog some years back for his songs (to mark his birthday), that I realised actually how many Mukesh songs I do like.

    Some of the songs on your list - starting with the Godaan one, and upto the Chandni Chowk one - were new to me. Lovely, though, and I especially liked that Godaan one a lot; it was so beautifully earthy and charming. And the little anecdotes embedded through your post were the icing on the cake. He seems to have been that rare human being, one who could laugh at himself. Makes me like him even more than I did when I truly discovered Mukesh's songs.

    Anyway, some of my favourite Mukesh songs? Saaranga teri yaad mein (yes, I know you mentioned this, but since you hadn't actually included it in your list, I feel free to plug it in!) And Zinda hoon is tarah ke gham-e-zindagi nahin (despite RK!) And, even though technically it's a duet, Woh subaah kabhi toh aayegi. This is my absolute favourite Mukesh song, ever. I just love the controlled, beautiful way he sings it. Plus Sahir's lyrics and Khayyam's music are just perfect.

  8. Like most of you as a child I too did not much relate to Mukesh, it was always Kishore Kumar and Rafi. The first time I paid attention to thatkashishin Mukesh's voice was when Rajesh Khanna who was then doing some films with my father and also shooting for Anand told my father that he should listen to this song which he had just shot for, the song he was referring to was,kahin door jab din dhal jaye. He said that Mukesh had sung it with a great deal of feeling. I overheard my father telling my mother, later when the songs were released and we also saw the film, I could not help but like it and it was then that I began taking an interest in Mukesh.
    BTW, I have already mentioned this on my blog but I am repeating it all over again here, remember I had mentioned Mukesh had given playback for my father, but my father had the song re-shot with the song playing in the background
    I am posting that song, he did sing this song with a lot of feeling
    and also this one from Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, I really like this song

  9. It <>is funny, isn't it, Madhu, that you never truly realise just how much you like his songs, until you actually sit down to make a count? In these past few weeks that I have been collating Mukesh songs that I truly like, thanks to SoY who was pulling my leg about my comment about him, I have been truly astonished at the number of Mukesh songs that are among my favourites.

    Yeah, Mukesh seems to have had a great sense of humour, And like Mohammed Rafi (I've discovered one absolutely cute anecdote about him!), he seems to have been a genuinely wonderful human being. Reading Anil Biswas' words about him brought tears to my eyes. I mean, of how many people (forget celebrities!) could one say this?

    Let me link your songs as well. :) I'm glad you mentioned Saranga tere yaad mein. I dithered a lot between that and Haan deewana hoon main. I didn't add Zinda hoon is tarah because I have that in my Mukesh-RK list, but hey, one can't have too much of that song. That is one of the 'sad' songs that I love! I love all the songs of Phir Subah Hogi as well.

    Plus Sahir's lyrics and Khayyam's music are just perfect.
    You said it!

  10. Shilpi, I think most of us are in the same boat when it comes to Mukesh. Not having liked him much when we were younger, but more able to appreciate his songs as we have a better appreciation of music itself.
    I love these anecdotes about your father. It is strange, no, how he hated to lip-sync on screen and so made his song a background one? And Rajesh Khanna did the reverse with the song in Anand? :)
    Yes, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hain had some wonderful songs. Thank you for posting Aa ab laut chale here.

  11. You did surprise me, Anu, with such a fond tribute to Mukesh. (No, I am not 'grinning', I am happy that you have purged yourself. :) )

    I find from your blog that Mukesh had some more detractors; so, let me stick my neck out. I have known a generation of music lovers who were more passionate about Mukesh than any other of his contemporaries. Let us say, he was gifted with a charming 'swar', though he may not have the perfect 'sur'.

    Mukesh is commonly associated with 'sad' songs. This is an incomplete description of him. His happy songs are also as charming. I have written on my blog on his both happy solos and duets. You have your self included some of his happy songs, and I am sure you are going to do it in your next post on his duets.

    'Who is copying me?' is a brilliant one.

    You say, "After Naushad, it was Salil Chaudhary who utilized Mukesh the most." It creates an erroneous impression that you mean the number of songs. Whether qaulitatively or quantitatively, along with Naushad (who in any case was never big on numbers), Shankar Jaikishan, Kalyanji Anandji and Roshan would figure very prominently in giving the best songs for Mukesh, and in good numbers. KA is completely missing from your list; Roshan's one is one of the lesser knowns. I understand your aim is not to list his 'best' or his 'quintessential' songs. Yet, 'Kaise manaaun piyawa' would make it to any list of his greatest songs, as also a couple of more songs from your list.

    From several hundred everyone would have his own favorites. So, I would not try to give my list of best ten. But since KA seems to be missing, I would have liked to see 'Chaand si mehbooba ho meri kab' or 'Tumhe zindagi ke ujaale mubarak'. Another 'quintessential' song from Laxmikant Pyarelal - 'Mubarak ho sabko samaan ye suhana' or 'Ram kare aisa ho jaye, meri nindiya tohe mil jaye'.

    I am eagerly waiting for your next Mukesh redemption.


  12. Beautiful list of Mukesh's songs! Almost all of the,songs (except #3,#9, #12 and #13,as they are new to me) are my favorites.I differ from the majority of the readers here as Mukesh has always been one of my favorite singers. His songs have a deep emotional quotient and always have a distinct appeal.

    Thank you for providing insight into his humble personality and other aspects unknown to us. Some of his songs which are my favorites-------
    Chandi ki Deewar-Vishwas

    Raaste Ka Patthar-Title song


    and this one of Raj Kapoor-

    Ruk Jaa O Janewali Ruk Jaa- Kanhaiya


  13. Thank you, AK. :) I'm glad I met with approval. I do not know about 'purging' myself, since this has been my opinion of his songs for quite some time now, even while I still hold that he is a limited singer.

    Yes, I agree that 'Salilda utlised him the most' gives an erroneous eimpression about the quantity of songs. For the record, I think Mukesh only sang 26 songs for Salil Choudhary. But I do think that all 26 of his songs for Salilda were great songs.

    I like KA in small quantities. I like some of their earlier work, when Kalyanji gave music on his own; I do like some of the others, but when I have to choose 10 or 15 or 20, then there are so many other music directors I like more, to choose from. :)

    I don't like the songs from Milan. At all. If that is the Mukesh I had heard, I would never have changed my mind about him. :)) [I'm sorry to sink in your good graces, but I will try to redeem myself with my next post.] I have linked the songs for you, though, because 'best' is a very subjective term.

  14. Coolone, you're welcome. I'm glad I wrote about one of your favourite singers, then. Thanks for the additions to my post. I had Ruk jaa o jaanewali ruk ja on my long list for Mukesh-RK songs. Of course, it didn't make the final cut, so I'm doubly glad to see it here.

  15. Tribute to
    Mukesh is as emotional as was his voice.

    May I add two of his Rajendra Kumar songs here:

    Jo Chala Gaya Use Bhol Ja - Saathi - Naushad - http://youtu.be/tWHBg_eAHJY

    Ae Dil Pyar Ki Manzil - Aas Ka PAnchhi - Shanker Jaikishan -

    Similarly, we have two Madan Mohan songs

    one on Pradeep Kumar -

    Hum Chal Rahe The - Duniya Na Maane - http://youtu.be/bVwPHL19v14


    a 1950 song on Sheikhar -

    Preet Laga Ke Main Yeh Fal Paaya - Aankhen - http://youtu.be/Zdd0Isv3l4A

  16. "And like Mohammed Rafi (I've discovered one absolutely cute anecdote about him!),"

    What, what, what? *hopping about with curiosity*

  17. Anu,

    I must admit I am not a great fan of Mukesh but I do like his songs, particularly emotionlal.

    I feel he is besura at times, to be honest, I do not understand abc of sur.

    I have read somewhere that Sardar Mallick worked very hard with Mukesh and made him sing in perfect sur for Saranga but the irony is that I find him besura in Saranga songs, that means I like him when he is real besura.
    I like your list except for ofcourse Sarnaga and Chandramukhi.

    I had a good laugh at myself at your explanation on Char Diwari's song, it reminded me, of how silly I was, when I was little, (does not mean I am not silly now when I am OLD).I used to think that the lyric was Kaise manau tyauhaar jun mere ek hoon nahin and always wondering ( as a child ) do we have to have gun to manoo tyauhar? :)

    Back to Mukesh, his nasal quality at times enhanced some of his songs eg: Maine tere liye hi saat rang ke sapne.

    Songs for Raj Kapoor my favorite is Kisi ki muskura hato par http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKpfIAXnPr0&feature=player_embedded
    Non Raj Kapoor songs that come to my mind right now, are both twin KA songs.

    first one is from Holi aai re, a warning for the video, watch at your own risk, you have to bear the hero and the heroine, you can take the option of just listening to the beautiful song.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy_okpKLE4M&feature=player_embedded

    the other song from Apne hue paraye heroine is again Mala Sinha but i found her bearable here.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWYw0Z_OKkQ&feature=player_detailpage

  18. Thank you, Ashokji.

    I hadn't heard the song from Aankhen before. Hum chal rahe the is a song that I like very much. Thank you for the links.

  19. You haven't mailed me your request yet. Harvey has sent in a request that is going to take me some time to dig up, but it will be fun.

  20. I was going to keep it for later, for when I write about Rafi, but what the heck? It is too good not to share. I have been grinning ever since I read about it. Apparently, after an interview, the photographer was taking a lot of photos, and Rafi quietly posed every which way the photographer wanted. After they finished, he asked Ek foon ke saath foto ho jaye?” He then posed with a phone held to his ear. Later, when the interviewer's son went to meet Rafi with his father, he had taken some of the snaps so he could get them autographed. Rafi rifled through the snaps, saw the one of him with the phone, and said very happily Ye main-ne khichwaya tha. Achi aayi hai na?

    I can't help but grin. I mean, for someone so celebrated, so photographed, so interviewed, to be so pleased with something so little... to me, that says a lot. :)

    Sanjeev Kohli is on record as saying that when they were looking for a photo of Rafi for a collection of sad songs of his that they were bringing out, they couldn't find a single one where he was not smiling. :)

  21. Ashraf, grinning at your explanation of being silly even when you are old. Join the club, and hopefully, our silliness will never go away. :)
    Yes, I know what you mean by not knowing the abc of sur - I'm in the same boat, but somehow you know when the voice hits the wrong one. With Mukesh, again I agree with you, the appeal was in the emotion in his voice - it touched you in ways that technically perfect singers are not able to do. Thank you for the links, as well as warning me what I will see in the second one!

  22. Lalitha, I have often said he is a 'limited' singer, but I have never had a 'low opionion' of him. That he was not my favourite singer, is a fact. But then liking someone is very subjective, no? But I have never denied liking his songs - several of them, in fact. I am glad you like this post, and I hope this, and the next two posts, exculpate me from the charge of being a Mukesh-hater. (Which I most certainly am not!) :)

    Let me link to your songs. All three of your Mukesh-RK songs are personal favourites, and Chandan sa badan is a lovely song from an unbearable movie. Thanks for posting them.

  23. That is so cute! What an adorable man. :-) I was telling my sister yesterday about Mukesh's "Yeh mujhe kaun copy kar raha hai" anecdote, and was also reminded of how excited Mohammad Rafi was to finally get to meet his idol - Mohammad Ali - when he went to the US on a tour. It takes a lot of humility to be able to stay grounded even when you're such a celebrity yourself.

  24. Sure :) I will be sending a request soon......

  25. I'm not a big Mukesh fan, or a Raj Kapoor one, at that. :) Sorry. But he has sung such beautiful numbers, as is evident by your list, some of which are eternal favourites. Ditto for Raj Kapoor, his body of work cannot be denied, even if there may be bits that are annoying.

  26. Wasn't he? I felt like reaching out and pinching his cheeks! Everytime I read something like this about him, I realise how true it was that people often said that Rafi retained a child-like innocence about him even when he was famous. That Mohammad Ali story was likewise.

    What I also liked about both Rafi and Mukesh was that they, by all accounts, insisted on staying with their musicians, instead of in better hotels, when they went on stage shows. It takes really great men to retain their humility. And while you hear of the egos of some of the other singers and composers, these two have been almost universally hailed as really good men, not just singers.

  27. Got it! And what a lovely topic to choose. :)

  28. Banno, where would the world be if we all liked the same people and disliked the (same) others? A much younger me would have (and did!) take umbrage at people not worshipping Amitabh Bachchan (for instance) like I did (my siblings can tell countless stories of how they used to make me cry, the horrors), but there are so many actors/singers/you name its that I do not like very much, but others do. My liking or disliking them cannot take away from what they have achieved even if it is not to my liking. And like me with Mukesh, you (general 'you') need not be a fan, but you can still like their work. Or some parts of it. As you said, they have a body of work that stands testimony to that talent and hard work.

    I think we (general 'we') take it very personally when someone does not like the person/thing that we do. I know I used to - anything anyone said against Amitabh was a personal attack against me. Luckily, most of us outgrow that silliness. :)

  29. You want to know my real reason for liking Mukesh? He is the only singer whose songs I can sing and they will still be recognized for what they are!
    A few more of my favorites:
    kuchh sher sunata hoon main ... from Ek Dil sau afsane
    sajan re jhoot mat bolo ... from Teesri Kasam
    suno ji suno hamari bhi suno ... also from Ek Dil Sau afsane
    Koi jab tumhara hriday tod de ... from Purab aur Paschim (just the song, Manoj was never one of my faves!)
    and of course,
    chal ri sajni ab kya soche ... from Bambai ka Babu

    More favorites to follow! You will be inundated with them until you want to twist my neck or arm!

  30. Lalitha, what a unique reason for liking someone's songs! *grin* Hey, no worries about adding songs to the list. I'm all for it.

    Take a look at the new post as well - you will have some more Mukesh to wallow in. :)

  31. Great post and a lovely selection of unforgettable songs. Like you, most of us found that Mukesh was a singer who 'grew' on you. Apart from the emotion in his voice, I like the resonance in his voice and his crystal clear diction. Shanker-Jaikishen and Kalyanji Anandji had the maximum number of songs with Mukesh. Anandji once said that they would request lyricists to add more words that stressed the N and M sounds to bring out the best effect from Mukesh's nasal voice. Apart from the many songs listed here, I particularly like Teri Duniya mein (Bawre Nain), Deewanon se mat poocho (Upkar) and Chal Akela (Sambandh). In the Upkar song, the 'limited range' Mukesh sings the variations in the song easily. Kalyanji Anandji also 'neutralized' the 'sad' songs of Mukesh with westernized music, sometimes set to a brisk tempo like in Hum chod chale hain mehfil ko (Ji Chahta hai).

    You can also enjoy more Mukesh gems (Category Mukesh) in my blog at http:/rsbaab.wordpress.com.

  32. Anuji, may I say ‘Der ayad durust ayad’ (better late
    …). Thanks for a wonderful post. As an Indian born and brought up in a culture
    of rationing, I could ill afford not to like whatever little variety our music
    monopolies (HMV and AIR) chose to dish out.
    Thus, I liked the songs of even Mahendra Kapoor and Sharada, while exercising
    my prerogative by relegating them lower in the hierarchy of preferences. Mukesh was, of course, the voice of choice
    for millions with unrequited love in our conservative society (according to a
    psychologist quoted on one of the websites that I cannot locate now). Like Harveyji and AKji, I too prefer the
    songs Mukesh sang for leading MDs such as SDB, Roshan, Madanmohan, Jaidev, and Khayyam. Among others Usha Khanna, Dattaram, N Dutta,
    and SN Tripathi also got the best out of him.
    Here are some of the gems not mentioned in the posts above:

    Bhooli huyi yaadon (Sanjog, 1961; MD: Madanmohan)


    Jab gham-e-ishq (Kinaare Kinaare, 1963; MD: Jaidev)


    Chaand ko kya maloom (Lal Bangala, 1966; MD: Usha Khanna)


    Dil ne use maan liya (Santan, 1959; MD: Dattaram)


    Dil dhoondhata hai sahare sahare (Kala Aadmi, 1960, MD: N Dutta)


    Kise yaad rakhoon (Anuraag, 1956; MD: Mukesh)


    Mukesh also left an invaluable legacy of non-film
    songs. His rendition of Tulsidas’s
    ‘Ramacharitamanasa’ is well known, as are his other devotional songs such as
    these two:

    Pitu matu sahayak


    Sur ki gati main kya janoo


    The Mukesh and Rafi anecdotes were priceless. Raju Bhartan had another similar anecdote about
    Mukesh who would often ridicule his own voice:

    "You know why Lata Mangeshkar is the greatest singer in
    the world?" Mukesh would demand to know. "Because there is an
    out-of-tune performer called Mukesh singing opposite her to make her voice sound
    the best in the world !"

    And here is another one about Rafi’s childlike simplicity
    (told by Shahid Rafi, his son, on a YouTube video; unfortunately I cannot find
    the link now). The day he had recorded
    ‘Chal mere bhai’ from Naseeb, he returned home excited and told the children
    “Do you know what happened today? I recorded a song with Amitabh Bachhan!”

  33. Hi, RS, Welcome to my blog. Thank you so much for the appreciative words.
    I like the resonance in his voice and his crystal clear diction.

    That was something that many music directors had commented upon - his clarity of diction and the intonation.

    I didn't know about the addition of words with N and M sounds in the lyrics - that is very interesting. The songs you posted are very beautiful, though I'm not very fond of his songs for Manoj Kumar in Manoj Kumar films. Let me link them so it is easier for other readers to listen to them.

    I will check out your blog. I had to edit the link because for some reason it picked up my blog id as well, leading me at first to think that this was spam. :)

  34. Canasyaji, welcome. Thank you for adding some beautiful songs to this post. I had completely forgotten about Bhooli hui yaadon! I had not heard the non-film songs that you posted. Some of the others are 'new' to me as well. Thank you so much for the links. I have bookmarked them so I can listen at leisure.

    Yes, I have heard his rendition of Tulsi Ramayan. He was very proud of it. Both the anecdotes you mentioned are also familiar to me - it warms the cockles of your heart, doesn't it, to know that their greatness and their humility extended to their personal lives? Love the stories regarding the two men.

  35. Ah, I love Mukesh. Always have. My Dad saw to that.:-) As you and others have pointed out, it's the sincerity and conviction with which he emotes that sets Mukesh apart. When I was younger, I used to place great value on a singer's technical powers and so Rafi, Lata and Asha were always tops with me. As I grew older however, I realized that given a base level of technical competence, I really didn't care if a singer hit every single note in a song exactly right, I did however care immensely if they hit a wrong note *emotionally*. And so now, I no longer consider Rafi to be my favorite or the greatest male singer in Hindi films. I no longer even believe in "the greatest", but just in great artistes and consider Mukesh to be one of them along with Rafi..and Kishore and Talat.

    Which of course means I love all the songs you've picked, save "main pal do pal ka shayyar hoon" from Kabhie Kabhie and that's because there is nothing that I like about Kabhie Kabhie. Nothing. :-) Here are some other favorites that haven't been mentioned:

    Aye jaan-e-jigar dil mein

    Apni nazar se unki nazar tak

    Sab pyar ki baatein karte hain

    Aye pyaase dil bezubaan

    Yeh din kya aaye (nothing makes me happier than listening to a happy Mukesh!)

    Tujhko yoon dekha hai

  36. Shalini, I agree with you completely about 'the greatest'. I don't believe in it either, and I will also agree with you about there being several 'greats'.

    I love all the Mukesh songs you have posted here. He sounds very different in Sab pyar ki baatein karte hain, much more of a bass voice than his usual. Naushad once said that it was criminal that composers made Mukesh sing at a higher pitch than his normal voice. He also confessed to having done the same.

    I nodded my head in agreement at being happy with a happy Mukesh. :) Thanks for the songs.


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