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26 September 2018

In Memory

Today is Dev Anand’s birthday – he would have been 95 – and, coincidentally, Hemant Kumar’s 29th death anniversary. Why am I mentioning this? Because, despite the fact that many of Dev Anand’s earlier songs were sung by Mohammed Rafi and his later ones by Kishore Kumar, Dev has had many other singers give playback for him. One of them was Hemant Kumar.

In fact, one of my favourite Dev Anand songs of all time, and definitely one of my all-time favourites, is Ye raat ye chandni phir kahan from Jaal. This, despite the fact that I have always preferred Mohammed Rafi as the voice of Dev Anand. That’s not to say that I don’t like his songs by other singers. I do. It’s just that most of Dev Anand’s iconic numbers have been sung by Mohammed Rafi – and I cannot imagine anyone else singing those songs. So it was surprising to realise when I was collating this list that I have liked every single song that Hemant Kumar has sung for Dev Anand.

What was stranger still was finding out that out of those ten songs, 9 of them were composed by SD Burman. (The exception is Yaad kiya dil ne kahaan ho tum. Why is that strange? For the simple reason that SD seems to have used Hemantda very sparingly – for around 14 or 15 songs. So, the better part of their collaboration was picturised on Dev Anand since SD Burman was practically Navketan's in-house music composer. 
Source: Hamara Photos
Dev Anand didn’t have a ‘preferred singer’ like say, Shammi Kapoor’s avowed fondness for Mohammed Rafi, even if he did have a soft corner for Kishore Kumar. Hemant Kumar once said that he was the ‘romantic’ voice of Dev Anand, and that singing for him established his career. However, each one of these ten numbers was hugely popular and went a long way towards establishing Dev’s romantic image. So, today, to celebrate a gentleman actor and 'the voice of God' as Salilda called him, here are a list of their songs in chronological order.

Sazaa (1951) / Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
This was Hemant Kumar’s first song for SD Burman in Hindi, his first song for Dev Anand, and if I’m not mistaken, the singer’s first ever song recorded in Hindi as well. SD also introduced a new female voice, that of Sandhya Mukherjee, an upcoming singer from Bengal.

Sandhya Mukherjee begins as the chorus trails off, her voice reminiscent of Geeta Dutt’s, but deeper,  calling her beloved to a secret rendezvous. She’s soon joined by Hemant Kumar, his voice deep and compelling. A quintessential romantic ballad, this composition is actually lifted out of its usual genre by the insertion of a chorus (in the form of an itinerant caravan traversing the forest in the night). By itself, it is a beautiful composition; with the inclusion of the chorus, it seems (to me) to enhance the experience, especially when you’re watching the song onscreen.

According to SD Burman – The World of His Music (Khagesh Dev Burman), the lyrics of the chorus were taken from a folksong from Burman’s native Tripura. Apparently, they were used as dummy lyrics and SD had fully intended to delete it before the song was recorded. Authors Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal, on the other hand, call this ‘nonsensical lyrics’ in their book, SD Burman, The Prince-Musician, and make no mention of it being a folksong at all.

Jaal (1952) / Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Two beautiful people, a guitar, a beach, a rising storm – and Hemantda’s voice. This song is at once sensuous and seductive, and perhaps one of the most erotic song picturisations ever. It has appeared on several of my lists already, and it is one song (in my opinion) where melody, singer and picturisation are so in sync that it is like immersing yourself in an experience.

Dev’s Tony is seducing Maria (Geeta Bali). And he knows she knows. And as he sings, each word, each phrase increases the conflict between reason and emotion. Her rising desire is mirrored by nature and the screen crackled with the intensity of their emotions. It was a masterful depiction of sexual awakening, and the camera loving captures each heaving sigh and conflicted gaze of the heroine as she gives in to her lover’s plea to ‘listen to his heart’.

The success of this song established Hemantda’s nascent career in Hindi and Shankar-Jaikishen promptly signed him for their under-production, Patita.

Patita (1953) / Music: Shankar-Jaikishan / Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri 
If I were ever to do a post on Hemant Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar duets, this song would top the list.  Here is Hemantda, his voice soft as silk, honey-smooth, crooning a ballad of unconditional love, giving it that dream-like quality that can only be felt. In this song of deep love and gratitude - matlabi jahaan meherbaan ho tum – Lata joins in to sing of a love so mature, so unquestioning and accepting of a past, a love that has seen its share of trials and tribulations and therefore stronger, even if more muted. He is excited, impatient; she is happy and thankful and even pleasantly surprised at the happiness that’s theirs. He’s thinking of her; where is she? She is here wherever, whenever he calls for her. This is my idea of a quintessential romance.

House No: 44 (1955) / Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
While this film was one of Navketan’s inexplicable duds in their earlier phase, it was choc a bloc with some wonderful songs, including, Teri duniya mein and  Phaili huin hain sapnon ki baahein. Here, in a pleasant, ‘I-don’t-have-anything-else-to-do’ manner which is mirrored by a gap-toothed grinning Dev onscreen,  Hemantda croons the song as a plaint to an unknown beloved - Chup hai dharti chup hai channd tare,  mere dil ki dhadkan tujhe pukaare. If only Ashok’s (Dev Anand) life were as uncomplicated as this song.

House No: 44 (1955) / Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
In the same film comes Teri duniya mein jeene se toh behtar hai mar jaaye.  It begins with Lata humming the prelude (for Kalpana Kartik), and Ashok (Dev Anand) lying outside the window, picks up the melody, sets words to it and warbles on. The words may sound tragic, but our hero is not. He’s merely philosophical, and as he props up a wall by picturesquely draping himself over it, he is as much serenading the lady inside as much as ruminating over his life. Sahir’s lyrics are as cynical as he can make them, but they are tempered with an amused acceptance of life’s travails. And inside the house, the lady is listening.

Dil ki umangein hai jawan
Munimji (1955) / Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Thought Hemant Kumar could only sing sad, soulful or philosophical songs? Here’s a playful number that proves the contrary. Onscreen, the hero (Dev Anand) and the heroine (Nalini Jaywant) have joined together to tease the villain (voiced by Pran himself though the record lists the singer as ‘Thakur’), and Hemantda and Geeta Dutt seemed to thrown themselves into their ‘roles’ with abandon. While Geeta Dutt’s voice held all the mischief of a young woman who’s egging a tuneless suitor to make a fool of himself, Hemantda modulated his voice to express amusement, mock-seriousness, and flirting. Lovely!

According to an interview of Hemant Kumar, he had initially ‘auditioned’ Jeevan ki safar mein raahi over the telephone for SD Burman. Later, he found he was to record Dil ki umangein hai jawan instead.

Munimji (1955) / Lyrics: Shailendra
A song where, while I love the song itself, the picturisation is mind-blowing. A stage performance, it depicts the wedding of Shiva and Parvathi. The song, of course, is being ‘sung’ onscreen by Dev Anand in his disguise as the titular ‘munim’. SD effectively used the melody to depict the two faces of Shiva – the savage, uncouth one he initially displays to his wedding guests, and the softer, sober version that his newly-wed bride coaxes out of him. The ‘comic’ dance, choreographed and performed by Sachin Shankar and his ballet troupe as a proper dance drama, was more sophisticated than the usually Hindi cinema fare. It is sad that Kishore Kumar’s Jeene ke safar mein raahi became so successful that it overshadowed every other song in this film, including the Lata solos. 

Hai apna dil toh awara
Solwa Saal (1958) / Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Another ‘happy’ Hemant Kumar song (though this one also has a ‘sad’ version), this one Majrooh Sultanpuri channelling his inner Dev Anand. His heart is a vagabond, never finding a place to call its own. And while so many beautiful woman have laid claim to it, have embraced it even, but they never understood – despite his explanation – that his so-innocent heart has never yet taken up residence anywhere. What’s more, when his heart has been willing, they could never did find a priest to make the contract legal. And the gamble was lost.

The irony in this situation is that neither he nor the heroine (Waheeda Rehman) are interested in each other. He is explaining to his friend (Sunder) why he’s not going to chase after a good-looking young woman; she has a boyfriend of her own and is, in fact, eloping with him. Dev Anand channelled his inner mischief, and looked both charming and endearing, and Hemantda complemented this behind the scene.

Manzil (1960) / Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
For some reason*, SD used Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey and Hemant Kumar as the singing voice of Dev Anand in this film – and each of those songs were beautifully rendered. Yaad aa gayi woh nasheeli nigaahein has three versions – two sad, one happy. It is interesting to note how Hemantda modulates his voice for the different versions. In one of the ‘sad’ versions, in which Dev Anand (playing a music director down on his luck) is remembering his lost love, he slurs lovingly over the syllables, drawing them out. SD slowed the tempo allowing his singer to take centrestage. I like all three versions.

According to Hemantda, SD Burman took the singer according to the requirement of the song, and not the actor on whom it was picturised.

Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962) / Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Now this is classic Hemant Kumar.  This song has it all – a lovely melody, fantastic lyrics, and this warm, mellow voice singing with such feeling, it reminds you of a warm blanket wrapped around you on a cold Winter’s night. You can be forgiven for feeling romantic. Hemantda's silken vocals evoke that essence of a gentle romance even though the situation is not romantic. Dev Anand, playing an investigating officer, is trying to bring back Waheeda’s memory with this song. Suman Kalyanpur joins in towards the end as Waheeda’s memory is triggered – this is a song she had sung to her beloved earlier.

This is the last song that Hemant Kumar would sing for SD Burman. Just as SD never used Talat despite the thundering success of the songs of Taxi Driver, it is curious to think that despite a ‘1oo% track record’ as Hemant Kumar calls it, SD never used Hemant Kumar again. 
However,  all three of them – Dev, Hemantda, Sachinda – are missed.

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