When two geniuses come together

Yesterday (16th June 2020) was the 100th Anniversary of a true genius in Indian cinema. He was a fantastic singer who was adored for his rich baritone, he was a very creative composer, and he started a production house and adapted many English classics , especially the suspense thrillers) and contributed hugely to the genre of Rabindrasangeet, so much that he spawned a legion of clone singers who did very well for themselves as well. Some of them were so good, it becomes difficult to differentiate between him and his clones.

Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyaya is the unmistakable genius that I am referring to. A man who was born in Varanasi, he actually started studying Engineering in Jadavpur University before shifting over to pursue his love full time, music. He actually recorded his first song when only 15 and cut his first (non film) record that was released when 17. In his early days he was an avid follower of Pankaj Mullick, so much so he was referred to a “Chhoto Pankaj” . He started recording songs for films in the 40s and he also started composing for films. His first Rabindrasangeet recording was actually for a film. Commercial success sadly eluded him for a few years. He moved to Mumbai thanks to his association with the IPTA (Indian Progressive Theatre Association) which was actually started in the wake of the Great Bengal Famine and the British Inaction to save lives (actually the Brits and their actions CREATED the famine and caused millions of deaths, according to some estimated as many as the Holocaust in Europe , purely by diverting foodgrains from Bengal which was suffering from many years of successive drought , to Europe chiefly to England to feed the Brits during WWII). He met his great friend Salil Chowdhury in IPTA and the two formed a long term friendship and a professional creative partnership as well.

I love his baritone, one of the best in the business. This fantastic song is from the early 50s movie Anarkali with Beena Rai (in the title role) and Pradeep Kumar as well as Sulochana and Mubarak (who acted as Akbar) . The music director’s job was actually first given to Vasant Prakash, who started recording the songs.

However he got sacked when he had a fall out with the producers. C Ramchandra came in and insisted he do the music all over again and also insisted he do all the songs with Lata Mangeshkar.

Just one song recorded with Geeta Dutt (Aa jaan-e wafaa) stayed in the movie. It remains the only song composed by Vasant Prakash in the movie, all the other ten songs are by C Ramchandra.

This wonderful song was composed by C Ramachandra in the raag Bageshri.

The musical score was so amazing, the movie despite the non acting by Pradeep Kumar in the role of Shahjehan, was the biggest grosser of the year, earning the equivalent of Rs 350-400 Crores adjusted for inflation.


An amazing duet that’s pure magic with the combined talents of the unmistakable geniuses.

Have a great day ahead, folks while we stay safe and resolute in the face of Chinese Virus and sabre rattling

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

7 replies on “When two geniuses come together”

Hemantda…was a unique gift to Bollywood
His voice was as you said full of baritone
And a depth comparable to a devine
As is evident in this song you posted,
A MD like C Ramchandra chose him for the song , says it all actually 👍👍👍👍👍
His many songs unfortunately still
remain in जिंदगी कितनी
खुबसुरत है आइए आप की जरूरत है…!!
Glad radio did the great job yesterday of giving his all songs and actual interviews 🙏

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Amazing music by C Ramchandra and such lovely lyrics by Rajendra Kishan all sung so beautifully by Latadidi mainly, with Hemantda joining in in one duet and one solo, and Geeta Dutt having a song to herself. Interestingly both Geetadidi and Latadidi sang for the same person on screen – Bina Rai, but the audience apparently did not mind.
My favourite was ‘Jaag Dard-e-Ishq’ , sung so beautifully by Latadidi and Hemantda. The scene is so beautifully composed and the song, set to such lovely raag Bageshri! Pradeep Kumar was the perennial-dressing-gowned-and-pipe-smoking-rich-father-who-hates-the-penniless-suitor. Someone, maybe Devyani Choubal, wrote that he had played the king and rich man in so many films that if he ever played a beggar, you would think he was a king in disguise, out to snoop on his subjects. Mubarak was fabulous as Akbar and as for Sulochana (Ruby Myers) who played Jodha Bai, she was just as if you had asked your Anglo-Indian telephone operator to step in to play the queen in an office play. The same intonation of Hellooo & Good Morning!
Anarkali with all fabulous songs , was a fast-paced film and if you forgave the studio bulb officiating for a full moon etc, you really liked the movie, Pradeep Kumar notwithstanding!
Hemantda’s sonorous voice lends nothing less than magic to the song and at once catapults before us his tall, dhoti-shirt clad figure.
He was among a handful of artists in the capacity of a singer, music director, composer and a film producer who straddled both the worlds of Bengali and Hindi films with elan.
Latadidi had once said, “Listening to Hemanta da, I feel as though a sadhu is sitting in a temple singing bhajan”.
Another aspect of his greatness was that he never shied away from offering other performers his songs , a job that he himself was very capable of doing .Hemantda’s foresight lay in using Kishoreda for a song of immeasurable depth, something composers were not sure of during Kishoreda’s transition into a full-time playback singer. He had cut down on his acting assignments and was focusing more on playback singing, but he was still perceived as a singer capable of rendering only fast numbers. The song was ‘Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thi.’ And the rest as they say is history. He also politely turned down both the Padma Shri & the Padma Bhushan awards.The playback queen Latadidi finds a perfect balance between grand ardour and understated drama in the exquisite notes of Jaag dard e ishq jaag. Music lovers will always have a tough time slotting Hemantda . Was he a great composer who also sang well or was he a great singer who also made memorable music? Was he a better music director than he was a singer? For someone as good as Hemantda, these questions may as well be rhetorical.

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