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The voice with a soul…

27th August 1976 will always remain a very sad day in my memory.

Mukesh Chand Mathur died on this day, far away from India in Detroit, aged just 53. The handsome, very gentle man who came to Mumbai thanks to his relation, (and the superstar of the era), Motilal, spotting his singing talents in a family wedding. Motilal took charge and sponsored both the trip and offered shelter, arranged for singing lessons and also later intervened when Mukesh wanted to marry the true love of his life amidst great parental opposition on the girls’ side.

Mukesh arguably possessed the most soulful voice in the history of Bollywood and certainly defines the vocalisation of pain the best amongst the top singers of his time. While Rafisaab, Kishore Kumar, Hemant Kumar all were more famous, none could give expression to a hurt soul, a lonely heart as Mukesh did. I love the apparent simplicity (deceptive, you realise how difficult it is to imitate him when you try to do it), the purity and silken touch of Mukesh’s voice. Such clear diction and smooth singing as only he could manage never fails to apply salve to the disturbed soul.

He debuted as a singer- actor at the ripe old age of 18, with Nalini Jaywant as his heroine, in the movie Nirdosh. The movie was hardly noticed by the fans/ critics and Mukesh struggled in his professional career. Motilal once again talked to his friend Anil Biswas, the legendary music director who had to almost threaten the film producer to give Mukesh a break. He got his really BIG break as a playback singer for Motilal in 1945 with the film Pehli Nazar which had music composed by Anilda and lyrics written by Aah Sitapuri. The most famous song that he sang for that film was “Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De” . This one song really made his career.

Mukesh was such a huge fan of  the legendary Kundanlal Saigal, that in his early years of his playback singing (As did everyone else of the generation- a gender neutral statement as stated by the great Latadidi as well) he used to imitate his idol.  In fact, it is said that when K. L. Saigal first heard the song “Dil Jalta Hai…”, he actually remarked, “That’s strange, I don’t recall singing that song”. Anil Biswas first and Naushad later helped him evolve his own distinctive style and come out of Saigal’s very large shadow, and we got to hear the true voice of the sorrowing soul.

Choosing one song from his hundreds of unforgettable songs was a task that was well nigh impossible. I have chosen this one as it best captures my feelings (with hundreds of millions of Mukesh Lovers) in terms of the words and the singing as well. The song is truly poignant and caresses my soul every time I hear it.

The movie is Anuraag. He produced the movie himself and also composed the musical score. He was also the male lead in the movie with Usha Kiran as the female lead. Kaif Irfani was the lyricist for the touching ghazal. The movie bombed at the box office and caused much economic hardship to the singer and his family. I have heard stories from the era from his younger son. I wonder if that phase added a few layers of pain to his amazing voice.

कोई दिल में है और
कोई है नजर में
मोहब्बत के सपने
मैं किसके उठाऊँ


इसी कश्मकशमें
जिए जा रहा हूँ
किसे याद रखूँ
किसे भूल जाऊँ
किसे याद रखूँ
किसे भूल जाऊँ

इधर दिल मोहब्बतमें
उनको दिया है
इधर फ़र्ज़ का बोझ सर पे लिया है
अरी जिंदगी तूने ये क्या किया है

किसे याद रखूँ,

किसे भूल जाऊँ,

न बस में है मेरे
उन्हें भूल जाना
न बस में है इनको
नजर से गिराना
मेरी बेबसी का
बस इतना फ़साना
किसे याद रखूँ
किसे भूल जाऊँ
किसे याद रखूँ
किसे भूल जाऊँ…….

Raj Kapoor sorrowfully remarked on hearing of his demise: “I have lost my voice”

Here’s to remembering this great soul who embodied, pain, sorrow and melancholia in a way that few of his peers could. Rest well, Sir, you will always be missed by the legions of your loyal fans.

Stay safe, folks, stay happy , healthy and safe. Have a wonderful weekend away from the Chinese Scourge.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

4 replies on “The voice with a soul…”

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