Remembering the singer of soul

22nd July 1923 is when he was born in Delhi to an Engineer father, sixth amongst a large family with ten children. He would have been 99 today. He dropped out of school and took up a job for a while with the PWD in Delhi. His heart lay in music, though, a passion and a skill he had developed almost vicariously as a tutor came home to teach an older sister. A leading star of the time, Motilal, who was related, in Delhi for his sister’s wedding, heard him sing and came to know of the young boy’s desire, took him under his wings and brought him along to Mumbai, organised singing tuitions (Hindustani Classical Music) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Mukesh Chand Mathur, saw it all in his sadly-too-brief stay on the planet. The heady highs and the lowest of lows when rather rapacious sharks exploited his desire to be a singing star bound him hand and foot, promised the moon and having robbed him of virtually all his riches, expectedly jettisoned him to have to start life again. The break meant that his on-screen doppelgänger Raj Kapoor had used the services of other singers in the interregnum. Order was soon restored, old relations restored by reopening bridges closed by the unfair and wholly malafide contractual limitations and Mukesh 2.0 was born. He enthralled his millions of faithful acolytes in his second coming, but his career always suffered as a result of the years of unnecessary isolation. He was always able to touch the very soul and strum the heartstrings of the many in a manner not too many of his peers were able to do as reliably and repeatedly as he could.

The song is a unique one in Bollywood history, from the third of an unusual trilogy of movies. Raj Khosla who had made a name for himself as the go-to director for suspense/ thrillers in Bollywood had made two lovely, superhit movies Woh Kaun Thi? and Mera Saaya with the same leading lady, Sadhana Shivdasani. Both had met great commercial (and critical) success. The two successful movies had Madan Mohan, the musical maestro as the composer to weave his enchanting and entrapping magic with his unique oeuvre. Woh Kaun Thi? had (Bharatkumar) Manoj Kumar as the resident fungus who carries a patented look of a man with Alzheimer’s with painful prolapsed haemorrhoids who has just spotted a lizard chasing a cockroach in his soup. He must be the only character in the history of Bollywood to manage this amnestic and lost expression of pain, and loathing. Other unmentionables didn’t come anywhere close. He was promptly substituted by Raj Khosla in the next opus of the trilogy to change the flavour of the Batata Wada , and an equally non emotive male lead, Sunil ( Balraj) Dutt roped in for Mera Saaya (which was virtually a frame by frame plagiarism of a Marathi Movie, Pathlaag. Raj Khosla now launched the final tome of the trilogy to encash on the audience built up over the first two, and rushed through the third one, called Anita after the on-screen name of the leading lady, Sadhana. He opted to go back to the resident Iguana, Manoj Kumar for this one. The two changes he allowed in the third part of the trilogy was changing Madan Mohan with the musical factory, Laxmikant Pyarelal. While the latter produced copiously like a pair of rabbits, qualitatively they could never reach the heights at which Madan Mohan began. This had the tragic (if somewhat predictable) result of Anita flopping where the first two had been megahits. The other reason for the project laying one of the largest œuf’s in Bollywood history was an undue amount of interference by the leading (???) man (???) in the movie making. Sadhana herself had sadly started showing signs of her tryst with the Thyroid gland and this ravaged her unquestionably pristine beauty.

This is probably the only movie where a full song is actually played in full even before the opening credits roll in. It also has this other amazing song by Mukesh: “Tum Bin Jeevan kaise beetawritten by Madan Mohan’s fave lyricist, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan.

Many of the scenes in the movie were shot in Nainital. The ashram and temple is Hanuman Garhi in Nainital, where the song “Tum bin jeevan kaise beeta” is shot. The final scene is shot at Mumbai’s Vihar Lake area. The popular ‘Humpty Dumpty’ cartoon structures can be clearly seen. The last bit of the movie has been clearly plagiarised from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

The movie’s opening song is picturized with the director trying to hide Mr Facepalm in the foliage, but expectedly failing. Sadly Sadhana looks a pale clone of herself. Mukesh, the birthday boy, enjoyed a great equation with the guy and sang many a memorable song for his somewhat preachy movies when he turned producer to project himself in the 70s. This song is written by Arzoo Lakhnavi.

I feel Raj Khosla’s scuttling of Madan Mohan and teaming up with LP contributed to the commercial failure of the movie as much as the interference in the script and direction by our man Flint.

C’est la vie.

Here is remembering you, Sir, the man with arguably the patent on the genre in Bollywood,. composer and on-screen ghouls notwithstanding. So many of your songs are remembered as standalone melodies and the other attributes forgotten.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

8 replies on “Remembering the singer of soul”

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