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.

Kalyanji Anandji Mukesh Romantic songs

The joy of first rains

Monsoons in India are a source of joy, of rebirth, rejuvenation of an entire country after the scorching heat of the summer that’s left a subcontinent parched and the earth thirsty. We have an entire set of activities centred around the onset of the rains.

The plentiful rains always augur well for a country where the majority of the populace still looks to survive on agriculture.

There are so many raags created to capture the joyous spirit of the rains. As also innumerable rain songs. This is one such that I particularly love as it is from the King of Soul who was more used to give voice to more sombre melodies. The beauty of monochrome photography is unmistakable and truly eternally awe inspiring.

Mukesh sings this fun song to celebrate the joy of rains on music by Kalyanji Anandji. Raj Kapoor in his trademark style jumps around as women hurriedly pull clothes from the clothesline, people pull out umbrellas and run for shelter. It is the joy of first downpour that you see when you see this eternal song in black & white from a 60s movie, Chhalia with Nutan, Rehman and Raj Kapoor.

The movie was directed by Manmohan Desai and the lyrics are by Qamar Jalalabadi.

Have fun, folks as I am mentally already in the great outdoors. In the rains it will be just sublime. Stay healthy and happy.

Mukesh Sad Film Songs

The futility of expectations

Poetry, music and therefore Bollywood film music share a common feature, as much (if not more) has been written when in pain as in happier moments. Some of the most lasting creations directly owe their existence to unrealised expectations and to pain arising from unfulfilled dreams. Moments of poignancy result in eternal creations. I cannot imagine immortal ghazals and thumris like say Babul mora or Lagta nahin hai dil mera becoming half as effective if they had been written in happier moments. Mukesh and Talat Mahmood made capital out of the mood. Look at this song, sung by Mukesh from a Raj Kapoor movie, Kanhaiya.

Kanhaiya was directed by Om Prakash who we know in a different role (or rather varied roles) that he essayed throughout his life. He had one of the longest careers in Bollywood.

Nutan is a great devotee of Lord Krishna, also known as Kanhaiya. She often goofily wanders off alone in the woods dancing and singing to the flute notes that are going on in her mind, as if played by Kanhaiya.

She accidentally meets a guy fortuitously called Kanhaiya (Raj Kapoor), who actually is the village drunk and falls in his arms assuming him to be her “Kanhaiya,” the Lord Krishna. (Rather odd behaviour for a village Belle)

The village starts gossiping now (for lack of anything better to do) that Nutan and Raj Kapoor are in a romantic relationship, and in order to continue to stay in the same village, they have to get married. Nutan, amazingly still under the misconception regarding Kanhaiya (I wonder if the village has lots of Mahua trees planted), is actually thrilled and gives her consent.

This being a Bollywood movie, Nutan now becomes aware of the real id -that the village wastrel, alcoholic and good for nothing has actually taken advantage of her love for Lord Krishna, and now insists on marrying her. Such impossible situations and imbroglios can only be solved by Bollywood story writers and directors. That being accomplished, the movie draws out to an improbable end. In this hare brained plot, the only saving grace is the beautiful Nutan trying to look believable in her ridiculous role. And of course, Shankar Jaikishan were pretty much on top of their game and the movie has three excellent, unforgettable Mukesh melodies: “Ruk Ja O Jane Wali”, “Yad Aayi Adhi Rat Ko” and this one

No one quite like  Mukesh to convey this emotion. For this genre Talat Mahmood and he stand apart. Stay healthy folks as the entire state observes the Ashadhi (Devshayani) Ekadashi vrat.

Human Tales Mukesh Salil Chowdhury

It happened one night….

Very few films have been made with such a temporally taut and telescoped script. The movie in Hindi, one of the most celebrated products to come out of RK Films, was actually made in two languages: Bangla (Ek Din Raatre) & Hindi ( as Jaagte Raho). Based on a story by the left leaning Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, it deals with the happenings of one night when a country bumpkin who has come to the city in search of a better life, meanders into a large housing complex in search of water, is mistaken for a thief, turning his life (& also those of the denizens of the urban abodes) upside down. His discovery of the seamy sides of lives of apparently respectable people changes the perspective for him (& for the audience). A wonderful, slick, straightforward storyline, narrated effectively. It had a wonderful musical score by the genius Salil Chowdhury. This is a wonderful song filmed on Motilal who was an amazing actor of the black and white film era.

The song in the Bangla version was sung by my favourite singer and an undercelebrated maestro, Manna Dey, Ei Duniya Shobi Hoi, and picturized on Chhabi Biswas, a very big name in Bangla films of the era. There is an extremely interesting metaphorical interaction between the fugitive Raj Kapoor and a young Daisy Irani towards the end of the movie. Nargis is seen in a cameo at the end singing Jaago Mohan Pyaare ( changed to Jaago Mohan Pritam in Bangla), & would mark her last on-screen appearance with Raj Kapoor. A very symbolic slaking of his thirst at her hands.

The film was a huge popular and critical success, directed by Amit Maitra and Sombhu Mitra, it’s leftist ideals appealed in particular to the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, (as with many of Raj Kapoor films) & it won (albeit in a shortened version) the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary film festival in Czechoslovakia. It was a massive hit in the USSR, collecting nearly $10 million in box office collections in that country alone. (Equivalent to ₹ 600 Crores in today’s terms). Great lyrics by Shailendra and fabulous lensmanship by Radhu Karmakar make this movie a must-watch delight to the senses.

Have a great day ahead, folks. Take care as the summer recedes.

Lata Mukesh Romantic Duets Shankar Jaikishan

The yearning of a lonely heart…

Woke up to this song.. I don’t really know why it happened. Long ago, I would spend time trying to figure out the why and how of this. I have now given up, as it is just the activation of a random memory circuit without apparent reason. It is one of the sweetest duets I’ve heard in six-seven decades of following Bollywood music.

Check it out, I am sure you’ll love it, too.

The movie Aah was the directorial debut of Raja Nawathe, who had worked with 3 of Raj Kapoor’s earlier projects: Aag, Barsaat, and Aawara. A storyline wasn’t revolutionary or path breaking in any sense. A rich man fixes his heir’s marriage with a young girl (Vijayalakshmi) & the son writes romantic letter to the girl, but it falls in the hands of the younger sister (Nargis) who replies and the two fall in love. Raj Kapoor discovers he has tuberculosis, which has killed his mother, too. He thinks he will die too, and now tries to dissuade Nargis from marrying him, asking her to marry his friend, the good Doctor, (Pran in a nonvillainous role) pretending he actually loves the sister, Vijayalakshmi, instead. The movie was initially released with a nonconventional ending, with Raj Kapoor dying at the exactly the same time as the wedding procession of Nargis and Pran proceeding past his window. Pran and Nargis were initially shown to be married in Raj Kapoor’s residence. But at the premiere, Kapoor realised that this film ending would not work.

As Raj Kapoor himself said at the time,
The atmosphere in an auditorium is like a living,  palpitating thing. It told me again and again: “Your picture is a flop.” ‘ The theme of the tragic hero and the consequent sufferings of the heroine was actually inspired from Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay‘s Devdas, that has spawned several other films. As a result of this “unacceptable” end of the film, Raj Kapoor then had the end changed from a tragic one to a conventional happy one, but the change ended up destroying the thematic unity of the text. The twist with the (then) miraculous recovery from tuberculosis to full health and the marriage to Nargis actually looks utterly contrived and the change didn’t quite change the fortunes of the film. As a result, the film was rated “Below Average” at the box office but has various hit songs. Shankar Jaikishan created a sublime score with Hasrat and Shailendra writing the lyrics for four and five songs respectively. The song “Chhoti Si Yeh Zindagani” sung by Mukesh was actually picturised on him, such a handsome man who could actually emote better than many logs of wood who were thrust on the audience, whose lot was to suffer them in silence and seek solace in ogling at the lovely ladies and enjoy the truly divine music, defining the period as the golden era of Bollywood music.

Subsequently, the film was later dubbed in Tamil as Avan (Dialogues by S. D. Sundharam) and Telugu as Prema Lekhalu .

The film was remade in Turkish as well, as Ah Bu Dünya starring Cüneyt Arkın. I am sure some day WhatsApp University will come up with the utterly outlandish theory (as they did with Aawara) that the Hindi movie is a remake of the Turkish “original”

Bunny Reuben, who wrote Kapoor’s biography Raj Kapoor, The Fabulous Showman, gives his rationale for the change: “The film had some of Shankar-Jaikishan’s loveliest music, and a ‘Devdas’-ian tragic ending which was changed to the conventional happy ending because the film didn’t do well in its first release.”

One of most favourite duets of all time with Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar emoting pure love beautifully as only they could.

Stay safe, folks and take care in the blazing summer. Let’s hope for some showers to provide much needed succour. Have a lovely, laid back weekend.