Published On: Sat, Mar 26th, 2016

Mukesh, the inimitable king of passion and melody.



In Hindi cinema, Mukesh (1923-1976) carved out a special place for himself among the playback singers. Mukesh enthralled listeners with his soulful renditions. Though not versatile, he touched the heart of the listener with his soulful rendering.

Thirty-nine years have gone by and hundreds of voices have sung over the years but one voice remains etched in the minds and hearts of Indians across the world. That voice is of Mukesh, the inimitable king of passion and melody. Unlike other singers of his times who enchanted the music lovers with foot-tapping songs, Mukesh caught the imagination of his fans by his passion-filled sad songs.

Mukesh was born into a family of ten in Delhi on July 22, 1923. After completing his matriculation, Mukesh worked for a while as a surveyor and came over to Mumbai to seek a singing career. In his childhood Mukesh developed interest in singing mainly because of his sister Sundar Pyari. Mukesh did not struggle much to get an opportunity in the filmdom as Motilal, a renowned actor of those times identified his soulful voice at a wedding ceremony and gave him a chance, His charming face made him an actor too and his first song was rendered for himself in the film “Nirdosh”. Thereafter he acted in several films. But by 1956 he decided not to act anymore and concentrated on his singing career. In his last movie as an actor, “Anurag”, Mukesh composed the music and rendered some soulful songs like “Pal bhar ki pehchan” and “Kise yaad rakhoon” among others.

Though Mukesh’s singing career got a kick start in 1945 with the film “Moorti” starring Motilal, his real stardom came with the film “Pehli Nazar”, where his song “Dil Jalta Hai O Jalne Do” brought him to the centre stage of Hindi film music. Though the glimpses of K. L. Saigal were evident in this song, it was intentional, as Mukesh had dreamt of rendering a song in his idol’s voice and style. But Mukesh was not allowed to continue in that tone. Music directors like Naushad and Anil Biswas saw to it that Mukesh sang in his own voice.

His individualism was brought to the fore by these two veterans, when Mukesh rendered songs like “Gaye Ja Geet Milan Ke” in the film “Mela”, “Suhana Safar” from “Madhumati” and several others.

Mukesh’s romantic songs in the film “Andaz” for Dilip Kumar was a turning point for the singer and for the actor too, as the songs became trendsetter for future films of the thespian.

“Andaz” also gave a break to Lata Mangeshkar who is thankful to Mukesh for having introduced her to Naushad through that movie.

Mukesh’s career got a big boost when he came into contact with Raj Kapoor, the star of those years. It was as if Mukesh was made for Raj kapoor and the later truly considered Mukesh as his soul. Mukesh started singing for the RK banner with the film “Neel Kamal” and from then on started a journey which was memorable not only for the two but for the whole generation of music lovers. “Barsat”, “Awara”, “Aan”, “Aah”, “Sri 420”, “Anari”, “Mera Naam Joker”, “Chalia”, “Parvarish”, “Teesri Kasam”. The pair’s saga ended with “Dharam Karam” wherein Mukesh sang his last song, which was eventually rendered for Raj Kapoor.

Mukesh shared a bond with Lata Mangeshkar and the two have rendered innumerable duets over four decades. Lata always called Mukesh ‘bhayya’ (brother) and their live concerts abroad are still a treat to listen to. It was Lata mangeshkar who brought Nitin Mukesh to the film field after Mukesh’s death and nurtured him into a good singer. Though Mukesh is considered a singer made for Raj Kapoor, he was the voice of heroes like Manoj Kumar, in films like “Upkar”, “Purab Aur Paschim”, “Roti Kapada aur Makan” and “Shor”. The song “Chal Re Sajni Ab Kya Soche” he rendered for Dev anand in “Bombai ka Babu” is heart-throbbing. S. D. Burman offered this song to Mukesh upon the unavailability of Kishore Kumar and the song went on to become a masterpiece.

Mukesh was known for his gentle behaviour and humility. His favourite music director duo Kalyanji-Anandji who worked with the great singer in more than 60 films remember him for his simplicity and commitment. He was sincere enough to admit on many occasions that Mohammed Rafi was more versatile singer than himself and was never averse to offer a chance to young and upcoming artists. Though O. P. Nayyar never opted for Mukesh, hecalled to sing “Chal Akhela” in “Sambandh” and that remains one of Mukesh’s best songs.

Mukesh, who died of a cardiac arrest on August 27, 1976 during a concert in US, was a singer made for sorrowful and passionate songs. His voice, though nasal at times, had a punch and vigour which could disturb as well soothe hearts.

(Courtesy: ‘Passion was his soul’, a printed article by Shri.N.Divakar

About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology