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Mukesh: A Different Romance in the Voice

August 27, 2019 | By

Celebrating the uniqueness that was Mukesh today. This article does not even attempt to list all of Mukesh’s songs that have made an impression, for there are way too many; it simply celebrates this singer for being who he was with sheer sincerity and goodness resonating in his voice.


Mukesh with Ramavtar Tyagi and Lalit Mohan Dhawan, producer of Zindagi aur Toofan
(Pic: Pragyaty / Wikimedia Commons 3.0)

Any of you who grew up, either with me in the early ’60s or before me, do you remember doing just this with the radio in your home? Singing along, maybe dancing to the music as a peppy sounding song like this comes along?

Watch Rehana here enjoying the song. Now, this is 1949! Not many shots in this song. And, yet, she gets the lip-sync just right! Fabulous! And what of the director here? He goes “into” the radio to show you the true emotion behind the song – that of a sad, maybe jilted, lover Raj Kapoor (Mukesh) – who sings in sorrow. While contrasting that – so beautifully – with Rehana’s and Shamshad Begum’s chirpiness! Mukesh is a complete delight, especially in the last stanza as he lingers on the
Gu-zaarii_n ro-ro ke ratiyaan…
Ab jiya pukare aaja.a.a…aaja dono naina bhar gaye

Meet sab jhootthe pad gaye (Sunehre Din, 1949) Gyan Dutt/ D N Madhok/ Mukesh and Shamshad Begum

Mukesh’s voice has an exclusive charm. Some people compare him – rather harshly, I might add – with other singers and find him wanting. Of course, it’s hard to imagine him crooning Maine shaayad tumhein pehle bhi…sing Ishaaron ishaaron mein… or even emote in songs like Aye mere pyaare vatan, and Ganga aaye kahaan se… and near impossible to think of him singing Jalte hain jis ke liye….belting out Hum the, vo thi, aur sama rangeen…or even do justice to classical beauties like the ones Manna Dey charmed us with…but who says that he needs to do all that?

Mukesh and Raj Kapoor With Shanker and Shailendra

Mukesh and Raj Kapoor with Shankar and Shailendra

Luckily there were enough filmmakers and composers with vision enough to understand that Mukesh could be unique. Like all the others whose songs I have mentioned above. Each one a ratan in himself. As was Mukesh.

I mean, who else could take on the Creator of the Universe as he does in Duniya banane wale, kya tere mann mein samayi, kahe ko duniya banaayi…As if to say to God Almighty, “Dude! What WERE you thinking?? Did we really need this universe and all the confusion that goes with being human?”

Duniya banana wale, kya tere mann mein samaai (Teesri Kasam, 1966) Shankar-Jaikishan/ Hasrat Jaipuri/ Mukesh

Who else could pierce through to the heart of the matter, just like the taar-shehnai does and lay bare a bride’s innermost thoughts – a mixture of abandonment, grief and an unfurled expectation – as he does in
Chal ri sajni, ab kya soche, kajra na beh jaaye rote-rote…
Dulhan ban ke gori khadi hai, koi nahi apna, kaisi ghadi hai…

Chal ri sajni ab kya soche (Bombai ka Babu, 1960) SD Burman/ Majrooh/ Mukesh

Does anyone else beseech like Mukesh?

O jaane waale ho sake to laut ke aana…he urges. The sense of leaving everything familiar without any hope of a return, ever. Who could have sung that song better? Each time I hear Mukesh’s voice sing this, I am reminded of how this is filmed. The resolute face making a decision in the beginning of the song… the stopping and looking around, the memories of a lifetime calling…the darkness of the night….the tears, the footprints on the sands of Time…. The lyrics and his voice make me wonder, does Kalyani want this place to remember her? Does she yearn to be wanted, needed?

Bachpan ke tere meet, tere sang ke sahaare
Dhoondhenge tujhe gali-gali sab ye ghum ke maare
Poochhegi har-ik raah kal tera tthikaana…

There is a comfort in being missed by the familiar, even in the grief of having to let go of the comfort they represent…

O jaane waale ho sake to laut ke aana (Bandini, 1963) SD Burman/ Shailendra/ Mukesh

Ever since I can remember, this song has had the power to move me. Coming as it does from opposing perspectives, the starkness of feelings in Mukesh’s part of the poetry don’t allow it a “chhed-chhad” status.

Vijayalaxmi, in love with Raj Kapoor, is scolding – Mili ho chand-si soorat to itraaya nahi karte (what a word, that one…itraana!) – entreating, cajoling, even reassuring, as she senses something more in his demeanour than what appears on the surface:

Jinhein mitna ho vo mitne se dar jaaya nahi karte
Muhabbat karne waale ghum se ghabraya nahi karte…

Geeta Dutt, Lata Mangeshkar, Raj Kapoor and Mukesh

Geeta Dutt, Lata Mangeshkar, Raj Kapoor and Mukesh

Raj Kapoor, in love with someone (Geeta Bali) he’s away from, is not to be consoled, and not interested in Vijayalaxmi’s overtures, elegant as they are:

Muhabbat ka sabak seekho ye jaa kar jalne waalon se
Ke dil ki baat bhi lab tak kabhi laaya nahi karte

Stoicism at its best! Sometimes I wonder if stoicism as a way of life was first introduced to Indians by the British or did it exist before they enslaved us? Emotional as we Indians are, stoicism seems a foreign concept, yet used by so many poets and writers!

What really endears me to this song is Roshan’s treatment, the contrast in the tonal structures and emotions of the 2 voices – so beautifully done – and Kidar Sharma’s admonishing words:

Khayalon mein kisi ke, iss tarah aaya nahi karte
Kisi ko bewafa aa-aa ke tadpaya nahi karte…

Khayalon mein kisi ke (Bawre Nain, 1950) Roshan / Kidar Sharma / Mukesh and Geeta Dutt

So many other songs – as if just written for his nasal tones. Not just nasal though. Entreating, beseeching, questioning, philosophizing. And romancing! After all, he was the voice of Raj Kapoor, the showman who romanced the camera, life and all the ladies there were! So, yes, Mukesh and romance, too. A different romance from Talat or Rafi or Kishore… but romance, nonetheless.

Dum bhar jo udhar munh phere (Awara, 1951) Shankar-Jaikishan/ Shailendra/ Lata and Mukesh

Mera joota hai japani, Sajan re jhooth mat bolo, Sab kuchh seekha humne na seekhi hoshiyari, Duniya banane waale kya tere mann mein samayi, Awara hoon, ya gardish mein hun aasman ka taara hun, Kisi ki muskurahton pe ho nisaar, Jaane kahan gaye vo din, Khayalon mein kisi ke iss tarah aaya nahi karte… these are a few of my absolute favorite Mukesh-Raj Kapoor songs.

Not only did they define these two stars until the two became indivisible for me, they also helped define the kinds of songs that appealed to me – philosophical, romantic, fun, Chaplin-esque, and with songs like Sab kuchh seekha humne, I learned to appreciate the ‘wry’, the ‘ironic’, the self-directed humor that Raj Kapoor was famous for onscreen and a quality that Mukesh learned to imbibe in his singing so subtly.

But I think the quality that came through for me with these two stars teaming up was that of innocence to whom life, with its tribulations, just happened.

Sab kuchh seekha hum ne (Anari, 1959) Shankar-Jaikishan/ Shailendra/ Mukesh

Which is why this Sahir-Khayyam song seems a little out of place for these two, in my eyes. For here is Sahir’s wisdom, and Mukesh’s sensitivity, without the ‘Chaplin’ Raj Kapoor. So much that is unusual. None of the usual culprits, usually in cahoots with these two, vying for their share of well-deserved applause, accompanying these two either—no Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri, or Shankar-Jaikishan!

And yet, it is hard to overlook this song. Khayyam’s mastery over his craft gives us the softness of an Asha Bhosle joining in deliciously to Mukesh’s tender reassurance….while giving Mukesh the steady voice of Strong Faith even as the Khayyam-Sahir-Mukesh-Asha-Raj Kapoor-Mala Sinha combination create a believable vision of a fair world that will be ours one day.

Insaano ki izzat jab jhootthe sikkon mein na toli jaayegi…
Vo subah kabhi to aayegi…
Jis subah ki khaatir yug-yug se hum sab mar-mar kar jeete hain
Jis subah ke amrit ki dhun mein hum zeher ke pyaale peete hain
In bhookhi-pyaasi roohon par kabhi to karam farmaayegi…

Vo subah kabhi to aayegi (Phir Subah Hogi, 1958) Khayyam/ Sahir/ Mukesh & Asha

Even though Mukesh would have been hopelessly lost with a composition like Poochho na kaise or Nache mann mora, SD Burman creates this fabulous song for Mukesh, to which he does more than justice!

SD Burman and Shailendra join hands to sweep the listeners off their feet with this lyrical and completely addictive song from Meri Surat Teri Aankhen. Suman Kalyanpur’s voice, starting the song with her humming and alaap while getting the listeners’ hearts to hum along, seems perfect for all the emotions available in Mukesh’s repertoire. All you need is the sounds of the sax, the bongos, the guitar and the Chinese Temple blocks… and you will be almost forced to say to the makers of this song
Tum ne hi kiya tona, tum ne hi jaadu phera
Anjaani dagari pe chala dekho mann mera
Matwaala gaya behek-behek, kis ne geet chheda…

Ye kis ne geet chheda (Meri Surat Teri Aankhen, 1963) SD Burman/ Shailendra/ Mukesh and Suman Kalyanpur

We are born different, our hearts beat for different things. Different impulses and emotions work for each one; so, then, how can gaayaki and voices be the same?
Ik baazi maine jeeti, ik ​​baazi dil haara…

Maybe Mukesh lost a baazi here and there, but he definitely won a fan in me.

Thank you, Mukesh saahab, for the pure heart that shines through in all your songs.

More to read

Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaaye – Mukesh’s Hit Songs for Heroes

Hain Sabse Madhur Woh Geet: Melodies of Talat Mahmood

Evergreen Hits of Dev Anand-Hemant Kumar

Main Kya Janoon Kya Jadoo Hai: K L Saigal’s Magical Music

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Monica Kar has her BA in English Literature from the University of Delhi. She now lives in St. Charles, Missouri, USA, where she wears many hats. While she has worked in Publishing, Retail, Education and Construction in various roles, she has been a free-lance editor since 1987, and is currently part time editor with Learning and Creativity-Silhouette Magazine. In 2015 she started writing about her first passion - Hindi film songs of the Golden Age for an online music group. She welcomes suggestions and critiques on her writing as it makes her learn and grow as a writer.
All Posts of Monica Kar

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5 thoughts on “Mukesh: A Different Romance in the Voice

  • Bimal Chadha

    The era that you have chosen was the best of Mukesh when RK was ruling the roost. Mukesh gave some masterpieces which are eternal. The Soul of RK.
    Beautifully carved sketch of the singer.

  • Monica Kar

    Bimal Chadha ji you’re absolutely right about the masterpieces of Mukesh. Feeling really happy that my words could convey my high regard for this singer. Many many thanks for your encouraging comment!

  • Jaiveer

    Monica ji,

    Glad to see your post highlighting intricacies of Mukesh ji singing and how he conveyed contrasting emotions of situations and characters thru his voice.

    I sometime try his songs for Karoake singing and realise how wonderfully he has rendered deep emotions.

    “Chal ri sajni ab kya soche” song is one example of his unique style

    बाबुल पछताए हाथों को मल के
    काहे दिया परदेस टुकड़े को दिल के
    आँसू लिये, सोच रहा, दूर खड़ा रे

    Thanks again for sharing.

  • Monica Kar

    Jaiveer ji, I am so glad this article found a reader in you. Yes – he brought some very deep emotions to us very simply. Mukesh has his own place in our solar system of singers. The song you quoted, especially that last line, rendered so beautifully! Thank you so much for appreciating Mukesh and this essay.

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