By Harish C. Menon, Indo-Asian News Service
Mumbai, Aug 27 (IANS) It is 30 years since he passed
away, leaving a void in the music world of Bollywood. Yet, Mukesh's
mellifluous voice still casts a spell on listeners, emitting the
fragrance of romance for some or drowning others in the depths of
Mukesh Chand Mathur alias Zoravar Chand, who sang innumerable songs
for legendary Bollywood showman Raj Kapoor, passed away Aug 27, 1976,
following a cardiac arrest in Detroit, US, where he had gone for a
Raj Kapoor is said to have remarked that "he had lost his soul" in
Mukesh's passing away - a testimony to the extremely popular
combination of Raj-Mukesh-Shankar Jaikishen (music directors) that
produced timeless classics for generations of Hindi film music
Lata Mangeshkar, living legend of Bollywood playback singing and a
close friend of Mukesh, cherishes the moments spent with her Mukesh
'Bhaiyya' (elder brother) even today.
"'Jaane Kahan Gaye Woh Din' ('Mera Naam Joker', 1970) remains my
favourite song of Mukesh bhaiyya (brother)," Lata told IANS.
"The reason the song is my favourite is because it perfectly
expresses my longing for the yesteryears where singing in films was a
totally different thing from what it is today," the 77-year-old Bharat
Ratna awardee said.
Indeed, the nightingale's yearning is typical as she shared a very
close relationship with Mukesh. She accompanied his son Nitin Mukesh
when Mukesh's body was brought back to India from Detroit and still
remembers the day of the funeral when almost the entire industry turned
out to pay tribute to him.
"I first met him in 1947 and almost immediately struck a chord. He
was much senior to me - both in age as well as profession - and yet he
insisted on calling me 'didi' (elder sister)," Lata reminisced.
"There was no particular reason for this. Everyone one in my family
used to call me didi. So he also took it up. But it's amazing that he
never addressed me as 'Lata' till the end," she said.
Mukesh, who along with the versatile Mohammad Rafi and the
rebellious Kishore Kumar was considered one among the finest and most
popular playback singers of Bollywood, has sung some of the most
melodious and evergreen duets with Lata.
The naughty "Dum Bhar Jo Udhar Munh Phere" ("Awara", 1951), the
romantic "Jaane Na Nazar" ("Aah", 1953), the effervescent "Dil Tadap
Tadap" ("Madumati", 1958), the gloriously patriotic "Aa Ab Laut Laut
Chalein" ("Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai", 1960) are just a few of the
examples one could quote.
Born on July 22, 1923, in Delhi, the "man with the golden voice" was
first noticed by Motilal - a popular actor of his times and a distant
relative of Mukesh - when he sang at his sister's wedding.
In the beginning Mukesh was considered more an actor than a singer,
thanks to his good looks. Soon he was seen in the 1941 flop
He got his first break as a playback singer in "Pehli Nazar" (1945)
in which he took people by surprise by almost imitating the legendary
singer actor K.L. Saigal - who was in the throes of alcoholism by then
- in "Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De" - incidentally picturised on Motilal
"Mukesh bhaiyya was as enamoured by Saigal-saab as we all were. But
although he began his career singing in the Saigal style, he soon
developed his own identity," Lata noted.
"Mukesh bhaiyya was also proud of the fact that he had met Saigal-
saab once. I know for a fact that he (Mukesh) even had for himself a
harmonium used by Saigal-saab," she said.
His voice characterised by a slight nasal tone, Mukesh was almost
always considered for light and breezy songs, ranging from the happy-
go-lucky "Awara Hoon" ("Awara", 1951), the lovelorn "Yeh Mera
Deewanapan Hai" ("Yehudi", 1958) or the tramp-like "Kisi Ki
Muskurahaton Pe Ho Nissar" ("Anari", 1959) and "Mera Joota Hai Japani"
("Shri 420", 1955).
However, when it came to more complex and classically-inclined songs
like "Ae Bhai Zara Dekh Ke Chalo" ("Mera Naam Joker", 1970) or a "Dil
Ke Jharokhe Mein" ("Brahmachari", 1968), Mohammed Rafi and Manna Dey
were always the choice.
"The problem is that Mukesh bhaiyya was never tried for complex and
classically oriented songs because of stereotyping. It is not that he
did not have the capability," Lata observed.
"Classical music-wise, the best trained was Manna-da, who was
trained under his own uncle - the legendary K.C. Dey. Rafi-saab also
was trained classically. But very few recognised Mukesh bhaiyya for his
classical background," she said.
"I cannot say with full authority. But I feel he (Mukesh) could have
sung complex songs too if given a chance because I know he used to do
regular riyaaz (practise) along with his son Nitin, under a teacher,"
Scores of singers, including son Nitin, tried their luck in the
industry by adapting the Mukesh-style of singing but failed to make a
"God blesses only a few with the original talent. The others will
remain just that - copies. Mr. (Sudesh) Bhonsle succeed to a certain
extent in carving a niche for himself, but that's about it," Lata
But for the purists and the connoisseurs today - confounded by a
bewildering array of remixes of old classics - nothing less than the
original refrains of Mukesh would do.
As Lata said, one can only remember Mukesh and recall his "Jane
Kahan Gaye Woh Din" (Where have those days gone?).