Songs of Yore Award for the Best Male Playback Singer goes to?
As we have seen in the overview post on the Best songs of 1949, and as I have observed elsewhere a number of times, 1949 was the year of Tsunami wave of Lata Mangeshkar. The yesteryear vintage singers, like Suraiya, Shamshad Begum, Rajkumari and others like Zeenat Begum, Zohrabai Ambalewali, Surinder Kaur etc. were also at their glory. This is reflected in the numbers included in my Select List of about 160 memorable songs in the year which has 22 male solos as against 80 plus female solos. I find from my review of earlier years, too, that female solos generally outnumber male solos by a factor of four or five. If I include the memorable songs added by the readers which I had inadvertently missed, the ratio would still be the same, as female solos added would be far more. Can we conclude from this that this was not the year for male solos (as Subodh had famously said for 1953)?
Not if you consider the songs of Rafi and Mukesh which have acquired iconic place in our history of film music. There are memorable songs of Khan Mastana, Satish, SD Batish, GM Durrani, Kishore Kumar and Surendra, too. However, it is a two-legged race between Rafi and Mukesh, the former accounting for half of the male solos, Mukesh for 5 songs and the remaining divided between other singers.
I must compliment the readers that even with such a small field to work on, they made some very enlightening observations. Expectedly, SSW added Sajjad Husain’s Rafi song from Roop Lekha (Teer pe teer khaye ja). His compositions grow on you. For this exercise, I generally take songs that are top of recall, or instantly register with you on the very first hearing. On these criteria, I consider Surendra’s songs from Kamal as inadvertent omission, which have been added by Venkatarmanji and Mahesh. Jhoom jhoom ke nach re manwa is my pick for inclusion in the main list.
If you thought male solos have insignificant presence in the year, it is amazing what an indefatigable and perseverant music lover and researcher like Ashok Vaishnavji can make of it. Based on my overview post, he has written six articles on male solos singer-wise on his blog: GM Durrani+Talat Mahmood; Surendra and ‘other’ male singers; Mukesh; Rafi Part 1 (famous songs) and Rafi Part 2 and Rafi Part 3. These posts vastly expand my list and provide many songs which were not included in my Select List. My pick from his posts is Mukesh’s Lut gaya din raat ka aaram kyun. This is a kind of song which on the very first hearing seems to have been forever with you. I believe he is going to post a seventh one, his own Wrap Up of the ten best male solos and the best singer. It would be interesting to compare his conclusion with that of the SoY.
Coming back to the readers’ comments, Arunji was as usual very pat and unequivocal in his choice – his best singer is Mukesh for Tu kahe agar (Andaaz). Gaddeswarupji dittoes that without hesitation. Shalan Lal is also for Mukesh for the same song; she also mentions his Toote na dil toote na from the same film. KS Bhatiaji also puts Mukesh at no.1, but for another song from from Andaaz – Jhoom jhoom ke nacho aaj. He also adds Rafi’s Is duiya mein ae dilwalo (Dillagi) at no.2, and Suhani raat dhal chuki (Dulari) at no. 3. Venkataramanji’s list of top ten solos has Mukesh’s Jhoom jhoom ke nacho aaj and Tu kahe agar at no. 1 and 2, but his choice for the top male playback singer is Rafi. He has not explained the apparent contradiction, but perhaps he goes by the total number – Rafi has five songs in his list of ten, and one each by Khan Mastana, SD Batish and Kishore Kumar (or Surendra). Siddharth gave his list of ten best songs for Lata Mangeshkar, indicating he would come back later, but he must have been caught up with other things. We are missing his choice as also of several readers who have commented but stopped short of mentioning their choices.
The most interesting comment was from Ashok Kumar Tyagiji on the two great songs of the year – Mukesh’s Tu kahe agar and Rafi’s Suhani raat dhal chuki. It is worthwhile to reproduce his comment in entirety:
“Both Rafi and Mukesh got to sing many excellent songs. After careful listening, I shortlisted the two best male solos to be:
Tu kahe agar (Andaz) and Suhani raat dhal chuki (Dulari).
The mukhda/sthayee of ‘Suhani raat’ starts beautifully with initial notes of sa re sa sa re. The first line of the antara ‘Nazaare apni mastiyan’ suddenly takes the listeners to higher pitch octave (taar saptak) and touches very high notes dha and pancham. This is quite an unconventional composition because of this factor. Yet Mohammad Rafi has sung with silken smoothness and with great skill. In the next antara ‘tadap rahe hain hum’, the notes are comparatively sedate. Thus we notice that Naushad and Shakeel had great understanding of each others’ thought process. Rafi has sung this song with such finesse that music directors noted that here was a naturally gifted singer with impeccable diction and presentation skill.
Matching the beauty of ‘Suhani raat’ is the song ‘Tu kahe agar’. The early songs of Mukesh gave a hint that he was much influenced by the singing technique of the great KL Saigal. In this song Mukesh shifts into his own style. In the middle of the first antara, he sings the high pitch notes ‘mein raag hoon tu veena hai’ magnificently. Naushad has used western instruments in ample measure in this song. Furthermore, percussion instruments (including ghatam and jhankar instruments) have been used skillfully in order to support the dancer on the screen. The beat patterns change a number of times. (This method was used often by OP Nayyar and Shankar Jaikishan). Thus I would say that this was a trend –setting song. Before 1949, the flow of songs was generally docile. Now songs like ‘tu kahe agar’, ‘lara lappa’ and ‘chup-chup khade ho jaroor koi’ made use of quicker tempo and fast paced interludes, much to the delight of a nation which had got freedom recently.
I vote for sharing of prize between the above two songs of Rafi and Mukesh.”
The above comment encapsulates the totality of male solos in the year. You take your pick – Rafi or Mukesh. It is a matter of personal choice. For Mukesh, every song from Andaaz is a gem, but the overwhelming favourite is Tu kahe agar for his effortless moving to higher notes in Main raag hun tu veena hai. Rafi’s best is by and large Suhaani raat dhal chuki – an eternal composition in Pahadi. Readers can’t fail to notice that Naushad is at the centre of these creations – a great music director indeed, which we would advert to later in our final Wrap Up of the best music director of the year.
Having come this far, now is the time to post the best male solos of the year. But before I do that, I must mention what struck me most was Talat Mahmood in 1949. You might ask what is so significant about it, he was hardly noticeable. That was the significant thing – to borrow from Sherlock Holmes who thought the most significant thing was the dog that did not bark in the night (in the case of Silver Blaze). The very next year, Talat creates a storm with Ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal (Anil Biswas) and Naushad’s songs in Babul, and there is virtually no year after that for over 10 years when his songs did not create a sensation. In 1949, he has sung in at least three films – I took special care to hear all the songs, but cannot recall any. This must have been the reason for 1950 being considered his debut as playback singer in Bombay. I would request Arunji to explain this mystery about his 1949 songs in some Bombay films (as distinct from Calcutta).
I start with some ‘special’ songs. I have so far confined ‘special’ songs to the Overview post. But I can include only so many there. There are still a fair number of songs which I feel must be mentioned, therefore, form this year I would include some special songs in category-wise Wrap Ups, too. We have seen the genius of Naushad-Mukesh in Andaaz. Here is another which was meant for this film, but was not included finally. As good as any. I should add here that it was long believed that Kyun pheri nazar, too, was an unreleased song from this film, but now I have it on authentic sources that it was meant for Anokhi Ada (1948).
Sunaaun kya main gham apna by Mukesh (unreleased for Andaaz), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Naushad
From Ashokji’s vast treasure chest here is another Mukesh gem which was not in my list, but which would charm his fans.
Lut gaya din raat ka aaram kyun by Mukesh from Lekh, lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi, music Krishna Dayal
Now I come to listing my final ten. Since it was the year of Rafi and Mukesh, let me start with other singers first, followed by the two stalwarts, in no particular order, as the First Cut.
1. Jagmag jagmag karta nikla – Kishore Kumar (Rimjhim, Khemchand Prakash)
2. Jhoom jhoom ke nach re manwa – Surendra (Kamal, SD Burman)
3. Khushi ki aas rahi dil ko aur khushi na mili – Khan Mastana (Saawan Aya Re, Khemchand Prakash)
4. Aankhein kah gayin dil ki baat – SD Batish (Laadli, Anil Biswas)
5. Mohabbat ke dhokhe mein koi na aye (Badi Bahan, Husnlal Bhagatram)
6. Dil ho unhe Mubarak (Chandni Raat, Naushad)
7. Is duniya mein ae dilwalo (Dillagi, Naushad)
8. Tere kooche mein armaano ki duniya le ke aya hun (Dillagi, Naushad)
9. Suhani raat dhal chuki (Dulari, Naushad)
10. Is waade ka matlab kya samjhun (Duniya, C Ramchandra)
11. Rona hai to ro chupke chupke (Duniya, C Ramchandra)
12. Dil ki lagi ne humko deewana karke chhoda (Paras, Ghulam Mohammad)
13. Jin raaton mein neend ud jati hai (Raat Ki Rani, Hansraj Bahal)
14. Hum aaj kahin dil de baithe (Andaaz, Naushad)
15. Tu kahe agar (Andaaz, Naushad)
16. Toote na dil toote na (Andaaz, Naushad)
17. Jhoom jhoom ke nacho aaj (Andaaz, Naushad)
18. Baharon ne jise chheda hai (Sunahere Din, Gyan Dutt)
Reducing 18 to 10 still involves some work and cutting some very dear songs. I do not see how I can leave any of the Mukesh’s four songs from Andaaz, therefore, I let go of his Baharon ne jise chheda hai. Rafi’s Suhani raat dhal chuki has to be there in any final list. If you think of it, Jin raaton mein neend ud jati hai is almost of the same merit. Rafi starts with a slow recital at lower octave, without an instrumental support, goes to higher octaves and immediately glides down to lower octave effortlessly. That makes six. From the ‘Others’ list, all the four are very tempting, but to maintain Rafi-balance, let me pass over Surendra’s Jhoom jhoom ke nach re manwa as being his usual routine stuff. I have already included SD Batish’s Aankhen kah gayin dil ki baat in the ‘special’ songs in the Overview post, without realizing that it might merit inclusion in the final ten. But something has to give way; therefore, I let it go with some sadness. But the two remaining songs – Kishore Kumar’s Jagmag jagmag karta nikala and Khan Mastana’s Khushi ki aas rahi are in many ways their landmark songs. Now we have eight, and the remaining two slots can be given to Rafi. Is duniya mein ae dilwalo is a general favourite. Since I have yielded to readers’ choices at the cost my favourites, I am using a wild-card entry for Rafi for one of his two solos from Duniya (C Ramchandra). In the early part of Rafi’s career, CR gave some outstanding songs for Rafi, and he did more for him than Naushad, as I have shown in my Naushad-CR comparison. I think readers have given Duniya songs a miss, because of our very strong association of Naushad with Rafi. I include Is waade ka matlab kya samajhun as the tenth song, and I am sure the readers after hearing it would regard it as worthy of inclusion. Here is the final ten, in order.
1. Tu kahe agar by Mukesh from Andaaz, lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Naushad
The eternal romantic Dilip Kumar on the grand piano, Nargis leaning on it longingly, sending wrong vibes, and Cockoo dancing, a party scene was never more glamorous. An iconic Mukesh song in an inedible picturisation.
2. Suhani raat dhal chuki by Rafi from Dulari, lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad
In the wilderness in the stillness of night, the hero Suresh gives a plaintive call to his beloved that the beautiful night is gone, when would she come after all. Nazaare apni mastiyan dikha dikha ke so gaye/ Sitaare apni roshni luta luta ke so gaye/ Hare k shamma jal chuki na jaane tum kab aaoge. What beautiful poetry by Shakeel Badayuni, and what poignant singing by Rafi. Naushad shows his virtuosity in creating another masterpiece in an entirely different style from his Mukesh songs for Andaaz.
3. Jhoom jhoom ke nacho aaj by Mukesh from Andaaz, lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Naushad
Now the ‘other’ guy or the one who had been the real guy hidden from the audience until half-way into the film, has entered the scene. There is sadness on the face of Dilip Kumar, Nargis going through inner turmoil at her own part in creating this misunderstanding; Cuckoo’s dance helps relieve the unbearable tension. Another favourite from this film.
4. Jin raaton mein need ud jati hai by Rafi from Raat Ki Rani, lyrics Arzoo Lakhanavi, music Hansraj Bahal
A slow recital of a ghazal or nazm in a mushaira setting, with none or minimal instrumental support – this is a genre in which Rafi has no parallel. He recites the first couplet (matla) without any instrument. Thereafter, the first lie of every she’r is sung at very high notes, and he glides down smoothly in the second line, creating a magical effect. The video is not available, but you hear ‘daads’ by the audience, and some prompting at every stage as in a real mushaira.
जिन रातों की नींद उड़ जाती है वे कहर की रातें होती हैं
दरवाज़ों से टकरा जाते हैं दीवारों से बातें होती हैं
घिर घिर के जो बादल आते हैं और बेबरसे खुल जाते हैं
आशाओं की झूठी दुनिया में सूखी बरसातें होती हैं
जब वो नहीं होते पहलू में और लम्बी रातें होती हैं
याद आ के सताती रहती हैं और दिल से बातें होती हैं
हंसने में जो आंसू आते हैं दो तसवीरें दिखलाते हैं
हर रोज़ जनाज़े उठते हैं हर रोज़ बारातें होती हैं
हिम्मत किसकी है जो पूछ सके ये आरज़ू-ए-सौदाई से
क्यूं साहिब आखिर अकेले में ये किससे बातें होती हैं
5. Hum aaj kahi dil kho baithe by Mukesh from Andaaz, lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Naushad
The beginning of Dilip Kumar’s attraction for Nargis, little knowing future holds disappointment for him. Nargis does not help matters by her free nature and going along with the wave.
6. Toote na dil toote na by Mukesh from Andaaz, lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Naushad
In a love triangle, the grand piano is not merely prop, it acquires a character of its own. Nargis and Raj Kapoor who are betrothed to be married are lovingly leaning on the piano, as the romantic lover Dilip Kumar, who is now sadly reconciled to the situation, sings this absolutely melodious and poignant Mukesh song.
7. Jagmag jagmag karata nikala by Kishore Kumar from Rimjhim, lyrics Bharat Vyas, music Khemchand Prakash
Those familiar with Kishore Kumar of 70s for his songs for Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan would scarcely believe that this is how he began with Khemchand Prakash. He debuted under the maestro a year earlier with Marne ki duayein kyun maangun jeene ki tamanna kaun kare in Ziddi in the style of his idol KL Saigal. He repeats the soft, soulful, poignant style in this song. Those were the days when Saigal was the Gold standard of singing. Later, Kishore Kumar would spawn his own clones. For many of us, Kishore Kumar Part 1 pre-Aradhana was a superior quality of gem. This is among his earliest landmark songs.
8. Khushi ki aas rahi dil ko aur khushi na mili by Khan Mastana, lyrics Arzoo Lakhanavi, music Khemchand Prakash
Endowed with a very melodious voice, Khan Mastana was a major singer of the vintage era, before the advent of the great playback singers like Rafi. Born Hafiz Khan in a music loving family, his father was an eminent sitar player of Agra. His father wanted him to take up classical music seriously, he also gave some sitar performances, but mesmerized by KL Saigal’s voice, he moved to Bombay without letting his father know, and started playback singing under the name Khan Mastana (a name given by the music director Mir Saheb). He also gave music in a number of films under the name Hafiz Khan (Mastana). Incidentally, there was another MD by the name of Hafiz (or Hafeez) Khan. By temperament he was a carefree ascetic, and sure enough he renounced the glamour world to live like a sufi. Yet it was sad that he died a beggar near Mahim Dargah.
9. Is duiya mein ae dilwalo by Rafi from Dillagi, lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad
Rafi again is in his element under the baton of Naushad. You again find the gradual build up – from a low Jab se huye hain door wo humse, dhoondh rahi hai unko nazar, Rafi goes to high notes with Haaye re wo bedard zamaane and immediately glides down to Ye bhi nahi hai tujhko khabar. Another Naushad gem for Rafi. Perceptive listeners would notice subtle instrumental interludes borrowed from his mentor Khemchand Prakash’s Ghata ghanghor ghor.
10. Is waade ka matlab kya samjhun by Rafi from Duniya, lyrics (?), music C Ramchandra
I end this list of ten with my discretionary quota. I could have happily ended with another Naushad composition from Dillagi or Chaandni Raat. But I seek readers’ indulgence hopng that this song would find favour with them worthy of inclusion here. It gives another flavor of Rafi, now in qawwali-style composed by the other great Titan of the era, C Ramchandra.
And the SoY Award for the Best Male Playback Singer for 1949 goes to Mukesh,
The Best Male Solo of 1949 is Tu kahe agar.