Songs of Yore Award for the best male playback singer goes to?
My survey article on the Best songs of 1955 attracted a good deal of response. Some readers gave not only their shortlist of favourite five in different categories but also a detailed analytical, musical and emotional reasoning for their choice. As this exercise was becoming mammoth, a suggestion came that I should do category wise summary posts. Meanwhile Ashok Vaishnavji has posted two excellent summaries on his own blog (Part 1 and Part 2) based on his comments posted on this blog. It has been wonderful reading all the comments. Here is the first wrap-up on the best male playback singer of the year.
This was the year when Mohammad Rafi sang O door ke musafir; Mukesh Mera joota hai Japani; Talat Mahmood Tasweer banata hun tasweer nahi banti; Hemant Kumar Chup hai dharti chup hai chand sitare; Manna Dey Tu pyar ka sagar hai and Kishore Kumar Jeevan ke safar me rahi. Each iconic, extremely popular, memorable till even today and musically excellent. Rarely would you have a similar year when all the six great singers of the Golden Era gave everlasting songs. How does one reduce this to one or two? It would be obviously subjective, but let me start by listing the best ten songs of the year about which there should not be much dispute. It is not intended to be in order of merit, but simply grouped by singers.
Talat Mahmood: Tasweer banata hun tasweer nahi banti, Baradari, lyrics Khumar Barabanqvi, music Nashad
It must have been a big challenge for Nashad to create a Tasweer song in Talat’s voice considering that he had achieved enormous fame some years earlier with his non-film Tasweer teri dil mera bahla na sakegi. Nashad had another Tasweer challenge composed by Naushad in Rafi’s voice Tasweer banata hun teri khoone jigar se (Deewana, 1952). He must have been peeved at the perception that he got to compose for Naghma (1953) after it was turned down by Naushad with disdain as the banner was not big enough for him. Creating another Tasweer masterpiece in the face of such great legacies is a remarkable achievement of Nashad.
Talat Mahmood: Kisko khabar thi kisko yakeen tha, Devdas, lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, music SD Burman
If Nashad had a challenge, one can imagine the challenge SD Burman must have felt in the face of Timir Baran-KL Saigal’s Devdas (1935). Saigal’s Dukh ke ab din beetat nahi is at a pedestal where it cannot be compared with any other song, but can only be paid a tribute. SD Burman-Talat Mahmood’s Kisko khabar thi with Sahir’s lyrics of deep melancholy picturised so beautifully on the Tragedy King Dilip Kumar is a worthy tribute to its great predecessor.
किसको खबर थी किसको यकीं था ऐसे भी दिन आयेंगे
हाय जीना भी मुश्क़िल होगा और मरने भी ना पायेंगे
हाय किसको खबर थी…
हम जैसे बरबाद दिलों का जीना क्या और मरना क्या
आज तेरी महफिल से उठे कल दुनिया से उठ जायेंगे
हाय किसको खबर थी…
Talat Mahmood: Mitwa lagi re ye kaisi anbujh aag, Devdas, lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi
Timir Baran- KL Saigal gave another immortal song Balam aye baso more man me. Mitwa lagi re ye kaisi anbujh aag – a song of melancholy, but to put it in Ashok Vaishnavji’s beautiful words, ‘pathos blended with an unbujh aag – a faint hope of meeting the beloved at least once in lifetime’, is another worthy tribute to its great predecessor. (Readers may note as I have said earlier, Sanjay Leela Bhansali–Ismail Durbar do not even try – there is no solo for Shahrukh Khan, and I should think rightly so)
Talat Mahmood: Bechain nazar betaab jigar, Yasmin, lyrics Jan Nisar Akhtar, music C Ramchandra
I have not heard Talat Mahmood live, but I have met people who swoon while describing their experience of hearing him live. When I hear this song I imagine a tall and handsome Talat on the stage with a solitary harmonium, and just a couple of musicians. He opens Bechain nazar betab jigar, then a slight pause with a shy smile, and then he continues ye dil hai kisi ka diwana, and the whole auditorium erupts with joy. And at every refrain Kab udkar pahunche parwana, Dil dil se kahe ek afsana or Hum jaan bhi de den nazrana I can see girls going delirious with delight. Everything in the picturisation – the Middle Eastern string instrument rabab, the dance, the sheer joy on the face of the actors – is absolutely beautiful. One of the rare songs of Talat Mahmood of pure delight.
बेचैन नज़र बेताब जिगर-2 (…) ये दिल है किसी का दीवाना हाय दीवाना
कब शाम हो और कब शम्मा जले (…) कब उड़कर पहुंचे परवाना हाय परवाना
है दिल का चमन खिलने के लिए आयेगा कोई मिलने के लिए-2
फूलों से कहो तारों से कहो (…) चुपके से सजा दें वीराना हाय वीराना
बेचैन नज़र बेताब जिगर ….
जब रात ज़रा शबनम से घुले लहराई हुई वो जुल्फ खुले
नज़रों से नज़र एक भेद कहे (….) दिल दिल से कहे एक अफ़साना हाय अफ़साना
बेचैन नज़र बेताब जिगर ….
रंगीन फिजाँ छाए तो ज़रा वादे पे कोई आए तो ज़रा-2
ऐ जोशे वफ़ा दिल चीज़ है क्या (…) चुपके से सजा दें वीराना हाय वीराना
बेचैन नज़र बेताब जिगर …
Now listen to and watch this delightful song and note the pauses followed by a short rabab piece (…). Beautiful!
Hemant Kumar: Chup hai dharti chup hai chand sitare, House No. 44, lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, SD Burman
Sahir Ludhyanvi had come to Navketan fold a few years ago, and his combination with SD Burman gave some of the most memorable songs of Hindi cinema. One aspect of Sahir’s poetry was deeply romantic in the backdrop of nature, and if Hemant Kumar is there to give voice the effect is magical. Remember SD Burman-Sahir-Hemant Kumar-Dev Anand combination’s immortal Ye raat ye chnadni phir kahan (Jaal, 1952). You have another excellent song with this combination of deep romance with silent moon and stars.
Hemant Kumar: Teri duniya me jeene se to behtar hai, House No. 44, lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, music SD Burman
Another great song from the same combination – this time a song of dejection at the betrayal, which was another favourirte of Sahir Ludhiyanvi.
Mohmmad Rafi: O duniya ke rakhwale, Urankhatola, lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad
In this fantasy film at the climax, when Dilip Kumar is left behind, his earnest pleading O door ke musafir humko bhi sath le le, pulls at your heartstring, making you feel you have also been left forlorn by your beloved, who has moved on to her final journey.
Mukesh: Mera joota hai Japani, Shri 420, lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar Jaikishan
One of the most iconic RK-Mukesh-SJ songs, which consolidated Raj Kapoor’s Chaplinesque tramp image.
Manna Dey: Tu pyar ka sagar hai, Seema, lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar Jaikishan
Outside RK banner too, SJ were creating some great music, albeit with different sensibilities. One of the best Manna Dey songs, enacted with deep piety by Balraj Sahni on the screen. A serene and soothing spiritual song, as if created to be sung by Manna Dey.
Kishore Kumar: Jeevan ke safar me rahi, Munimji, lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, music SD Burman
SD Burman was also trying Kishore Kumar for Dev Anand, who would gradually become his main playback singer. Just the right amount of yodeling followed by a playful complaint and teasing of Nalini Jaiwant.
Some more songs
All the above songs were mentioned by the readers. Some other songs mentioned were Hemant Kumar’s Shivji bihane chale (Munimji), Rafi’s Basti basti parbat parbat (Raliway Platform), Kahan ja raha hai tu ai janewale (Seema) and Talat Mahmood’s Teri zulfon se pyar kaun kare (Joru Ka Ghulam). What has been surprising for me and somewhat disappointing is that the readers do not seem to share my fondness for Hemant Kumar’s Main gharibon ka dil hun watan ki zuban (Aab-e-Hayat). No one has mentioned this song, which I would have included as one of the topmost songs of the year.
How does one reduce from 10 or 15 equally great songs to 2 or 3? My own top would have been Rafi’s O door ke musafir, Talat’s Bechain nazar/Tasweer teri dil mera and Hemant Kumar’s Main gharibon ka dil hun. But the aim of this post is to summarise the sense of the house. I have to sadly show the red card to O door ke musafir. While everyone has mentioned this song, the passion, I or Richard feel for this song, is missing in the readers’ comments. Kishore Kumar’s Jeevan ke safar me rahi is an outstanding song as far as it goes. But in the 50’s his best would be behind the stalwarts of the era Rafi, Mukesh and Talat. His time would come post Aradhana (1969). Mukesh’s Mera joota hai Japani is an iconic song for other historical and cinematic reasons, but it is not one of the quintessential Mukesh songs which touched the heart of Mukesh lovers.
Thus, in the second round are left Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey and Talat Mahmood.
The higher you go, the steeper is the climb. Now making the final cut is going to be very difficult. If I try to summarise the sense of the house, Manna Dey’s Tu pyar ka sagar hai has been mentioned with so much respect, bordering on reverence that I feel he has to be included, even though he was not a prolific singer. The top space was occupied those days by Rafi, Talat Mahmood and Mukesh. 1955 is a very special year for Talat Mahmood. In the top ten he has four songs, but he had several more bearing his same silken touch – Teri zulfon se pyar kaun kare, Ae meri zindagi tujhe dhoondhoo kahan (Adal-e-Jahangir) and a couple of great duets. If you consider the total impact of a male playback singer, it would not be an exaggeration to say that 1955 was the year of Talat Mahmood. I believe the readers would agree the fairest result would be to declare both Talat Mahmood and Manna Dey as the best male playback singers of the year.
The Songs of Yore Award for the best male playback singer for 1955 goes jointly to:
Talat Mahmood and Manna Dey
Incidentally May 9 is the death anniversary of Talat Mahmood. So let this be a tribute to him from all of us.
And Manna Dey celebrated his 93rd birthday about a week back, i.e May 1. Among the doyens of the Golden Era, he is the only with us today. With this award wishing him a very happy, though belated, birthday.
And finally a big Thank You to all the readers. I hope I have been able to make a fair summary of the sense of the house.