Subir Sen: The involuntary Hemant Kumar clone

April 12, 2011

clip_image001When I did a post on Kamal Barot it was natural that I should do one on Subir Sen as well. One connection between the two was that among the most famous Kamal Barot songs is a duet with Subir Sen Dil le ke jate ho kahan. Another similarity would be that he was also not among the top singers. But there was a vital difference between the two. While Kamal Barot had a distinct voice which you could recognise miles away, Subir Sen’s was indistinguishable from Hemant Kumar. Not much biographical detail is available about him except that he was also like Hemant Kumar a popular and prolific singer in Bengali. Many of his Hindi film songs are quite well known, but unless you know that he was the singer, you might attribute them to Hemant Kumar.

Not that he was making any conscious effort to copy Hemant Kumar like some top singers who, at least at the beginning of their careers, consciously imitated the style of whoever was their idol at the time. Subir Sen was what I would call an involuntary Hemant Kumar clone. You could tell apart CH Atma from KL Saigal, Suman Kalyanpur from Lata Mangeshkar, but it was almost impossible to distinguish Subir Sen from Hemant Kumar. So one reason for doing this post was also to remember his best songs, which are obviously very melodious, so that we give the credit to him in case we were mistakenly attributing them to Hemant Kumar. And here are my favourite songs.

1. Aa ja re nain dware by Subir Sen from Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1961), music Shankar Jaikishan

This song has been a most amazing discovery I made very recently, and I instantly fell in love with it. From this film I was aware of Talat Mahmood – Lata Mangeshkar duet Tum to dil ke taar chhed kar. But if you stumble upon an undiscovered gem it has a special fascination. And that perhaps explains why I put it at the top of my list. This is a background devotional song when you see a group of pilgrims on a boat swaying to its rhythm, then you come across a huge religious congregation at the bank of a river – has to be either Kumbh or a holy Ganga Darshan day such as Kartik Purnima. Even if you are not particularly religious you would appreciate the way the song is able to capture the faith of millions of Indians towards India’s holy places and rivers. It seems this song has multiple versions – apart from the Subir Sen version, there are also a solo by Asha Bhosle and a duet by Asha Bhosle and Subir Sen. Seeing so many riches I can not help wondering why this song remained hidden for so long.


2. Gori tere natkhat naina waar kare chhup jaye by Subir Sen and Geeta Dutt in Hum Bhi Insaan Hain (1959), music Hemant Kumar

It was typical of those times for singer composers to promote budding singers without any sense of jealousy or potential threat of competition to themselves. The most celebrated case of such generosity was of the actor-singer-composer Pankaj Mallik who played a big role in promoting KL Saigal.


3. Dil le ke jate ho kahan by Subir Sen and Kamal Barot in O Tera Kya Kahna (1959) by Kalyanji Virji Shah

This is one of the earliest films of Kalyanji Virji Shah when he started solo till he joined soon after with his brother to form the famed duo Kalyanji Anandji. He shows his great flair for melody notwithstanding the fact that it was a B-grade movie with Mehmood and Chitra as the lead actors.


4. Dil mera ek aas ka panchhi by Subir Sen in Aas Ka Panchhi (1961), music Shankar Jaikishan.

This is perhaps the best known song of Subir Sen. Rajendra Kumar releases a bird free and, as it soars in the sky, he wistfully looks at it. He then leads his group of NCC cadets on cycles singing this song of everyone’s desire to soar in the sky like a bird.  This song transports you back to your NCC days.


5. Dheere chalao zara by Subir sen and Lata Mangeshkar in Aas Ka Panchhi (1961)

This is the second song from Aas Ka Panchhi figuring in my list. This is one of the joyous love duets in which the hero Rajendra Kumar is giving Vaijayantimala a ride in his car, perhaps driving a bit too fast out of bravado, prompting her to plead with him to drive slowly. The remarkable thing about this song was that I always thought the male singer to be Mukesh. Even after listening very carefully I find very strong resemblance to Mukesh style in some parts. Incidentally Mukesh-Lata had a duet Tum roothi raho main manata rahuun in adaaon par aur pyar aata hai in this film.

6. Main rangeela pyar ka raahi by Subir Sen and Lata Mangeshkar in Chhoti Bahan, (1959 ) music Shankar Jaikishan.

You again have a joyous duet between lovers, now in a horse carriage. The actors may not be mainstream stars. So what. Even with Mahmood and Shobha Khote as stars you could have great songs.


7. Humein un rahon par chalna hai by Subir Sen in Masoom (1960), music Robin Banerji.

This must have been the inspiration for Insaf ki dagar par bachcho dikhao chal kar  composed by Naushad, sung by Hemant Kumar in Ganga Jamuna (1961)


8. Manzil wohi hai pyar ke rahi badal gaye from Kathputli (1957), music Shankar Jaikishan

SJ seemed to have a special liking for Subir Sen – they account for his most well known songs. In this song Balraj Sahni sings this melodious song on the piano, which makes Vaijayantimala break into a dance, but from the plaintive wording of the song and the actors’ glances and emotions it is difficult to figure out the state of their relationship – was there some setback, but they were still in love?


9. Gar tum bura na maano main tumse pyar kar loon by Subir Sen and Asha Bhosle in Mahlon Ke Khwab (1960), music S Mohinder

This picture was produced by Madhubala who also played the lead role against Pradeep Kumar.


10 Dekho na jao ae jane man from Boyfriend (1961), music Shankar Jaikishan

You had a Subir Sen song in Mukesh style in Aas Ka Panchhi . Now SJ make him sing in Mohammad Rafi style on Shammi Kapur, this is the typical Shammi Kapur naughty teasing style which SJ and OP Nayyar patented with songs by Rafi. Now while I am quite clear he did not imitate Hemant Kumar – he was born with a voice like him, I can not help feeling that there was conscious effort in imitating Mukesh and Rafi.


11. Pyar mein milna sanam hota hai taqdeer se by Subir Sen and Lata Mangeshkar from Ardhangini (1959), music Vasant Desai

Though Raj Kumar and Meena Kumari came together in several films, it is difficult to see Raj Kumar as a typical romantic lover. So you have this couple singing a somewhat unusual romantic duet on the screen, which must be one of their earliest pairings. Needless to say it is Subir Sen’s likeness to Hemant Kumar that makes this duet especially appealing.


This is a very good song to conclude this post with, but in case you want to end with fast paced numbers you could hear Subir Sen –Geeta Dutt duet Kya kaha zara phir kaho composed by Kalyanji Anandji, lyric by Qamar Zalalabadi in the B-grade movie Gangu (1962) starring Chandrashekhar and Naaz in lead roles; and another नोंक झोंक song Sun le dastaan yun na sata by Subir Sen from film Passport (1961) music by Kalyanji Anandji. Laxmikant Pyarelal who were assistants to KA must have learnt their melody and lilting style from them. The fast paced song is picturised on the wonder non-actor Pradeep Kumar and the ever alluring Madhubala rebuffing his advances as she did with many other heroes in several movies.

Even with this recapitulation the key questions remains – if you hear these songs a year hence would you be able to tell confidently that they are Subir Sen’s and not Hemant Kumar’s?

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dustedoff April 13, 2011 at 10:46 am

Lovely post! And you’re so right about Subir Sen sounding a lot like Hemant – even though Hemant was the first singer I learnt to identify when I was a child, I always find it very difficult, even now, to tell whether a song has been sung by Hemant or by Subir Sen. (Right now, I’m listening to Humein un raahon par chalna hai, which I thought, till now, was a Hemant song). Thanks for introducing me to so many Subir Sen songs – the only ones I’ve known till now had been the ones from Aas ka Panchhi and Kathputli, and Main rangeela pyaar ka raahi.

(By the way, to answer your question: in the song from Kathputli, there is actually no romantic relationship between the two characters – he is a theatre manager and director, she is an actress. The very romantic overtones of the song had puzzled me too until I saw the film).

2 AK April 14, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Thanks for your compliments, and also for enlightening me about the Kathputli situation. They do manage to create ambiguity about their relationship.

The likeness with Hemant Kumar is so strong that many of Subir Sen’s songs I erroneously attributed to him. And as I have rhetorically asked at the end, if I hear these songs a year hence, I am not sure I would be able to correctly identify them.

3 arvind April 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm

nice article!enjoyed!!but,then who sang ‘AE DIL KAHAN TERI MANZIL ‘ ,a salil chowdhuri composition, for devanand in MAYA.hemanta kumar?subir sen?or……check on you tube for urself.

4 AK April 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Thanks. Grateful for your teaser. I had heard of Dwijen Mukherji’s resemblance to Hemant Kumar, but for the first time became aware of it, even though I had heard the song, mentally attributing it to Hemant Kumar. Now in a competition of who was more like Hemant Kumar, Dwijen Mukherji should win over Subir Sen.

Dwijen Mukherji sings Ae dil kahan teri manzil

Another gain from your teaser was that I dscovered it had a Lata Mangeshkar version too, so this is another addition to my Twin songs. It further consolidates my premise that in twin songs the male version is far superior to the female version.

Lata Mangeshkar sings Ae dil kahan teri manzil

5 arvind April 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm

there is yet another twin song.’AE MALIK TERE BANDE HAM’ in’ 2 aankhen 12 haath’.

6 AK April 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm

The male version is a chorus in which there is no identifiable dominant voice. I doubt if it could be called a pure twin song. But yes the point remains, there are large number of such songs and you keep on discovering them. I have recently updated my Twin songs to include several more through comments or otherwise. I guess I have to stop doing that anymore.

7 Subodh Agrawal April 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Thank you AK for locating so many gems of my favourite singer. Subir Sen and Jagjit Kaur are two artists who have been heard very rarely, but all their songs are true gems.

Subir had a guest appearance in the movie Anubhav starring Sanjiv Kumar and Tanuja. He appeared as himself in a party scene to sing Tagore’s famous bengali song ‘She din dujone’. This song from Rabindra Sangeet was earlier adapted by SD Burman for Suraiyya’s ‘Nain diwane’ in the 1950 film Afsar. I have failed to find an audio or video of Subir’s version on the net.

8 AK April 18, 2011 at 11:59 am

@Subodh Agrawal
Thanks Subodh for this wonderful information – you have now given me a task to locate She din dujone.

9 pkbasu April 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm

You ARE a genius! Done a great service to music lovers. You may like to include Aroti Mukhopadhya as one of your researches. I feel she was better than Lata, may be not in technicalities but sweetness of voice. Bollywood somehow rejected her, or was it politics?

10 AK April 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm

You are very lavish in your praise. Thanks. As you could see my blog is a journey more स्वांतः सुखाय. If some friends and readers join me on the way to share my joy it is an added bonus.

Aarti Mukheji has sung very few songs in Hindi, it would be difficult to find enough songs for a blog exclusively on her. I know she is big in Bengalee. There are a number of such singers from regional languages who came fleetingly in Hindi. From South there was PV Srinivas in early 1960s. On the other hand there are others who became big such as Yesudas, SP Balasubramaniam.

Whether politics stopped Aarti’s, or other female singers’ of the generation, advance is a big minefield I would like to avoid. There is a lot of anecdotal stuff about the two faces of Lata Mangeshkar – public image of divine, private of a ruthless person. I see her as a divine singer.

11 Subodh Agrawal September 17, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Just located this one on Youtube while looking for something else.

Koi mera ho gaya by Subir Sen from Midnight

12 Arunkumar Deshmukh November 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm

AK ji,
Some more info about SUBIR SEN.
1. It was Guru dutt who called him to Bombay for singing and Salil da helped him.
2. he had made a guest appearance in the film ANUBHAV,as a Rabindra sangeet singer.
3. He has done more that 4oo songs in Bengali and Hindi together.
4. He completed 75 years of age in 2009 and there was a big function in Eden Garden,Kolkata.He is leading a peaceful contented life in Kolkata these days.
5. He had composed music for a film ‘MIDNIGHT’,produced and released in England in 1970,in which Rafi,Asha,Geeta and Subir sen himself sang songs.
6. Dwijen Mukherjee,Hemant kumar and Subir sen were called TRIDEV in Bengal-3 bodies,one voice.


13 AK November 16, 2011 at 12:22 am

@Arunkumar Deshmukh
Thanks a lot for this wonderful information. Subodh Agrawal had mentioned in his comment about his guest appearance in Anubhav. I have not been able to locate its video.

14 Ajay Kalra January 19, 2013 at 9:28 am


Here is the video of Subir Sen in Anubhav:

She din dujone

15 AK January 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm

This is fabulous. Many SoY readers would be thrilled to see this. Thanks.

16 Vijay Datta March 19, 2013 at 11:30 am

Ironically, Subhir Sen couldn’t make much headway in bolywood owing to his resemblance with all time great Hemant’s voice.Yet much excited to know thru this mode about singer failed to get his due and remained in oblivion for most of time.

17 Naresh P. Mankad April 19, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Subir’s voice does sound like that of Hemant Kumar, but Hemant’s voice had a deeper tone giving it more depth and more richness. These two things were the distinguishing features.

18 N.V.Subramanian October 7, 2013 at 11:45 am

I happened to watch the Basu Bhattacharya classic, Anubhav, recently and was struck by the wondrous Tagore song, Se Din Doojone, sung, as I discovered only today, by Subir Sen, which led me to this nice blog. I can’t seem to find the song anywhere on the net, and would be happy for anyone to give me a link.

19 AK October 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Mr Subramanian,
You are lucky. Comment #14 gives the video link of the song with Subir Sen himself singing in the movie.

20 N.V.Subramanian October 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Thanks so much, and more power to you.

21 Harishchandra Salian November 5, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I have very recently chanced upon this wonderful site and now cannot pass a single day without accessing one of the many wonderful articles / comments. While listening to song No. 3 ” Dil leke jaateho kana” from the film “O tera kya kehna” I get the feeling that Laxmikant Pyarelal may have assisted the Late Kalyanji Shah in composing this song, and then used the basic notes to come out with a similar sounding ” Main Shayar to Nahin” in “Bobby”. Am sure some of our friends could throw some light.

22 AK November 5, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Harishchandra Salian,
Welcome to the SoY family. LP were indeed assistants of Kalyanji Virji Shah in O Tera Kya Kahna. Therefore, your hunch might be correct.

23 Harishchandra Salian November 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Thank you for welcoming me to the SoY family. While I admit, that I do not possess much knowledge as compared to the other contributors, I share their passion about old film songs and reading about those who created these gems.

Can u let me know if there is any site which provides information about MDs and the films where they played the role of Assistants or Arrangers in earlier films? . Your clarification at 22 has inspired me to seek out those songs composed by MDs which were “based on” / “similar to”/”inspired by” their own earlier compositions as Assistants /Arrangers.

Am sure some of our other members in this SoY family may already done some research on this and already have a such a list. Hope they could share it.

Festival greetings to all the SoYites.


24 AK November 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Harishchandra Salian,
We all at the SoY are essentially amateur music lovers. So please feel free to contribute whatever comes to your mind. That is how we are learning from each other.

What you are looking for is second-order information, or analysis. I do not think any site would have information quite exactly like that. But have very good basic information. Hindi Film Geet Kosh is, of course, the mother of all the basic information. My own experience is that most of us are getting wonderful information by browsing the internet, partly planned, but mostly serendipitously. Some of the good sites I have mentioned in ‘LINKS’ on the right side of the blog.

25 JP January 21, 2014 at 11:22 pm

These are similar

1 ketki gulab juhi pankaj ban (basant bahar)
kahe chhedte ho mujhe (devdas) latest
2 dil jalta hai to nalne de (pehli nazar)
Raha gardisho me hardam (chaudvi ka Chand)

26 JP January 21, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Compare these also

Badan pe sitare lapete huve

Tum jo mil gaye ho (hanste jakhm)

27 AK January 22, 2014 at 10:52 am

Among the songs you have mentioned, the closest similarity I found was between Dil jalta hai to jalne de and Raha gardishon main hardam, obviously they are based on the same Raga Darbari.

28 Anil Kane May 20, 2014 at 11:51 pm

AK ji,

While reading about Dwijen Mukerji in Arvind’s comments, I recollected his 2 other songs for Salil Chowdhury :
1.duniya na dekhe, zamana naa jaane – with Lata – Honeymoon (1960)
2.naam mera Nimmo, mukkam Ludhiyana – with Lata & Manna Dey- Sapan Suhane (1961)
Wonderful singer so close to Hemant Kumar.

29 Anil Kane May 21, 2014 at 12:27 am

AK ji,
I feel one more Subir Sen song, a duet with Lata, needs a mention here:
- Gagan ke chanda na poochh humse – Apne Huye Paraaye / Shankar Jaikishan / 1964.
This could be his swan song in Hindi films as we did not hear him after 1964.
Also one more Dwijen Mukerji song :
- Nazar se mil gayi nazar aur pal mein dil tera hua
/with Sabita Bannerji / Salil Chowdhury / Sapan Suhane / 1961

30 arvindersharma May 21, 2014 at 3:48 pm

AK Ji, Anil Ji,
Speaking of Dwijen Mukherjee,
One very melodic duet of him and Lata comes to my mind.
Phir Ek baar kaho, usi ada se kaho from Maya, music by Salil Chaudhary.
AK Ji,
I have a hunch that you are partial to Hemant Kumar.
If you have not heard this song before, you will be pleasantly surprised.

31 arvindersharma May 21, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Anil Ji,
I deliberately did not ask you for listening to the above mentioned song because I have a feeling that you belong to my type of contributors, (in medical term, of ‘AB’ blood group, a universal donor).
I hope you will appreciate my observation.

32 Anil Kane May 21, 2014 at 11:21 pm

Arvind ji,

You are right, Sir !

I am quite familiar with ‘ phir ek baar kaho ‘and in my opinion it is a nice song.

33 AK May 22, 2014 at 11:56 am

Anil Kane, Sharmaji,
Yes, I have a huge weakness for Hemant Kumar. Therefore, anything by Subir Sen or Dwijen Mukherjee would be very charming. All the five songs are very nice. But the most melodious to me was Duniya na dekhe zamana na jaane. It has the typical orchestration of Salil Chaudhary. Naam mera Nimmo, though somewhat atypical of Salil Chaudhary, is very infectious with Helen’s fast-paced dance, accompanied by Bhagwan and Chandrashekhar.

So between Subir Sen and Dwijen Mukherjee, can we say who is a closer clone of Hemant Kumar (no disrespect meant)? Since they were big names in Bengali songs, I am curious to now how the listeners distinguished them.

Subir Sen’s swan song. Shall we give this credit to Anubhav (1971), (comment #14), in which he sang She din dujone live?

34 arvindersharma June 11, 2014 at 12:13 am

AK ji,
I am coming back to this post after a gap as I found some other topics more fascinating.
But the rarity of Subir Sen songs was always there in my mind.

Here are two duets, sung by Subir Sen with Suman Kalyanpur ;

Baharien luta ke nazare dikha ke from ‘Anarbala’, music by Bulo C Rani,

Chand tale jhoom jhoom, thirak rahi hain ghoonghar waliyan from ‘Jab Se Tumhe Dekha Hai’, music by Dattaram.

The class of Bulo C Rani and melody of Dattaram do speak of themselves in these songs.

One more singer comes to my mind, when we speak about singers whose’ voices were close to Hemant Kumar.
Surendra Kohli, who played a second fiddle to Asha Bhonsle in the song from Gul e Bakavli, music by Hansraj Behl sounds singing in the Hemant mode to me.

Ye keh do tumhe hum se kya chahiye,
Hame dard e dil ki dawa chahiye.

Major part of the song has been sung by Asha, it seems that the MD was not fully confident of Surendra Kohli’s capability.

Another excellen song which is nearly forgotten.

35 arvindersharma June 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Here is the clpping of the song from Gul e Bakavli, sung by Asha and Surendra Kohli, music Hansraj Behl.
Ye ke do tumse hum se kya chahiye,
Hame dard e dil Ki dawa chahiye

36 AK June 11, 2014 at 10:55 pm

This is another one which I ‘knew’ for over three decades, and today I have come to know that I was wrong. I always thought the male voice was Mahendra Kapoor. It may be because of that memory that I still find it closer to him than Hemant Kumar. But thanks for sharing one of my early favourites.

37 arvindersharma June 12, 2014 at 1:55 pm

You seem to be very right AK Ji. Surendra Kohli’s voice sounds like a mix of both.

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