Wishing a very Happy Birthday to Lata Mangeshkar (b. 28 September 1929) on her 88th birth anniversary and a tribute to Hemant Kumar (16 June 1920 – 26 September 1989) on his 28th death anniversary
Hemant Kumar blessed with one of the most sonorous voices in light music. His film songs are universally popular. His non-film Hindi songs are equally sweet. In Rabindrasangeet, he is regarded as an icon. He has composed music for a large number of Hindi and Bengali films. The sweetness of his voice has also dripped into the music he composed. The melody-incarnate Lata Mangeshkar became his natural choice for the female songs. One Hemant Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar combination I have already covered – his duets with her, and they are indeed out of this world. Just recall some of them: Aa neele gagan taley pyar hum karein, Chandan ka palna resham ki dori, Ye raat ye chaandni phir kahan, Badli mein chhupe chaand ne phir mujhse kaha hai, Ek baar zara phir kah do, Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag and Nain so nain naahi milaao. One more Hemant Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar combination has long been my great favourite – that is, her solo songs composed by him.
Hemant Kumar is generally not recalled at top of the list of Lata Mangeshkar’s combination with different music directors. But from a very young age, two songs specially fascinated me: Chhup gaya koi re and Pyasi hirni ban ban dhaaye koi shikari aaye re. This was a class apart, and one word that described these songs perfectly was – ‘sweet’. There were more, one after another – all having the same quality of being extremely melodious and lilting. Lata Mangeshkar herself acknowledged his special place, when she included one of his songs – Kahin deep jaley kahin dil – among the ten best she selected for the special LP brought out by HMV to commemorate her 25th anniversary of singing, in 1967.
Hemant Kumar’s singing career started in the early 1940s, with non-film Hindi and Bengali songs. He also started composing music for Bengali films. His entry into music direction for Hindi films was comparatively late. His debut film was Anandmath (1952), and his associated with Lata Mangeshkar started with his first film, with the National Song, Vande Maataram, with Hemant Kumar also lending his voice. This duet is a perfect candidate for Subodh’s ‘Asymmetric duets’. Hemant Kumar gave a roaringly successful score for Filmistan’s Nagin (1954), and the main vehicle for its grand success was Lata Mangeshkar. Its Man doley mera tan doley has entered folklore for its been music, and for the unending controversy as to whether it was created by Kalyanji on clavioline, or by Ravi (then Hemant Kumar’s assistant) on the harmonium, or by Lucila Pacheco on the piano. SoY has discussed this story extensively earlier. Nagin fetched Hemant Kumar’s first and the only Filmfare award.
Thereafter, from time to time Hemant Kumar gave songs for Lata Mangeshkar that have become landmark. He became especially famous for composing music for spooky films, like Bees Saal Baad, Kohra and Sannata – all having great songs by Lata Mangeshkar. Hemant Kumar had not lost his Midas touch even towards the fag end of his career in Hindi films, when he composed a great song, Humne dekhi hai un aankhon ki mahakti Khushboo (Khamoshi, 1969).
I am presenting my top favourite Lata Mangeshkar songs, composed by Hemant Kumar as my joint tribute to them.
1. Chhup gaya koi re door se pukar ke from Champakali (1957), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
Rarely the flute has sounded so heart-touching. As the lover has gone, the beckoning call of the flute is even more poignant.
2. Pyasi hirni ban ban dhaye koi shikari aaye re from Do Dil (1965), lyrics Kaifi Azmi
Hemant Kumar had a natural talent for haunting songs. Here is my second most favourite song which has the same quality of absolute sweetness. Rajshree’s outfit is jarring, but Lata Mangeshkar is magical. Her ‘Ho o o..’ in the interludes gets echoed from the hills which, with the orchestration and her singing, leaves you spellbound.
3. Aa ja ri chaandni from Chaand (1959), lyrics Shailendra
From poignant songs, I move to a fast-paced dance song, picturised on Meena Kumari who is dancing along with a group of dancers to celebrate the birth of a child. Since the videos available on the YT are of poor quality, I am using an audio version. The song’s antara/interludes, such as Humne nain bicchaye (aa ja)/ Baithe lagan lagaye (aa ja)/ Ab to raha na jaye (aa ja) bears uncanny similarity to Shagun’s (1965) Dekho dekhoji gori sasural chali by Jagjit Kaur (Khayyam, Sahir Ludhiyanavi), which had staccato phrases likes Ayi ghadi milan ki (aa ha)/ Kaliyan khil gayin man ki (aa ha)/ Gori raaj karegi/ Sukh se gode bharegi (aa ha)/ Sakhiyan dengi badhaayi (aa ha)/ Baaj rahi shehnai (aa ha).
Bengal and Punjab, as also Shailendra and Sahir Ludhiyanavi, and Lata Mangeshkar and Jagjit Kaur are as different from each other as chalk and cheese. Shagun came six years later than Chaand; was Khayyam ‘inspired’ by Hemant Kumar? Leaving aside speculation, let us revisit Dekho dekhoji gori sasural chali.
4. Pyar ki dastan tum suno to kahein from Faraar (1965), lyrics Kaifi Azmi
Hemant Kumar’s association with Kaifi Azmi gave some of the best songs for Lata Mangeshkar, as also other singers. Here is my absolute favourite. We know that if an actor sings at radio station it is meant for lover who would be hearing it on a transistor.
5. Sapne suhaane ladakpan ke from Bees Saal Baad (1962), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni
Kahin deep jaley kahin dil is the more celebrated song from this film, perhaps it goes with the suspense and the atmosphere of the film. But my favourite is Sapne suhaane ladakpan ke for Waheeda Rehman’s innocence and beauty. Biswajit gives a puzzled look.
6. Dheere dheere machal from Anupama (1966), lyrics Kaifi Azmi
We have discussed this song in my post on songs with repeat words, but it is worth a repeat. One of the best of Hemant Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar-Kaifi Azmi combination, and one of the best piano songs by a lady.
7. O beqaraar dil from Kohra (1964), lyrics Kaifi Azmi
Kohra had another great Lata song, Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat, befitting more with the spooky theme, besides Hemant Kumar’s iconic Ye nayan darey darey. Between the two Lata songs, it is a toss-up. I prefer O beqaraar dil, because from a sedate mukhada, it transforms into a surprisingly lilting antara.
8. Humne dekhi hai un aankhon ki mahakti khushboo from Khamoshi (1969), lyrics Gulzar
In this intense film, here is a song which relieves the tension.
9. Kahan le chale ho bata do musafir from Durgeshnandini (1956), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
Let us go back to one of their early songs which transports you to a dreamland.
10. Mat maaro Shyam pichkari from Durgeshnandini
Durgeshnandini had another excellent Lata Mangeshkar song, picturised on Beena Rai and Pradeep Kumar enacting the characters in this Holi song. This is a long song with terrific dance and chorus interludes, reminding one of Naushad.
11. Man mera udata jaye from Ma Beta (1962), lyrics Prem Dhavan
I end this post with a less known song, but there is a reason for including it. It is the Hindi version of a Rabindrasangeet song which had acquired an iconic status in Hemant Kumar’s voice.
And here is the Hemant Kumar’s rendering of the Rabindrasangeet song Mono mor megher sangi, and you can see it belongs to another world. Another resounding proof of my theory of Twin songs, that Lata Mangeshkar’s version (and, obviously, female version in general) in a Twin song paled in comparison to its male counterpart.