Manna Dey, with his unique style and unforgettable voice, was marked out among his great peers – what was then known as male playback quartet of Mohammad Rafi, Talat Mahmood, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar. His versatility was unparalleled; his singing could convey the vast gamut of human emotions and he could effortlessly switch from serious songs to musical comedy. His many such songs of ‘50s are still remembered with same passion as they were liked then.
In our previous series of ‘Manna Dey and the contemporary lead actors several shades of Manna Dey’s singing style. With the passage of time, as the share of romantic songs showed a shrinking trend, we see Manna Dey slowly shifting to singing songs that were extremely challenging, but now for the character actors.
Steeped in the tradition of classical music, Manna Dey easily straddled over a diverse range of genres, from khayal and thumris to popular Hindi music with a Western tilt to traditional folk songs and Vaishnav kirtans and even Rabindra sangeet. But it was in his rendition of popular songs with a classical tinge that Manna Dey stood unmatched. It was this very distinctive style that made him an ideal choice for comedy songs on the pattern of classical music.
That also was the time when career of Mehmood, was taking the firm shape of a comedian actor. So it was more natural that Mehmood would gravitate to Manna Dey as his playback voice for creating his own different identity as a THE comedian.
Mehmood (Ali – B: 29-9-1932 – D: 23-7-2004), the eldest of sons the dancing star of ‘40s, Mumtaz Ali, was a very versatile artist who could act, dance or sing. However, he is best known as an actor who took the role of a comedian at par with the leading hero of the film. When he didn’t overstep the mark into the cheap antics or drippy sentimentalism, Mehmood could delight the viewer with pure physical comedy with his mimes and on-the-dot comic timing.
The very early footprints of Mehmood’s career can be seen by minutely observing films Do Bigha Zameen, 1953 (a peanut seller), Nastik, 1954 (a henchman), Pyaasa, 1957, ( hero’s negative shaded brother), C I D, 1960 (a cameraman), Kagaz Ke Phool 1959 etc. His first major break as a comedian was in Paravarish, (1958) and then in Chhoti Behan (1959), where he got nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Filmfare award.
Here is the first Manna Dey connection song of Mehmood’s beginning of the career –
Chhod Ayodhya Ke Mahal – Sati Pariksha (1957) – Sanmukh Babu – Saraswati Kumar Deepak
The main lead actor for this mythological film was Daljeet. Mehmood seems to have some side role, but his name does appear in the credits.
Mehmood also started getting roles as the main lead actor at the early stage of his career.
We have one more duet, wherein the song is filmed on Mehmood –
Pyar Bhari Ye Ghatayein Raag Milan Ke Sunaye – Qaidi No. 911 (1959) – with Lata Mangeshkar – Dattaram – Hasrat Jaipuri
Mehmood is paired with Nanda in the lead role in the film.
Mehmood was again in the lead role in Pyase Panchhi (1961).
Babu Bol Ke Kaisa Roka Hamne Dhundha Kaisa Mauka – Pyase Panchhi (1961) – with Geeta Dutt – Kalayanji Anandji – Qamar Jalalabadi
The song is duet, classified under ‘teasing songs’. Here Ameeta teases her beloved Mehmood for making him stop where she likes – she conclusively closes the debate at the end of the song. Mehmood facial expressions narrate his innocence of a ‘gentleman’ hero.
This should go as a rare song wherein Kalyanji Anandji have chosen voice of Geeta Dutt !
In 1961, Mehmood also produced his maiden film – Chhote Nawab, where he gave opportunity to R D Burman to take up an independent music direction assignment. All male songs of the film, filmed on Mehmood, were played back by Mohammad Rafi.
Mehmood produced a comic-horror film Bhoot Bangla in 1965. He assigned music direction to R D burman again. R D Burman, now, dared to experiment with voices of Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar,, for the songs on the lead male character.
Aao Twist Karein Jaag Utha Hai Mausam — Bhoot Bungla (1965) – R D Burman – Hasrat Jaipuri
The song, an inspired version of Chubby Checker’s 1961 hit, ‘Let’s Twist Again‘. The song has been sequenced immediately after O Mere Pyar Aaja, a classically oriented song, performed by Tanjua on the screen, as a mockery of the choice for a youth festival competition song. (Does it also ring the warning to the older generation music directors? )
On its own, Aao Twist Karein now stands as a benchmark icon for a ‘western song’ genre in the Hindi Films.
Manna Dey is so heartfully carefree in the delivery of the song, and seems to draw quite a tough competitive line while sinning “J..a…a…g Utha Hai Mausam”, to Kishore Kumar in the other two songs in the film – Jaago Sonewalo Suno Meri Kahani and Ek Sawal Hai Tum Se Yeh Mera.
Pyar Karta Ja Dil Kaheta Hai, Katon Mein Bhi Phool Khila – Bhoot Bangla (91650 – R D Burman – Hasrat Jaipuri
Manna Dey is once again in his carefree elements in this ‘young’ crowd picnic song. Mark the way plays the prelude alaap or the end the line Payr Karata Jaa, with his own version of yodeling.
Mehmood finds it convenient to give play to his inner comedian streak to deliver the expressions of carefree mood of the song.
On a parallel track he also was getting lucrative, and increasingly successful assignments as a comedian in films like, Sasural (1962), Raakhi (1963), Dil Tera Diwana (1963) etc. The songs filmed on him were either played back by Mukesh (In Sasural) and Mohammad Rafi. Mehmood’s comedian track went on a winning spree, so Mehmood seems to have concentrated on that path of his career.
Manna Dey – Mehmood association took up the shade of comedy song in a classical moulid with Manzil (1960).
Hato Kahe Ko Jhoothi Banao BatiyaN – Manzil (1960) – S D Burman – Majrooh Sultanpuri
S D Burman has conceived this parody of originally Faiyaaz Khan Saheb’s Bhairavi Thumri Are Batiyan Banao Chalo Kahe Ko Jhoothi in all sincere classical mode, and Manna Dey was an ideal choice for the rendition of the song. Mehmood adds his own colors by his facial mannerisms on the screen,
S D Burman maintained this tempo in their next project together as well.
Pyar Ki Aag Mein Tan Badan Jal Gaya – Ziddi (1964) – S D Burman – Hasrat Jaipuri
The practice of sugar-coating a comedy song in classical style moulid seems to have reached perfection now.
Main Tere Pyar Mein Kya Kay Na Bana – Ziddi (1964) – with Geeta Dutt – S D Burman – Hasrat Jaipuri
S D Burman now gives us a pure comedy song, all earnestness.
Use of Geeta Dutt, after such a long time is welcome on one hand but being deployed for a comedy song is not so welcome.
Before we take a short break in our journey of Manna Dey’s comedy songs for Mehmood, we need to take a painful pinch of salt of falling standards of such songs as well. We will take up an out-of-turn song from Naya Zamana (1971), since this was an S D Burman song – the last in Manna Dey – Mehmood – S D Burman comedy song saga.
Aaya MaiN Laya Chalta Firta Hotel – Naya Zamana (1971) – S D Burman – Anand Bakshi
As we will see in our next episode too, the music directors who were instrumental in setting very high standards of Manna Dey’s comedy songs have also been instrumental in creating such abysmal lows in the genre.
For the time being, we will leave this discordant note for break and continue our journey of Manna Dey – Mehmood comedy songs in our next episode too.