Hemant Kumar (16-6-1920 | 26 September 1989) had already shown flare for music composition from his early childhood. Even though his formal career did commence as a singer, his talents as a composer also did not have to wait longer to get formal recognition. Of course, in so far as Hindi Films is concerned, the first ever film for which he got to compose the music was good eight years after he sang his first film song. He then went on to compose music for 50+ films for next 27 years.
Hemant Kumar’s start as music director in Anadmath (1952) was on a reasonably high note. It soon reached peak with Nagin (1954) and Shart (1954). Both these films had excellent run on box office mainly on the backing of the songs of the film. Hemant Kumar then continued to score at least one musical hit for every two or their films for which scored the music, irrespective of the box office outcome of the film. As it happens with majority of the film songs, the songs from the films that did well on the box office has had longer recall value in the minds of the listeners. These are the songs that have normally cemented the image of Hemant Kumar as the composer in our minds.
The full spectrum of Hemant Kumar’s range as a composer has four distinct shades of grey – his solo songs in his own voice, his songs in the voice of female singers, his solo songs in the voice of other male singers, his own duets and his duets in the voice of other singers.
Presently, we will take up the segment of Hemant Kumar’s female songs to explore breadth and depth of Hemant Kumar’s compositions
In terms of the singers, the solo songs of Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt, in that order, occupy more that 80 % of the female-singers-spectrum of Hemant Kumar’s compositions. Hemant Kumar mostly used Lata Mangeshkar as his lead singer when he did not use Geeta Dutt. Quantitatively and qualitatively, he had still had enough room for using Asha Bhosle’s talent fully. One major impact of this heavy skew in the distribution of the female solo songs was to lead me to explore Hemant Kumar’s musically relatively less successful films to dig out songs of the other female singers. In the process, I had excellent opportunity to listen to many forgotten Lata/Geeta or Asha songs from these films as well.
These deep-sea explorations have resulted into a several large catches of songs of these three singers. I, therefore, have luxury to choose from the less heard songs of the less remembered films to present a different perspective of the rich legacy of repertoire of Hemant Kumar’s female song compositions.
Like his other contemporary Bengali music directors, S D Burman or Salil Chowdhury, in the Hindi Film world of that period Lata Mangeshkar was the clear first choice of Hemant Kumar. The natural melody of the Lata Mangeshkar’s voice was a logical and obvious choice for the soft Bengali tone of these music directors.
Hemant Kumar’s compositions in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice, normally, keep being published at regular frequency on several social media. So, I have picked up only one song from an early film and other one from his few of the last films, to present as encompassing as possible range of Hemant Kumar’s female songs
Kahan Se Le Ke Aayi Hai Kaha Majburiya Meri….. Meri Taqdir Ke Mailk Mera Kuchh Faisala Kar De – Shart (1954) – Lyrics: S H Bihari
The song opens with a couplet that epitomises the helplessness of the protagonist. Hemant Kumar deploys short pieces of violin ensemble that accentuates the pathos mood of the song.
Mitwa Re Bhul Gaye The Rahein Mitwa – Rahgir (1969) – Lyrics: Gulzar
This song also renders the mood of pathos – caused by the separation of the lovers. Hemant Kumar has used high scales of Shehnai in the interlude, to immediately follow the line wherein chorus also joins the song. The song is classic Gulzar poetry which is always a challenge for the music director. However, Hemant Kumar’s natural bent for melody returns with a complex, and yet a melodious composition.
Hemant Kumar did use Geeta Dutt as lead female voice in his maiden film Anandmath (1952) – 5 songs. He then used her voice as lead singer in only Laalten (1956) – 6 songs; Police (1958) – 6 songs and of course, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1960) – 3 songs. He did keep using her off and on, in solos or duets, in films like Ferry (1954)- 2 songs; Samrat (1954) – Songs; Shart (1954) – 2 songs; Bahu (1955) – 3 songs; Bhagwat Mahim (1955) – 1 song; Arab Ka Suadagar (1956) – 2 songs; Bandi (1957) – 3 songs; Ek Jalak (1957) 3 songs; Fashion (1957) – 2 songs; Hill Station (1957) – 3 songs; Kitana Badal Gaya Insaan – 3 songs; Miss Mary (1957) – 1 song; Yahudi Ki Ladki – 5 songs; Hum Bhi Insaan Hai (1959) – 2 songs and Duniya Jhukti Hai (1960) – 1 song. If some of the songs are remembered even today, some were lost quickly.
Aa Re Bhanvare Aa, Maheki Meri Man Ki Bagiya – Anand Math (1952) – Lyrics: Shailendra
Since Geeta Bali seems to be on an espionage or a luring mission into the British camps, she resorts to amorous gestures, matching her singing to her physical movements. Geeta Dutt supports such gyrations with matching variations of her singing. Hemant Kumar has so vividly woven an earthy folk-based composition with the situation.
Rangili Rangili Chhabili Rani Nindiya, Aa Mere Raja Ki Ankhiyo Mein Aa – Ferry (1954) – Lyrics: Rajinder Krishna
Hemant Kumar sets the lullaby to a soothing, soft orchestration.
Agar Pyar Mein Muskuraaye Na Hote – Laalten (1956) – Lyrics: Kaif Irfani
Hemant Kumar has set Geeta Dutt’s voice to a tone that exudes pathos, and then goes on to support that with short pieces of orchestrations.
Aaja Zara Mere Dil Ke Sahare – Ek Jhalak (1957) – Lyrics: S H Bihari
I always had an impression that this song is only a duet of Hemant Kumar and Geeta Dutt. This solo twin version is a find of the work for this episode.
Aside: The song is considered to have been inspired from Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White (1955) song.
Koi Door Se Awaaz De, Chale Aao, Chale Aao – Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) – Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
After the success of Bees Saal Baad (1960), Hemant Kumar and Shakeel Badayuni again team up here. The deep-from-the-memory, haunting, softly echoing, sound of the song in the voice of Chhoti Bahu draws Guru Dutt to the place where he finds the bangles of the Chhoti Bahu. The film goes into the flash back. (@.4.14 to 5.38 of the film soundtrack). The short, soft, sounds of violin in the background in the following frames speak volumes for Hemant Kumar’s creativity as a composer.
Incidentally, it is in this opening that the Hindi version dramatically differs from the Bengali version of the film.
The present song returns at the end of the film to encapsulates the haunting melancholy of the loneliness of Chhoti Bahu
Asha Bhosle, technically for the most part, did not enjoy the status of a lead singer in Hemant Kumar’s scheme of things. But Hemant Kumar has always done full justice to the range of her voice, in terms of number of songs that he gave to Asha Bhosle, as well in terms of variety of the music content. As a result many of Hemant Kumar -Asha Bhosle songs, like De Di Hame Azadi Bina Khadag Bina Dhal (Jagriti, 1954), Yaad Rakhana Pyar Ki Nishani Yaad Rakhana (Nagin, 1954), Sakhi Ri Sun Bole Papiha Us Paar (Miss Mary, 1957) or Bhnwara Bada Nanadan and Saaqiya Aaj Mohe Nend Na Ayegi (Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) are respectfully placed in Asha Bhosle’s most respected songs ever.
I have selected a few representative songs here, as a sample of the wide range of Hemant Kumar’s Asha Bhosle songs.
Chalo Chale Maa, Sapno Ke Gaon Mein – Jagriti (1954) – Lyrics: Pradeepji
The song is a twin version song. The first version has strong undercurrent of hope of good tidings to come. Hemant Kumar has epitomised the high hopes by setting the opening scale of each stanza on a high note. The second version has pensive pathos mood. Hemant Kumar reframes the initial high notes of the stanza by extending them over the whole line.
Bade Bhaiya Laye Hai London Se Chhori, Dila Do Hamein Bhi Dulhan Gori Gori – Ek Hi Rasta (1956) – Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Hemant Kumar conjures a beauty in the form of a children song. He seems to have taken all care to use only those instruments that are mostly seen being used on the screen in the song.
Hemant Kumar’s ingenuity as a composer is evidenced in the second stanza, wherein the song switches over to qawwali style singing because the lyrics talk about the Baarat (bride’s marriage procession).
The transition from qawwali back to the original marching rhythm is also very deftly managed @ 3.39
An interesting Trivia : @1.00 to 1.5 we get to listen a piece on harmonica which is the theme of another great Hemant – Lata duet from the film – Sanwale Salone Aaye Din Bahar Ke
We fast-forward to the later part of the Hemant Kumar’s musical filmography.
Bin Badal Barsat Na Hogi – Bin Badal Barsat (1963) – Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
Hemant Kumar has chosen to base the composition of this dance song on a folk tune, but the interlude orchestration has all the elements of a mystery-film song, since there seems to be some hidden story that connects the protagonist (Nishi) on the dance floor with the key spectator– Biswajeet. Asha Bhosle’s delivery of the song is also so composed that the elements of mystery and underlying melancholy of the main protagonist’s feelings remain evident.
Kyun Mujhe Itni Kushi De Di, Ki Ghabarata Hai Dil – Anupama (1966) – Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
Here is a dance song staged on the screen as a party song. Hemant Kumar has again successfully used Asha Bhosle’s voice to blend the two moods, one obvious mood of joy, befitting what can be seen on the floor and the other a hidden underlying mood of the protagonist (Shashikala) in sync with lyrics of the song
Note: Originally published on SoY as Hemant Kumar’s Female Playback Singers . This part is the edited and improved-on-the-inputs-of-discussions thereupon version.
We will take up Hemant Kumar’s Hindi Song Compositions in Other Female Voices in the Second Part