Every time the topic of Hemant Kumar’s Hindi Film Songs in Male voice comes up, the discussion usually gets marooned in the question – was he a great composer who also sang well or was he a great singer who also made some memorable music?
This article essentially is a part of the overall portrait of Hemant Kumar as a music director. Therefore, it is incumbent of the spirit of the article that we remain focussed on the first part of the question only and leave the answer to the second part to the judgement of the readers.
The distribution curve of Hemant Kumar’s male solo song compositions is, perhaps naturally, more skewed towards his own songs. However, as a music director, he seemed to be aware of the needs of the situation of the song and those of the market forces while choosing to use the voice of other male playback singers for his male songs.
Talat Mahmood and Mukesh, being nearer his own voice quality, Hemant Kumar perhaps did not seem to have felt much need for solo songs in these voices. Also, the Hemant Kumar did not get to compose music for the films for those heroes for whom thier voices would have been the order of the day. The case of use Manna Dey appears to be beyond discussion in an article like this, in the absence of availability of any major back-up, dependable, reasoning. In any case, Manna Dey was getting almost a similar treatment in the industry. We need to rest with the fact that he was used, very, sparingly.
As such, the tail of Hemant Kumar’s male solo compositions remains skewed in favour of Mohammad Rafi, and then to a lesser degree in favour of Kishore Kumar.
For the purpose of our article, we shall stick to basic tenet that a music director knows which voice would do justice to his composition. Our role is here to cast our net wide across the breadth of Hemant Kumar compositions in the films for which he was music director and dig out all possible male songs on the table. Once done, the selection of songs is so filtered such that picture that emerges presents us a very representative retrospective of the range of Hemant Kumar as a music director.
Hemant Kumar’s compositions in Hemant Kumar’s own voice would easily call for a special, stand-alone, wholesome treatment to have the complete picture over different moods, for different actors and for the lyrics penned by different lyricists. Presently, I have selected songs from three different periods, in three different moods.
Dil Chhed Koi Aisa Nagma, Geeton Mein Zamana Kho Jaaye – Inspector (1956) – Lyrics: Rajinder Krishna
This is a song of pensive mood. Hemant Kumar’s soft, baritone voice ideally suits such moods.
The song has a twin Lata Mangeshkar version as well. The video clip here has both versions.
Sawan Mein Barkha Sataye Pal Pal Chin Chin Barse – Biwi Aur Makaan (1966) – Lyrics: Gulzar
Here is a song that is sheer romance, expressing a strong feeling for belonging with the beloved one when it is raining. The throw of lyric – Sawan Mein – at the very beginning of the song,or scaling up the up the delivery of lyrics midway in each stanza, present the creativity of Hemant Kumar as music director as well as his flexibility in the singing as a singer.
Tumhare Nain Dekh Ke Suna Hai Log Jogi Ho Gaye – Rahgeer (1969) – Lyrics: Gulzar
The poem composed by Gulzar, with long, narrative stanzas, would be a challenge to a music director to yield a melodious song. For a singer also to sing all these lines without loss of breath is equally an imposing challenge. Hemant Kumar, in the dual role of the music director and the singer, has so deftly handled both the challenges.
Hemant Kumar’s choice of Mohammad Rafi as a second highest male singer is ample testimony of his true role play of a music director. Hemant Kumar’s solo song compositions in Mohammad Rafi’s voice also is a subject for a separate, full-fledged analysis, as he has used Rafi’s voice from lead actors to character actors; from romantic songs to comedy songs to pathos moods songs to pensive songs, set to a wide range of situations.
Paase Sabhi Ulat Gaye, Dushman Ki Chaal Ke…..Ham Laaye Hain Tufaan Se Kashti Nikalke – Jagriti (1954) – Lyrics: Pradeepji
Being a patriotic song, the initial couplets open on high scale, gradually coning down to the regular singing scale. The tone of the delivery is that of firmness of conviction of a loving, soft-natured, teacher. This is the tone in which the main song begins.
As the song progresses, the message keeps on being more and more intense. Topics like atom bombs reflect the heightened concerns. When it reaches @ 3.50, the teacher tells his wards that the time is now ripe to stop dreaming the idealism or live in the luxuries, as now is the time to go in for a quantum jump to touch the highest of ambition, of firmly and positively unfurling the tricolour of an independent nation from the top of Himalayas all over the world. As can be expected, anyone will be carried away with these emotions. Song also suddenly jumps up in scale, remains there till the message is clear, and then returns to its normal flow.
Pradeepji has so clearly spelt out the message in his meaningful, crisp lyrics, Hemant Kumar has weaved in the mood of the song at every stage of the song. And who else could do full justice to such a song, other than the versatile Mohammad Rafi!
Ab Mori Binati Suno Bhagwan – Taj (1956) – Lyrics: Rajinder Krishna
This is a prayer song, which has the earnestness in the base tone of the song, but as the new stanza begins, there is a sense of heightened urgency in the request. In the end, this request reaches a crescendo. Since he himself has rendered the other songs, Hemant Kumar seems to have specifically chosen Rafi for this song. Mohammad Rafi very naturally handles these variations.
Phoolon Se Dosti Hai Kanto Se Yaari Hai, Aise Majhe Ke Pyare Zindagi Hamari Hai – Duniya Jhukati Hai (1957) – Lyrics; Rajinder Krishna
This is one of the famous songs among the ‘tonga songs’ genre of Hindi film songs. Hemant Kumar has very innovatively composed interlude orchestration pieces.
Today when I see the video clip, I note that Sunil Dutt is wearing a loud-stripped T-shirt. In those days striped T-shirt was dress code for small time ‘gunda’ or mawaali’ (ruffians or scamps) characters on the silver screen! One may even recall that David was shown wearing such a T-shirt in Boot Polish’ (1954), probably to epitomise that people who live in that kind of surroundings always have indecent ways of living. The film then goes on disprove this beief.
O Gawalan KyuN Mera Man Teri Chitawan Le Gayi – Champakali (1957) – Rajendra Krishna
Even as Mohammad Rafi, perhaps, comes in as default playback singer for Bharat Bhushan, The song is quite atypical for a Hemant Kumar composition.
Yeh Mard Bade Dil Sard Bade, Chalo Ji Maana, Mardon Ka Phir Bhi Ghulam Hai Zamana – Miss Mary (1957) – Lyrics: Rajinder Krishna
Miss Mary, a remake of Misamma in Telugu or Missiamma in Tamil, was a light mood film. It was one of the big box-office grossers in those days. Its songs had also become extremely popular. Hemant Kumar has very deftly made subtle changes in the composition, as compared to the original Telugu or more or less similar Tamil version, which has made the song very melodious while retaining its comedy elements. As a result, it looks more natural that Jamuna could have been induced to dance at the music while relishing the delivery of satire in the lyrics!
The Telugu version – Telusukonave Chelli (filmed on N T Rama Rao, Savitri and Jamuna)
The Tamil version – Therinthu kollanum penne (filmed on Gemini Ganeshan, Savitri and Jamuna)
Pyari Bole Bulbul, Padosan Boli kauwa….. Kisi Ko Main Chhaila, Kisi Ko Main Hauwwa…– Hum Bhi Insan Hai (1959) – Lyrics: Shailendra
Hemant Kumar has so easily composed this comedy song, which fits Mohammad Rafi like a T.
In the same year in a Bengali movie, ‘Khelaghar’ Hemant Kumar gave Mohammad Rafi two Hindi songs penned by S H Bihari. One of the two songs had the same mukhda – Pyari Bole Padosan ….
Kehti Hai Mujh Ko Duniya Deewana Nashe Mein Ha
Woh Kaunsi Mushkil Hai Jo Na Ho Sake Aasaan – Maa Beta (1962) – Lyrics: Prem Dhawan
Other music directors have often chosen Hemant Kumar’s baritone voice as background song. The song here is about the underlying confidence to overcome the present adversities. Hemant Kumar easily opts to choose Rafi for his capability to express such feelings even when singing at a lower scale. And once again, as Rafi has been called into the play, why not take the advantage of scaling higher notes to express the surge in confidence!
Mareez-e-Ishq Hoon Aye Jaan-e-Man Meri Dua Lena – Bin Badal Barsaat (1963) – Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
Under the regular circumstances, this could have been a poem recital, but here we have a signature Mehmood comedy song, with all the strappings of Rafi – scaling high scales at the beginning of each stanza and then reverting back to the normal scale, or some choice words, like Mareez-e-ishq being delivered in a different style each time it repeats in song.
Tera Husn Rahe Mera Ishq Rahe, To Ye Subah-o-Sham Rahe Na Rahe – Do Dil (1965) – Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
A song in the praise of the (beauty) of the beloved has emerged as a very distinct genre in the Hindi films. As it so happens, Mohammad Rafi has a virtually a monopolistic presence in this genre.
Prior to Do Dil, Biswajeet had had a string of films under other banners, wherein it was Mohammad Rafi who was his playback voice. Songs from those films had been quite successful too. That, perhaps, has weighed in in the use of Mohammad Rafi for all Biswajeet songs in this film!
In the Second Part, we will take up Hemant Kumar;s Male Songs in the voices of Kishore Kumar, Mannadey and Other Singers.
Originally published on SoY as Hemant Kumar’s Male Playback Singers. This is the edited and improved-on-the-inputs-of-discussions-thereupon version.