Mahendra Kapoor is one of Hindi cinema’s most underrated singers. Known to be a poor man’s Rafi, Mahendra Kapoor drew varied critical reaction despite singing approximately 25,000 songs (in languages as varied as Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati and even English) in his career.
While growing up, I did not like him much, simply because I am a huge Rafi fan and MK was always “not Rafi”. Having said that, I do love so many of his songs and do think he is a versatile and a talented singer. So on his 81st birth anniversary, today, here is a list of 10 of his songs, as a tribute.
1) Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se Ajnabi Ban Jaayein Hum Dono (Gumrah, 1963, Ravi): What a song this is! An absolute favourite of mine sung brilliantly by Mahendra Kapoor: just listen to the anguish and depth in his rendition. The poem was said to have been written by Sahir Ludhianvi for Sudha Malhotra, when they could not marry due to objections by her family. B.R Chopra used this poem as a song for his take on infidelity, Gumrah. Picturised on the good looking Sunil Dutt, this is a tragic song. He is a guest playing the piano and entertaining his host (Ashok Kumar) and hostess (Mala Sinha) with a song – On the surface, it starts off like that but there is the hopelessness of the situation. He loves the hostess, who reciprocates too, but is now married to another man. The song is infused with a loneliness, a sadness at the situation – he cannot forget her, and cannot move on but has to. There is pain, anguish, passion and loneliness and Mahendra Kapoor nails it. The music is by Ravi. Brilliant.
2) Tum Agar Saath Dene Ka Waada Karo (Humraaz, 1967, Ravi): Another song from the same B.R Chopra gang: same actor (Sunil Dutt), music director (Ravi) and lyricist (Sahir). This was a watchable movie that also starred Raj Kumar, one I would have enjoyed much more, had there been another actress in place of Vimi! A top 10 list of MK would be incomplete without this movie. What lovely songs he sang in this one – Neele Gagan Ke tale, Na Moonh Chhupake Jiyo, and Kisi Patthar Ki Moorat Ko (the heroine does look like a stone statue or rather a wooden doll – completely expressionless). However, my favourite from this movie is this gentle and romantic number.
3) Dhadka Toh Hoga Dil Zaroor (CID 909, 1967, with Asha Bhosle and Kamal Barot, O.P.Nayyar): Ok, this one is from a lesser known movie that had Feroz Khan and Mumtaz in the lead. But the music by O.P. Nayyar was top class….This movie was made at a time when O.P. Nayyar had a small rift with Rafi and stopped using him. MK generally benefitted and sang many songs for OPN. He sang another lovely duet with Asha Bhosle in this movie – Jaane Tamanna Kya Kar Daala but this is my favourite song… I just love it!
4) Mere Desh Ki Dharti Sona Ugle Ugle Heere Moti (Upkar, 1967, Kalyanji Anandji): This song is from a genre Mahendra Kapoor was very comfortable in. He did sing quite a many patriotic songs (Mera Rang De Basanti Chola, Hai Preet Jahan Ki Reet Sada). But this one is the one like most. Picturised on Manoj Kumar (in Upkar, the movie that furthered his ‘Bharat Kumar’ phase), this is a patriotic song in a topical movie – said to be inspired by Lal Bahadur Shastri and his Jai Jawan Jai Kisan slogan. Manoj Kumar played both a kisan and a jawan in this movie.
5) Lakhon Hai Yahan Dilwale (Kismat, 1968, O.P.Nayyar): This is a lovely song – O.P. Nayyar’s music and MK’s singing are fabulous… But what makes it unforgettable for me is the picturisation! The picturisation is terrible….Biswajeet is so bad in his attempt to look as if he is playing the guitar and dancing that it ends up being hilarious… The singing by MK however is flawless; he sings it in such a gentle, melodious and romantic way – quite contrary to Biswajeet’s jumping about on screen…Sorry but he looks more like a clown than a hero… (It is such a pity that two wonderful OPN gems – this and Pukarta Chala hoon Main were wasted on this actor.)
6) Haath Aaya Hai Jabse (Dil Aur Mohabbat, 1968, With Asha Bhosle, OPN): My favourite Mahendra Kapoor duet is the passionate Chand Bhi Koi Deewana Hai that he sings with Asha Bhosle. However, I had listed that just last week in another post, so here is another Asha-MK duet – a sweet, romantic song picturised on Sharmila Tagore and Joy Mukherjee from a flop 1968 movie.
7) Sansar Hi Har Shay ka (Dhund, 1973, Ravi): This one is an all-time favourite, more because of Sahir’s lyrics. This is not picturised on any hero, but appears during the opening credits of the B.R. Chopra mystery, Dhund starring Danny, Navin Nischal and Zeenat Aman. Needless to say, the music is by Ravi and lyrics by Sahir (both Chopra regulars). Do listen to this beautiful, philosophical song.
8) Beete Hue lamhon ki Kasak Saath toh hogi (Nikah, 1982, Ravi): Another song from the same B.R. Chopra camp. The movie is the 1982 social commentary, Nikaah starring Raj Babbar, Deepak Parasher and Salma Agha. The lyrics are by Hassan Kamaal and music, Ravi. MK has sung it melodiously and this is one of his best.
9) Dil Lagakar Hum Yeh Samjhe (Zindagi Aur Maut, 1965, C.Ramachandra): This low budget spy thriller starred Pradeep Kumar with Faryal (in her debut movie). While the movie was a typical movie of those times, the music was fabulous. This song is a twin song: Asha Bhosle sings the sad version, while MK sings the happier version. And how well he sings it: so gentle, so soft and very romantic. I am actually fond of both the male and female versions of this song.
10) Badal Jaaye Agar Mali, Chaman Hota Nahin Khaali (Baharein Phir bhi Aayengi, 1966, OPN): Another favourite that seems to have featured many a time on this blog. This optimistic, inspirational number is about how everything shall pass (Andhere kya, ujaale kya, na yeh apne, na woh apne…) No matter what, one must go on… the show must go on! The superb music by OPN, the inspirational lyrics by Kaifi Azmi (? not sure though) and the singing by Mahendra Kapoor make this a timeless classic.
As always, difficult to draw up a limited list. There are so many other classics that come to mind that I do like very much, such as O Neele Parbaton ki dhaara, or Meri Saanson Ko Jo Mehka, or Aadha Hai Chandrama Raat Aadhi, … need to stop now.
Ending this post with a very rare song sung by Asha Bhosle, Usha Khanna and Mahendra Kapoor from the 1969 film B-grade film Killers, starring Ajit, Dara Singh and Sheikh Mukhtar. “Mere Dil Zindagi Safar Hai” is picturised on Helen and Dara Singh in a circus. A lovely song, Usha Khanna sings surprisingly well and MK has a small bit right towards the end. Brilliant music by OPN.