1923-2023: 100 years of Mukesh


Sharada Iyer

Mukesh Chand Mathur or Mukesh as he was popularly known as, has left behind a priceless legacy of soulful songs in his golden voice which will continue to enthrall listeners for generations to come. The emotions he could stir in a listener especially in heartfelt and poignant songs with his unique vocals remain unmatched till today. Nobody could convey pain the way he could and the special timbre in his voice gave expression to the lyrics with a rare honesty and made his seemingly simple songs almost impossible to emulate.

This blog post is a humble tribute to the glory that Mukesh brought to this film industry with his remarkable songs. In his repertoire we come across an amazing variety of solo songs sung by him for different actors covering the time span from 1947 to 1977, which included top stars, character artistes, lesser-known faces, comedians, ace villains, even as background songs on heroines, and songs picturized on Mukesh himself. This post includes solos sung by him for male actors and one song for which he won the National Award.

Here are the YouTube links to enjoy 43 brilliant solo songs of Mukesh for 43 different actors and includes two outstanding solos picturized as background songs. But first here is a small glimpse of Mukesh’s early struggle and how he ended up becoming part of the film industry…

Born on 22nd July, 1923 in Delhi, Mukesh never had any formal training to become a singer. His journey was entirely guided by the inevitable series of events written in his destiny. It so happened that during his sister’s wedding ceremony Mukesh was singing K L Saigal’s songs to entertain the guests, two bigwigs associated with the film industry of that time were also attending the wedding and were highly impressed with his voice. After the ceremony these two gentlemen approached Mukesh’s father and asked his permission to sign Mukesh as the new singing star for their upcoming film opposite heroine Nalini Jaywant. Those were the days when a career in the film industry was looked upon with a question mark, and expectedly Mukesh’s father refused and stated that he wanted his son to become a clerk so that he could become a regular salaried employee.

But fate had other plans for Mukesh. After one year, the same people pursued him again and this time his father gave him permission to try his luck in the film industry. Mukesh was soon signed opposite Nalini Jaywant for the film Nirdosh but sadly the film was a flop and neither Mukesh’s songs nor his acting made any impact. Though Mukesh did try his hand at acting initially he soon realized that acting was not his cup of tea. 

Then followed a series of odd jobs in the city and as luck would have it, playback singing was introduced by Nitin Bose in Calcutta in the year 1942 and a new set of talented voices came to fore who just had to sing and not act. In 1945, producer Mazhar Khan was making a film Pehli Nazar, with Motilal as the hero and Mukesh got the opportunity to playback for a song to be picturized on him- ‘Dil jalta hai toh jalne de…’. In this song, Mukesh’s voice sounded a lot like his idol K L Saigal.

In a BBC interview, Mukesh revealed the story behind the song. Though the recording went off well, there was doubt in the minds of the makers whether this sad song would suit the personality of Motilal who in those days had a light-hearted and boisterous image as a hero and this song seemed out of place. With the result it was decided to drop the song from the film. Mukesh was heart-broken and in desperation went and after much pleading, the producer decided to retain the song in the film for just one week initially and stated that depending on the popularity of the song, the decision would be taken to retain the song or not in the subsequent weeks. As luck would have it, the song became a super-hit and to this day it is counted among the best songs of Mukesh.

Anokhi Ada was a love triangle starring Surendra, Naseem Banu, and Prem Adib with Naushad as the music director. While Surendra sang his own songs, Mukesh’s voice was used for Prem Adib in the film. Here is an interesting song– ‘Yeh pyar ki baatein yeh safar bhool na jaana…’

When Raj Kapoor became producer director with his film Aagin 1949, he chose Mukesh to playback for him in the song ‘Zinda hoon is tarah ke ghame zindagi nahin…’. After this Mukesh became an inseparable part of Raj Kapoor’s film career and remained so till his last film and together, they gave us many memorable songs which are a precious part of Hindi film music. Here is a song from the film Sangam- Mehbooba O mehbooba tere dil ke paas…’

Mukesh did not sing too many songs for Dilip Kumar but whatever he sang in Andaz and Madhumati became evergreen hits –‘Tu kahe agar jeevan bhar…’, ‘Suhana safar aur yeh mausam haseen…’, etc.

When we think of Mukesh and Dev Anand, the first song that comes to our mind is ‘Chal ri sajni ab kya soche …’ from the film Bambai ka Babu, but that is a background song. Here is a Mukesh solo from the film Vidya where Dev Anand gets to lip sync ‘Bahe na kabhi nain se nir…’, where Suraiya was his heroine.

Ashok Kumar who hardly had many songs picturized on him was lucky to get a Mukesh solo– ‘Dil dhoondhta hai sahaare sahaare…’ in the film Kala Aadmi. The heroine was Shyama.

At the peak of Rajesh Khanna’s superstardom, director Hrishikesh Mukherjee and music director Salil Chaudhry opted for Mukesh’s voice in the film Anand instead of the star’s usual choice of Kishore Kumar and both the solos- ‘Maine tere liye hi …’, and ‘Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye… are remembered as musical gems today.

Similarly, though Amitabh Bachchan had the image of an ‘angry-young-man’ during his height of stardom, director Yash Chopra and music director Khayyam chose Mukesh’s voice for the star in the film Kabhi Kabhie, as he was playing a poet and the solos- Kabhi Kabhie mere dil mein…’  and ‘Main pal do pal ka shaayar hoon…’ were super-hits.

Though Mukesh was not the usual choice for playback for both the brothers Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, here are two unusual gems from their films Bluffmaster and My Love respectively. While Mukesh showcases his boisterous and fun-loving side in Shammi’s song ‘Socha tha pyar hum na karenge…’, he is outstanding in the beautifully sung poignant number for Shashi Kapoor ‘Zikr hota hai jab qayamat ka…’, where he conveys his deep love and feelings for his lady love.

Apart from Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar and Jeetendra are two heroes for whom Mukesh has sung many solos. There are so many solos to choose from and I have chosen one song each picturized on them- ‘Chand si mehbooba ho meri kab aisa maine socha tha…’– a lovely romantic song picturized on Manoj Kumar from the film- Himalaya ki God Mein, and a sad solo on Jeetendra where he is heart-broken and conveys the emotions in the song- ‘Chaandi ki deewar na todi pyar bhara dil tod diya…’ from the film Vishwas.

‘Bhooli hui yaadon mujhe itna na sataao…’ (Sanjog) and ‘Aa laut ke aaja mere meet tujhe mere geet…’ (Rani Roopmati) are songs picturized on popular heroes of the fifties Pradeep Kumar and Bharat Bhushan respectively.

‘Hum chod chale hain mehfil ko…’ picturized on Joy Mukherjee from the film Ji Chata Hai has Mukesh bringing out the pain and despair so beautifully. Music director O P Nayyar and Mukesh came together for only one song in their lifetime and that heart-touching song ‘Chal akela chal akela chal akela…’ from the film Sambandh has our hearts wishing that the two had worked together to create more such magical songs. Deb Mukherjee was the lucky hero.

In the song ‘Oh re taal mile nadi ke jal mein…’ picturized on Sanjeev Kumar from the film Anokhi Raat, Mukesh’s haunting vocals bring to life the soulful lyrics and the effect  leaves a deep impact on the listener.

Here is a rare father-son duo of Balraj Sahni and his son Parikshit Sahni for whom Mukesh sang solos. He sang a romantic solo for Balraj Sahni‘Dekhiye yun na sharmaaiyega…’ in the film Bindiya which is a song sung on a wedding night! For Parikshit Sahni the solo was sung for the film Aansoo aur Muskaan‘Moti jaisa rang ang mein…’.

Dharmendra made his debut in 1960 with the film Dil bhi tera Hum Bhi Tere and the very first solo he had to lip-sync to was sung by Mukesh- ‘Mujhko is raat ki tanhaai mein awaaz na do…’.

Rajendra Kumar who usually had only Mohammed Rafi singing for him had the good fortune of having a lovely solo- ‘Husn-e-jaana idhara aa aaina hun main tera…’ picturized on him in the film Saathi.

All those who thought Mukesh excelled only in sad songs has got to listen to this patriotic song from Hum Hindustani- ‘Chodo kal ki baatein, kal ki baat purani…’ in which Mukesh infuses a special fervour and enthusiasm as he motivates a whole generation of youth to look ahead and build the country of their dreams.

Shatrughan Sinha known more for his action films did a film based on reincarnation and what better voice than Mukesh to convey yearning and pain over many lifetimes! The poignant song ‘Kai sadiyon se kai janmon se…’ from Milap, gives us goosebumps whenever we listen to it.

Popular songs sung for many other popular heroes of their time include:

Vinod Mehra‘Jab jab tujhe dekhun…’ (Premika)

Anil Dhawan‘Main toh har mod par tujhko dhoondha sada…’(Chetna)

Feroz Khan‘Darpan ko dekha tune jab jab…’(Upasna)

Raj Kumar- ‘Chand aahen bharega,phool dil tham lenge…’ (Phool Baney Angaarey)

Vinod Khanna– ‘Haath mein haath lo…’ (Sauda)

Biswajit- ‘Kahin karti hogi woh mera intezar…’ (Phir Kab Milogi). Unfortunately the link is not permitted to be embedded in the blog. Do go and check it out on YouTube.

Sanjay Khan- ‘Jaane chale jaate hain kahan duniya se jaanewaale, nahin kadmon ke bhi nishaan…’ (Pushpanjali). This is one song which touches our heart as we pine for our loved ones who have departed on their last journey only to return to us in our thoughts and memories.

Many actors like Ajit, Premnath and Rehman known for their roles as villains did have films where they had songs picturized on them and here are the links to the famous solo songs Mukesh sang for them.

Ajit- ‘Main khushnaseeb hoon mujhko tumhara pyar mila…’ (Tower House)

Rehman- ‘Jaaun kahan bata ae dil…’ (Chhoti Behen)

Madan Puri- ‘Sansar hai ek nadiya…’ (Raftaar)

Some of Mukesh’s outstanding solo songs were picturized on actors who were either one-film wonders or almost unknown faces:

Manish‘Chandan sa badan chanchal chitwan…’ (Saraswatichandra)

Baldev Khosa- ‘Main dhondhta hun din ko raaton ke ujaalon mein…’ (Thokar)

Abhijit- ‘Taaron mein sajke apne suraj se…’(Jal bin machhli nritya bin Bijli)

Deepak Kumar- ‘Jinhe hum bhoolna chaahen woh aksar yaad aate hain…’(Aabroo)

Premendra- ‘Meri tamannaon ki taqdeer tum sanwar lo…’ (Holi Aayee Re…’)

Here is a lovely bhajan in Mukesh’s voice- ‘Jyot se jyot jagate chalo prem ki ganga bahaate chalo…’ from the film Sant Gyaneshwar picturized on Sudhir Mishra.

Lesser-known actors like Sudhir in Umar Qaid and Sudesh Kumar in Saaranga had memorable solos sung for them– ‘Mujhe raat din yeh khayal hai…’and ‘Saaranga teri yaad mein nain hue bechain…’ respectively. His songs helped these actors by giving them a great recall values in the industry.

I end the blog with a solo picturized on Mukesh himself. In the film Aah, the song ‘Choti si yeh zindagani re chaar din ki jawani teri…’ is sung by a bullock cart driver who is played by Mukesh himself and the passenger in the back is Raj Kapoor.

Mukesh won the National award for a solo which is a background song picturized on actress Vidya Sinha where he brings to fore the feelings of a woman and her dilemma as she is torn between her feelings for two people Dinesh Thakur and Amol Palekar.

‘Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai yeh jo man ki seema rekha hai… ‘ (Rajnigandha)






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