The man with the golden voice

By Rohini Mohan

A slightly nasal but melodious voice follows me whenever I walk down memory lane; a security blanket that envelops me in its comforting embrace. Manna De, Asha, Talat, Hemant Kumar, Lata, Geeta Dutt, Rafi, Kishore- I grew up with all of them, but none made an impact as much as Mukesh, the man with the golden voice.

I was introduced to old Hindi songs and singers very early in my childhood. Apart from being a connoisseur, my father was a pretty tuneful singer and he reveled in the fact that his voice resembled Mukesh’s. No party was complete without him belting out a few Mukesh numbers. Saaranga was a staple, as were Dost dost na raha and Chal ri sajni. Jaane kahan gaye woh din was another hot favorite. Kahin door and Maine tere liye from Anand were the icing on the cake. {mp3}mukesh4{/mp3} Born in 1923, Mukesh decided as a teenager that he wanted to be a singer. He quit his job and moved to Mumbai to seek his fortune. Motilal, character actor and distant relative took him in and helped him establish himself. An attempt at a movie (Nirdosh) failed, but a few years later in 1945, his song Dil jalta hai became a huge hit. I remember reading somewhere that his aim was to sound exactly like Saigal and he was so successful that when Saigal heard it, he commented that he did not remember singing the song! It was not until 1949 that he created his own brand with the four solos that he sang in Andaz. This was also about the time he became “the voice of Raj Kapoor”, starting with Aag. They made an incredible team, creating musical history with their totally unforgettable melodies. Awara, Anari, Shree 420, Mera Naam Joker, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else singing for Raj Kapoor. Awara Hoon was probably the single biggest catalyst for the Indo-Soviet alliance at the time! Another foray into acting in the fifties almost brought him financial ruin. He had to fight to get another break as a singer, but once he did, it was smooth sailing with another series of hits. He won the national award in 1974 for Kai Baar Yuhin Dekha Hai from Rajnigandha. This second coming was also defined by other runaway successes like his numbers in Kabhi Kabhie, Shor and Satyam Shivam Sundaram as well as 3 more Filmfare awards to add to his first one for Anari. Mukesh passed away in 1976 in Detroit. He died of a heart attack minutes before a concert while on tour in Canada and USA. The baton passed to his son Nitin Mukesh whose career, sadly, has not really panned out. Rafi was flawless, Kishore Kumar was the most versatile, but Mukesh was quite simply the man of the masses. He performed no great feats with his voice, he made no attempts at musical acrobatics, he merely presented his songs straight from the heart. He delivered eminently “sing along-able” melodies, highly manageable even by the most average of bathroom crooners. My personal all-time favorite is Jaoon Kahan Bataye Dil. Classic Mukesh; it is a song that never fails to touch me to the core, particularly the line ‘Chandni aayee ghar jalane’. Our family spent many delightful evenings luxuriating in the oldie goldies from the Mukesh era. My dad had an incredible collection of audio tapes and even some old B&W video tapes of Mukesh songs. Those were the pre “everything is available online” days when you actually had to go to a store and buy cassettes, or tape a song from “Chitrahaar” once a week. I don’t own a tape recorder anymore and have replaced my VCR with a DVD player, but I cannot find it in me to part with my dad’s collection, moldy and beyond repair though it may be. In my mind, Mukesh’s mellifluous music is inextricably entwined with my dad’s persona and that golden voice never fails to transport me back in time to some of the happiest days of my life.

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