Mukesh – Part 1
‘Everytime he sang, his sincerity and vulnerability shone through, leaving no doubt that here was a true gentleman’. That cannot be said of any other Hindi playback singer, except the sweetly sensitive and truly noble Mukesh Chand Mathur. Together with Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi, he completed the trinity of silver throats who enriched and enraptured through the Golden Era of Hindi cinema playback.
Born in Delhi on 22 July 1923, Mukesh was the sixth in a family of ten children. Father Lala Zorawar Chand Mathur was an engineer. But for little Mukesh, music was his destiny. The music teacher who came home to teach Mukesh’s sister Sunder Pyari music, found a willing but secret pupil in Mukesh, who used to listen in from the adjoining room. This enabled him to pick up the intricacies of music much in the way that little Lata would secretly emulate her father.
By the time Mukesh completed his matriculation in 1940, he knew what he wanted to be. He had already given up his job as an assistant surveyor at his father’s workplace. At the age of 17, he came to Mumbai to become a singer. Mukesh’s father was not at all pleased but gave in to the persuasion of his wife and brother. And so, it was a singing career for the teenaged Mukesh.
Mukesh was ‘discovered’ by character actor Motilal in 1940. Mukesh was heard singing at his elder sister Ram Pyari’s wedding. The obviously impressed Motilal invited Mukesh to stay at his residence in Mumbai. He also engaged the legendary Pandit Jagannath Prasad to train the young singer.
Mukesh’s clean good looks and sweetly sincere temperament perhaps inspired his directors to cast him as a singing hero. In any case, Mukesh was an unabashed admirer of the great K.L. Saigal, probably the greatest singer hero of our times.
Mukesh’s first song was a ghazal, ‘Dil bujha to phasl-e-bahaar kya’ composed by Ashok Ghosh for the film Nirdosh where he co-starred with Nalini Jaywant. He went on to act and sing in Sukh Dukh opposite Sitara Devi. The music for the film was directed by the revered Khemchand Prakash. This was followed by Adaab Arz in 1942. In 1953, he co-starred with Suraiya in Mashooqa. Mukesh was honest enough to realize that he would
never make it big as a hero, and in 1956 he starred in his last film Anurag with Usha Kiron. Here Mukesh revealed another talent — for composing including the songs ‘Kisse yaad rakhoon’ and ‘Pal bhar ki pehchan’.
Mukesh acting career never took off but his singing was noticed when he sang for Motilal in the film Moorti (1945). Here, Mukesh sang two solos ‘Maana ke tum haseen ho’ and ‘Haseenon se haseenon ko’.
The first glimmer of stardom came with the hugely successful ‘Dil jalta hai’ from the film Pehli Nazar. Here Mukesh’s open and uninhibited admiration of K.L. Saigal is on full display. In fact the young impressionable Mukesh has heard his adored idol in the immortal ‘Jab dil hi toot gaya’ and yearned to sing a song like that. Anil Biswas turned his dream to reality. When ‘Dil jalta hai’ was heard, thousands of music lovers, laid bets as to who sang the song. So effectively had Mukesh cloned his hero, that Saigal himself was fooled. After hearing the song he is said to have exclaimed ‘But I don’t remember singing this song!’