Mukesh – Part 2
Though Mukesh’s burning desire was to follow in the footsteps of Saigal Saab, veteran composers Naushad and Anil Biswas would have none of it. They took it upon themselves to wean Mukesh from his Saigalesque inclinations.
Anil Biswas succeeded in doing this with the song ‘Jeevan sapna toot gaya’ in 1948. Naushad insisted on pulling up Mukesh sternly whenever he imitated Saigal. He brought out his individualism in several early songs for Dilip Kumar like ‘Gaye ja geet milan ke’ and ‘Hum aaj kahin dil kho baithe’.
Today it is hard to imagine anyone else singing ‘Suhana safar’ or ‘Dil tadap tadap ke’ from Madhumati but Dilip Kumar was not too sure about Mukesh’s voice and wanted Talat Mahmood to playback for him. Mukesh was redeemed not just by the success of these memorable songs but by Dilip Kumar’s admission that Mukesh was indeed his voice. ‘Within minutes of enacting a song sung by Mukesh I was humming it. That, I suppose was the secret of Mukesh’s success’ he remarked with admiration.
Mukesh sang the songs for Dilip Kumar in Mehboob’s Andaz. Songs that laid the foundation for the thespian’s career. In fact, Mukesh was responsible for even Lata Mangeshkar’s first break. He insisted that Lata meet Naushad and when the then struggling phenomenon was reluctant, he personally accompanied her to the composer’s residence. Lata’s big break in Andaz was wrought by Mukesh and she never looked back after that.
Generosity, benevolence and sincerity were second nature to Mukesh. These attributes were the reason for his long-standing relationships with actors, composers and co-singers. The most memorable and cherished of all was the relationship with Raj Kapoor. As Anup Jalota says – it’s impossible to state who was made for whom. Mukesh for Raj Kapoor or vice versa. Raj Kapoor insisted that Mukesh was his soul. RK first met Mukesh on the sets of Bansri. Raj Kapoor was an assistant director and junior artiste and Mukesh the aspiring singer. Raj Kapoor was introduced as Prithviraj Kapoor’s son. The two hit it off, instantaneously. Raj Kapoor’s biographer quotes the Showman as saying. ‘Sometimes you know someone for year and nothing ever clicks, and sometimes you meet a person for a few moments and something clicks. That’s how it was that day between Mukesh Chand and myself’.
Raj Kapoor always called his friend Mukesh Chand. Mukesh sang for RK in his first film as leading man, Neel Kamal. From that day on, till his sudden tragic death Mukesh was Raj Kapoor’s voice in Raj Kapoor’s own productions an well as leading outside banners.
Mukesh’s sweet, vulnerable and extremely sincere voice articulated the emotions of Raj Kapoor, the ‘Indian Tramp’ very effectively. Songs like ‘Awaara hoon’. ‘Mera joota hai japani’ could not have been sung by anybody else. Raj Kapoor’s screen persona came to be so closely identified with Mukesh’s voice because the two were so entirely compatible. The Chulbula ‘Dum dum diga’, the plaintive ‘Aansoo bhari hain’, the sweetly rustic ‘Saajan re jhoot mat bolo’ and the heart wrenching ‘Jaane kahan gaye woh din’, were songs that typified the films and character of Raj Kapoor.
Another made-forever relationship was that between Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh. As she says, ‘Mukesh was your beloved singer, to me he was a dear brother. Mukesh Bhaiyya was a great artiste, a great soul and a very dear brother.’ The two greats, shared many memorable songs. This beautiful relationship based on genuine warmth and respect had found its beginning in that visit to Naushad’s residence where Lataji got her first break and ended tragically in that live concert in Detroit where Mukesh and Lata were to perform.
On Aug. 24, 1976, during a performance in Montreal, Canada, Mukesh had complained of a cold and sore throat. Lata decided that only son Nitin could replace Mukesh and cajoled him ‘Mukesh Bhaiya’s throat feels a bit heavy, why don’t you sing a couple of songs?’ Nitin sang the opening lines of Kabhie Kabhie … and in the wings a proud father watched, his eyes brimming over.
Perhaps Mukesh had an inkling of his tragic fate. During the tour, he had pleaded with Hridaynath ‘Please take care of my son. I know you care for him, but he is a little naive, so promise me you will look after him’. The next day, 10 minutes before his concert, Mukesh breathed his last. And his words to Hridaynath still echo.. ‘As for me… this is my last show’.