When the Rishi Kapoor film ‘Bobby’ released in September 1973, the reigning Hindi film superstar was Rajesh Khanna, who had hit songs in almost every film. Mere Dil Mein Aaj Kya Hai, from Khanna’s movie ‘Daag,’ was a radio favourite, and even as ‘Bobby’s’ songs were making a mark, the senior actor had Diye Jalte Hain and Main Shayar Badnaam in ‘Namak Haraam’ in late 1973.
Between these films, the Raj Kapoor-directed Bobby was able to create a musical mark, with newcomer Shailendra Singh singing for Rishi Kapoor. Composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and written by Anand Bakshi, ‘Bobby’s’ songs Main Shayar To Nahin, Jhoot Bole Kauva Kaate, Aksar Koi Ladki, and Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Band Ho became hugely popular.
For the young “Chintu,” ‘Bobby’ wasn’t a one-off musical success story. Before that, as a child artiste, he had made a passing appearance in the ‘Shree 420’ song Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua and in the song Teetar Ke Do Aage Teetar in ‘Mera Naam Joker’. From ‘Bobby’ till almost till the end of the 1980s, he had numerous popular songs picturised on him. While the Khanna magic faded in the mid-1970s and Amitabh Bachchan became the new superstar, Kapoor held his own in terms of musical hits.
What was most noticeable was the variety of these tunes. Though a bulk comprised love songs or dance numbers, he also had hit Qawwalis like Parda Hai Parda (Amar Akbar Anthony) and the Hum Kisise Kam Nahin title track, or fun songs like Chuk Chuk (Rafoo Chakkar), Lambu Ji Lambu Ji (Coolie) and years later, Badumbaaa (102 Not Out). Then there were songs like Dafli Wale (Sargam), with its distinct rhythm, the guitar-driven Chand Mera Dil (Hum Kisise Kam Nahin), and Gavaa Hain (Damini), Nadeem-Shravan’s take on the popular western tune Malaica.
Kapoor’s screen personality was such that he could fit into any kind of song. However, the subjects of his films and the roles he chose gave him more opportunities to do love songs and dance numbers. The former would include Kisi Pe Dil (Rafoo Chakkar), Ek Main Aur Ek Tu (Khel Khel Mein), Tere Chehre Se (Kabhi Kabhie), and the marvelous Dard-e-Dil (Karz). Among the dance ditties, there were Bachna Ae Haseeno (Hum Kisise Kam Nahin), Dil Lena Khel Hai (Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai) and, Om Shanti Om and Paisa Yeh Paisa (Karz).
Among the playback singers, many of the early hits were sung by Shailendra Singh. After the huge success of ‘Bobby’, the two combined on Kisi Pe Dil (Rafoo Chakkar) and Hum Ne Tumko Dekha (Khel Khel Mein). In some ways, that proved to be a disadvantage for Singh, as he got fewer officers to sing for other heroes.
Kishore Kumar had consistent hits for Kapoor till the late 1980s. Some of the biggest ones were O Hansini (Zehreela Insaan), Ek Main Aur Ek Tu and Khullam Khulla (Khel Khel Mein), Bachna Ae Haseeno (Hum Kisise Kam Nahin), Om Shanti Om and Paisa Yeh Paisa (Karz), and Saagar Kinare and Chehra Ho (Saagar). Mohammed Rafi had some big songs in ‘Laila Majnu’, ‘Hum Kisise Kam Nahin’, and ‘Sargam’, besides the favourite Dard-e-Dil in Karz.
Others to sing for Kapoor included Suresh Wadkar, Kumar Sanu, Shabbir Kumar, and Jolly Mukherjee. Sanu had chartbusters with Teri Umeed Tera Intezaar in ‘Deewana’ and Tu Tu Tara in ‘Bol Radha Bol’, whereas Mukherjee sang the Chandni title track.
Among the music directors, R.D. Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal had the maximum success with the actor. With Burman, Kapoor worked in ‘Zehreela Insaan’, ‘Khel Khel Mein’, ‘Hum Kisise Kam Nahin’, ‘Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai’, and ‘Saagar’. Laxmi-Pyare had ‘Bobby’, ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’, ‘Sargam’, and ‘Karz’.
With younger heroes coming in during the early 1990s, and Kapoor himself opting for character roles, he got less screen time for songs. But in the first 15 years of his career, he had many unforgettable numbers.
To choose 10 would obviously be a tough task, but here are some of his most memorable songs. They belong to the period from 1973 to 1989, and we haven’t repeated a film. The effort has been to balance love songs, dance numbers, Qawwali, and fun pieces, besides providing a mix of solo numbers and duets. Interestingly, with one exception, all are composed either by R.D. Burman or Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
Main Shayar To Nahin/ Bobby, 1973
Sung by Shailendra Singh, this is probably our first memory of Kapoor in a lead role. Music is by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and lyrics by Anand Bakshi. The song is filmed at a party and is one of the film’s many hits.
O Hansini/ Zehreela Insaan, 1974
Composed by R.D. Burman and written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, this Kishore Kumar song is loosely inspired by Shirley Bassey’s James Bond song ‘Goldfinger’.
Khullam Khulla, Khel Khel Mein, 1975
Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh appear in this rebellious love song, composed by Burman and written by Gulshan Bawra. Singers Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle coordinate perfectly, just like they do on ‘Ek Main Aur Ek Tu’ from the same film.
Bachna Ae Haseeno/ Hum Kisise Kam Nahin, 1977
This was a major hit for Kishore Kumar in the film, though Mohammed Rafi had other hits like ‘Kya Hua Tera Vaada’ and ‘Chand Mera Dil’ filmed on Tariq. Composed by Burman, ‘Bachna’ is written by Sultanpuri. For its dance moves, it set a trend.
Parda Hai Parda, Amar Akbar Anthony, 1977
Kapoor plays one of three estranged brothers, and this qawwali suits his style perfectly. Another feather in Rafi’s cap, it was composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal with lyrics by Bakshi.
Dafli Wale/ Sargam, 1979
A major triumph for Rafi who sings all tunes for Kapoor, who is paired opposite Jayaprada as a mute dancer. The combination of Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Bakshi strikes again.
Om Shanti Om/ Karz, 1980
Subhash Ghai’s film with a theme of reincarnation has some outstanding music, and Kapoor shows his dancing skills on this song sung by Kishore Kumar. Laxmikant-Pyarelal compose and Bakshi writes the words.
Chal Mere Bhai/ Naseeb, 1981
A hilarious song picturised on Bachchan and Kapoor, who both show immaculate comic timing. Sung by Rafi with dialogues by the two actors, it has music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and words by Bakshi.
Saagar Kinare/ Saagar, 1985
Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia team up for the first time after Bobby. R.D.Burman composes this beauty, sung by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar, with words by Javed Akhtar.
O Meri Chandni/ Chandni, 1989
Kapoor is picturised with Sridevi in this love song, composed by Shiv-Hari and written by Bakshi. Jolly Mukherjee sings Kapoor’s part with Sridevi accompanying on vocals.