BACK in August 1976, when I was still a month away from officially becoming a teenager, I’d never dreamt I would eventually write articles on music for newspapers or websites. My father was a journalist, but I never imagined I’d be one myself.
The only thing I wrote was a school essay, and that too, only when ordered to by our English teacher at Frank Anthony Public School, New Delhi. So when legendary singer Mukesh passed away on August 27, 1976, I never picked up my pen to write anything.
He and Kishore Kumar had been my favourite male playback singers those days — Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mahmood and Manna Dey entered my life later. For me, Mukesh’s death created a sense of loss even at that young age. I never translated my feelings into words, though I did admire an article in The Times of India, and learnt about the existence of the term ‘obituary’.
Today, on Mukesh’s 42nd death anniversary, I wonder what I’d have written had I attempted an article on Mukesh for the school magazine, or just for myself. So here, I shall go back in time, imagine I’m a 12-year old in the year 1976, and attempt to jot down what I might have written then. I am datelining this tribute August 31, 1976, so that I can describe a few experiences I had after his death. Here goes:
NEW DELHI, August 31, 1976: On Friday, August 27, singer Mukesh passed away in Detroit, US. I heard the news on Saturday when I was watching the Amitabh Bachchan-Jaya Bhaduri film Zanjeer at Paras cinema hall in New Delhi’s Kalkaji area.
Though it was released some years ago, I hadn’t seen it before. I went alone to watch it as the hall was near my house in Greater Kailash. Rajesh Khanna was my childhood favourite, but now Amitabh was my favourite after watching Deewaar, Sholay and Kabhi Kabhie.
I enjoyed the film’s first half. Just after the interval, I read an announcement on the screen. It said: “Singer Mukesh dead. Request hall to stand up and observe two minutes’ silence.”
Most people got up from their seats, but some still kept chattering or sitting down. I didn’t know how many liked Mukesh. Maybe the hall’s manager liked him, and he wanted everyone else to pay their respects.
I had heard many Mukesh songs, and I felt sad to hear the news. Before that, the only musician’s death I knew was of Jaikishen five years ago. I was in Mumbai then, and knew that Shankar-Jaikishen did music for Mera Naam Joker which I saw. I always thought Shankar-Jaikishen was one person, but my aunt told me they were two people.
The second half of Zanjeer was wonderful too. But I was also thinking of Mukesh songs, specially his new songs ‘Ek din bik jaayega‘, ‘Kabhi Kabhie mere dil mein khayal aata hai’ and ‘Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon’. As I walked back home, I thought of other songs. ‘Jaane kahan gaye woh din’, ‘Kehta hai joker’ and ‘Jeena yahan marna yahan’ from Mera Naam Joker. And ‘Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye’ and ‘Maine tere liye hi saat rang ke sapne’ from Anand.
“Mukesh is dead,” I announced when I reached home. My mother didn’t think it was important, as she liked classical music, and took me to concerts of Pandit jasraj, Bhimsen Joshi, Kishori Amonkar and Parveen Sultana. But my father agreed Mukesh was the closest who came to his favourite K. L. Saigal, and that he was very popular. He loved the songs of Mera Naam Joker and Anand, besides Raj Kapoor hits.
Till I went to sleep, I thought about how I got interested in Mukesh. Among my relatives, there were three fans. My uncle Kanta-mama and my cousin Ranga-dada loved his songs from Raj Kapoor’s films. Kanta-mama regularly played his hits on his portable record player, and Ranga-dada always hummed Mukesh and Rafi songs when played on Vividh Bharati or Radio Ceylon’s ‘Binaca Geet Mala’. Then there is my father’s brother Sonu-kaka who loves two Mukesh songs ‘Sajan re jhoot mat bolo’ and ‘Oh re taal mile’. I also liked Mukesh because I had read my favourite bowler Bhagwat Chandrasekhar was very fond of him.
Because of Rajesh Khanna, I like Kishore Kumar songs from Aradhana, Kati Patang, Namak Haraam, Aap Ki Kasam and Amar Prem, which I have watched in the cinema hall. Because of Ranga-dada, I also like Rafi, but haven’t heard much by him. Among 8th standard friends, the favourite is Shailendra Singh, who sang in Rishi Kapoor films Bobby, Rafoo Chakkar and Khel Khel Mein. Of the female singers, I like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Vani Jairam who had one popular song in ‘Bole re papihara’ from Guddi. I still don’t much know about music directors and lyric writers, though I hear names like S.D..Burman, Naushad, R.D. Burman, Shailendra, Anand Bakshi and Majrooh Sultanpuri on the radio.
Mukesh has something different in his voice. Two days after his death, I read the article in ‘The Times of India’, which described his voice as uniquely nasal. It said that it suited pain and romance. I am too young to understand these things, but I think his voice is superb. After his death, Raj Kapoor said he had lost his voice. After reading that, I am suddenly interested in learning more about Mukesh.
The article also mentioned his most popular songs, some of which I have just heard for the first time on Vividh Bharati. The song that is being played the most number of times is ‘Dil jalta hai toh jalne de’ from Pehli Nazar. It was his first hit, and my father says he sounds like Saigal on this song.
I usually hear the radio late in the afternoon after coming back from school or at night. These days, Mukesh songs play all the time. Even on Doordarshan, there are half-hour specials dedicated to him. He has his own style. I have heard many songs before, but now, I like them even more. ‘Mera joota hai Japani’, ‘Sab kuch seekha hamne’, ‘Saawan ka mahina’, ‘Yeh mera deewanapan hai’, ‘Ek pyaar ka naghma hai’, ‘Jis desh mein Ganga behti hai’ and ‘Main na bhooloonga’. Don’t know the films, except Shor. The Kabhi Kabhie songs get a lot of requests.
The radio also plays ‘Suhana safar’, ‘Sajan re jhoot mat bolo’ and ‘Oh re taal’. I didn’t know earlier, but now find out they are from the films Madhumati, Teesri Kasam and Anokhi Raat, I am also hearing some songs for the first time, like ‘Chand aahen bharega’, ‘Chandan sa badan’, ‘Raat aur din diya jale’, ‘Jhoom jhoom ke nacho aaj’, ‘Chand ko kya maloom’, ‘Chal ri sajni’ and ‘Duniya banane waale’.
We have a tape recorder at home, and yesterday, my mother recorded some songs for me from the radio. The more I hear them, the more I enjoy. Over the next few weeks, I want to record as many songs as possible. Mukesh is now no more, but I am sure his voice will remain with me all the time. I wish he had lived much longer to sing many more beautiful songs.