In a career spanning five decades, his repertoire extended to songs in Hindi as well as various regional languages. His name however became most closely associated with patriotic songs including Mere Desh Ki Dharti in Manoj Kumar’s film Upkaar, the song won National Award for him. He is perhaps most notable for lending his voice to actor Manoj Kumar, mainly in patriotic genre of music. He was the link between old and new generations of the film singers as he has sung with all leading singers like – Mohd. Rafi, Mukesh, Talat Mahmood, Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum and Suman Kalyanpur, and he has also sung successfully with the new generation singers. He was very much interested in music since his childhood and character actor of Prithvi Theatres. B. M. Vyas was his first guru in the field. He continued his practice under Ustaad Meherji, Ustaad Niyaz Ahmad Khan, Pt. Tulsidas Sharma and Manohar Potdar. In 1957 Metro Murphy Singing Contest was organized where judges were topmost music directors of film industry, like, Anil Biswas, C. Ramchandra, Madan Mohan, Vasant Desai and Naushad. Mahendra Kapoor won the first prize in the contest and he received a lot of appreciation and fame. His vocal range was such that he could sing s song of any genre be it film songs or religious songs, classical or semi classical numbers. Besides film songs Mahendra Kapoor has also rendered songs in Bengali, Punjabi, Gujrati & Marathi Bhaav geet and numerous devotional songs. He also sang the dohas, mantras, chopaiyan and title track of Mahabharat 1988 TV series. The voice that took high pitch singing to unmatched levels had a lot to offer.
Though known for his patriotic numbers, he has got a number of romantic songs to his credit. Some of these romantic numbers clearly stand among the best romantic numbers of Hindi Cinema. He has given some of his best songs under the music direction of Ravi under the banner of B R Chopra. Besides Manoj Kumar, it was Sunil Dutt on whom Mahendra Kapoor’s songs were picturised.
A glimpse at few such romantic numbers of Mahendra Kapoor –
1. Navrang (1959) – Soon after Mahendra Kapoor won the Murphy singing contest, he was signed for this V. Shantaram film where sang under the baton of C. Ramchandra.
2. Dharmaputra (1961) – Yash Chopra’s second movie as the director, set against the partition. Shahshi Kapoor’s debut as the lead actor. Music by N. Dutta.
3. Gumrah (1963) – The famous love triangle from the house of Chopras again. A soundtrack which made him come out of Rafi’s shadow and carve his own niche.
4. Woh Kaun Thi (1964) – The suspense thriller and a box office winner directed by Raj Khosla. Featuring Sadhana, Manoj Kumar and Helen. The movie is also famous its brilliant soundtrack by Madan Mohan. This duet by Lata Mangeshkar and Mahendra Kapoor is one of the most soft, romantic number. Lyrics by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan.
5. Waqt (1965) – The first multistarrer movie, striking gold at the box office and setting a trend of sorts. All the songs from this movie became a rage. Music by Ravi and lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi.
6. Ye Raat Phir Na Aayegi (1966) – Another movie in suspense genre, had melodious and lovely songs by O P Nayyar picturised on Biswajeet and Sharmila Tagore.
7. Oonche Log (1965) – A beautiful soundtrack Chitragupta. Lyrics By Majrooh Sultanpuri, rendered by Lata Mangeshkar and Mahendra Kapoor.
8. Geet (1970) – A film by Ramanand Sagar starring Mala Sinha and Rajendra Kumar. Music by Kalyanji Anandji.
9. Aaye Din Bahar Ke (1966) – A musical bonanza by Laxmikant Pyarelal where all the songs from the movie were a hit. Having a mixed bag of singers, this particular duet was rendered by Lata Mangeshkar and Mahendra Kapoor.
10. Nikaah (1982) – Another musical blockbuster, where the music by Ravi was a huge hit. Under the banner of B R Chopra, a movie based on marriage contract in the Muslim community was a trend setter.