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Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar – A Contrasting yet Complementary Combo

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Golden era of Hindi film music was marked by the presence of many talented artists (singers, composers, lyricists and musicians) together. And all these artists were like philosopher’s stones – whatever they touched was transmuted into gold. Contrary to the popular saying, all that glittered in this era (and still continues to glitter even after decades) was nothing but pure gold. It could only be a divine coincidence that so many stalwarts coexisted in this span of time in Hindi cinema.
The competent singers were the ultimate stage in the life cycle of an audio song. Numerous cherishable and mellifluous songs came out through their vocals like a butterfly coming out of the cocoon with vibrant colours. Each of the singers in the golden era had a unique proficiency, a unique strength.
For example, the eternal empress of Hindi film music, Lata Mangeshkar had a delicate and saccharine voice with a heavenly touch and outstanding range. As against this, Hemant Kumar had a distinctive baritone and spellbinding voice. Quite a bit of contrast, isn’t it? But at times, contrast creates beauty; and this contrasting combination too has given rise to numerous soulful musical beauties. This unique combination was liked and used by several music directors to immortalise their soulful compositions.
Let us commemorate to the legendary artiste Hemant Kumar on the eve of his birth Centenary by savouring some of the soulful Hemant Kumar – Lata Mangeshkar duets that this contrasting duo rendered unforgettable.

1.Ye Raat Ye Chandni Phir Kahaan (Jaal – 1952)
Love and partition are the two sides of the same coin in Hindi cinema. Jaal, starring Dev Anand and Geeta Bali and one of Guru Dutt’s early directorial ventures, is also not an exception. The remarkable part of the love story in Jaal is that the songs with the same refrain (Ye raat ye chandni phir kahaan) portray both these stages. In the romantic version, an enamouring solo by Hemant Kemar, the refrain is an alluring call by the hero to the heroine. On the other hand, in the sad version, a duet by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar, it becomes a beckoning call of the distressed.
The duet is actually more of a Lata song, with Hemant Kumar just singing the refrain. However, even this occasional presence of his is sufficient enough to add an aura to Lata’s poignant rendition. Sahir Ludhiyanvi, the poets’ poet, has profoundly written different stanzas for the two versions in opposite moods using the same refrain. While S.D. Burman has composed a fast paced tune for the solo version to suit the romantic mood, using the same tune for the refrain even in the duet, he has brilliantly converted it into a sad song with a slower pace. This is the best example of the magical alliance of S.D. Burman and Sahir Ludhiyanvi that had just started flourishing.

2. Jaag Dard-e-Ishq Jaag (Anarkali – 1953)
While C. Ramchandra mainly used the voice of Mohammed Rafi or his own voice for Lata-duets, he also came up with a handful of amazing duets using Hemant Kumar alongside Lata Mangeshkar. “Jaag dard-e-ishq jag” from one of his major hits Anarkali is a shining example.
On realising that she has fallen in love with Prince Salim (Pradeep Kumar), who romanced her in the disguise of a soldier and the consequent futility of their love story; Anarkali (Bina Rai) is totally shattered. However, the Emperor plans a grand event to celebrate the recovery of the Prince who was seriously wounded and asks Anarkali to perform in the event. Frustrated Anarkali falls almost unconscious while performing. The royal singer starts encouraging Anarkali through Hemant Kumar’s voice and then regaining her senses, Anarkali expresses her distress through Lata Mangeshkar’s voice. C. Ramchandra has composed the tune in his favourite raag, viz. raag Bageshri, meant to depict Viraha Rasa and Karuna Rasa and hence quite apt for such kind of an emotional expression. Moderate orchestration mainly comprising sitar, violins and tabla allows the voices of the singers to take the centre stage.
Hemant Kumar glows to the song right from the aalap at the beginning. His heavy, baritone voice perfectly suits the accomplished and elderly royal singer. Lata Mangeshkar brings to life Anarkali’s distress through her adept rendition drenched in pathos. She glides between very low and very high notes with an astonishing ease.
The lyricist Rajendra Krishan seems to be inspired by the nazm “Jaag soz-e-ishq jag” written by the celebrated Pakistani Urdu Poet Hafeez Jalandhari.

Here is the popular version of Hafeez Jalandhari’s nazm rendered by the well-known Pakistani Ghazal and folk singer Malika Pukhraj –

3. Yaad Kiya Dil Ne (Patita – 1953)
Patita was a heroine-oriented melodramatic film – showing the story of a rape victim in a bold, intelligent and sensitive manner – starring Usha Kiran and Dev Anand in the lead roles. The soundtrack of the film consists of 6 melodious songs composed by Shankar Jaikishan – 2 solos by Lata Mangeshkar, 3 solos by Talat Mahmood and last but not the least, a duet by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar.
The Hemant-Lata duet is a hauntingly melodious romantic composition, quite different from Shanka Jaikishan’s usual style. The mesmerising effect of the song is largely attributable to the use of accordion in the orchestration. The lyrics were penned by Hasrat Jaipuri.
While the hero Nirmal is calling out to the heroine Radha in a romantic mood, Radha is caught between her love and dedication towards Nirmal on one side and the situational helplessness on the other. Therefore, her romance has a pinch of pathos. Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition, albeit very sweet, therefore has a poignant touch. Hemant Kumar’s rendition is charming, as usual.

4. Nain So Nain Naahi Milao (Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje – 1955)
Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, one of the early Technicolor films made in India under the direction of V. Shantaram, portrayed the love story between two dance artists played by Sandhya and the veteran classical dancer Gopi Krishna. The love story passes through the usual cinematic ups and downs and culminates into the reunion of the couple.
The Lata-dominated soundtrack of the film was composed by Vasant Desai, well known for the tunes mainly based on Indian classical and folk music, filled with simplicity, intensity and purity. This classical based Hemant – Kumar Lata Mangeshkar duet is composed in raag Malgunji, a very melodious raag capable of creating a heavy atmosphere.
The couple is celebrating their falling in love through this song. To suit this, Vasant Desai has composed a very pleasant tune and has decorated it with tabla, violins and grand use of chorus. Lata Mangeshkar’s usual sweet rendition and sharp aalaps utterly convey the feminine joy and bashfulness, while Hemant Kumar’s heavy yet joyful rendition suits the poised masculine expression of love. All these elements make it a mesmerising composition; and coupled with beautiful visuals of the Brindavan Gardens (Mysore) and proficient classical dance by the couple (more so by Gopi Krishna) makes this song an audio-visual treat.
Lyrics in almost pure Hindi are surprisingly penned by Hasrat Jaipuri.

5. Jhir Jhir Jhir Jhir Badarwa Barse (Parivar – 1956)
Parivar was a multi-starrer family drama showing the story of four brothers and their wives and offspring living under the same roof, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows. The songs were composed by Salil Chowdhury and imaginatively penned by Shailendra.
The song shows the newly married youngest couple in the family (played by Sabita Chatterji and Ashim Kumar) romancing clandestinely but decently on a rainy night in the shelter of the house, while other ladies in the family are spying on them and enjoying it. The gleeful and fast paced tune composed by the musical mastermind Salil Chowdhury, supported with his unique touches and dulcet indo-western orchestration, goes hand in hand with the showers of the rain outside and the romantic feelings awakened by them.
There cannot be a better choice of female voice than Lata Mangeshkar for such a subtly romantic number; and she has added an extra pinch of sugar, as she always does in Salil Chowdhury’s compositions. Hemant Kumar’s rendition suits the masculine element of the romance. Both of them have somewhat underplayed and made sure that the song does not sound loud, as this must have been the demand of the situation showing secret middle class romance inside a house.

6. Nayi Manzil Nayi Raahein (Hill Station – 1957)
Hill Station, an early directorial venture of Shakti Samanta, was a social romantic film starring Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai in the lead roles.
The songs were composed by Hemant Kumar and written by S.H. Bihari. The soundtrack of the film has a euphonious romantic Hemant Kumar – Lata Mangeshkar duet, “Nayi manzil, nayi raahein”. Through the song, the onscreen couple expresses the newly awakened love and commitment to confidently lead their life together through all ups and downs.
Its composition is in consonance with Hemant Kumar’s simple yet soulful and sweet style marked by optimal orchestration leaving sufficient scope for the singers. Rendition by the duo is soothing like the touch of a feather.

7. Bahaaron Se Poochho, Nazaaron Se Poochho (Fashion – 1957)
Fashion was a social drama film in which Mala Sinha, Pradeep Kumar and Manoj Kumar played the lead roles. The music-score of the film was composed again by Hemant Kumar himself and the lyrics were penned by Bharat Vyas.
The song is a romantic number used by the onscreen couple for expressing the feeling of love for each other that they have just realised, thanks to the surrounding bounties of nature.
The tune inherently has some eagerness and excitement, which both the singers have skilfully expressed through their rendition. Orchestration that includes flute, violins, Hawaiian guitar etc. adds an enticing effect to the composition. The percussion adds a bewitching touch, like that of folk music being played somewhere in a remote valley.

8. Neend Na Mujhko Aaye (Post Box 999 – 1958)
Post Box 999 was an action mystery film with Sunil Dutt and Shakila in the lead roles. The soundtrack of the film composed by Kalyani Veerji Shah (i.e. Kalyanji alone, before Anandji joined him) has a fantastic Hemant Kumar – Lata Mangeshkar duet – “Neend na mujhko aaye” penned by Payrelal Santoshi and picturised on young Sunil Dutt and pretty Shakila.
Both of them are in the same premises, but they cannot come close to each other due to the social norms. However, this does not stop them from being eager to come very close; and they express this excitement through the song, being well cognisant of the social barriers.
Kalyanji’s tune nicely expresses this feeling with the help of orchestration comprising mandolin, violins and flute. Violins in particular add a fascinating aroma to the composition. Temple blocks in the percussion make you tap your foot and nod your head to the hypnotic rhythm of the song. And the intense rendition by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar add up to all this to make this a captivating composition.

9. Tumhe Yaad Hoga (Satta Bazaar – 1959)
Satta Bazar is a family drama film starring Balraj Sahni, Meena Kumari, Suresh and Vijaya Choudhury as the leads. The music-score was composed by Kalyanji – Anandji. Kalyanji was joined by Anandji from this film and the beginning of the historical journey of the duo was marked.
The onscreen love story of Suresh and Viajaya Choudhury is jeopardised due to misguided speculative dealings in share market by Vijaya’s father Balraj Sahni. They have no option but to break up to save her father from bankruptcy. As a result, though they are physically in the neighbouring buildings, they are in a way drifted far away from each other by the strong currents of the circumstances. The Hemant Kumar – Lata Mangeshkar duet in the film expresses the pain of this forced partition precisely.
The tune and the music arrangement build the mood of the song appropriately, which is further built upon by the heart wrenching lyrics by Gulshan Bawra and touching rendition by Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar.

10. Itna To Keh Do Humse (Saheli – 1965)
Saheli was a classic romantic movie in which the main roles were played by Pradeep Kumar and Kalpana Mohan. The songs in the film were composed by Kalyanji – Anandji and penned by Indeevar.
The soundtrack of the film had a lovely number laden with romantic ethos – “Itna to keh do humse” – sung by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. The tune and music arrangement of the song is quite lilting. While Hemant Kumar expresses his ask for love quite romantically, Lata Mangeshkar expresses shyness and dedication through an extremely adorable tone. This would be one of the best compositions from early years of the music director duo.

11. Chhupa Lo Yun Dil Mein Pyar Mera (Mamta – 1966)
Last but not the least – this would rather be the best duet of Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. This truly mesmeric duet from the drama film Mamta was composed by Roshan and written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.
Soft melodious and expressive tunes based on a blend of folk music and Indian classical music were Roshan’s trademark, and this album – in particular the captioned song – is one of the best examples of his creativity. Use of raag Yaman is quite appropriate to the serene mood of this song. Orchestration comprises merely flute and clash cymbals used as percussion. And yet the song takes you to another world!
The song also sheds light on Majrooh Sultanpuri’s poetic proficiency. What an outstanding imagery of the lamp in a temple used in the lyrics to describe the purity of love!
Lata Mangeshkar had a stupefying capability to express any feeling through her voice. Though her voice was somewhat thin, she could astoundingly bring in a great deal of depth in her rendition, wherever required, just as in this song. When you hear Hemant Kumar sing this song, you immediately start visualising a lamp in a temple illuminating the deity’s face. His voice has fathomless depth, like that of a sage chanting “Aum” in the adytum of an ancient temple. Who other than him could then lift this divine song to a spiritual plane?

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