Kishore Kumar and Chitragupt – The Euphonious but Underrated Pair
A number of proficient composers, who were steeped in music, composing melodically rich compositions – one better than the other, and able singers wholeheartedly bringing those compositions to life through their astounding vocal acrobatics were the corner stones of the golden era of Hindi film music. Whether the composers were motivated to use their creativity to the fullest due to these gifted singers or the singers got to explore and utilise their potential due to the composers is a causality dilemma, a chicken and egg question. Whichever side one may support, to me their combination was a “mani-kaanchan-sanyog”, a mutually glorifying association like that of a gem and gold.
Kishore Kumar (KK) was one among the most versatile and prolific playback singers of the golden era, who rightfully reigned over the musical firmament for several decades. Despite the lack of formal training in music, he sang all types of songs with equal proficiency. Whichever song he sang became a golden melody due to his Midas touch. Many singers of the next generation took their baby steps in Hindi cinema by singing the cover versions of his songs and most of the aspiring male singers even of this generation strive to sing like him. This speaks volumes about his everlasting charisma and popularity. He was not just a singer and an actor; he was also a composer, writer, director, poet too – truly a “harfanmaula”, an all-rounder. One can go on speaking about him endlessly!
Though KK sang for most of the composers of his times, his association with some of them, like the Burmans, Kalyanji – Anandji and Laxmikant – Payrelal was remarkable quantitatively as well as qualitatively. Alongside these major players, his work with some other composers such as Chitragupt, albeit quantitatively far less, was no less profuse in terms of calibre.
Chitragupt, the master of sweet tunes, composed music for about 150 films in his career spanning across 5 decades. He defined the Bhojpuri film music in the early ‘60s and remained the undisputed monarch there for a long time. Despite this and the numerous saccharine songs that he created mainly with Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi, he remained unsung and grossly underrated, probably owing to the fact that many of his films were either devotional / mythological films or low grade films.
Chitragupt composed only a few songs for KK, all of which are fondly remembered by the music lovers to date. KK himself featured on screen in most of these songs. Let us savour some of the songs of this combo.
Warning – Most of these songs are sung by KK 1.0, i.e. they hail from the pre-Aradhana period. Therefore, those KK fans, for whom KK means KK 2.0 (metamorphosed KK in the post-Aradhana period), may not be able to relate to these songs ☺
1. Manzil Kahaan Meri, Gulshan Kahaan Mera (Miss Mala – 1954)
Miss Mala (1954) was a musical copy of Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological mystery thriller film Spellbound (1945). This is the story of an amnesia patient (KK) and the psychiatrist treating him (Vaijayanti Mala).
The song, penned by Anjum Jaipuri, shows the dejection, distress and confusion of the hero living with amnesia and some serious complexes. Chitragupt has composed a tune perfectly befitting the mood and KK has rendered and enacted it soulfully. The orchestration adds a pinch of suspense apposite to the situation.
2. Payalwali Dekhna (Ek Raaz – 1963)
Ek Raaz (1963) directed by Shakti Samanta was a package of nicely plotted mystery, romance, comedy and lost-and-found tale. The lead roles were played by KK and Jamuna. The KK – Lata dominated soundtrack of the film is certainly among the best works of Chitragupt.
Kishore Kumar Verma (played by KK), who reaches Ooty for a job opportunity is mistaken by Beena (played by Jamuna) for a singer named Kishore Kumar Sharma, whom they have hired for a music show. Having fallen in love with Beena, Kishore Kumar Verma doesn’t reveal his identity and performs at the music show with Beena. Thanks to the astounding capability to sing a song at the drop of a hat in any situation that the heroes and heroines of Hindi cinema always have! KK uses this opportunity to flatter and woo his lady.
And this is the song that KK sings in the music show – a song based on raag Maru Bihaag – one of the very few songs with a classical touch rendered by KK.
Needless to say, he does not at all sound untrained or inept, even though it is a classical song. Chitragupt’s pleasant orchestration and Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics add a tinge of playfulness to the romance in the song.
3. Agar Sun Le To Ek Nagma (Ek Raaz – 1963)
This is another wonderful KK solo from the film. Whenever the leads, particularly the heroes, in the olden Hindi cinema had to express love or heartbreak, they would often do it through a piano song in a party. This is one such song, in which KK is trying to speak his grieving heart out to the heroine in order to clear the misunderstanding between them.
Chitragupt has composed a very soft tune with subtle touches of pathos. As this is a party song, the orchestration comprises mainly piano and violins. KK’s soulful rendition drenched in sorrow and suitable acting make this a touching song. Unlike many of the heroes who are seen just brushing their fingers on piano, KK is seen playing the notes on the piano properly.
4. Janeman Hans Lo Zara (Ganga Ki Lahren – 1964)
Ganga Ki Lahren was one of Chitragupt’s celebrated works. The drama film starred KK, Kumkum and Dharmendra in the lead roles. The soundtrack has melodious songs sung by KK, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi and Usha Mangeshkar.
The only KK solo in this film – “Janeman hans lo zara” – is a motivational song underlining the importance of staying happy and getting rid of unnecessary anxiety, performed by KK on stage alonwith a few co-dancers. It is a fast paced cheerful song having westernised orchestration. KK sounds energetic, not only in rendition, but also his dance moves on the screen.
5. Main Hansoon Ke Is Pe Roun (Maa – 1968)
This is a melancholic number from the unreleased movie Maa (1968) composed by Chitragupt in a pitiful tune, penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri with apt words and stirringly rendered by KK with a deep poignancy. Effective use of cellos and violins adds to the pathos of this song.
6. Chanda Ki Kirnon Se Lipti Hawayein (Intezar – 1973)
Intezar was a social film based on Malayalam novel Adimakal (slaves) starring Baldev Khosa and Padmini Kapila in the lead roles, amongst others. The soundtrack composed by Chitragupt had 2 Lata solos and one solo each by KK, Mukesh and Manna Dey. The songs were penned by Verma Malik.
Through the KK solo (“Chanda ki kirnon se lipti hawayein”), Baldev is wooing Padmini. Chitragupt’s pleasant tune and the orchestration slightly modernised as compared to his usual style make this a perfectly romantic composition. KK sounds as young as he sounds in the songs from the ’50s and the ‘60s discussed above; and his unparalleled skill in singing romantic songs is evident here too.
KK Duets under Chitragupt’s Baton
Besides the above illustrious solos, KK has also sung a few duets, mainly with Lata Mangeshkar under Chitragupt’s baton. Let us have a fleeting glance at some of the notable duets.
Miss Mala (1954) also had a duet by KK and Geeta Dutt – “Nachti jhoomti muskurati aa gayi pyar ki raat”. The song is composed in western style. KK and Geeta Dutt form a rare but terrific combo; and they complement each other very well. KK picks up the mood of the song perfectly and Geeta Dutt sounds adorable as usual.
Apart from the two solos discussed above, Ek Raaz (1963) also has two fantastic KK – Lata Mangeshkar duets. One is the lilting romantic duet with typical Chitragupt touches – “Nagma-e-dil ko chhed ke”. KK performs par excellence in rendition as well as acting. Lata Mangeshkar adds an extra pinch of sugar that she typically adds to Chitragupt compositions. Another noteworthy feature of this composition is the beats, the alignment of notes with the beats and adept throw of words by both the singers at such beats.
The other duet of the two stalwarts from this film is “Ajnabi se ban ke karo na kinara” – a little fast paced romantic duet showing a playful banter between two lovers.
Ganga Ki Lahren (1964) also had two KK – Lata Mangeshkar duets. One of them is the popular title song of the film praising river Ganga – “Machalti hui hawa mein chham chham”; and the other is the famous romantic song “Chhedo na meri zulfen”.
Besides the Hindi songs, Kishore Kumar also sang a few songs for Chitragupt’s Bhojpuri films. Hope you enjoyed the quick ride through the joint work of the euphonious but underrated pair – KK and Chitragupt