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Kishore Kumar with Hemant Kumar – The Bond of the Bong Bondhus

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The everlasting glitter of the golden era of Hindi film music was an outcome of collective efforts of the proficient composers, lyricists and the singers, who coexisted during that era as a sheer miracle occurring once in a millennium, perhaps. Especially, the able playback singers wholeheartedly bringing the composers’ outstanding compositions and the lyricists’ beautiful word pictures to life through their astounding vocal acrobatics were like the shining diamonds.

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 – Pyarelal was remarkable quantitatively as well as qualitatively. Alongside these major players, his work with some other composers such as Hemant Kumar, albeit quantitatively far less, was no less profuse in terms of quality.

Hemant Kumar was not only an adept music director of Hindi and Bengali film industry but was also an accomplished singer. Uncomplicated, tranquil, soulful, and sweet – that’s Hemant Kumar as a composer. And distinctive, deep and haunting – that’s Hemant Kumar as a singer. He has made valuable and cherishable contribution to both Hindi and Bengali film music through his sublime compositions and unparalleled rendition.

Amidst the cosmopolitan crowd in Hindi cinema, Bengalis have been instrumental right from the early years of the industry. As Music is in their genes, their contribution to Hindi film music has been phenomenal. And when two Bong Bondhus steeped in music come together, they are sure to deliver some mesmerising melodies.

Here is looking into the brief yet rich joint repertoire of the two Bong Bondhus, KK and Hemant Kumar.

1. Chup Ho Ja, Ameeron Ke Ye Sone Ki Ghadi Hai (Bandi – 1957)

Though Hemant Kumar started composing for Hindi films since 1952, he seems to have used KK’s voice in his Hindi music much later, in 1957. Bandi is one of the first Hindi films in which KK (who was also the lead actor in the film) and Hemant Kumar have worked together. The song “Chup ho ja, ameeron ke ye sone ki ghadi hai” is depiction of poignant situation of the streetside poor. KK is seen singing a lullaby to an orphan whom he is looking after despite his poverty. Obviously, it is not a sophisticated and happy lullaby full of the cliches like the moon and the starts. KK is asking the kid not to cry aloud, as it is the time for the rich to fall asleep in their lavish bedrooms. Rajendra Krishan has penned brilliant lyrics showing the misfortune of the poor with subtle touches of satire and comedy. KK has carried the essence of his words and Hemant Kumar’s composition well through his rendition as well as acting.

The film has one more comedy song sung and enacted by KK – “Ek roz mahari bhi daal galegi”.

2. Gaana Na Aaya, Bajaana Na Aaya (Miss Mary – 1957)

Miss Mary is another initial joint film of KK and Hemant Kumar, in which KK is a lead actor, besides the protagonist pair Meena Kumari and Gemini Ganeshan. The soundtrack of the film is one of Hemant Kumar’s best and popular soundtracks. Apart from all the mellifluous songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi and Geeta Dutt, it also has a comedy song “Gaana na aaya, bajaana na aaya” sung by KK, which is filmed on himself. The song expresses the frustration of a youngster having no inclination to music about not being able to convince his musically inclined crush, in a comic way. Rajinder Krishan’s befitting words and Hemant Kumar’s suitable composition give KK full scope to utilise his brimming energy on the screen as well as off the screen.

3. Kashti Ka Khamosh Safar (Girl Friend – 1960)

The film stars KK and Waheeda Rehman in the main roles. As an obvious consequence, KK dominates the soundtrack. The KK – Sudha Malhotra duet “Kashti ka khamosh safar” is a mesmerising composition. Sahir Ludhianvi’s suitable words, Hemant Kumar’s simple and soothing tune and the beautiful rendition by the singers make it a perfectly romantic composition transporting the listeners to the dreamy world of love.

4. Hawaaon Pe Likh Do, Hawaaon Ke Naam (Do Dooni Chaar – 1968)

The film is a comedy of errors, wherein KK and Tanuja have played the main roles. The song “Hawaaon pe likh do, hawaaon ke naam”, filmed on KK describes the agrestic simplicity of the people from a small town and the surrounding beauty of nature in a fantastic way. KK has rendered the haunting composition in the usual Hemant Kumar style very softly. And above all, Gulzar’s astonishing poetry takes the composition to its zenith.

5. Wo Shaam Kuchh Ajeeb Thi (Khamoshi – 1969)

This is undoubtedly the best joint work of KK and Hemant Kumar. Arun (Rajesh Khanna), who is just recovering from acute mania after being rejected by his lover, is falling in love once again with his nurse Radha (Waheeda Rehman), who is also emotionally involved in him, but is hesitating from expressing it due to a previous heartbreak. The song portrays this awkward situation. KK has done complete justice to Hemant Kumar’s haunting composition. Again, Gulzar’s lyrics take the song several notches up. The brilliantly filmed visuals of the Hooghly River and superb acting buy the lead pair make the song an audio-visual treat.

Evidently, Hemant Kumar has used KK mainly in the films in which KK himself acted (except Khamoshi).

KK has also used Hemant Kumar as a singer for 2 songs in each of the two “Sab Kuchh KK” films (films in which he was the writer, director, composer, protagonist and singer), Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein (1964) and Door Ka Raahi (1971).

The song “Raahi tu ruk mat jaana” from Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein is a fantastic motivational song composed by KK and penned by Shailendra beautifully; and rendered by Hemant Kumar in a baritone with warmth of affection. Who other than Hemant Kumar with a sage-like baritone could be a better choice for motivating?

The Hemant Kumar solo “Chalti chali jaye zindagi ki dagar” from Door Ka Raahi conveys the philosophy of life of Prashant (played by KK), who is on an unending journey for the wellness of society. Shailendra’s words, KK’s tune and again, Hemant Kumar’s rendition in a sage-like voice make this soulful song a mesmeric composition.

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