Mahendra Kapoor – The Vibrant Voice of India

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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. He is perhaps most notable for lending his voice to actor Manoj Kumar, mainly in patriotic genre of music. Who can forget songs like, ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti Sona Ugle’? The song got the National Award for him. 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.

Mahendra Kapoor was born in the holy city of Amritsar on 9th of January 1934. He belonged to a family of cloth dealers. At an early age he came to Bombay with his family. 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.
Though he was inspired by Mohammed Rafi at an early age, he created a style of his own. Music director Snehal Bhatkar gave him his first break in a film Diwali Ki Raat (1956). Mahendra sung a solo song ‘Tere dar ki bheekh maangi hai data’ which was penned by Madhukar Rajasthani. Same year, Mahendra Kapoor recorded a duet for music director Sanmukh Babu in film Lalkar (1956) ‘O bedardi Jaane ken a kar bahane’, with co-singer Savita. 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.
After recording songs for “Sohni Mahiwal” with Naushad & C. Ramchandra for V. Shantaram’s Navrang, ‘Ja re hat natkhat’, ‘Na raja rahega na rani rahegi’, ‘Shyamal shyamal baran’, ‘Aadha hai chandrma raat aadhi’ Mahendra Kapoor never looked back and sung thousands of songs. Noted director B. R. Chopra offered him songs of Dhool Ka Phool and these song proved to be super hits, ‘Tere pyar ka aasra chahta hoon’ is still remembered and appreciated. The same performance was repeated in B. R. Chopra’s next venture Dharamputra and Gumraah. Mahendra Kapoor won his first Filmfare award for best playback singer for the song ‘Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaayen hum dono’ penned by Sahir Ludhianvi for the film “Gumrah”. These songs established him in the film industry. His most popular films were Kismat, Waqt, Hamraaz, Kaajal, Sawan Ki Ghata, Aadmi Aur Insaan, Shaheed, Upkaar, Shor, Baharen Phir Bhi aayengi, Dil Aur Mohabbat, Doli, Yaadgar, Talaash, Purab Aur Paschim, Victoria No. 203, Fakira, Karm, Pati Patni Aur Woh, Kala Patthar, Noorie and Nikaah. Besides these 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.

Mahendra Kapoor had a very large vocal range which was not limited to film songs or religious songs, classical or semi classical numbers. He was the first Indian playback singer to record music with overseas artists. He was asked by the group Boney M to sing their songs in Hindi with Musarat from Pakistan, which resulted in the Pop Album M-3. Some of the songs on the album are “Chori Chori Chalo!!”(Original, Hoorray! Hoorray! by Boney M).

Neither old age nor the transformations of a long singing career weakened Mahendra Kapoor’s zest for music. The voice that took high pitch singing to unmatched levels had a lot to offer. Poor health plagued him during the final years of his life, and he suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep on September 27, 2008.

Tributes to this vibrant voice on his birth anniversary!!

Avid music lover and Dev Anand fan

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