Suman Kalyanpur and Rafi – The Complementary Duo with Perfect Harmony

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It must be a sheer divine coincidence that so many artistes with stupendous musical acumen came together to perform during the golden era of Hindi film music, making the era truly golden with the aura of their glittering art. While each one was outstanding in its own capacity, some combinations took the compositions a few notches up – may it be a composer-singer combination, a lyricist-composer combination or a combination of two singers. Lata Mangeshkar – Kishore Kumar duets, which always seem like free flowing conversations, is a good example of such combinations. Another notable example is Mohammed Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets.
Mohammed Rafi, as we all know, was an artist with a pure heart and pure voice. His voice is very rightly described as the angel’s voice. Due to astounding playback skills and the versatility in his voice, he ruled the playback scene for several decades. Suman Kalyanpur, a singer with a saccharine voice, was an important member of the non-big4 cadre of playback singers. Similarity of her voice to that of Lata Mangeshkar’s proved to be an advantage and at the same time a disadvantage for her. While she was the preferred singer where Lata Mangeshkar could not / chose not to sing, unfortunately she was generally looked at only as Lata Mangeshkar’s replacement and could never establish her as the mainstay in any composer’s camp. Nonetheless, she got to sing for most of the leading composers and with most of the leading singers for several decades and has left an indelible imprint on the minds of music lovers with her proficient playback skills and a honey-sweet voice.
Rafi’s voice suited any situation and gelled well with any co-singer; and Suman Kalyanpur too rendered duets with several playback singers with an ease. However, due to the perfect harmony and the voices complementing each other, the Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets have formed a separate class of sorts in themselves. Let’s have a fleeting glance at the composer-wise repertoire of some of their duets.
1. Shankar-Jaikishan
The celebrated composer duo certainly deserves the first mention owing to the highest number of duets rendered by Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur under their baton. Ranging from a classical number like Ajahu na aaye baalma, sawan beeta jaye (Saanjh Aur Savera – 1964) to a toe-tapping dance number like Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche har zubaan par (Brahmachari – 1968), the range of Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets sung for Shankar-Jaikishan is quite vast. While the music lovers fondly cherish the classical number to date, the dance number makes even the Generation Z tap its feet. These two songs are brilliant examples of the wonderful coordination between Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur irrespective of the genre of the composition.
The soulful title song of Dil Ek Mandir (1963) based on raag Jogiya is yet another fantastic and mostly the first duet of Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur under the music direction of the composer duo. The year 1964 saw the highest number of duets recorded by Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur for Shankar-Jaikishan. Besides “Ajahu na aaye baalma”, other duets released in the year include the pleasant romantic song Agar teri jalwa numai na hoti from Beti Bete and the exuberant romantic duet with a beautiful blend of Indian melody and western orchestration Tumne pukara aur hum chale aaye from Rajkumar. The film April Fool had two Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets, viz. the duet expressing the lifelong commitment in love – Tujhe pyar karte hain, karte rahenege and the romantic number Keh do keh do, jahaan se keh do.
Suman Kalyanpur’s appearance in Shankar-Jaikishan’s music became sporadic after the mid-1960s. The latter half the 1960s saw only a few but all beautiful duets like Itna hai tumse pyar mujhe mere raazdar from Suraj (1966), the intense emotional song Tujhe dekha, tujhe chaaha, tujhe pooja maine from Chhoti Si Mulaqat (1967) and Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche har zubaan par in 1968.
In the 1970s, when the downturn of Shankar-Jaikishan’s career started following Jaikishan’s untimely death in 1971, Suman Kalyanpur’s appearance in their music naturally became very occasional. The Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets like Dil ki kitab kori hai, kori hi rehne do (Yaar Mera – 1971) and Mere yaar ki yaari dekh ke (Insaniyat – 1974) showed up, but could not make a mark unlike their duets in the 1960s.
Suman Kalyanpur was predominantly seen in Shankar-Jaikishan’s music in the early 1960s, the period that clearly coincided with the period of the historic rift between Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar over the royalty issue. During this period, in most of the Shankar-Jaikishan movies mentioned above, there were Lata solos, Rafi solos and Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets. It is said that Jaikishan himself was instrumental in mending the rift and Suman Kalyanpur was naturally displaced thereafter.

2. Roshan
Roshan also selectively used Suman Kalyanpur together with Rafi to create a few fantastic duets in his mellifluous style. The duets that the duo rendered under his baton are – the romantic duet with a comic tinge, Aaja aaja aaja re balam waada karke tu (Aarti – 1962), the romantic duets with slight classical touches in Roshan’s signature style Chaand takta hai idhar (Dooj Ka Chaand – 1964), Maine ae jaane wafaa tumse muhabbat ki hai (Bedaagh – 1964) and Aise to na dekho ke behek jaayen kahin hum (Bheegi Raat – 1965) and of course Rahe na rahein hum (Mamta – 1966).
The period during which Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur featured together in Roshan’s music also coincides with the period of the Lata – Rafi rift.

3. Madan Mohan
Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur have also featured together in two mesmerising songs composed by the ghazal master Madan Mohan – Mujhe ye phool na de (Ghazal – 1964) and Baad muddat ke ye ghadi aayi (Jahan Ara – 1964).

4. Salil Chowdhury
The pleasant song Tumhe dil se chaaha, tumhe dil diya hai from Chand Aur Suraj (1965) is perhaps the only Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duet in Salil Chowdhury’s repertoire.

5. Chitragupt
Chitragupt’s euphonious repertory of songs also has a few marvellous Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets, the best and the most popular being Bahut haseen hain tumhari aankhen (Aadhi Raat Ke Baad – 1965). Other Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets composed by Chitragupt include Saiyan dekh dekh dekh (Police Detective – 1960), Jazba-e-dil jo salaamat hai and Jabse hum tum bahaaron mein, both from (Main Shaadi Karne Chala – 1963).

6. Khayyam
The musical magician Khayyam has two enchanting Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets in his stock – Parbaton ke pedon par shaam ka basera hai (Shagoon – 1964) and Theheriye hosh mein aa loon (Mohabbat Isko Kahte Hain – 1965). Surely, these songs have bewitched most of us and we have listened to them in loop. Any combination other than Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur is completely unimaginable for these songs.

7. Kalyanji-Anandji
When we talk about Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets under Kalyanji-Anandji’s music direction, the first song that springs up in our minds is the playful romantic duet Na na karte pyar tumhise kar baithe from one of their most popular soundtracks Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965). Other duets rendered by Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur under the composer duo’s music direction include the upbeat song with a Punjabi flavour Tu jungle ki morni (Raja Saab – 1969) and Jaan-e-man aap humse muhabbat na kijiye (Anokha – 1975).

8. Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Though Lata Mangeshkar and Rafi were the leading singers in Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s repertoire, Suman Kalyanpur was occasionally seen singing their compositions. Under their baton too, Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur have sung duets spanning across various genres; from the ebullient dance number Tumse o haseena kabhi muhabbat na maine karni thi (Farz – 1967) that continues to appeal the youngsters even today, to the romantic number with classical touches Kya tum wahi ho (Man Ki Aankhen – 1970). The Laxmikant-Payrelal movies released during 1969 had three more Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets, namely, the composition with Laxmikant-Payrelal stamp, Ke jaan chali haye, jiya nahin jaaye (Anjaana), an earnest romantic duet with a haunting tune and catchy dholak percussion Aa hum ahde wafaa kar le (Do Bhai) and a soft romantic duet Raat suhani jaag rahi hai (Jigri Dost). The last song has slight resemblance with two Madan Mohan compositions – Tumse kahoon ek baat (Dastak) and Meri duniya mein tum aaye (Heer Ranjha).

Other Composers
Apart from the Rafi – Suman Kalyanpur duets discussed above, here are a few more duets sung by them for some other stalwarts:
N. DuttaNashe mein hum, nashe mein tum and One two three four, both from Black Cat (1959)
DattaramWo dekho aayi, bahaaren laayi (First Love – 1961)
S. MohinderTaaron ki chhaon tale and Is gulshan ko aag laga do, both from Zarak Khan (1963)
Snehal BhatkarAapne huzoor mujhe kya se kya bana diya (Fariyad – 1964)
Robin BanerjeeIrada na tha aapse pyar ka (Aandhi Aur Toofan – 1964)
Usha KhannaTere kheton ki rakhwali (Deedar – 1970) and Mera tumhara saath to (Ek Paheli – 1971)
Iqbal QureshiAe jaan-e-tamanna aa bhi ja (Dastan-E-Laila Majnu – 1974)
Rajesh RoshanTeri palkon mein kajal (Jay Vijay – 1977) and Narazgi ye aapki hume jeene nahin degi (Unnees Bees – 1980)
Hope you enjoyed the overview of the groovy duets rendered in perfect harmony by the complementary duo. They always seem to have thoroughly enjoyed singing with each other. And that is why, their duets stand out among the host of the golden era duets – no one would disagree!


  1. Ajay

    January 28, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    “”””Raat suhani jaag rahi hai (Jigri Dost). The last song has slight resemblance with two Madan Mohan compositions – Tumse kahoon ek baat (Dastak) and Meri duniya mein tum aaye (Heer Ranjha).”””” ……PLEASE ! Note ! Laxmikant-Pyarelal Jigri Dost was released in 1969 whereas Madan Mohan’s Heer Ranza and Dastak were released in 1970. SO You need to reverse the lines. Suman Kalyanpur has sung as many as 70 songs under Laxmikant-Pyarelal…The biggest miss are the two songs from Badalte Rishite, 1978. Na Jane Kaise …Suman Kalyanpur with Kishore Kumar and Mahendra Kapoor, second duet with Kishore Kumar Hum Mohobbat mein.. Nagin 1976…Tera Mera Mera Tera with Kishore Kumar..title song of Suhana Safar 1970.

  2. Dipak Zalte

    January 28, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    Good artical, you missed Sathi song mera pyar be tu hai with Mukesh

  3. Ajay

    January 28, 2021 at 1:21 pm

    The article is decently written with good subject.

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