Top 5 – Hemant Kumar sings for Dev Anand
Inextricably linked by today’s date are actor Dev Anand and singer Hemant Kumar, defining the first and final act of their respective lives. On 26 September, Dharam Dev Pishorimal was born in 1923 and in 1989, Hemanta Mukherjee died. However, in the intervening process of living, their paths crossed and mutual creative output merged to produce a handful of unforgettable classics of Indian film music.With an ingrained proclivity to sing since childhood, Hemant veered towards the microphone wherever he spotted one. He sang unsolicited at festivals, weddings and family dinners. This euphonious gift was translated into a career but success eluded him. Then entered the delectable Dev Anand, strumming the guitar while wooing the groovy Geeta Bali in Guru Dutt directed Jaal (1952) and Hemant’s fortune turned north.
Salil Chowdhary once said “If God ever decided to sing, he would do so in the voice of Hemant Kumar.” But since God circumvented a career in cinema for the job at hand, Hemant became an oddity, a non aligned entity in Bombay’s clique ridden musical firmament. Gifted with a sonorous, canyon filling baritone, his under utilization in the industry has remained an unspoken tragedy.
Except for a brief period when he interminably sang for Dev under the baton of Sachin Dev Burman, a permanent on-screen star pairing thwarted his paramount ambition to join the élite list of the big three singers: Mukesh, Rafi and Kishore.
In turn, it made him a glorious music director. His scores for Nagin (1954) and Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam (1963) would be a shoo-in for the Top 25 film soundtracks of all time.
Here are five immortal melodies Hemant Kumar sang for the ageless Dev Anand, cherry topped by his famous humming.
1. Yeh raat yeh chandni (Jaal, 1952, Sahir, SD Burman). As slivers of moonlight penetrate the Goan palms and the strumming guitar introduces the harmony, a gust of wind throws open a door revealing Geeta Bali, fuelled by anticipation. On the threshold of having her premonition proved right, her restrain gradually gives way to surrender.
Even if we ignore Dev’s tepid guitar wielding, the evocative heart of Guru Dutt’s directorial virtuosity in song picturization is clearly evident. As Hemant’s soaring vocals draw Geeta out of her confined room to the garden, nature, it seems, has picked a side.
This first collaboration of Dev, Hemant and SD Burman was cheered by fans and was also the first time cinematographer V K Murthy worked with Guru Dutt. Magical team.
2. Yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho (Patita, 1953, Lata, Hasrat Jaipuri, Shankar Jaikishan) Bold subject for the time; an unwed mother with a blind father is ostracized by all till the hero walks into her life. Despite the physical intimacy of the characters, when Dev croons ‘…kahaan ho tum’ (where are you) while looking at her, it gets confusing.
Hasrat’s lyrics delve deeper though, underlining the opposing sides of an intolerant societal chasm they inhabit.
As her conflicted mind wills itself to believe in the possibility of a relationship, she replies “.. pyaar se pukar lo jahan ho tum” (call me with love wherever you are). An utterly romantic duet crafted and sung with conviction.
3. Teri duniya mein jeene se (House No. 44, 1955, Sahir, SD Burman) The pipe dream of big city petty crook: to reform and rejoin the mainstream. Sahir’s lyrics entreat the Gods to give humans a decent break and make it a little easier by throwing in some happiness in every life. Just a little would do the trick.
The pessimism of the words is counter weighted by a light melody, punctuated by a harmonica solo. Dev’s street mate kid also hoots, probably not having lost the zest for life at this young age.
The maestro Burman reveals the minimalist territory he occupied as he guides Hemant’s high notes, inverse to the baroque 100 piece orchestra sound of Naushad. “Chup hai dharti” is also from the same film.
4. Hai apna dil toh aawaara (Solva Saal, 1958, Majrooh Sultanpuri, S D Burman) As the music mimics the chugging rhythm of the speeding locomotive, Hemant’s vocals flirt with an eloping Waheeda Rehman, paramour in tow. Salil Chowdhary’s ‘God’ at his naughtiest, the deliciously amorous advances would tantamount to eve teasing today, summoning a swift arrest or one tight slap.
However, in those gentler times where nobler intent was revealed by Dev’s insouciant grin, it invites at most, some killer stares. Majrooh writes about the dil (heart) in second person, thus bestowing an identity distinct from the owner of the heart. Legend has it R D Burman was 12 when he played the lead harmonica here. Since, it’s become the top practice tune for novice harmonicanists. Topped the radio show Binaca Geetmala.
5. Na Tum Humein Jaano (Baat ek Raat ki, 1962, Majrooh, SD Burman)
A trauma causes Waheeda to block out the memory of an event. The key to the imperative unlocking of this subconscious vault lies in a song played on a 78 rpm record. As the humming initiates her to dig deeper, Dev practices repetition of the stimuli thus aiding her recovery. Profound and sensual by turns, the low, deep tonal quality of Hemant’s voice is complimented by Suman Kalyanpur’s alaap as the song leads to its second movement.
By the mid sixties, Kishore Kumar done and dusted with his leading man career, returned to playback singing reclaiming his place as the voice of Dev Anand. This was Hemant’s swan song for Dev Anand and SD Burman.