Bollywood's Breakthrough Songs - II
“Ab Tere Siva Kaun Mera” (Kismet - 1943)
Amirbai Karnataki: Famous as ‘Kannad Kokila’, Amirbai Karnataki was 15-years old when she came from Karnatka to Mumbai where her sister, Gauhar, was an actress. With the help of her sister, she came in touch with HMV who were impressed by her singing talent and made her sing a qawwali which became very popular. Initially she sang songs in films like Narsi Bhagat, Sardar, Darshan etc., but her big success as playback singer came with the release of Bombay Talkies’ Kismet (1943). Her songs, ‘Ab Tere Siva Kaun Mera’, ‘Dheere Dheere Aa Re Badal’ and “Door Hato Ae Duniawalo’ became a rage.
“Neend Humari Khwab Tumhare” (Nai Kahani - 1943)
G.M. Durrani: He was probably the first singer who emerged in the late 30s and 40s who showed an independent style as opposed to many other singers who tried to emulate K.L. Sehgal. It would be appropriate to say that he was the first major male playback singer in Hindi Films. He had a lovely soulful voice and slowly he developed a keen interest in Singing. He then got a job in All India Radio and used to sing songs there. He first got an opportunity to sing for a movie Saaed-e-Hawas in 1935/36 which was directed by Sohrab Modi with music by Bundu Khan. He did a few other songs in next few years but the year 1943 was very good for him. His song, Neend Hamaari Khwab Tumhaare Kitne Meethe Kitne Pyaare from movie Nai Kahani(1943) became a super duper hit which is remembered till date. This opened the doors for him in the industry in a big way and made him the number one male playback singer. He was considered an idol by many including Mohd Rafi who was inspired by his style in the initial years. His continued work led to lots of hits for him which cemented his position as the number one male playback singer. His songs for movies like Shama(1946), Do Bhai(1947), Mirza Sahiban(1948), Dada(1949), Aiiye(1949), Maang(1950), Dilruba(1950), Madhubala(1950), were very popular and he was quite respected in the industry.
“Ankhian Milake Jiya Bharma Ke” (Rattan - 1944)
Zohrabai: Popularly known as Zohrabai Ambalewali, as she hailed from Ambala City in Punjab, she broke into Bombay-based movie industry with a bang in the 1940s and recorded several successive hit songs. A certain kind of vivacity and aura characterized Zohrabai's ever-fresh voice, making her the envy of her contemporaries. It were these uncommon features of her vocals, which enabled her to rule the roost in the fast-growing art of female playback singing for well over a decade. There was a time when the use of her voice for the recording of songs in a film was considered a guarantee for its success at the box office. Such was the magical impact of her properly groomed voice on the listeners. Zohra's bright vocals were skillfully exploited by front-line composers of the decade. However, the big break came her way, when several songs recorded in her voice by composer Naushad for the film Rattan (produced in the year 1944) created new records in popularity at the box office. The songs were so palatable to mainstream taste in India that they were enjoyed by the people throughout the length and breadth of India, the most popular and hummed being 'Akhiyan mila ke jiya bharma ke chale nahin jaana' and 'Sawan ke baadlo unse ye ja kaho'.
“Ghabra Ke Jo Hum Sar Ko Takrain ” (Mahal - 1949)
Rajkumari: She was just 10 years old when she recorded her first song for HMV in 1934 and she started her career as a stage artiste. Vijay Bhatt and Shankar Bhatt of Prakash Pictures spotted her during one of her shows. They liked her voice and persuaded her to discontinue acting on stage as it would spoil her voice (In those days, there were no mikes and you had to shout to be heard). So she quit theatre, and became an employee of Prakash Pictures as an actress and singer. Period of 1940s was revolutionary for singing in films. Singing stars tradition changed to playback singing, thus bringing in great new talented singers. After she quit Prakash Pictures, she began playback singing for actresses like Ratnamala, Shobhana Samarth, etc. and soon she became the First Female Playback Singer of Indian Cinema. Such was Rajkumari’s success that even before partnerships like Mukesh - Raj Kapoor or Talat Mehmood - Dilip Kumar or Rafi - Dilip Kumar were formed, heroines like Shobana Samarth insisted in their contracts, that Rajkumari would sing for them. In 40s she sang songs for many movies but her most famous film was Mahal (1949), where she sang 'Ghabra kai jou hum
sar kou takrayien tou acha hou' and 'Yeh raat phir na aayge', the songs that put her amongst the top playback singers of the era.
“Roun Mein Sagar Ke Kinare” (Nagina - 1951)
C.H. Atma: The legendary singer started singing as a hobby at College. and little did he realize at the time that what started off as his hobby would one day become his career. C.H. Atma made his debut way back in 1945, with what is probably his best known song even today “Preetam Aan Milo”. His deep, rich voice bore a distinct resemblance to his idol KL Saigal. Film producer Pancholi happened to hear his recording of this very soulful & melodious song and was very impressed. He later gave him a chance to sing in his film “Nagina” that led to a brilliant film career for Atma. it was in this film that he scored a big hit with the song “Roun Main Sagar Ke Kinare” under the music direction of Shankar and Jaikishan. After this he sang and acted in many films, including Bilwa Mangal, Dhake Ki Malmal, Bhai Sahib and V. Shantaram’s famous film Geet Gaya Patharone. He successfully developed a wide circle of admirers by his frequent performances, both in India and abroad.
“Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahan” (Jaal – 1952)
Hemant Kumar: "Listening to Hemant da, I feel as though a sadhu sitting in a temple is singing a Bhajan," comments the nightingale Lata Mangeshkar about the unique Hemant Kumar, who was not only a fabulous singer but also an equally indomitable composer. In Hemantda's voice one could experience an amalgamation of Rabindra Sangeet, Bengali folk music, modern and classical elements. Every distinguished creative artiste is born with one gift, but, Hemantda was born with several gifts. As a singer he reigned supreme in Calcutta and Bombay. As a composer his versatility and staying - power in the charts were astonishing. From Naagin and Jaal to Bees Saal Baad and Kohraa the 50's and 60's were decades that 'belonged' prominently to the unique talents of Hemant Kumar. As a singer in Bombay, Hemantda became a voice to record with in 1952 when he sang 'Ye Raat Ye Chandni Phir Kahan..' in the thriller Jaal for the debinair Dev Anand. In 1957, Hemantda sang one of his career's best solos 'Jaane Wo Kaise Log The..' for Guru Dutt in Pyaasa. Songs like these branded Hemant Kumar as the melancholic romantic.
“Chand Chhupa Aur Tare Dube” (Sohni Mahiwal – 1958)
Mahendra Kapoor: For the last 50 years Mahendra Kapoor is a leading playback singer of the Hindi film industry. In 1957 Metro Murphy singing contest was organized. It was a very important occasion because all judges were topmost music directors of film industry, like, Anil Biswas, C. Ramchandra, Madan Mohan, Vasant Desai and Naushad. Mahendra won the first prize in the contest and he received a lot of appreciation. Naushad recorded the famous Sohni Mahiwal climax song 'Chaand chhupa aur tare doobe, raat milan ki aayi' penned by Shakeel Badayuni. C. Ramchandra recorded four songs with him for V. Shantaram's Navrang, the songs were, 'Ja re hat natkhat', 'Na raja rahega na rani rahegi', 'Shyamal shyamal baran', 'Aadha hai chandrma raat aadhi'. These songs established Mahendra in the film industry. 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 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. Since then Mahendra Kapoor has never looked back and sung thousands of songs. Who can forget songs like, 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti Sona Ugle'? The song got the National Award for him.
“Kabhi Tanhanyon Mein Yun Hamari Yad Ayegi” (Hamari Yaad Aayegi - 1961)
Mubarak Begum: Some years back, Films Division had made a documentary on her which was premiered in the Goa Film Festival. Her name is taken with deep respect among music lovers even today and they enjoy the songs sung by her till today. She started her career with light music recitals with All India Radio. Her career as a playback singer with Hindi film industry started when she got a break in the movie Aaiye (1949) with the song "Mohe Aane Lagi Angrayi, Aja Aja Balam." She also sang a duet 'Aha Aao Chalen Wahaan' for the same film with the then upcoming Lata Mangeshkar. In the 1950s, apart from singing most of the songs of Phoolon Ke Haar, she sang solos and duets for many other movies, but it was the title song of Kedar Sharma's Hamaari Yaad Aayegi(1961), Kabhi Tanhaaiyon Mein Yun Hamaari Yaad Aayegi which brought her overnight glory. The song, till this day, is regarded as a classic rendition. The Sixties was Mubarak Begum's most successful period of her career when she sang many popular songs like Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo (Humrahi), Neend Ud Jaaye Teri Chain Se Sone Waalon (Juaari), Shama Gul Karke Na Ja (Arab Ka Sitara), Nigahon Se Dil Mein Chale Aaiyega (Hamir Hath), Humen Dam Dai Ke Sautan Ghar Jaana (Yeh Dil Kisko Doon), Bemuravvat Bewafa (Sushila), Mere Aansuon Pe Na Muskura (More Man Mitwa), Ankhon Ankhon Mein Har Raat Guzar Jaati Hai (Marvel Man), Itne Kareeb Aake Bhi Kya (Shagun), Ae Dil bata Hum Kahaan Aa Gaye (Khooni Khazana) and Wada Humse Kiye (Saraswati Chandra).
“Beeti Na Beetai Raina” (Parichay - 1972)
Bhupinder: Early in his career, Bhupinder performed on All India Radio, Delhi. He was also attached to the Delhi Doordarshan Center, Delhi. He learnt guitar and violin. In 1964, music director Madan Mohan heard him over AIR, and called him to Bombay. He gave him a chance to sing the song Hoke Majboor Mujhe Usne Bulaya Hoga with Mohammad Rafi in Chetan Anand's Haqeeqat. Although the song was hit, Bhupinder didn't get much recognition. Later, Bhupinder joined Rahul Dev Burman's orchestra and played guitar for many of his popular scores including Dum Maro Dum. He became a good friend of R D Burman, who gave him a chance to sing ' Beeti Na Beetai Raina' in Gulzar's Parichay (1972), which gave him recognition as a singer. Bhupinder sang some more popular songs in Gulzar's movies. Some of these songs included "Dil Dhoondta Hai" from Mausam, "Naam Gum Jayega" and "Ek Akela Is Shaher Mein". Apart from being popular as a playback singer, Bhupinder, along with his wife Maitali, gave very successful live performances in India and abroad.
“Bombai Se Aaya Mera Dost” (Aap Ki Khatir - 1977)
Bappi Lahiri: Pioneer in the use of disco music in Indian cinema with an Indian flavour, Bappi Lahiri, is a renowned singer and music composer of more than 465 national and international films . He has worked with top Hollywood personalities such as MC Hammer, Samantha Fox, Adam Sandler. Recently he made an album called “World Peace Love & Harmony” released in USA from Planet LA records in USA with Grammy nomination. Portions of his song "Thoda Resham Lagta Hai" were included in a 2002 single "Addictive" by American R&B singer Truth Hurts. The first Hindi film for which he composed music was Nanha Shikari (1973). The turning point of his career was Tahir Husain's Hindi film, Zakhmee (1975), for which he composed music and doubled as a playback singer. He sang a duet with Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar called "Nothing Is Impossible" for the same film. The songs of his next film, Chalte Chalte, became hits. However, the song that established him as a singer, besides being a compaser, was 'Bombai se aaya mera dost' from film Aap Ki Khatir (1977).
“Honto Se Chhoo Lo Tum” (Prem Geet - 1981)
Jagjit Singh: Known as "the Ghazal King", he gained acclaim together with his wife, another renowned Indian Ghazal singer Chitra Singh in the 1970s and 1980s. Their combination album comprising music from the films, Arth and Saath Saath is the HMV's largest selling combination album of all time. Sajda (An Offering, 1991), Jagjit Singh's magnum opus double album with Lata Mangeshkar holds the same record in non-film category. Jagjit Singh is considered to be the most successful ghazal singer and composer of all time in terms of both critical acclaim and commercial success. With a career spanning over five decades and a repertoire comprising over 80 albums, the range and breadth of his work has been regarded as genre-defining. Jagjit Singh's work in film encompassed playback singing, after his breakthrough hit song and composition 'Honto se choo lo tum” for Premgeet (1981) followed by another super hit song "Tum Ko Dekha To Yeh Khayal Aaya" (Sath Sath - 1982). He also composed and sang songs for the TV serial Mirza Ghalib that was based on the life of the famous poet, Mirza Ghalib.
Lest there is any doubt amongst my dear readers around the above listed breakthrough songs, I wish to clarify that the blog is not intended to pinpoint the particular singer's best song out of the hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of songs sung by him or her, nor to pick my most favorite out of them, but only to highlight the ones that proved a turning point in their career, just a stepping stone in their jump to stardom. Since many of my readers are Bollywood buffs, may be much bigger than what I boast to be, I would request them for a further feedback on Bollywood's Breakthrough Songs.