Mahendra Kapoor with his distinct robust vocals carved a unique niche for himself as a superb singer during the Golden era of Hindi cinema. He was adept at singing all kinds of songs which included bhajans, ghazals, qawaalis, romantic numbers, sad songs as well as patriotic songs. His voice was immortalized on the small screen also when he sang the title track of director B R Chopra’s magnum opus TV serial Mahabharat. He was loved by his fans across all age-groups not only for his style of singing but also for his soft-spoken, friendly and humble demeanor.
For his outstanding contribution to the world of Indian film music, the Government of India bestowed upon him the coveted Padma Shree in the year 1972. He also won the prestigious Filmfare trophy for the ‘Best Male Playback Singer’ three times in his career (1964, 1968,1975) and the National Award for his evergreen iconic patriotic number ‘Mere desh ki dharti…’ from the film Upkar in 1968!
In a career spanning five decades, he got to sing in many languages apart from Hindi including Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Marathi and Gujarati. Having worked with the best music directors and lyricists, his repertoire boasts of incredible songs which include several wonderful solos and some extraordinary duets.
In this blog I have chosen to highlight a few of his remarkable duets-some of which became very popular, some attained evergreen status and some unfortunately are rare and not heard often-but all remain unmistakably outstanding!
DUET WITH MOHAMMAD RAFI:
Mahendra Kapoor considered Rafi Saab to be his guide, mentor and elder brother-all rolled into one. Ironically they sang only one duet together and that too because of Manoj Kumar’s intervention. It so happened that this gem from Aadmi (1968) was initially recorded in the voices of Mohammad Rafi and Talat Mehmood. But Manoj Kumar insisted that Mahendra Kapoor’s voice suited him more and so music director Naushad recorded the song again with Mahendra Kapoor accompanying Rafi. However both versions are played on radio.
DUET WITH MANNA DEY:
Mahendra Kapoor and Manna Dey come together in this evergreen number from the film Daadi Maa (1966). This song is considered to be Hindi cinema’s best ‘tribute’ song for a mother. Poignantly written by Majrooh Sultanpuri and superbly composed by music director Roshan this duet touches an emotional chord in our hearts. It is picturized on two unknown faces who are voicing their love and adoration for their mother played by none other than yesteryear beauty Bina Rai…
DUET WITH HEMANT KUMAR:
This is a rare song where Mahendra Kapoor who sings for young Deb Mukherjee is joined by Hemant Kumar who sings for the father Pradeep Kumar. This song is from the film Sambandh (1969) and O P Nayyar is the music director
DUETS WITH KISHORE KUMAR:
Perhaps Mahendra Kapoor’s best pairing was with Kishore Kumar as his full-bodied vocals could match Kishore Kumar’s energetic and resonating voice and the two were a great combination. Here are two outstanding duets sung by the duo. The first one has the evergreen pair of Ashok Kumar and Pran from the film Victoria No. 203 (1973) and the second one is picturized on another super pair- Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna- from the film Hera Pheri (1976):
DUETS WITH LATA MANGESHKAR:
The Mahendra Kapoor-Lata Mangeshkar combination has given us several beautiful duets and I am posting the YouTube links of some of my favourite songs:
-Here is a superb ‘ched-chaad’ or teasing song from the film Dhool Ka Phool picturized on Rajendra Kumar and Mala Sinha who play college students. Composed by music director N Dutta, the song became a rage among cine-lovers when it was released (1959) and remains enjoyable even today. This film was director Yash Chopra’s first directorial venture and the bold story was way ahead of its times. Rajendra Kumar had guts to play an anti-hero in the beginning of his career:
-This beautiful song from the 1963 film Ghar Basaake Dekho is not heard very often and is picturized on Manoj Kumar and Rajashree.
-This is a super hit song from the suspense movie Woh Kaun Thi (1964) directed by Raj Khosla. Though the heroine of the film is Sadhna, it is Helen who gets to share screen space with Manoj Kumar for this lovely duet. She looks beautiful and they make a great pair.
-The film Night in London released in 1967 had superb music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal the most famous song being the Rafi solo-‘Nazar na lag jaaye…’. With the film being shot in picturesque locales of London, the songs are a delight to see. Here is a beautiful duet from the same film which is sadly very rarely played or heard:
-Manoj Kumar was the actor for whom Mahendra Kapoor sang maximum number of songs and the patriotic songs sung for him attained iconic status. This superb song from the all-time-favourite film-Purab aur Pashchim (1970) is beautifully written and composed by the unbeatable combination of Indeevar and Kalyanji Anandji respectively
-Here is another lovely duet composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal from the super-hit comedy Pyar Kiye Ja (1966). Incidentally it was a remake of the hit Tamil film- Kaadalikke Nerumillai (1964). This song is picturized on Shashi Kapoor and South star Rajashree became very popular.
-A rare gem composed by Madan Mohan for the film Jab Yaad Kisiki Aati Hai (1967). It is a slow moving but melodious song picturized on the winsome pair of Dharmendra-Mala Sinha.
DUETS WITH ASHA BHONSLE:
The first song recorded by Mahendra Kapoor was a duet with Asha Bhonsle for the film Navrang in 1959 -‘ Aadha hai chandrama raat aadhi…’. The song was a big hit and Mahendra Kapoor made his grand entry into this industry. He remained ever grateful to Asha Bhonsle for agreeing to sing with a newcomer like him and always said in his interviews that if she had not been so kind, his career may have not have taken off so well…
-Enjoy this brilliant composition by music director C Ramachandra from the 1960 film Aanchal starring Sudesh Kumar and Nanda. Incidentally Nanda won a Filmfare award for the Best Supporting actress for this film. This song is easily one of the finest duets sung by Mahendra Kapoor…
-Music director Ravi was one of the people who exploited the full talent of Mahendra Kapoor and composed fabulous songs for him including the Filmfare-award winning song ‘Chalo ek baar phir se…’ from the film Gumrah (1963). The same film had many other lovely songs one of them being this superb duet which also has a solo Mahendra Kapoor version.
-This duet is taken from the film Kaajal which had Meena Kumari playing Dharmendra’s sister and Padmini in the role of his lover. The lyrics written by none other than Sahir Ludhiyanvi are so beautiful- ‘Agar mile na mujhe tum toh main yeh samjhoonga ke dil ki raah se hokar khushi nahi guzri… Agar mile na mujhe tum toh main yeh samjhungi ke sirf umra kati zindagi nahi guzri…’ We don’t get to hear such lyrics now-a-days…
-This gem of a duet composed by music director Ravi and sung superbly by Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor from the film Aadmi aur Insaan (1970) is also picturized very well, an added plus point being the chemistry between the two glamorous stars on screen-Dharmendra and Saira Banu- The song remains an eternal favourite.
-This is yet another lovely composition from Ravi from the 1965 block-buster Waqt. This film which set the tone of ‘lost &found’ theme in Hindi cinema had a stellar cast comprising of many top actors of that time. The duet featured here was picturized on Shashi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore singing on a college picnic. It is a very peppy number and the fast-paced beats are really enjoyable.
-This is another rare song from an almost unheard of film Dilli Ka Dada for which the video clip is also not available. The lilting music proves that music director N Dutta was a genius and remained underrated throughout his career.
DUET WITH SUMAN KALYANPUR:
-A rare duet by this combination can be heard in this song from the film Fariyaad (1964). Written by and composed by music director Snehal Bhatkar the song is picturized on Zeb Rehman and an unknown face.
DUET WITH GEETA DUTT:
This is probably a song hardly heard or seen. Written by Anjaan and composed by Pt. Ravi Shankar it is from the film Godaan (1963). The film is based on Munshi Premchand’s famous story by the same name.
DUETS WITH MUKESH:
I could not find any duet by Mahendra Kapoor and Mukesh, but there are a few songs where the duo sing together along with a third singer. These four songs are so varied yet so brilliant that they remain unique and unbeatable till today in the kind of emotions they managed to convey…
-This patriotic song from Manoj Kumar’s evergreen film Shaheed (1965) instills a kind of patriotism that is difficult to put down in words, It has to be felt and the feeling automatically comes when listening to the touching lyrics written by Prem Dhawan and music also composed by Prem Dhawan. The song is picturized poignantly on Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru when they are singing and walking towards the gallows to embrace death happily and willingly. In this song the third singer is Rajendra Mehta.
This is the scene preceding the song. It brings tears to our eyes every time we watch.
This is the full audio clip of this amazing song-
-The second song is a full-on ‘masti’ (fun) song conveying the energy and enthusiasm when a group of young guys get together and decide to have some fun and sing like a picnic… the song is from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s emotional truth drama- Satyakaam (1969)- a film which the director stated to be his favourite among all the films he directed. Here Kishore Kumar is the third singer who joins Mukesh and Mahendra Kapoor and gives the necessary liveliness to the song. I cannot think of another song like this where a group of guys are singing to such foot-tapping music. Laxmikant-Pyarelal were indeed an incomparable duo!
–The third song is from another iconic film- R K’s classic triangular love-story Sangam (1964) where Lata Mangeshkar joins them in an iconic song. This is probably the only time Mahendra Kapoor sang for a film under the R K Banner even though his part was picturized on Rajendra Kumar and Mukesh sang for Raj Kapoor.
-This fourth one is an absolute rare gem from the film Shreeman Satyavaadi (1966) and I chanced upon it by a stroke of luck and I have not been able to stop humming the song from the time I heard it. Picturized on Raj Kapoor, Mehmood and Shakeela, and composed by music director Dattaram, the catchy will get to you from the word go. Here the third singer is Suman Kalyanpur.
MAHENDRA KAPOOR-MUKESH-MANNA DEY-MEENA KAPOOR
Here is a super song sung by these four singers as they come together to sing for the master music director Anil Biswas. Giving the three stalwarts company as the female voice is singer Meena Kapoor and the song is from the film Chaar Dil Chaar Raahein (1964). For the first and probably the only time we get to see Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor in the same song