Most people may not be aware that singer Bhupinder Singh loved for his soulful ghazals and memorable songs from films like Gharonda, Mausam, Thodi Si Bewafai, Kinara, Parichay, Aitbaar, Bazaar, etc., is also an expert guitarist and has composed some of the most memorable guitar pieces ever heard of in Hindi cinema.
Born in Amritsar it was destiny that dragged him first to Delhi and then to Mumbai where he became very popular as a playback singer and ghazal singer thanks to his unique resonating voice. However the guitarist in him never came to be publicized much and this humble man always put in his best and just let his work speak for itself.
Adept at playing different types of guitars like the Hawaian guitar, Spanish guitar and Electric guitar, he joined R D Burman’s group of musicians as one of the lead guitarists in the late 60’s and remained with him for the next 25 years. He is behind some of the most popular and iconic songs composed by R D Burman like ‘Dum Maro Dum…’, ‘Chura liya hai tumne…’, ‘Chand mera dil…’, ‘Yaadon ki baraat nikli hai…’, ‘Mehbooba, mehbooba…’, ‘Aane waala pal…’, etc. In fact he is said to have introduced the 12-string guitar in Hindi film songs.
‘Dum Maro Dum…’ (Hare Rama Hare Krishna)
‘Chura Liya Hai Tumne…’ (Yaadon Ki Baraat)
‘Mehbooba, Mehbooba…’ (Sholay)
‘Aane Waala Pal…’ (Gol Maal)
Born on 6th February, 1940 in Amritsar, Punjab, Bhupinder Singh was initiated into music by his father Professor Nathaa Singh, who was a professor of classical music. Though later he also took training in classical music from other music scholars, his father remained his best and most important teacher.
He also loved ‘ghazals’ from a young age and used to pick up poetry, compose and sing for his friends. It was this love which probably made him choose ghazal singing over film playback later in life. His ghazal compositions were unique as he introduced guitar in ghazals also.
His father also had a library of musical instruments in the house which helped Bhupinder gain early exposure to various types of musical instruments. Bhupinder was drawn towards the guitar from a very young age and he learnt to play the instrument very early in life.
Soon he shifted base from Amritsar and started working in All India Radio, Delhi as a singer and musician. He was also attached to the Delhi Doordarshan Center. During this time, All India Radio was celebrating the anniversary of the great poet Bahadurshah Zafar and Bhupinder recorded one of the poet’s ghazal ‘Lagata Nahin Hai Ji Mera Ujade Dayaar Mein…’, which became an instant hit. As luck would have it, music director Madan Mohan who happened to be visiting Delhi attended a party hosted by the then producer of AIR, where young Bhupinder sang a song. Impressed with the youngster’s unique voice he offered him to come to Mumbai and sing a song for his film.
Ready to try the opportunity that had come knocking on his door, Bhupinder landed at Madan Mohan’s recording and was told that he was to be part of a group song. Ironically Bhupinder’s first appearance on the Mumbai’s film scene was not as a guitarist but as an actor-singer in Chetan Anand’s 1964 war film Haqeeqat. He was part of the memorable song ‘Hoke majboor mujhe usne bulaya hoga…’ where he is shown to be one of the soldiers. For a newcomer to have sung alongside stalwarts like Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey and Talat Mehmood in his very first song must have been an unimaginable break, something the young Bhupinder would not have envisioned even in his wildest dreams.
Those were the days when all singers used to come together and rehearse and in one of his interviews Bhupinder recalls how there were only two mikes at the time of the recording of that song and he and Rafi Saab shared one mike while Talatji and Mannada shared the other. He had been both nervous and excited to sing in front of the three giants of the Hindi film industry and yet he was made to feel very comfortable as all three had been very loving and encouraging towards him.
The song had four stanzas- one for each of the four singers and picturized on many extras. The song starts with Rafi Saab and that part was filmed on Bhupinder and later the first full stanza was sung by Bhupinder and picturized on himself only. For a newcomer to have left his distinct mark in the presence of these three musical giants was indeed by no means a small feat!
After this break, Bhupinder’s next assignment was once again as an actor-singer in director Chetan Anand’s 1966 experimental film – Aakhri Khat. The film with a plot that centred around a one-year old child was also the debut film of Superstar Rajesh Khanna. Music director Khayyam gave Bhupinder his first break as a solo singer and made him sing a soft and haunting club song ‘Rut jawan jawan jawan raat meherbaan…’ which was not only sung by him and picturized on him, but he also got to play the guitar. His role in the film was restricted only to that song.
The YouTube link for the above song:
JOURNEY AS A GUITARIST
After shifting to Mumbai he realized that it was going to be a Herculean task to get noticed in the area of playback singing amidst the already existing golden voices of Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey, etc., so he concentrated on sharpening his other skill and started nurturing the guitarist in him. During this time he came in contact with many musicians and arrangers of that era and learnt as much as he could from all of them.
He learnt the intricacies of playing the Spanish guitar from the guitar expert Bhanu Gupta (who also happened to be part of R D Burman’s team), and practiced hard for almost two years till he mastered it completely. Always an eager student, he would listen avidly to all the contemporary greats and learnt to play other musical instruments as well.
In his interviews he never fails to mention that destiny had been really kind to him and that he had been extremely fortunate to have got so many opportunities. As a newcomer in the sixties, all the great music directors and singers of the ‘golden era’ had welcomed him with open arms and gave him a lot of love and affection. His talent to play the guitar was recognized and he was flooded with opportunities.
A chance meeting with music director R D Burman resulted in a life-long bond and they remained the best of friends till R D’s untimely death in 1994. R D Burman gave him a free hand to play the way Bhupinder thought best and Bhupinder came up with truly amazing pieces in R D’s songs. Their magical combination gave us some outstanding songs.
THE BHUPINDER-R D BURMAN MAGIC:
Their professional as well as deep personal friendship lasted for more than twenty years. They became friends right at their first meeting itself and realized that they both had the same bent of mind musically. R D Burman was known to sit with his close group of musicians whenever he signed a film and they would all have long sessions of experimenting with various sounds and tunes. Bhupinder was an important part of the team. R D Burman and he also used to see movies together.
It was in 1968 that the duo first came together professionally for the film Abhilasha and stayed together right up to the end. Here are YouTube links to some of the songs where Bhupinder’s guitar can be enjoyed either as a special piece in the beginning or in the middle or just merging with the other musical instruments :
‘Aapki aankhon mei kuch mehke hue se khaab hain…’ (Ghar)
‘Nahi Nahi,Abhi Nahi…’ (Jawani Diwani)
‘Chala Jaata Hoon…’ (Mere Jeevan Saathi)
‘Chaand Mera Dil…’ (Hum Kisise Kum Nahi)
‘Ik Din Bik Jaayega Maati Ke Mol…’ (Dharam Karam)
‘Pyaar Hame Kis Mod Pe Le Aaya…’ (Satte Pe Satta)
‘Aaj ki raat…’ (Anamika)
‘Pyar hua hai jabse…’ (Abhilasha)
‘Chanda O Chanda…’ (Laakhon Mein Ek)
‘Lekar hum diwana dil…’ (Yaadon ki Baraat)
‘Kitne sapne kitne armaan laya hoon main…’ (Mere Jeevan Saathi)
Incidentally six years after his solo number in the 1966 film Aakhri Khat, it was R D Burman who used his magical voice for the semi classical duet ‘Beeti na bitaayi raina…’ with Lata Mangeshkar in the 1972 film Parichay. The song went on to become a super-hit and thus Bhupinder embarked on a wonderful career of playback singing as well and whatever work he did got him the immense love of the audience.
Among his outstanding numbers as a singer include ‘Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi…’, ‘Naam gum jayega…’, ‘Aaj bichde hain kal ka dar hi nahin…’, Kabhi kisi ko mukammal jahan nahin milta…’, ‘Kisi nazar ko tera intezar aaj bji hai…’, ‘Karoge yaad toh har baat yaad aayegi…’, ‘Zindagi mere ghar aana’, ‘ Zindagi milke bitayenge…’, ‘Huzuur is tarah bhi na itraah ke chaliye…’, ‘Do deewane sheher mein…’, ‘Jab andhera hota hai…’, etc. He sang for many music directors.
AS A GUITARIST WITH OTHER MUSIC DIRECTORS:
Though Bhupinder was part of R D Burman’s coterie, he always took time off to play for other music directors whenever they would request him. For instance, he was always ready to ply for Madan Mohan who was responsible for giving Bhupinder his first break. His songs of Hanste Zakhm especially his work in the soft song ‘Tum jo mil gaye ho…’ remains popular to this day.
For the film Kadambari he played the guitar for the song ‘Ambar ki ek paak surahi…’, for composer Ustad Vilayat Khan.
He also worked with music director Khayyam for the songs of Razia Sultan. He has also worked with Raam-Laxman, Naushad and Sonik Omi. He was one of the instrumentalists of the theme song of Pakeezah in which Bhupinder used the 12-string guitar like the ‘sarod’, to give it a classical touch.
For the film Abdullah, he was made to play the stringed Arabian instrument ‘Oud ’even though he had never played that before. He introduced other instruments also to the film industry.
Later in life, he turned to ghazal singing and along with his wife Mithali took the ghazal world by storm with several beautiful and soulful compositions. In 1965 itself when ghazal singing was not even popular, he had started releasing private albums with HMV. He bid goodbye to the film industry and continues to sing ghazals which had always been his forte. For his contribution to the world of Sugam Sangeet, he has won several awards.
As a singer-composer-musician, his position in the film industry is unique and we salute this musical genius for his invaluable contribution…
(All images have been taken from the internet)