Mukesh, a man with the golden voice, was the jewel of the Music industry. Mukesh was one amongst the best playback singers of Indian Film Industry. Born on July 22, 1923 in Delhi, Mukesh Chandra Mathur was popularly known as Mukesh.
Once, when Mukesh sang a song at his sister's marriage, his voice came into the notice of Motilal (a famous actor in Hindi movies). Mukesh went to Mumbai with Motilal and the latter aligned training of singing for him. At this time, Mukesh got his first break in acting with the Hindi movie 'Nirdosh' (1941). He got a chance to sing, for the first time in 'Pehli Nazar' (1945). "Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De" was the first song that he sang for a Hindi movie and was picturised on Motilal fortuitously. This song brought a drastic change in the career-graph of Mukesh. He became popular like anything.
No other singer was capable of projecting emotions in their raw, unfurnished state the way he could. His was a voice that could on one hand be deeply melancholic and on the other hand exude a profoundly innocent and mellifluous sweetness.
His first break in films came in 1945 under the baton of Anil Biswas in the film "Pehla Nazar". The raag was Darbari and the song was "Dil jalta hai to jalne de", picturized on Motilal. Though a huge hit, admittedly it sounded as if the young man was just another K.L. Saigal imitator. It was under Naushad with Mela, 1948 and particularly Andaaz, 1949, that Mukesh finally discovered his own style. Andaaz, 1949 was a major triumph for Mukesh.
In 1949, he got in touch with Raj Kapoor and the duo of Shankar-Jaikishen. Mukesh is notorious for the songs that he sang with the direction of Shankar-Jaikishen for Raj Kapoor. Songs like "Aawara Hoon" and "Mera Joota hai Japani" reverberated in the streets of India and abroad. Subsequently after 'Awara' proved to be a big hit, Mukesh marginalized from singing to acting. He acted in the films like 'Mashuqa' (1953) and 'Anurag' (1956). Both the movies made a major hit at the box-office.
Mukesh came back to the singing panorama with the song "Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai" of the movie 'Yahudi' (1958). During the period of 1860's & mid 1970s, Mukesh amplified and reached the forte of his career. He gave some of the best songs like Jeena Yahaan Marna Yahaan (Mera Naam Joker), Maine Tere Liye hi Saat Rang ke Sanpne Chune (Anand), Main Na Bhoolonga (Roti, Kapda Aur Makan) and Kabhie Kabhie (Kabhie Kabhie) of his singing career.
Kisee Ki Muskuraahaton Pe Ho Nisaar (Anari), O Janewale Ho Sake To Laut Ke Aanaa (Bandini), Dost Dost Naa Rahaa (Sangam), Jaane Kahaan Gaye Wo Din (Mera Naam Joker) and Ek Din Bik Jaayega (Dharam Karam) are some of the memorable songs sung by Mukesh. In 1959, Mukesh received the Film fare Award of Best Male Playback Singer for "subkuchh seekha humne" (Anari). Following it, he received Film fare Award for Best Male Playback Singer in 1970, 1972 and 1976 for the movie 'Pehchan', 'Beimaan' and 'Kabhi Kabhi' respectively.
Mukesh discovered his own style with the films Mela (1948) and Andaaz (1949). With music director Naushad, Mukesh belted out some unforgettable hits like Tu Kahe Agar, Jhoom Jhoom ke Naacho Aaj, Hum Aaj Kahin Dil Kho Baithe, Toote Na Dil Toote Na. These four solos made him a well-known playback singer overnight. It was in the year 1948 that Mukesh sang for Raj Kapoor for the movie Aag. The voice of Mukesh perfectly matched the helplessness that was portrayed onscreen by Raj Kapoor in the song Zinda Hoon Is Tarah. After that there was no looking back and this wonderful partnership went on till the year 1975.
With Raj Kapoor, Mukesh immortalized heartbreaks and despair and belted out some classic numbers and endless list of hits. The ones that deserve a mention are Awaara (1951), Shri 420 (1955), Parvarish (1958), Anari (1959), Sangam (1964), Mera Naam Joker (1970) and Kabhi Kabhi (1976). His last recording with Raj Kapoor was the song "Ek Din Bik Jaayega" from the movie Dharam Karam. The music was composed by R.D. Burman.
Mukesh was a favourite of all music directors. He sang for almost all the great and not-so-great music directors of the yesteryears and produced masterpieces for them. But it was his partnership with the duo of Shankar-Jaikishen that produced the maximum number of hits. The inimitable team of Mukesh-Raj Kapoor-SJ-Shailendra-Hasrat Jaipuri were responsible for producing one memorable hit after another for almost two and a half decades starting from Barsaat in 1949. It is said the Mukesh-Raj Kapoor was an alliance made in heaven.
The Mukesh-RK combination gave new dimensions to popular Hindi music. It flourished during a period which is often called the Golden Age of Hindi film music and the standards were raised to dizzying heights which were seldom touched before or thereafter. The partnership started with Aag, 1948 where Raj`s feelings of despondency and despair were vividly caught by Mukesh in Ram Ganguly`s composition Zinda hoon is tarah, and ended with R.D. Burman`s Ek din bik jayega in the film Dharam Karam. In its course was an endless list of hits figuring among them being the evergreen songs of Awaara and Shri 420, arguably the two films that brought the greatest international fame and glory to Indian music. From foot-tappers like Mera joota hai Japani, Shree 420 to satires like Kisi ki muskurahaton pe ho nissar, Anadi, from melancholy strains of Jaane Kahan gaye woh din, Mera Naam Joker to songs depicting the truth of life like Woh Subah kabhi to aayegi, Phie subah hogi, the emotions conveyed by the depth and intonation of the voice of this master-singer was unparalleled.
Another music director who utilized Mukesh to the fullest was the great Salil Chowdhury. And it was this mutual admiration for each other`s music that led to evergreen hits like Suhana Safar, Madhumati, Nain Hamare, Annadata, Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye, Anand, Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai, Rajnigandha and of course the unforgettable Zindagi Khwab hai, Jaagte Raho". S.D. Burman was a true professional who would not typically use a singer, however talented he may be, if his voice did not match the situation in the movie. And Dada Burman would often turn only to Mukesh whenever he needed a song to be played in the background. Two such examples are Chal ri sajni and O Jaanewale ho sake to laut ke aana.
Mukesh also teamed up with Khayyam in Phir Subah Hogi. Sahir Ludhianvi`s lucid poetry combined with Khayyam`s scores to produce superb musical masterpieces. It fills one`s heart with hope, aspiration and longing as he listens to a soulful Mukesh in Woh subah kabhi to aayegi. Years later in 1976, few months before the death of the singer, Khayyam brought back the golden voice in Kabhie Kabhie to produce the unforgettable Kabhi Kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hain and Main pal do pal ka shair hoon.
He was not proficient in classical numbers, but it was the innocence of his voice that made simple compositions stand out from the other. It was this simplicity that fills one`s eyes with tears as he listens to Sajanwa behri ho gaye hamar or Jaaoon kahan bata ei dil. O.P. Nayaar, it is said, did not think very highly about him. But even he was stunned by the popularity of his apparently simple composition of Chal akela chal akela. Unparalleled in tragic numbers, Mukesh was equally good in fun songs like Awaara Hoon, Mera joota hai Japani, Dum dum diga diga or Kehta hai Joker.
From Raj Kapoor to Amitabh Bachchan, from "Aag" to "Kabhi Kabhi", Mukesh came full circle. Yet Mukesh himself was never in search of a hero. He was an amazingly humble person, who would sing for any music director or any hero. He had the gift of transforming simple compositions into all-time greats as is seen in Sardar Malik`s Saaranga teri yaad mein.
In 1974, he received the National Award for the Kahin baar yun bhi dekha hai from Rajnigandha. His last song was Chanchal Sheetal Nirmal Komal from Satyam Shivam Sundaram in June 1976. Immediately after on 27th August, 1976, the great singer breathed his last of a sudden heart attack in Detroit, while on a tour of the U.S.
Mukesh had the voice that could paint a thousand shades of melancholy. The way he sang, with the perfect tone and diction, he was considered as second to none. The pain that he had in his voice could not be imitated by anyone else. One could feel the tenderness and joy with doses of hidden anguish in his voice that was presented in a raw manner. He went on to command a huge fan following and was counted as a legend among legends. The music maestro Salil Choudhury praised Mukesh with following quote:
"Each word from his lips was a pearl. No one could sing the way Mukesh did, with the right diction, inflexion and intonation. His vocal timbre was out of this world."