Sometimes one wonders how God can give similar voices to two people who are not related at all. If someone were to complete unfinished songs of Hemant Kumar, then one didn’t have to go any farther. Avijit Sarkar, the renowned singer, musician, painter and poet of Sydney possesses the closest voice of Hemant Kumar.
It was the 88th Birth Anniversary of Hemant Kumar Mukhopadyay on the 16th June, 2008 and the Natraj Academy that Avijit runs in Sydney thought it to be appropriate to celebrate the anniversary as an evening dedicated to the great singer. To make this evening more memorable, Kumud Merani, the popular voice on the SBS Radio joined in with well researched script on the Hemantda filled with some nostalgic inputs from Avijit himself whose mother was closely associated with the singer. The script was aided by the clippings from various films and syncronised well with narration.
In fact the programme started with the clip of Kabuliwala song ‘Ganga aaye kahan se’ and one expected Avijit to pick up from one of the stanzas after the curtain rose to give the effect of a natural flow but instead he gave the audience a fresh treat.
Avijit sang most of the popular songs of Hemantda. Kumud informed the audience that Hemantda sang nearly 20 songs for Dev Anand and that there is uncanny commonality between the two. Dev Anand celebrates his birthday on 26th September and unfortunately Dada died on that day in 1989. However, nearly all the songs Hemantda sang for Dev had been hit.
The second song was a Bidaai song as Kumud described it was from movie Ek hi Raasta picturised on Meena Kumari and an actor. Avijit picked up from dance sequence as shown on the screen.
Hemant Kumar gave up his Engineering studies to concentrate on music much against the wishes of his parents and as Kumud told us, it was a little known fact that he had his training in classical music under the tutelage of Ustaad Faiyaz Khan. But his mentor was Sailesh Duttagupta. Hemanta cut his first gramophone disc under the Columbia label. The songs (non-film) on this disc were janite jadi go tumi and balo go balo more whose lyrics were by Naresh Bhattacharya and music was composed by Sailesh Duttagupta. Thereafter, every year Hemanta continued to record non-film discs for the Gramophone Company of India (GCI) till 1984. His first Hindi songs were kitana dukh bhulaya tumne and o preet nibhabewali, released in 1940 under GCI’s Columbia label. Music for these songs were composed by Kamal Dasgupta, lyrics were by Faiyaz Hashmi.
Hemanta’s first film song was in the Bengali film Nimai Sanyas released in 1941. Music for this film was scored by Hariprasanna Das. Hemanta’s first compositions for himself were the Bengali non-film songs katha kayonako shudhu shono and amar biraha akashe priya in 1944. Lyrics of these two songs were by Amiya Bagchi. His first Hindi film songs were in Irada in 1944 under Pt. Amarnath’s music direction. Lyrics were by Aziz Kashmiri.
Kumud narrated very interesting incident Hemantda encountered at the All India Radio where he used to go for song recordings. There was a group of girls who were doing rehearsals and the musicians wanted the studio to be vacated for a male singer. The girls wondered who this singer was. Hemantda was affectionately called ‘baro khoka’ meaning big boy. One day the girls decided to wait and see the singer. When Hemantda arrived all the girls looked at him and started laughing and giggling. The shy Hemantda complained about it. Among these girls was one singer Bela Mukherjee who eventually became his wife. Kumud was thus giving us the romantic side of an otherwise ‘serious’ Hemantda.
Avijit, who too looks equally serious narrated an anecdote from his romantic life. As he was about to sing ‘Na tum hame jaano, na hum tumhein jaane, mera humdum mil gayaa’ from ‘Baat Ek Raat ki’, he said this was the first song his wife heard him singing and she is still with him despite the late nights a musician has work. He was also all praise for his daughter who he revealed was fond of old movie songs. Both of them can be seen at all the concerts where Avijit is participating. This song was followed, as if completing a love story, by a song from Kohra ‘Bekarar kar ke hamein yoon na jaayiye’ and later ‘Shart’ ‘ Na ye chhand hogaa na taare raheinge, magar hum hamesha tumhaare raheinge’.
If Avijit is Hemant Kumar of Sydney then Pushpa Jagadish is city’s Lata Mangeshkar. So, who else could be complementing Avijit for the memorable evening! Pushpa rendered the solo from Bees saal baad, movie produced by Hemant Kumar under his production banner ‘Geetanjali’. Incidentally, it was Filmistan studio where Hemantda got his first break in Hindi movies with the help of S. Mukherjee. Hemant Kumar first produced movies under Filmistan banner but later changed to Geetanjali Pictures. His bungalow in Khar, Mumbai was also named Geetanjali.
After the seriously romantic songs in the first half, Avijit switched to some ‘masti bhare’ and lively songs like hai apna dil to awaara and zarra nazron se keh do ji.
Kumud’s couplets in Urdu as a prelude to a song gelled very well. She ended the narration by liking the Avijit-Pushpa rendition as ‘Shahed mein mishri gholna’. She said this phrase just came to her mind as she was thinking of something opposite of ‘ek to karela ooper se neem chadha’. Good thinking.
And, last but not the least, the programme would not have been as memorable but for the contribution by the doctors-turned –musicians. All but one are practicing doctors — Dr. Rajesh Dinakar – keyboards, Sadiq Rehmani – Guitar, Abhijit Daan – Tablas Aziz Tejani – Electronic Drums
Dr. Nalin Bhatt – Side-effects. Abhijit had just arrived from Kolkatta and displayed very high tabla skills.
In all Avijit sang 21 songs both solo and duets and Pushpa had one solo ‘kahin deep jale kahin dil.’ We learnt from Kumud that Lata Mangeshkar was very sick before she sang this song. After the final rehearsal she asked Hemantda lets do the take. Hemantda told her the final rehearsal was so perfect that there is no need for the take. Pushpa just emulated Lataji this evening.
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