GOLDEN VELVET
Filmfare|September 2021
DEVESH SHARMA PAYS HOMAGE TO THE MUSICAL GENIUS OF HEMANT KUMAR
DEVESH SHARMA

Someone once said of Hemant Kumar that if God had a voice, he'd sound like Hemant Kumar. The dulcet-toned singer was a gifted composer as well. He made a name for himself as a composer and singer both in Bengali and Hindi cinemas. In Bengal, no Uttam Kumar film was said to be complete without Hemant Kumar singing for the mahanayak. In Hindi cinema, he didn’t become the signature voice of anyone. He suited everyone from Dev Anand, Pradeep Kumar, Bharat Bhushan to Dharmendra and Joy Mukherjee. He could sing everything from pathos-filled songs to nonsense lyrics. His death anniversary falls on September 26. Presenting a short profile of the music maestro’s life and career.

SIMPLE BEGINNINGS

Hemant Kumar was born in Varanasi on June 16, 1920. His family soon moved to Kolkata. He did his schooling in Kolkata and was supposed to study engineering but dropped out of Jadavpur University to pursue a career in music. He studied classical music under Ustad Faiyaz Khan’s student Phanibhusan Gangopadhyay, but didn’t pursue it further after Ustad's untimely death. He’s also said to have learnt classical music from Sailesh Dasgupta and Rabindra Sangeet from Anadi Ghosh Dastidar. He was said to be the foremost exponent of Rabindra Sangeet and his songs in the genre were much sought after. He continued to bring out albums regularly from the ’40s till the late ’80s. He recorded his first song for All India Radio in 1935. The song Amar ganete ele nabarupi chirantanii was said to be much loved by the listeners. His first song as a singer was in the Bengali film Nimai Sanyas (1941). He also started composing quite early. Bengali nonfilm songs like Katha kayonako shudhu shono and Amar biraha akashe priya, composed in 1944, are said to be some of his first compositions. His first Hindi songs were in Irada (1944) under the baton of Pt. Amarnath. His first movie as a music director was the Bengali film Abhiyatri (1947).

MUMBAI CALLING

Hemant Kumar became associated with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) in the ’40s and formed a lifelong friendship with another IPTA member, composer Salil Chowdhury. He was one of the stars of Bengali cinema by then and was invited to come to Mumbai by Hemen Gupta for his film Anand Math (1952). The song Vande Mataram from this film, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, offered a robust version of the patriotic anthem and is popular even today. His own version of the song too is worth listening to. Apart from Lata, he used Geeta Dutt’s voice too in films songs like Nainon mein saawan, Aa re banware aa, and the devotional duet, Jai jagdish hare, which he sang in her company. They formed a musical friendship with the film, which resulted in quite a few hit duets like Wo jabse mili ankhiyan tab se jiyraa dole re (Amanat, 1955), Ye mast nazar shokh ada kiske liye hai (Bandi, 1957), Tum aur hum bhool ke gham (Fashion, 1957), Mujhko tum jo mile sara jahaan mil gaya (Detective, 1958), Gumsum sa yeh jahan ye raat ye hawa (Duniya Jhukti Hai, 1960) and many more.

FAME GAME

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