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Hemant Kumar: first of the unconventional voices

Enkayaar, Bollywood Trade News Network
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Whenever one talks about Dev Anand and the songs that were picturised on him, it is most of the times in relationship to the playbacks given by Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi. However, one voice is seldom talked about, that of Hemant Kumar, who gave Dev Anand his first solo hit "Hai Apna Dil To Awaara… in SOLWA SAAL, which continued to remain number one in 1948 for nearly one year in the Binaca Geet Mala. The same was subsequently followed by Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahan… in Dev Anand- Geeta Bali starrer JAAL. The song from the film BAAT EK RAAT KI, "Na Tum Hame Jaano Na Hum Tumhe Jaane… established his credentials firmly as a voice having its own unique flavour. It is therefore appropriate to pay a tribute to this voice, which had a flow as if the flowing water was cascading along the meandering track.

Hemant Kumar was the first person in the industry that after establishing his credentials as a singer went on to become an accomplished music director and used to sing only for his own banners subsequently. The short term but profitable association with Dev Anand could have been owing to the fact that Hemant Kumar wanted to establish himself as the music director in the Hindi film industry as well. This was owing to the fact that at the time when he had stepped into the Hindi films arena, he was already an accomplished music director in the Bengal film industry, and an aficionado of Rabindra Sangeet. In fact Hemant Kumar along with Salil Chaudhary had given the taste of Rabindra Sangeet in score of Hindi films. As Dev Anand has expressed his preference for S D Burman, probably owing to this Hemant Kumar never got other opportunity to give a playback for Dev Anand.

He was also the singer who gave a new meaning to the national songs, when he flavoured them in the Rabindra Sangeet mould, and the result, the fantastic master pieces like, "Hum Laye Hain Tufaan Se Kashti Nikal Ke, Is Dekh Ko Rakhna Mere Bachchon Sambhal Ke", as also Vande Mataram from the film ANAND MATH.

His aspirations to become a music director in the Hindi films became successful exemplified in the score of hits that he gave, be it ANUPAMA, KOHRA, BEES SAAL BAAD, SAHIB BIWI AUR GHULAM etc. Biswajit the yesteryear star may not have had such a fabulous debut but for the song that Hemant Kumar sang for him, "Bekarar Karke Hame Yoon Na Jaaieye" as also "Jaraa Nazaro Se Kah Do Ji… This was the finest exposition of Rabindra Sangeet as fusion music played on western musical instruments like guitar and accordion. Hemant Kumar along with Salil Chaudhary getting inspired from the Rabindra Sangeet started the new idiom in Hindi Music called as Kavya-geeti i.e. the poetry narrated in the form of a song. Were one to analyze the music given by Hemant Kumar from this perspective or the songs sung by him, it would be clear that Hemant Kumar strived to perfect this genre.

The signature tune of NAGIN by using the BEEN (the folk instrument used by the snake charmers), was also the innovation of Hemant da to the Hindi film music. However, nobody after him could use it with the same finesse. It was his music that was instrumental in making ANARKALI stand in comparison to MUGHAL-E-AAZAM.

The genre of films of mystique owes the success predominantly to the music given by Hemant Da as in BEES SAAL BAAD, KOHRA. When Guru Dutt decided to begin a new chapter after astounding failure of KAAGAZ KE PHOOL, he bestowed his faith in Hemant Kumar and Hemant Da did not let the faith of Guru Dutt erode, exemplified in the exceptional music that he gave for SAHIB BIWI AUR GHULAM.

Voices may come and voices may go, but the uniqueness that Hemant Da was blessed with is still to find a replacement. Probably the uniqueness emerged from the grounding that he had in the Rabindra Sangeet, and thanks to this uniqueness his voice still mesmerizes whenever it is played.

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