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Mukesh: The untrained voice that made you wonder if your life was well-lived

The singer was Raj Kapoor's "voice" -- the man behind hits such as Mera joota hai Japani and Jeena yahan marna yahan.

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New Delhi: Here’s a suggestion: Hear the immortal Sajan re jhoot mat bolo (Teri Kasaam) being sung on-screen by the legendary Raj Kapoor on YouTube. Once you’ve heard it, ask yourself: Could any other singer have done justice to the number?

Listen to Rajesh Kumar’s on-screen rendition of Kahin door jab din dhal jaye (Anand) that explains life so beautifully.

Can you imagine it in the voice of any other singer? Or better still, Ek din bik jayega maati ke mol (Dharam Karam).

Would Raj Kapoor be Raj Kapoor — writer-director-actor-producer — without his “voice” Mukesh? More importantly, would Kapoor, Indian cinema’s first acknowledged showman, have been so loved in faraway Russia without being identified with songs such as Mera Joota hai Japani (Shree 420)?

The singer passed away in Detroit, USA, on 27 August, 1976, after performing before a live audience.

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‘I have lost my voice’

On Mukesh’s death, Raj Kapoor is said to have cried bitterly, repeatedly saying, “I have lost my voice.” Kapoor understood the importance of music to a movie’s success. Lyrics by Shailendra, music by Shankar-Jaikishan and sung by Mukesh were the staple of many of Kapoor’s home productions.

Initially, for several years, Mukesh tried to ape K.L. Saigal’s style of singing. But under the tutelage of Naushad, he developed his own.

You will have to hear Jaane kahan gaye woh din (Mera Naam Joker) with your eyes closed to understand the angst that only a Mukesh could deliver through his voice, on the philosophy of life, the yearning for more, the missing, unrequited love. Or Jeena yahan marna yahan (Mera Naam Joker).

True, Mukesh didn’t have the trained voice of a Mohd Rafi or the range of Kishore Kumar or a grasp over his notes like Manna Dey. But, could any other singer bring out melancholy like him? Did any other singer have it in him to make you wonder if your life was well-lived?

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Listen to Bharat Bhushan sing (on-screen) Aa laut ke aa ja mere meet (Rani Rupmati) and tell me if the song doesn’t still give you goosebumps. Or Kabhi-kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai (Kabhi Kabhie).

And, what about the evergreen song that in a way defined Kapoor’s rise to super stardom via a Charlie Chaplin-type protagonist — Awara hoon, awara hoon, ya gardish mein hoon (Awaara).

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  1. Mukesh’s was not an untrained voice as claimed in the article. He received training under tutelage of Pt Jagantah Prasad for many years. His effortless way of enunciation without resoring to gimickery may make you underestimate him, but anyone well versed with music and its nuances would vouch for the fact that his kind of in-depth singing would not be the forte of an untrained singer.

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