The birth of Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay, popularly known as Hemant Kumar, in the season of monsoon is not a coincidence. This is the season when romance can bloom or remain isolated, joy can be boundless, and gloom can be immeasurable. Like life. Like Hemant Kumar’s silken voice.
A giant in Bengali music and Rabindrasangeet, it was Hindi cinema that introduced the singer and the composer to the larger mass. His fame still carries the fragrance of elegant joys and sorrows that are accessible.
What many (read non-Bengalis) are not aware of is that a lot of his Hindi compositions were either a reproduction of their Bengali originals, or minor reworked versions. On his birthday, we revisit five of our favourite songs from an oeuvre that had their genesis in Bengali.
1. Na jao saiyan chhudaake baiyan / Oliro kotha shune bokul haashe
Meena Kumari’s status of tragedy queen was sealed forever when her Chhoti Bahu pleaded in Geeta Dutt’s voice, ‘Na jao saiyan chhudaake baiyan’ to zamindar (Rehman) in feudal Calcutta. This famous song of the golden era of Hindi cinema is a reworked version of ‘Oliro kotha shune bokul haashe’ which was originally sung by Hemant Kumar himself.
2. Ek baar zara phir keh do / Ei poth Jodi na shesh hoi
Remember Bhashkor (Amitabh) and Piku (Deepika) humming ‘Ei poth Jodi na shesh hoi’ in Piku? That’s the song in which Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen’s tender chemistry made the entire race of Bengalis drown in romance. Bishwajeet and Asha Parekh’s dancing around trees is Hindi cinema’s favourite cliché, though they do the job pretty well. But the original with Kumar and Sen playfully imagining the possibility of an endless road is just way more fun and of course, timeless. Don’t trust us? Ask the first Bengali you meet after reading this.
3. Sawan mein barkha sataye / Aashar shrabon maney na toh mon
Since the monoon is here, what better song to celebrate the season than ‘Sawan mein barkha sataye’? You can find the romantic magnificence of this composition in the Bengali version too. While both were composed by Hemant Kumar himself, the Bengali version was sung by Lata Mangeshkar, and she did a splendid job.
4. O bekarar dil / O nadi re
The unrelenting heart of Waheeda Rehman that we merrily discovered with Lata Mangeshkar’s voice in ‘O bekarar dil’ has its seed in Hemant Kumar’s previous composition where he himself lent his voice. The original ‘O nodire’ is an ode to the river, and its persistent journey. So you have the heart and the river, one metaphor for another.
5. Yeh Nayan Dare Dare / Eai raat tomar amar
The origin of ‘Yeh nayan dare dare’ lies in ‘Ei raat tomar amar’ in Deep Jweley Jai (1959), the film which was incidentally remade as Khamoshi in 1969, another film with beaming compositions. While both the songs have Hemant Kumar lending his melancholic voice, the Bengali original trumps the Hindi version because it contains the wonderful whistling opening. Don’t believe us? Hear it yourself.
(The writer is a journalist and a screenwriter who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. His Twitter handle is: @RanjibMazumder)