Songs that gradually seep into the psyche...

The soothingly gentle, profound and grave voice of Hemant Kumar rendered the songs a dignified grace

Published - June 29, 2018 01:15 am IST

Intoxicating voice Hemant Kumar

Intoxicating voice Hemant Kumar

To me, Hemant Kumar’s singing invokes an image of a very decent and noble person. An embodiment of a “bhadralok” (refined, cultured gentleman), the grave voice combines the sweetness of the “mishit doi” (sweet curd) and the gentle breeze of Bengali landscape. That is why a Hemant Kumar song never jolts but seeps in to your psyche slowly, thus awakening a pain that lasts a lifetime but is enormously pleasing to bear. This is because most of his songs do not create a “noise”, like say vocals of Kishore Kumar or Mahendra Kapoor’s do, but are soothing balms for frayed nerves!

Every voice carries an “aural character” that defines its intrinsic quality. Hemant Kumar’s voice can safely be bracketed as “Soothingly Gentle”. Soak in any of his melodies and what you reap is a dignified grace; like his countenance of a sombre, sedate, diligent, no nonsense man; his voice too “seems” profound, grave and knowledgeable. It is this overriding grace in his voice that makes you succumb to its persuasive charisma even if you are not an ardent admirer of his vocal skills.

This deduction is not farfetched when you analyse Hemant Kumar’s small bouquet of films songs that he rendered as a singer for the Hindi film screen. Listen to Hemant da, as he is fondly remembered by most old timers, and you find that even when he pricks our societal hypocrisy with gems like “Jaane Wo Kaise Log Thei Jin Ke Pyaar Ko Pyaar Mila” (“Pyaasa”) or “Ya Dil Ki Suno Duniya Waalon” (“Anupama”), his chiding is like a sage disciplining his flock. He may not have a bundle of vocal inflections within the musical metre yet the communication of mood, tone and pitch is so peacefully in sync with the overall sentiments of the song that you have no choice but to swoon to his charms.

The pristine gentlemanliness is clearly visible in some of the finest duets of film screen that he has rendered with Lata, Asha and Geeta Dutt. Who can ever forget such evergreen milestones like “Aa Neele Gagan Tale Pyaar Hum Karein” (“Badshah”), “Mujhko Tum Jo Mile, Ye Jahan Mil Gaya” (“Detective”), “Ggumsum Sa Ye Jahan” (“Duniya Jhukti Hai”), “Yaad Kiya Dil Ne Kahan Ho Tum” (“Patita”), “Ye Mehfil Sitaaron Ki” (“Arab Ka Saudagar”), “Yeh Hansta Hua Carawan Zindagi Ka Naa Poocho” (“Ek Jhalak”), “Jaag Dard E Ishq Jaag” (“Anarkali”) or “Chhupa Lo Yun Dil Mein Pyaar Mera” (“Mamta”). While all the three female singers are at their best with their gyrations, they are matched at every vocal step by Hemant Kumar’s crooning with such grace and dignity that the songs are embellished with an eternal fascination for all listeners!

Blessed with a voice that was different from the rut yet enormously intoxicating, Hemant Kumar’s singing was crafted with a sublime texture due to his deep understanding of Rabindra Sangeet. Connoisseurs know that Rabindra Sangeet is characterised by a significant amount of ornamentation like “meend” and “murki” along with a soulful expressions of romanticism. Hemant Kumar imparts this virtue with effortless ease, thus making his songs shine amongst the plethora of Hindi songs. Listen to his heart stopping numbers like “Beqarar Karke Hamen Yun Na Jaiye” (“Bees Saal Baad”), “Hai Apna Dil To Awara” (“Solva Saal”), “Yaad Aa Gai Woh Nashili Nigahen” “(“Manzil”), “Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahan” (“Jaal”), “Na Tum Hamen Jano” (“Baat Ek Raat Ki”) and “Ye Nayen Darre Darre” (“Kohra”) to list a few to understand that a song can be meaningful even if it is simple since minimalism has an everlasting appeal.

Songs with feelings

What one has to praise is that Hemant Kumar’s songs are devoid of any “trickery” and hence, immensely likeable. Not seeking to impress you with any vocal jugglery, he just executes the emotion of the song with such delicate mastery and honesty that a listener is never left unmoved. The same can be said about his music too that still appeals to heart and mind alike.

The songs of films like “Anand Math”, “Nagin”, “Miss Mary”, “Yahudi Ki Ladki”, “Hum Bhi Insaan Hain”, “Raahgeer”, “Anupama” and many other stand out like twinkling stars for their unique musical arrangement that reflect Hemant da’s profound musical genius. What speaks volumes about his scholarly mastery of music is also the manner in which he brings out proficiencies of other fellow singers to the fore by providing them with superb musical pieces. Close your eyes and ask has Kishore ever sounded better than “Woh Shaam Kuch Ajeeb Thi” (“Khamoshi”) or Suman Kalyanpur more pleasing than “Naa Tum Hamein Jaano” (“Baat Ek Raat Ki”) and don’t Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt gain in stature with their respective numbers like “Bhanwra Bada Naadan Hai” and “Koi door Se Awaaz De Chale Aao” from “Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulaam” In fact, if Lata has never sounded better than “Kuch Dil Ne Kaha” (“Anupama”), he also makes the vintage Rafi come alive with his sublime “Hum Laaye Hain Toofan Se Kashti Nikaal Ke” (“Jaagriti”).

If the job of a great artist is to create and enhance the joy of human beings, it is evident that Hemant Kumar was true to his muse to a remarkable degree. Whatever could be said through music, he unfolded through his graceful notes; an extraordinary ability to simplify the complex is a talent gifted to a rare few like him. That is why we still long for him with “Tum Pukar Lo, Tumhara Intezaar Hai” (“Khamoshi”) as Hemant Kumar was indeed a jewel of rare pedigree.

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