Oil and water don’t mix together- but that does not lessen the quality of either of them. It is just the simple density chemistry which bars these two elements getting mixed up with one another. There have been quite a few music directors in Hindi film music, who preferred to stay away from certain singers due to various reasons. When it comes to artistic difference, it makes sense as to why Naushad avoided Kishore Kumar and Geeta Dutt; Shankar Jaikishen avoided Hemant Kumar and Talat Mehmood; S D Burman avoided Mahendra Kapoor or for that matter Salil Chwodhury avoided Shamshad Begum.
However, sometimes it becomes difficult to understand as to why some combos, in spite of creating some supreme music together whenever they combined and sharing musical similarity, did not come together too often. Reasons can be musical or non musical, let us take a look into some highly “productive” but “infrequent” combos.
Umraao Jaan is history today. Not only it gave Rekha a Diva status which she enjoys even today, it really completed the cycle of versatility for Asha Bhosle. With some sparkling Ghazals composed by the maestro Khayyam, this one album was a lifetime accomplishment for Asha. However, apart from this one album, you wont find much of Asha Bhosle in other albums of Khayyam for which he is widely known for. In the composer’s other touted albums like Kabhi Kabhie, Trishul, Thodisi Bewafai, Razia Sultana, Bazaar etc, Asha Bhosle is somehow missed ubiquitously. She could be found in some stray numbers in albums like Dard etc, nut somehow, the magic of Umraao Jaan could never be repeated.
Years later, they did come together for a private album in the early 2000s, but this remained a combo which touched sky high level with one album in spite of never collaborating together too much. I somehow miss Ashaji a lot in many Khayyam compositions.
Salil Chowdhury-Kishore Kumar:
Here is a set of music director and singer who today enjoy almost the same set of musical school following. But in reality, they did around 30 songs together only, including one unreleased song, two version songs and four songs with two repeated tunes! Being a musician from the rhythmic school of music, Salil was a pioneer of fusion music in India and almost a Godfather for all the modern day arrangers and musicians. The songs from the stable of Salil and Kishore had very very high qualities in terms of musical values; “Chhotasa ghar hoga”, “Munna bada pyara”, “Aake seedhi lagi dil pe”, “Koi hota jisko apna”, “Guzar jaye din”, “Maujon ki doli”, “Man kare yaad woh din” are some of the remarkable solos which they produced together. He made Kishore sing in a dual voice in Half Ticket, cover around 13 notes from lowest to the highest in Mere Apne, gave a sinusoidal note progression in Annadata, made him create sounds of a half a dozen animals in Kabita and literally made a song a full entertainment package in Parivar; but with so much of experimentation, the total output together was very low and we, the fans, genuinely miss that!
Anil Biswas- Mohd Rafi:
Studying Anil Biswas and his school of music, you would miss a Mohd Rafi undoubtedly. His music and his form of compositions were definitely from a field where Mohd Rafi had huge control. Considered widely as the great grandfather of Indian Cine Compositions, Anil Biswas gave Hindi movies a bunch of unforgettable musicals like Kismat, Pehli Nazar, Anokha Pyar, Aaraam, Fareb, Heer etc. By the time Rafi became a top lead playback singer, Anil Biswas was very much there in the scenario and composing full time in the 50s, but somehow, apart from Heer(1956),where he recorded 4 songs with Rafi, he did not have too many else(in fact, precisely 5 other songs) even when all his other contemporaries and colleagues like Naushad, C Ramchandra, Husnlal Bhagatram were using the great singer full time during that period.
Anil Biswas ji’s daughter Shikha Vohra ji, however told me personally once that Anil Biswas had a very high regard for Rafi sahib and had once wished to record some children’s songs for a private album with him in the early sixties. But the project, somehow, got shelved.
Talk of “Kings of Pathos”, and in composers you get a Madan Mohan picture and in singers you get a Mukesh image. Unfortunately, again, they came together for very few occasions. Although, a “Bhuli hui yaadon” is as immortal as any of Madan’s other compositions, his recordings with Mukesh remained very very limited. Surprising, mainly due to the fact that Madan Mohan was indeed a master in composing sentimental songs and Mukesh Chandra Mathur had a solid control in that regime. Perhaps, Mukesh’s straight way of rendition did not appeal Madan much, whose compositions were of semi-classical nature and demanded shades of vocal ornamentation. Even he recorded much more with Kishore Kumar, who had no formal training on classical music, than Mukesh.
Naushad- Manna De:
While one can somewhat explain Naushad Ali’s nonchalance towards Geeta Dutt, Kishore Kumar and Hemant Kumar(with each of whom Naushad recorded one song each throughout the career), it is difficult to explain why he recorded only 9 songs with Manna De, when the De was perhaps the most accomplished classical singer amongst all his colleagues. In fact, amongst all the male playback singers those days, it was Manna De who had a proper, formal training in Hindustani Classical music for a long period of time and proved his capability over and over again. In fact, although he has been very lauding towards his two competitor colleagues- Rafi and Kishore, he never missed to mention one important fact that he was more musically trained than both of them!! While Naushad was very particular about using a singer who had formal classical training (with some exceptions like Shamshad Begum, Shyam kumar etc sometimes), Manna De continuously missed the bus for him. Except for a couple of here and there songs like Mother India, Love and God etc, apart from “Bhagat ke bus mein”, we hardly remember anything from Naushad-Manna combo, perhaps, classically the richest people ever in the industry.
The intention of this article is never to spark any controversy here, or to create differences amongst music groups but just to highlight some of the most “missing combos” in Hindi film music. And yes, come whatever, the advantage is to the music director, who I feel, are the major architects behind the songs!