Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mohammed Rafi's MEHERBAAN KI NAZAR on Manhar Udhas.

Many of the old timers regard Manhar Udhas as the one having voice similar to that of the formidable playback singer Mukesh.

Manhar Udhas’s singing career began in right earnest in 1971 and it was mainly confined to recording Gujarati Ghazals and singing in Gujarati films. He has recorded some Urdu Ghazals too with Polydor. He has 26 albums of Ghazals, mostly in Gujarati, and about ten Sai Baba albums mostly with Pandit K. Razdan to his credit. His repertoire consists of about 400 songs in regional languages such as Gujarati, Punjabi, Bangla and Hindi. He received ten platinum and give gold discs for his filmy songs. He also does lots of stage shows in India and abroad, travelling extensively with his own group and with that of Kalyanji-Anandji. Pankaj Udhas is his younger brother who is renowned for singing Urdu Ghazals and some film songs, the most celebrated of which is CHITTHI AAYI HAI from Mahesh Bhatt’s hit film, Naam.

It may be stated here that Manhar Udhas is a native of Saurashtra (Gujarat) and his father being a government servant was all the time moving around pursuant to Transfer Orders. As such, Manhar could give little time to music and eventually ended up as a Mechanical Engineer. Fortunately for him, his brother-in-law, Manubhai Gadhvi, used to make Gujarati movies. There was a movie he was making for which he had invited Kalyanji-Anandji to render music. Since Manhar was interested in singing, Manubhai introduced him to the duo who even made him sing for that movie. Thereafter, the musical duo invited him to come down to Mumbai.

Manhar Udhas came down to Mumbai in 1965. He even landed up with a job in a textile- machines firm as an Engineer where he worked during the day. The evenings were his to devote to his musical interest and he would attend to Kalyanji-Anandji at the Famous Studios where the musical duo would ask him to try out the various tunes they had composed. They even gave him opportunities to sing in their live musical shows.

The musical duo scored music for about 250 movies since 1956 either as Kalyanji or Kalyanji Veerji or Kalyanji-Anandji. During the period from 1965 till 1969, when Manhar Udhas was with them all the time, Kalyanji-Anandji scored music for not less than 24 Hindi movies, six of which were in 1969 itself. It is surprising, then, all this time Manhar Udhas found himself mostly singing in chorus of the songs or just recording rough versions of the songs under the baton of the musical duo. These versions were to be dubbed over by his idol, Mukesh. At other times, he found himself attending the musical concerts of Kalyanji-Anandji.

Come 1969! The year 1969 was significant for Manhar Udhas, because an incident would change his humdrum life and push him towards his desired goal of becoming an established playback singer in Bollywood. As we all know, the late Forties, the Nineteen Fifties and the Sixties was the era when Mohammed Rafi (1924-1980) was the leading playback singer for almost all the Bollywood film heroes of the time under the baton of numerous music directors, including Kalyanji-Anandji who started their independent assignments in late Nineteen Fifties. Between 1965 and 1969 Rafi Sahaab sang various solos and duets for the duo in such movies as Saheli, Purnima, Jab Jab Phool Khile, (1965), Johar in Kashmir (1966), Aamne-Samne and Raaz (1967), Haseena Maan Jaayegi (1968), Ek Shriman Ek Shrimati, and Raja Saab (1969).

Raja Saab was a Shashi Kapoor and Nanda starrer that had its premiere release in 1969 in Mumbai’s – if I remember rightly - Imperial Cinema. All the songs were sung by Mohammed Rafi: One with Lata Mangeshkar: HAMNE AAJ SE TUMEH; one with Suman Kalyanppur: TUU JUNGLE KI MORNI; three solos: RAJU KA THAAH EK KHWAAB (happy and sad versions), and KAL RAAT WAALI MULAAQAAT KE. Additionally, there was a song backed with chous: KISI MEHRBAAN KI NAZAR DHOONDHTE HAIN. During the rehearsal of the last-named song, Rafi Sahaab was leading the song at the microphone while the chorus singers, including Manhar Udhas, were behind him for rendering the chorus. Those days there was no system of multi-track recording, so the chorus singers were made to stand behind the main singer. This song is such that each line of the main singer is repeated by the chorus. After a while, Rafi Sahaab suddenly stopped singing and whispered something in Kalyanji’s ear. Immediately, Kalyanji asked Manhar to leave the chorus. Manhar was taken aback. As Manhar himself says: “The ground gave way beneath my feet and I wondered why Rafi Saab did not want me.” After Rafi Sahaab had finished recording of this song, Kalyanji came back to Manhar Udhas. What he told him was a revelation! Kalyanji revealed to him that Rafi Sahaab, having noted his voice, had told him that Manhar’s was singing well and he should not be put among the chorus singers, for it could brand him as the chorus singer forever! Not only that! Rafi Sahaab made them record an ‘Antara’ (verse) of the same song in Manhar’s voice, too. That verse has been retained in the movie.

It was only thereafter that Manhar Udhas got the break that he was seeking for, beginning with Vishwas (1969) where he sang a duet with Suman Kalyanpur, AAPKO HAMSE BICHHADE HUWE EK ZAMAANA BEET GAYAA under the baton of Kalyanji-Anandji. This was his lone song among the seven songs of Vishwas. After Raja Saab and Vishwas (both 1969), he sang for Kalyanji-Anandji in Purab Aur Pachhim (1970), Lalkar (1972), Qurbani (1980), Commander (1981), Log Kya Kahenge (1983), Nastik (1983), Baat Ban Jaaye (1986), Jaanbaaz (1986), Tridev (1989) amongst others. Some of his movies with other musice directors are: Abhimaan, (1973), Hero, (1983) Ram Lakhan (1989), Sadak (1991), Gunaah (1993) and Jaan (1996) to name just a few. Aap To Aise Na The (1980) is noteworthy for the song TUU IS TARAAH SE MEREE ZINDAGI MEIN SHAAMIL HAI which was penned by Nida Fazli and composed by Usha Khanna. Most of us have heard the scintillating version sung by Rafi Sahaab. There were other two versions too: One in the voice of Hemlata and the other in that of Manhar Udhas.

Laxmikant-Pyarelal had suggested the name of Manhar Udhas to Subhash Ghai for his forthcoming film, Hero, for a new hero Jackie Shroff. DING DONG O BABY SING A SONG with Alka Yagnik in Hero was a great hit. Ram Lakhan was also a Subhash Ghai’s movie released in 1989, and Manhar had a beautiful duet song with Anuradha Paudwal: TERA NAAM LIYA. Again, it was Manhar who sang for a new Subhash Ghai hero, Vivek Mushran, in Saudagar (1991). The duet songs ILU ILU with Alka Yagnik and the title track with Kavita Krishnamurthy (a little of Sukhvinder) were super-hits. Among his other best known songs are PURVA SUHAANI AAYE RE with Lata Mangeshkar and Mahendra Kapoor for Kalyanji-Anandji in Purab Aur Pachhim; his duet with Lata Mangeshkar in Abhimaan: LOOTE KOI MANN KA NAGAR composed by S.D. Burman; HAMM TUMEH CHAAHTE HAIN AISE with Kanchan in Qurbani; HAR KISI KO NAHIN MILTA with Alisha Chinoi in Jaanbaaz; DE DAARU YEH DAARU along with Kishore Kumar and Mahendra Kapooor in Karma which had LP as music directors; ARRE NAZAR LAGE NAA SAATHIYO.N a trio song with Kishore Kumar and Amit Kumar which was composed by Rajesh Roshan in Des Pardes, GALI GALI MEIN PHIRTA HAI KYOON ( a Viju Shah composition) with Alka Yagnik in Tridev, and so on.

Despite all this, Manhar did not make it even to the front-line singers in Bollywood. The reason partly for this is that he remained content with the rendering of Gujarati Ghazals and songs, which found a niche audience, and partly because “…No singer made a mark when all the heavyweights were active…” to use Manhar’s own words.

In one of his interviews, Manhar Udhas has given the credit for his debut to Mukesh for whom he had dubbed the Vishwas song. Be that as it may, the surprising element is, how come during 1965-1969, when they scored music for 24 movies, Kalyanji-Anandji did not consider taking Manhar Udhas whom they had specially called from Gujarat as their leading singer even for one song in each of their movies?

Therefore, it cannot be gainsaid that it was Rafi Sahaab who was the true benefactor. How

symbolic the song was: KISI MEHRBAAN KI NAZAR DHOONDHTE HAIN! Rafi Sahaab it was who was the ‘Mehrbaan” or Benefactor who cast that glance (nazar) on Manhar Udhas. The kind of the glance that we all seek sometimes or the other in life. It took no time for Rafi Sahaab to judge that Manhar Udhas was made for something bigger than the chorus singing. It was because of this conviction that Rafi Sahaab abruptly stopped singing in the midst of this song and immediately revealed his mind to Kalyanji. Kalyanji was enlightened by Rafi Sahaab’s recommendation and from the next year onwards (1970), they did give Manhar Udhas some more opportunities to sing.

In this heartless film industry where dog eats dog and where many careers, especially in the field of singing, have been ruined by plotting minds, this kindly gesture of Rafi Sahaab comes as a whiff of fresh morning air yet again.



  1. I did wonder why, when the actual song (Kisi meherbaan ki) was sung by Rafi, there was that short piece by another singer (didnt realise it was Manhar). It actually worked very well in the film, as it underlined the fact that the hero was not singing. Thanks so much for the info.

    K-A's unwillingness to let Manhar sing might stem from the fact that they didnt think the public might accept anyone but Rafi as the hero's voice! Speaking for myself, I am always disappointed when Rafi isnt the hero's voice and perhaps the same worked for audiences back then.

  2. You're welcome bollyviewer.

    Your observations are right. Way back then one expected Rafi Sahaab as the playback singer for not only most of the heroes but also rank newcomers and new music -directors if they wanted to make a mark onscreen. Besides, as you know, Rafi Sahaab used to change his style of singing for each of the heroes so that we never felt that the hero was just lip-synching.

    By the way, thanks for that relevant information
    on how Manhar's 'Antara' was utilised in the picturisation of KISI MEHERBAAN KI NAZAR....

    Warm Regards.

  3. Nasir sahab

    I am sure this kind of instances are almost un-parallel in the Hindi film industry. Apart from his great voice, this "kind human being" and a golden heart is what makes Mohd Rafi a class apart from the rest of the playback singers.

    I have read several examples of singers doing arm-twisting and what not to kill careers of established and upcoming singers. Keeping that in the mind, when one reads such generous gestures of Rafi sahab, then one realizes the true meaning of why he is called Khuda ka banda.

    Million thanks for sharing this with us

    Best Regards

  4. I reciprocate your sentiments Paragji.

    Sometimes it amazes me how could Rafi Sahaab go on doing such good deeds all along. I guess he understood perfectly the ephemeral nature of life and consciously went on helping others when he could.

    Thanks for your positive comments sir. I do appreciate them.

    Best Regards.