Royal Singing

In the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II does not sing the National Anthem. That’s because the Anthem is directed at her. It says God Save the Queen. If she is around, she stands during the singing and offers a short bow to acknowledge the tribute once it is over. But her case apart, it is often observed in popular culture that royals do not sing anything; if they do, many people think they should not be doing so. That’s because the arts—especially the performing kind—are seen as trivial affairs. They should be left to professional entertainers and other lesser mortals. It is matters of greater importance that should engage the passions of important monarchs, nobility or political leaders, like statecraft as well as the harmonious compliance of their flock. At the same time, since such people are also human, they must be seen as encouraging singing, and in general be perceived as patrons-of-the-arts.

Queen Can Sing Beautifully

How interesting then, that in the light of all this, a phenomenal rock group was started in 1970 in Britain, with just that name: Queen. It becomes more interesting for us Indians because the man who started the band was called Freddy Mercury, a Parsi whose real name was Farokh Balsara! The rock singer came to be noted for his exceptional voice—which could manage nicely in 3 octaves—as also for his extraordinary stage presence. Mercury died in November 1991 at the age of 45. His greatness as a songwriter, producer, and especially as a performing singer has been endorsed by many significant people in the business, for example the singer David Bowie, who had this to say: ”…(Freddy Mercury) was definitely a man who could hold an audience in the palm of his hand”.

A few people also know that before making it big as a rock star, Farokh Balsara was a baggage handler at London’s Heathrow Airport. Recently, on September 5, it was a wonderful surprise for passengers at Heathrow Airport when eight staffers of British Airways, all dressed up like Freddy Mercury—with his famous moustache and all—entertained them repeatedly with his style of dancing, as his song I Want to Break Free blared out of the airport’s broadcasting system. It was also a promo for the forthcoming film Bohemian Rhapsody, a biopic on Queen and its hero, Freddy Mercury that is scheduled for release in October, next month.

We have had our own biopics in Hindi cinema, plenty of them, of Queens and Kings and their palace intrigues. Of Princes and Princesses with their love affairs and sibling rivalries. So what’s the situation in them, how have our own royals fared in the Will Sing-Won’t Sing area?

The jury is still out on that one, but perhaps the royals sang fewer times than they didn’t. Let’s give the Mughal Empire a quick look in this area. In Humayun (1945), neither Ashok Kumar as Humayun nor Shah Nawaz as his father Shahanshah Babar sang. In Shah Jahan (1946) actor Kanwar as the eponymous Emperor did not sing at all. Nor did the Emperor’s wife Mumtaz Mahal (played by Ragini). The singing was done by a royal maid-in-waiting and by Saigal (who enacted Sohail, a singing-poet in the story). In Anarkali (1953), it wasn’t Mubarak as Emperor Akbar who sang, nor Pradeep Kumar (as Prince Salim). The male solos were played out background to enhance the narrative, while the female ones went on Bina Rai as Anarkali, a commoner. The lone duet in the film, Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag was lip-synched by Bina Rai and an elderly court singer. In Mughal-e-Azam (1960), neither Prithviraj (as Akbar), nor Durga Khote (Queen Jodhabai) nor Dilip Kumar (Prince Salim) moved their lips to any song. It was commoner ladies who sang in the film, as also did a sculptor played by M Kumar, who belted out Zindabad zindabad aye muhabbat zindabad, backed by a chorus. Interestingly, the same M Kumar turned royal in the same year in Lal Qila, where he became the last Moghul Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, the royal singing his own poetry, ie Lagta naheen hai dil mera ujde dayaar mein, as also Na kisi ki aankh ka noor hoon. More royal trivia awaits us about a certain acting pair, but let’s first see some songs that were lip-synched by Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses. Actors who portrayed the royals are mentioned too.

  • Unse pyaar ho gaya (Lata/Baadal, 1951) (Madhubala)
  • Tujhe kho diya humne paane ke baad (Lata/Aan, 1952) (Nadira)
  • Tu kyoon mujhko pukaare (Lata/Mayur Pankh, 1954) (Sumitra Devi)
  • Mar gaye hum jeete ji (Lata/Shabab, 1954) (Nutan)
  • Marna teri gali mein (Lata/Shabab, 1954) (Nutan)
  • Nigaahen mili aur tum muskuraaye (Asha/Aab-e-Hayaat, 1955) (Shashikala)
  • Jhoomti hai nazar jhoomta hai pyaar (Rafi, Asha/Hatimtai, 1956) (Jairaj)
  • Parwardigaar-e-aalam tera hi hai sahaara (Rafi/Hatimtai, 1956) (Jairaj)
  • Na jaane tum kaun meri aankhon mein sama gaye (Lata/Patrani, 1956) (Vyjayanthimala)
  • Aaye bahaar ban ke lubha kar chale gaye (Rafi/Raj Hatth, 1956) (Pradeep Kumar)
  • Mere sapne mein aana re sajna (Lata/Raj Hatth, 1956) (Madhubala)
  • Ye waada karo chaand ke saamne (Mukesh, Lata/Raj Hatth, 1956) (Pradeep Kumar and Madhubala)
  • Tum sang laage piya more naina (Lata/Taj, 1956) (Vyjayanthimala)
  • Jeevan ki beena ke taar bole (Lata/Rani Rupmati, 1957) (Nirupa Roy)
  • Tum ek baar muhabbat ka imtihaan to lo (Rafi/Babar, 1960) (Sohan Kapila)
  • Do sitaaron ka zameen par hai milan aaj ki raat (Rafi, Lata/Kohinoor, 1960) (Meena Kumari and Dilip Kumar)
  • Madhuban mein Radhika naache re (Rafi/Kohinoor, 1960) (Dilip Kumar)
  • O pavan veg ke udne waale ghode (Lata/Jai Chittor, 1961) (Nirupa Roy)
  • Ehsaan tera hoga mujh par (Rafi/Junglee, 1961) (Shammi Kapoor)
  • Aaj madhuvaataas dole (Mahendra, Lata/Stree, 1961) (V Shantaram)
  • Kaun ho tum kaun ho (Mahendra/Stree, 1961) (V Shantaram)
  • Teri duniya se door chale hoke majboor (Rafi, Lata/Zabak, 1961) (Shyama)
  • Aaja re deewaane lagi dil ki bujhaane (Asha/Razia Sultana, 1963) (Nirupa Roy)
  • Jo baat tujh mein hai teri tasweer mein naheen (Rafi/Taj Mahal, 1963) (Pradeep Kumar)
  • Jo waada kiya wo nibhaana padega (Rafi, Lata/Taj Mahal, 1963) (Pradeep Kumar and Beena Rai)
  • Baad muddat ke wo ghadi aayi (Rafi, Suman/Jahan Ara, 1964) (Mala Sinha)
  • Haal-e-dil yoon unhen sunaaya gaya (Lata/Jahan Ara, 1964) (Mala Sinha)
  • Jaane waale zara hoshiyaar yahaan ke hum hain Rajkumar (Rafi/Raj Kumar, 1964) (Shammi Kapoor)
  • Bahaaro phool barsao mera mehboob aaya hai (Rafi/Suraj, 1966) (Rajendra Kumar)
  • Dekho mera dil machal gaya (Sharda/Suraj, 1966) (Vyjayanthimala)
  • Sharaabi sharaabi ye saawan ka mausam (Suman/Noor Jahan, 1968) (Meena Kumari)
  • Aye dil-e-naadaan (Lata/Razia Sultan/1983) (Hema Malini)

Now about that couple mentioned earlier. In Anarkali (1953), Pradeep Kumar was Emperor Akbar’s son, Prince Salim (who later became Emperor Jahangir). In the narrative, Bina Rai (Anarkali) was his girlfriend who was buried alive near the end of the feature. It appears that Salim told his father Akbar that no matter what, he would come back again, next time as Akbar’s grandson. Not only that, he would get the same Bina Rai, and what’s more, they would sing away their hearts, go figure. That actually happened. Ten years later in Taj Mahal (1963), Pradeep Kumar became Shah Jahan, that is, Akbar’s grandson and Jahangir’s son, while Bina Rai became his queen, Mumtaz Mahal. That father-son conversation is apocryphal I know, but then so are the narratives of the films themselves.


Originally published in DNA Jaipur on 16 September 2018, page 13

Featured image on top: from Ehsaan tera hoga mujh par

5 thoughts on “Royal Singing

  1. The last para connecting the two films of Pradeep Kumar were an Historical nostalgia delight. When we talk about films with King/Queen and the songs one cannot help not forgetting an odd film Do Dil in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s film’s list. I think all failed including the leading pair, Director but for Kaifi Azmi & Hemant Kumar Some superb songs are still remembered till date

  2. Queen …I want to break free…superb beats used effectively in climax scene of Jo jeera wahi sikandar. The entire sequence of cycle race was built on Freddy Queen’s beats.

    Another wonderful theme and I liked the last paragraph connecting dots between Anarkali and Taj Mahal via Pradeep Kumar and Bina Roy.

    I also loved kehne ko jashn e bahara hai from Jodha Akbar but Shehan shah r Alam is not singing.

  3. Well not ‘ apocryphal’ ,but your statement , although in hindsight may appear true , could well be judged as prophetic-Manek. Just a naughty thought as to what Charles and Williams and the third generation ‘King in Waiting ‘ , would have when uttering the words ‘ God save the Queen ‘.
    Not to take anything away from this brilliant essay, I have always wondered if the Queens in England [both Victoria and now Elizabeth ] as well as the Princely states in India, had had more chutzpah than the actual Kings and their heir in waiting.
    None can though ever forget Freddy Mercury

  4. Wow, awesome news that there is a biopic scheduled on aapro Freddy! He has been a fav of mine for so so long! I loved his “Its a kind of magic” more than any other song sung by him!
    The compilation of songs is simply amazing! I used to wonder why in such a magnum opus like Mughal e Azam there was not a single song by Dilip Kumar…now it makes sense. One can either be formidable as a ruler or soft as a poet, its rare to have a poet-politician like A B Vajpayee who could write poetry and also lead the nation without people disrespecting him.
    Thanks for this amazing study!

  5. Very very interesting essay. A lot of the info was brand new for me. And that last paragraph clinched it! Definitely a many-time read!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *