Can you find any common attribute between these three films songs?
- Ye desh hai veer jawaanon ka (Naya Daur, 1957)
- Aaja chhaaye kaare badra (Lajwanti, 1958)
- Aake seedhi lagi dil pe jaise katariya (Half Ticket, 1962)
The singers are different, so are the lyricists, the composers, and even the actors these songs were filmed on. The commonality here is, each of these songs was sung by one singer in the studio, but was lip-synced by two actors on the screen. The actors were seen singing the song in the same voice.
Singing in the same voice is not like saying singing in one voice, as is metaphorically done for example for nationalistic songs like Mile sur mera tumhaara. The essential message of that patriotic song is: in our diversity, may we be one, and sing as one. That we can speak in one voice, no matter where we come from, regardless of our cultural differences.
Instead, we are going to look at how singers sometimes end up singing for more than one actor in the same song, and also singers’ expectations. Let’s start with a story that happened 60 years ago.
In the late 1950s, legendary vocalist Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan came over from Pakistan and stayed back in India at Pt Nehru’s request. Around then, for his opus Mughal-e-Azam, filmmaker K Asif was bending over backwards to create art of the kind that hadn’t been brought to Indian screens yet. He knew that kings and emperors do not usually sing, but the love between Prince Salim, the errant son of Emperor Akbar, and Anarkali, a court dancer, was a key part of the Mughal narrative. Sensitive cinematic moments in that romance could best be highlighted by musical strains resounding in the royal court. Knowing only the best would do for him, Asif requested composer Naushad Ali to help approach the ustad for two romantic thumris to be rendered in the shaahi durbar.
The real story also goes that the ustad took a quick dislike to Asif. The Khan saab was most offended by the filmmaker’s lack of culture, principally his unsettling gaze and incessant smoking; in fact, Asif smoked closed-fisted, dragging deep breaths, and then flicking ash wherever he went, as if domestics were always there to clean up after him. Just to turn off this “budzaat aadmi” (low man), as he whispered to Naushad, the ustad quoted an outrageous price, ie Rupees 25,000 for each song. It’s relevant to recall that the highest paid singer of the time was Lata Mangeshkar, who charged Rs 500 per song. In the late ‘50s, fifty times her rate could get you a nice mid-sized flat in south Bombay. Rs 50,000 got you a luxury apartment. No problem for K Asif: he agreed to two songs on the spot.
This tale has an uncorroborated tail: Khan saab was upset with even this acceptance. He tried to up the stakes more. “Er, if my songs will be sung by Akbar badshah, the rate will be higher”. As it happened, the two thumris—Prem jogan banke, and Shubh din aayo—were lip-synced by Surendra as Tansen, and remain among Hindi cinema’s apogees to this day.
This thing about singers charging rates according to who will sing on the screen is not generally true, though it is true that a poster boy’s lip-syncing helps a new playback singer’s fortunes aplenty. However, not always can a producer afford expensive stars. That’s why lots of beautiful songs have been filmed on mediocre artists over the years. Oddly, there have also been occasions when producers have not been able to afford good singers. On rare occasions, we have even had incompetent singers ruin a song. Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma of the Shiv-Hari team was persuaded to use the vocals of fine actress Sridevi in the title song of Chandni (1989), her duet with Jolly Mukherji, with disturbing consequences. Even more, sometimes in duets and triets etc., the filmmaker has decided to use the voice of one singer for more than one actor on the screen. In most such cases, the singer has had no idea what is planned for the screen.
Let’s apply our thoughts to our films now, to glance at songs in which two or more actors (or actors in double roles) came together to lip-sync in one person’s voice. Here are such instances:
- Muhabbat kar lo jee bhar lo (Geeta on multiple actresses/Aar Paar, 1954)
- Jawaani jhoolti hai (Lata on Madhubala and Chanchal/Naata, 1955)
- Ramaiya vasta vaiya (Lata for Sheila Vaz and Nargis/Shree 420, 1955)
- Humen koi gham hai (Asha on Shashikala and Smriti Biswas, Rafi on Kishore Kumar and Bhagwan/Bhaagam Bhaag, 1956)
- Jahaan main jaati hoon (Manna Dey on unknown actor and Raj Kapoor, Lata on unknown actress and Nargis/Chori Chori, 1956)
- Aye dil tu na dar is jahaan mein (Rafi on two Johnny Walkers/Johnny Walker, 1956)
- Aaja chhaaye kaare badra (Geeta on Sukumari and Padmini Priyadarshini/Lajwanti, 1958)
- Dil deke dagha denge (Rafi on Dilip and Ajit/Naya Daur, 1957)
- Ye desh hai veer jawaanon ka (Rafi on Dilip and Ajit/Naya Daur, 1957)*
- Jab naam-e-muhabbat leke kisi (Asha on Nalini Jaywant and unknown actress/Kala Paani, 1958)
- Hum pe dil aaya to bolo kya karoge (Rafi on unknown actor and Raj Kapoor, Asha on unknown actress and Madhubala/Do Ustad, 1959)
- Tu ne maar ke pyaar ki bom (Rafi on Johnny Walker and Mehmood/Mr Qartoon M.A., 1959)
- Ayese mein kachhu kaha naheen jaaye (Asha on unknown actress and Suchitra Sen/Bambai Ka Babu, 1960)
- Mil gaye milne waale (Both Mahendra and Asha on multiple actors/Miyaan Bibi Raazi, 1960)
- Dhadakte dil ki tamanna ho (Suraiya on herself and Nimmi/Shama, 1961)
- Aake seedhi lagi dil pe jaise katariya (Kishore on himself and Pran/Half Ticket, 1962)
- Ja main tose naahi boloon (Lata on two unknown actresses/Sautela Bhai, 1962)
- Paon mein jhaanjhar, jhaanjhar mein ghunghru (Asha on Mumtaz and Meenu Mumtaz/Faulaad, 1963)
- Rama Rama gajab hui gava re (Lata on Hema and unknown actress/Naya Zamaana, 1971)
- Jaan-e-man jaan-e-man tere do nayan (Asha and Yesudas first on Hema Malini and Dharmendra, and later on Amol Palekar and Vidya Sinha/Chhotisi Baat, 1975)
In an interesting twist, Padosan (1968) had songs like Mere saamne waali khidki mein and Kehna hai (both Kishore Kumar) and Ek chatur naar (Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar), with Kishore playbacking for himself, even as Sunil Dutt was also moving his lips, pretending to be the actual singer on the screen. More recently, a huge song from Om Shanti Om (2007), Deewaangi deewaangi had five singers, Shaan, Udit, Shreya, Sunidhi and Rahul Saxena playbacking for a glitzy event featuring some eighteen actors.
Uniquely, in a reverse case, there has even been a duet that was filmed on just one actor. In Mere Mehboob (1963), Ameeta alone moved her lips to an Asha-Lata duet: Jaan-e-man ik nazar dekh le, tere sadqe idhar dekh le. Wonder whether the script was changed. But the fact we enjoy the song regardless is a salute to the people who put it together.
*Ye desh hai veer jawaanon ka from Naya Daur (1957) had both Dilip Kumar and Ajit moving their lips to Rafi’s playback. But this was actually recorded as a duet by Rafi and S. Balbir. The latter only sang a stanza with Rafi, with the two actors lip-syncing for the two singers in one stanza.
Published on 10 September 2017. The asterisked footnote was added on 11 September 2017
DNA Jaipur, page 13 http://epaper2.dnaindia.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=1&edcode=131002&pagedate=2017-09-10