Singing in the Same Voice

Can you find any common attribute between these three films songs? 

  1. Ye desh hai veer jawaanon ka (Naya Daur, 1957)
  2. Aaja chhaaye kaare badra (Lajwanti, 1958)
  3. 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.

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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

24 thoughts on “Singing in the Same Voice

  1. First things first, Manek – this is a milestone essay and you really made it big! 250 essays! All about Hindi Flim Songs – I feel like turning cartwheels or something in support of HFM! All those years when people turned up their noses at HFM- like, what’s of value in Hindi Film Music? Many, many thanks for saving Hindi Film Music from ignominy, Manek, you’ve inspected it, connected it and curated it with all the possible intellectual and fun ways of looking at it there may be! _()_

    About this essay – it’s another winner, alright! The story of Bade Ustad was enchanting! Wow! I hadn’t realized there were so many such songs! Like 2 jism, ek awaaz! I also now know something that has foxed me all these years – the reason behind the title track of Chandni!
    Sneh puts it well when she says you’ve spoilt us all! May the ink in your pen never dry! Many congratulations again!

    1. Monica, have I ever received a compliment like yours? No! What can I say? Only that when I feel no one is around, when I lose sight of “say not the struggle not availeth”, then I must think of you…I am totally beyond humbled _()_

        1. I had to look it up – not a poem I know. But, beautiful!
          And not by eastern windows only,
          When daylight comes, comes in the light,
          In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
          But westward, look, the land is bright.
          You’ve spearheaded this mission, Manek, from the east…but “westward, look, the land is bright.” Your belief in your mission inspires.
          Stay blessed!

  2. That’s a prolific output Manek. 250 articles my my. Your mind is full of information and knowledge of Hindi film music. Take a bow sir. This article too is absorbing as ever. 😊

  3. AAA had the famous song Humko tumse hogaya. … Kk.Mukesh Rafi for the three heroes and Lata for all the three heroines The only song recorded having all four singers in the History of Hindi cinema

  4. Another jewel in the crown. What a point to elaborate on.. I knew only about “Aake seedhi lagi” by Kishore for himself and Pran, which was a chance happening, as Lata refused to sing the song, so Kishore volunteered to sing for both actors. I could never imagine there are so many songs in this league.

    Wonderful essay. We are getting spoiled by you. Keep the pen flying. We await your wonderful takes.

  5. baabu samjho ishaare – horon pukaare – pom pom ( kishore / manna daa ) – three actors. 🙂
    bhau superb article – thought provoking too. 🙂

    in the world of films – our indian films ( all languages ) have not been made without songs ( accept yaadein and ithefaaq ) but the western films may have just background score songs or if it is purely musical like – sound of music – my fair lady. 🙂

    this factor of music and song itself being our greatest strength, your subject matter one singers voice being projected on more than one actor is truly unique and one more feather to the cap. 🙂

    sorry, bhau, mai bhaavuk hokar digress kargayaa – 🙂 🙂 🙂

    more strength to your pen and stay blessed. 🙂

    1. I love ‘bhavook’ people RNK, always have 🙂 And many movies are now being made without music…a rarity in the past, now not so…

  6. Superb essay Manek Sir, your explorations truly open new vistas for me.

    It is indeed a remarkable facet of our cinema that the audience without a hitch accepts one singing voice for multiple people, although their regular voice in which we hear in their dialogue delivery may be vastly different from the voice in which they sing on screen. Satyajit Ray in his essays in Our Films Their Films comments on this tradition too, in quite an amused manner. 🙂

    A lovely list for reference as usual!
    Just made me wonder if Baar baar tohe kya samjhayein falls in the same category of one Lata Mangeshkar lending her voice to two actors in the same scene (or is it someone else singing for the Lavani dancer?) I had quoted you earlier on this song for my story on Meena Kumari with reference to use of the bansuri by Roshan at a place where you expect the words.

    Thanks again for this wonderful essay… another one to keep coming back to for reference.

    1. Grateful Antara 🙂 Achha about Baar baar tohe kya samjhaayen, what a song! You know, maybe I’m losing it, but here’s my difficulty: I have heard that song many times, more recently for academic reasons, and while I have not asked my knowledgeable friends like you and Monica, Lata, Vijay, why do I feel the singer who starts this song is not Lata? The Baar baar sign line on the laavni dancer, before Meena Kumari comes in, sounds to me like Usha here, or then someone else. I know Harmandir’s Kosh names only Lata and Rafi, and for generations Lata is the only credited female singer here, and yet, dil hai ki maanta naheen…ya shaayad kaan hain ki maante naheen. I may be wrong, may be…but there’s a part of me that takes a stupidly firm view against conventional wisdom. Would request you to hear it from that angle, and tell me if I should forget it 🙂

      1. Manek Sir,
        I agree with you wholly…. that is why I wrote (or is it someone else singing for the Lavani dancer?) – I somehow cannot find the softer Lata that comes right after those first two lines in the rest of the song. But I checked all the videos and also Hindigeetmala and could not find any other name. And as you mentioned, even the Kosh credits only Lata and Rafi.
        I somehow get a feeling it is someone else. But then, my ears are not trained enough to identify voices that may have been deliberately disguised to sound different.
        Oh… these marvelous mysteries of music! 🙂

          1. Please make that three :). I cannot tell you how many times I have argued that case! No one believed me – till now!

  7. Honestly for me Manek, an unusual look in to our songs….and to add to the mystery of it all, not knew many of them either.

    But as you close your essay you put it so succinctly when you say: But the fact we enjoy the song regardless is a salute to the people who put it together. Therefore as in commerce, it is all about the bottomline 🙂

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