Celebrated melody-queen Asha Bhosle, at a recent live musical concert titled ‘Tigers of Bengal’ shared, that she had then named her new-born son ‘Hemant’, after the musical-icon Hemant-da Kumar, as she held him in high esteem. It’s time to rewind and briefly revisit the glorious contribution and little known facets of Hemanta Kumar Mukherjee , as this year on June 16th , the composer-singer-producer’s birth centenary would be observed by all retro-music lovers. Sau saal baad, none other than erstwhile matinee-idol Biswajeet ( of ‘Bees Saal Baad’ and ‘Kohraa’ fame which had Hemant-da’s haunting music scores) was keen to express his sentimental tributes exclusively to CineBlitz.
With streaks of emotion in his voice, Biswajeet ( who has also ‘sung’ several Bengali songs) known then, as the ‘mystery-suspense hero’ seemed sentimentally upset. That’s because, a grand ten-day commemorative Hemant Kumar-otsav which included a Tolly-Bolly tribute retro-film festival, live concerts, exhibitions etc, in Kolkata and also an event in Mumbai, planned long-before the corona pandemic had set in, “had to be cancelled, as there were social distancing restrictions and the health-scare-public-phobia of sitting in auditoriums. But I will surely arrange for my personal ‘on-line’ digital-zone tributes next Tuesday (16th) and senior-celebs like eminent film-maker Devi Dutt-jee who are willing,” assures the veteran actor who owes his Bollywood long-running lead actor career take-off to Hemant Kumar. “ Honestly speaking it was trend-setter Mejhda (that’s what he fondly called Hemant-da) who hijacked me from Kolkata to Mumbai and cast me in his movie ‘Bees Saal Baad’ (1962), that too opposite the established star-actress Waheeda Rehman. Then there was his ‘Kohraa’, and ‘Bin Baadal Barsaat’. The rest as they say, is glorious history, as it was a soaring star-trek ahead for me,” smiles the ‘Kismet’ lead actor who was ‘as good as a family-member of Hemant-da’.
Recalls Biswajeet, “ “That’s because his youngest brother talented. composer Amol Mukherjee was my very close friend and I even sang Bengali songs tuned by him. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to record a Bengali single song composed by Hemant-da. But I consider myself truly blessed to have his haunting, bass-octave haunting voice as my screen playback voice.. Even today when I sing ‘Bekaarar Karke Humey’ and ‘Yeh Nayan Darey Darey’ ‘live’ at stage concerts I always get farmaish for encores and the audiences fly into raptures.” Continues Biswajeet, “All Hemant-da sung songs picturised on me or even those on other great actors like Dev Anand ( Hai Apna Dil Toh Aawara), or on Guru Dutt ( Jaane Woh Kaise Logon Ne ) or on Dharmendra ( Yaa Dil Ki Suno) are immortal hits. With a strong drama-sense, he was also a staunch Rabindra Sangeet exponent.
The best instance of his mesmerizing counter-melodies in all his songs, would be the snake-charmer ‘been’ instrumental theme-tune of the timeless song ‘Man Dole Mera Tan Dole’ (Nagin-1954) composed by Hemant-da . Which has been reprised-remixed in several contemporary filmy songs including the Twist track in Love Aaj Kal and its recent sequel,” he shrugs. By nature, Hemant-da was frank, honest, punctual and discreetly made charitable donations. An avid mango-lover, he was addicted to smoking, which he felt made his voice sound better. Overall an adamant man-of-principles, yet so caring, concerned, helpful musical genius, who has left his indelible stamp on the musical map of Indian cinema,” signs off Biswajeet who enjoys listening to the foot-tapping Hemant-da-sung-‘Marathi’ fishermen-folk duet song ‘Mee Dolkar, Dariyacha Raja’ composed by Pt. Hridaynath Mangeshkar.
( The writer Chaitanya Padukone is a senior entertainment journalist and author of memoirs book ‘R D Burmania’)
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