Hindi Movies : legendary Playback Singers of the Golden Era
Ever since W.M. Khan sang Indian cinema's first playback song in 1931 for the first Indian talkie 'Alam Ara', songs have played an important part in films. There was a magical and mesmerizing quality in the voices of the playback singers of Hindi films during the period from nineteen thirties to nineteen seventies. Accompanied by original music directors of equally high caliber and lyricists who could pen simple but literary songs, these would be on every ones lips as soon as the composed songs were released. The singers of this era went on to earn high fame and riches. They also have become almost immortal and generations to come will be listening to their sung songs with relish. Their melodious voices are both captivating and soothing to the nerves and one feels relaxed listening to their songs. It was truly the golden era of the Hindi film music and the playback singers of that era have become legendary.
The first playback singer to capture the imagination of the masses was undoubtedly the singing star Kundan Lal Saigal, whose portrayal of the drunken 'Devdas' and the songs he sang made him an actor of great potential overnight. Many of his songs are popular today also. He started his legendary journey in films in the 1932 film 'Zinda Lash'.
The next singer to attain immense popularity was Mohammed Rafi. A trained singer he could sing in an astonishingly wide range and modulated his voice exactly as the actor for whom he was singing. It was easy to identify the actor if one heard Rafi singing. He could sing songs in classical. light comedy, qawwali and any other type demanded by the music directors. His songs are heard with relish today also by persons of all ages. Many of his songs will be heard even decades from now. He sang his first song under Shyam Sunder in Lahore in 1941, in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch and in 1945 in the Mumbai film Gaon ki Gori. Rafi's long association with his mentor music director Naushad was in the hindi film 'Pehle Aap' in 1944.
It was Lata Mangeshkar who can be truly said to have brought respectability to the playback singers. Always dressed in white this Nightingale of India has sung thousands of songs which are so melodious to hear, that one likes to hear them again and again. She possessed a highly versatile voice and the range of songs sung by her is simply astonishing. She made her debut in 1943 by singing a Hindi song in a Marathi film 'Gajabhau'.
Mukesh was another singer who captivated audiences,though he had a limited range and also did not sing a large number of songs. He was known as the voice of Raj Kapoor. Melancholy songs sung by him are popular today also. He began his career by singing the iconic song 'Dil Jalta Hai toh jalne De' under Anil Biswas in the film 'Pehli Nazar'.
Lata's sister Asha Bhonsle is another singer of great fame. She brought a voice which was used by music directors to create foot tapping numbers of Western style Her amazing voice continues to mesmerize the country today also. To her goes the credit for creating space for herself even when her elder sister was dominating the playback scene. She started her amazing singing career in the film Chunaria in 1948.
It was Kishore Kumar who brought a new whiff to the playback scene. He sang his first song in 1948 in the film 'Ziddi' for Dev Anand.' It was he who introduced yoddeling into Hindi film songs for the first time. Besides singing he was an actor, composer, lyricist, director, producer, screenwriter etc .His songs are like wine, mellowing with time. His songs sung under the music director father S. D. burman and the son R. D. Burman continue to be in demand today also.
Talat Mehmood brought ghazal singing into playback singing. No one has been able to match him in this till date.The King of Ghazals had a soft and mellow voice and has sung a number of songs which have a niche audience.
Hemant Kumar possessed a haunting voice which lent a mesmerizing quality to his songs. He was also a music composer of repute. He was to become an engineer but left half way and to the good luck of film music became a singer. His first song was in the 1944 film 'Iraada' unde rmusic director Amarnaath.
Manna Dey is another singer who especially sung classical base songs many of which which have gained an iconic status. His voice had a magical quality which left the audience thirsting for more .His first song was in 'Ram Rajya' in 1943.
Geeta Dutt was another singer whose voice had a nostalgic tinge and continues to be heard with great pleasure today also. She started her singing journey by singing two lines in 1946 for the film Bhakt Prahlad. However in her next film Do Bhai she sung the ever famous song Mera sundar sapna beet gaya under S. D. Burman's baton that catapulted her to fame.
Another singer of repute in this era was Mahendra Kapoor who started his journey by singing in the 1951 film Madmast under composer Balsara.
It is sad that the most productive period of Hindi film music started declining from late seventies. The thousands of songs of that era are remembered today also but today's songs are not possible to recall as early as even tomorrow.It is often observed that in today's FM radio stations it is the songs of that era which are frequently played. What could be a greater tribute to that period from the youth of today. Indeed we are blessed that we have such rich collection of eminently melodious songs suiting all moods available for all times to come.
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