Rafi, Kishoreda, Talat Mehmood, Lata, Asha and Malayalam cinema

Sathyan and Sheela in Chemmeen
Pix credit : The Hindu

OK, this might be a compilation  of the obvious, but I believe there would  be a minority who still haven’t had pleasure of listening to all of them at one place, so here goes. This collection was also forgotten in the dusty archives till a phone call magically revived it. Thank you Binu. Though music doesn’t have boundaries is something we would always want to believe in, the world of playback singing is a cold, hard and cruel place to survive. Shifting loyalties based on market demands and at times personal agendas, (here is one raging right now)  there are at times when sonic monstrosities are thrust down the timid movie fan’s throat just because the name behind the voice could ensure a few more lakhs in  audio rights. Here is a compilation of the greats of Hindi playback singing, trying their hand at Malayalam playback, at times with eyebrow-raising results, but melodious and memorable, nevertheless.

Mohammed Rafi in Thaliritta Kinaakkal (1980)
Its curious when you have a Hindi song incorporated into playback for a Malayalam film.Delightful when its rendered by Rafi. It turns a bit strange when you have a second one in Hindi, rendered by KJ Yesudas for the Malayalam production! Binu Pappu shared an endearing slice of history on this song the other day.Sometime in the 50’s, just like most for whom music forms an undeniable source of energy, was this destitute, lanky lad, who adored Rafi and looked forward to meeting his icon in the flesh, for the upcoming concert that would be held at the erstwhile Mananchira Maidan. Without a penny in his pocket, he intended to gatecrash at any cost to listen to the legend, live. He did and was promptly hauled by by the organisers. A generous Rafi, inquiring as to what the ruckus was, requested the organisers to have the lanky lad be allowed in the front row for the concert, to which they grudgingly obliged. In a sweet twist of irony, the legend went on to sing a song for a Malayalam film to be picturised on a character played by a Malayalam actor Kuthiravattam Pappu, 3 decades later. Little did he know that it was the very same lad that he so generously allowed to be in, without a ticket for his concert in Kozhikode!

Song :  Shabab Leke.
Lyrics : Aayish Kamal
Music : Jithin Shyam
Singer : Mohammed Rafi

Kishore Kumar in Ayodhya (1975)

Credit goes to the famed film producer Pavamani for getting Kishore da to sing this nonsensical composition in Malayalam. In a way, it perfectly reflected the manic side of  Kishoreda, who was at home stringing up non-related, bizarre sonic bites with sheer chutzpah. I have wrote in detail about the song here.

Song :  ABCD Chettan KD.
Lyrics : P Bhaskaran ( Lyrics? What Lyrics?!)
Music : G Devarajan
Singer : Kishore Kumar

Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar in Ayalathe Sundari (1974)

Well, you couldn’t exactly include this ‘technically’ in this compilation, but could do well on afterthought in an annexed cheat-sheet 🙂 Hariharan incorporated SD Burman‘s classic duet from Aaradhana (1969), Kora kagaz tha on Adoor Bhasi and Sreelatha, with both of them re-enacting the classic scene on their own terms, in a full-fledged malayalam movie. The Hindi connections for the movie don’t stop there. It even had a track called Hema Malini, led by Jayachandran, with LR Eeswari , KP Chandramohan and Sreevidya joining in ! Well, with Shanker – Jaikishen as the music directors for the project, it wouldn’t have been surprising, don’t you agree ?

Song :  Kora Kagaz tha
Lyrics :Anand Bakshi
Music : SD Burman
Singer : Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar

Talat Mehmood in Dweepu (1977)

This would have been fantastic, to compose a score for  a music legend by another who looked upon the former for inspiration and with awe, and the latter responded with equal respect. Baburaj‘s composition for Ramu Kariyat‘s Dweepu (1977) had the plaintive, heart-wrenching ode to the desolateness of the blue sea in Kadaley, neela kadaley, sung by Talat Mehmood. Come to think of it, it has a reserved place in my MSB‘s all-time favorite list.

Song :  Kadaley, neela kadaley
Lyrics : Yusuf Ali Kecheri
Music : MS Baburaj
Singer : Talat Mehmood

Manna Dey in Chemmeen (1965)

This has to be, in my opinion, the most iconic statement made through music by a Bengali in Malayalam cinema. Though a part of you cringes at the diction and the unintentional massacre of the syntax, the major part can’t help but be drawn into this powerful feeling of loss and unrequitted love in such soulful, simple harmony. Salil Choudhary seems to have nailed it in, sound, tone, emotion, singer and all. In a ‘terrible’ (?) twist of fate, KJ Yesudas got to sing the Bengali version of the song in the Uttam Kumar starrer Srikanter Will (1979)  and shall we say, the intonation and the accent, according to my learned friends from Bengal, has it moments that are cringeworthy.

Song :  Manasa maine Varoo
Lyrics : Vayalar
Music : Salil Choudhary
Singer : Manna Dey

The Bengali Version sung by KJ Yesudas

Asha Bhosle in Sujatha ( 1977)

You couldn’t blame Raveendra Jain for bringing in Asha Bhosle to Malayalam, considering the mellifluous rendering of Mankombu Gopalkrishnan‘s lyrics, though there seems to be a strong hangover of the shudh-Hindi intonation in the way she handles the words. ‘Swayamvar shubhdin’ sounds too strait-jacketed for an average malayal’s ears but you are only willing to forgive it for the joi-de-vivre she brings to the delivery. Powerful, exuberant and sheer joy, it is.

Song : Swayayamvar shubhadina
Lyrics : Mankombu Gopalkrishnan
Music : Ravindra Jain
Singer : Asha Bhosle

Lata Mangeshkar in Nellu

I still look for a place to hide whenever I listen to this Salilda composition. No, there is absolutely no question regarding the excellence with which it has been composed or for its timeless appeal, but having to sit through Lata Mangeshkar painfully traverse the unknown terrains of  a language which is a formidable mountain to most makes you shudder. The systematic butchery of words is enough to make you weep. I have a written a bit about the song here.

Song : Kadali, Chenkadali
Lyrics : Vayalar
Music : Sali Choudhary
Singer : Lata Mangeshkar

Lastly, another one for the Cheater’ List
Kabhi Khamosh Rahte Hai (Replayed from Azad) in Thaskaraveeran (1957)

Please do write in with those I may have missed.

14 thoughts on “Rafi, Kishoreda, Talat Mehmood, Lata, Asha and Malayalam cinema

  1. Let me add Sabita Chowdhury, wife of Salil chowdhury, also in this list of singers. The song Yehi To Hai Mere Khwabon Ka Jahan in Jeena Yahaan was composed in the tune of Poovili Poovili by Salil Chowdhury. Her songs in Malayalam include Oru Mugham Maathram Kannil(Etho oru swapnam), Kurumozhi Mulla Poove (Ee Ganam Marakkumo?), Mele Poomala (Madanotsavam), Vrischika Penne(St Thomas), In varu ten nilaave (Devadaasi), Mayilukalaadum Maalinitan teeram (Samayamaayilla Polum)


  2. what shall i say? i followed your trail to kadale neela kadaley… and once again, i am floundering helplessly in the blue depths of its achingly beautiful lyrics and the distinctive voice which made it…ah, distinctive.
    . as for the others in your list, i couldn’t bear to hear manasa maine sung by anyone else… don’t know any bengali to cringe… so to me its just a familiar song in dasettan’s velvet voice. among the recent imports, altho many wouldn’t agree with me, i have actually enjoyed adnan sami’s ‘chanchadiyadi’… has its own quirky charm…
    and back to my kadaley neela kadaley…. lemme go sink in its depths once again.

    1. Hi Alakananda,
      Glad you liked what you found at the end of the trail. true, Manasa Maina’s pathos have been so ingrained in our pysches that I fear it would almost become genetic :)The cringe factor affects you only when you are in your armchair-critic mode, but honestly Lataji pushes it with Kadali. I hope you have also watched the movie Dweepu, it comes very often as re-runs on the Kairali TV channel. Have a great weekend..regards..cinematters

  3. It was a pleasure and delight to listen to Lata Mangeshkar, Mannade and others singing Malayalam film songs. Also it was a variety to music listeners. No one felt any inappropriateness in them singing those songs under those gifted music directors. I fact, Kadali Chenkadali, Maanasa Maine Varoo and Kadale….Neelakkadale were unparalleled and unique in their musical perfection as well as in careful rendering. This variety which is mentioned here is very important in the field of music appreciation and enjoyment. These songs in fact still remind us that loveliness of voice is what distinguishes a singer from others. After Janaki, Suseela, Leela, Santha P. Nair and Jikki, none including Chithra and the subsequent ones, to tell frankly, had a lovely voice. This tendency of giving over importance to singers with no lovely voices was started by Devarajan when he introduced the shrilly and unpleasant voice of Madhuri. Since then, there has been not at all any sweet female voice in Malayalam Film Music. If I am free to speak what I feel, I think we were continuously fed with unqualified female voices that all seemed to coming out from throats with asthma. Fortunately this did not happen in the case of male voices.

    Variety of voices was also important during the times of old Malayalam cinema about which this article by Cinematters is. To express each emotion, music directors invited and engaged each singer. Thus we had A.M.Raja, K.P.Udayabhanu, P.B.Sreenivas, Kamukara and K.S.George to express a variety of emotions in the most appropriate singer’s voive. This scope for a variety of lofty voices was destroyed by beloved K.J.Jesudas whether he knew it or not. Since his heavenly voice came into the fore, everyone wanted only Jesudas. Others silently were pushed back and they gradually vanished from the silver screen like the micky mouse, leaving that expression alone there.

    There was a link provided above in this article regarding shifting of loyalties and the implementing of personal agendas. I read that linked article. It was like falling from a rose garden into a stinking flesh pit, especially after going through this proud article. Please withdraw that link. It is unnecessary and inappropriate in this article. I don’t think Jayachandran is a music director worth our attention, especially after his comment that S.Janaki is only coming to the right age to receive awards like Padma Bhushan. He is just a bag of hot air, inappropriately placed on a throne because, if not, someone undesirable would have jumped into that throne. ‘Mookkillaa Raajyatthu Murimookkan Raajaavu’ in paccha Malayalam.

    1. Dear Remesh Chandran,
      Thank you for that exhaustive set of perspectives and recollections. With regards to personal preferences over ‘suitability’ of vocals to songs rendered, all I can say is, to each his/her own.And the link was to enable access a related point of view, which at times, between the personalities involved, dangerously swings between personal attacks and questions over professional capabilities for starters. I am sure it also shows in contrast the way the media accessibilty has changed the scope of discussions when it comes to to the Web. Thanks again for passing through and writing in..regards..cinematters

  4. Hi

    Mahendra Kapoor sang “Saagarakanyaka” for Priya. Need not be as great as others; still he has his own follwers.

    Is a clipping of that song available?


    1. Hi Anil,
      That track is still on my “how-on-earth-can-I-track-this-down” set of tracks – I hope to find a copy one day. 🙂 MS Baburaj was the music director for Priya (1970) too, and I guess to him goes the credit of getting Talat and M Kapoor to sing in Malayalam. He had a distinct baritone, which I consider more ‘earthy and powerful’ than his peers, and like most, didn’t get the recognition and success he so deserved. Will surely keep you posted if I get my hands on the track. Thanks ..cinematters

      1. I feel this movie was aired on one of the channels recently( This just could be AMRITHA, though I am not too certain)

        If this could be a lead that can be pursued, best of luck!


      2. CM
        I’ve recorded the song sung by Mahendra Kapoor in the film Priya (Let me remind you that it is only Audio). The song reveals the different faces of Bombay. The film is shot at Bombay. The film was telecasted by Asianet and i believe that they have a copy of the film. This film is produced by Jammu and directed by Madhu.


  5. I feel that the bengali version lacks the haunting quality of “manasa maine”. Yesudas sounds uncomfortable singing it as well. ” Kadali” is one of my favorites despite the “butchery” 🙂

    1. Hi Sapna,
      You can say that again 🙂 Every time I listen to Kadali, I can’t help but think, “Where was S Janaki or P Susheela when Salilda was revamping it for the Malayalam screen? And also, more importantly, what was that ‘extra special’ aspect that Lata Mangeshkar’s rendering bring to the song, other than the unfailing capability to make one once, I have no idea. Thanks for writing in..Regards..cinematters

  6. How about the other song from Sujatha with the lyrics aasritha valsalane… it was sung by Hemalatha ( MANKOMBU GOPALAKRISHNAN ,R,JAIN )

    1. Hi,
      This was a compilation of the ‘obvious; as I stated. Hemalatha, with her collaborations with KJY is worthy enough fora series of articles..Will surely have that done soon. Regards..cinematters

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