Once in his lifetime, actor Dilip Kumar sang. The song was Laagi nahi chhute, a duet with Lata Mangeshkar in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Musafir (1957). However, some of the film industry’s most iconic melodies were picturised on the legendary actor who passed away at 98. Here is a curated list.
Songs from the film Naya Daur (1957)
With the ‘man v/s machine’ theme in the background of this milestone film, BR Chopra’s Naya Daur — with tunes by OP Nayyar and lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi — had several memorable songs. Several compositions were ingrained in Punjabi folk, which, for the first time, was presented in such a refreshing manner. Be it the soft and romantic Maang ke saath tumhara with Nayyar’s trademark “ghudtaal” (the clip clop of the horse’s hooves) as the song’s beat or the evergreen Ude jab jab zulfein teri, Shamshad Begum and Asha Bhosle’s Reshmi salwaar kurta jaali ka, and the deshbhakti song Ye desh hai veer jawano ko and the work song, Saathi haath badhana — all of them remain etched in collective memory. Almost every tune from Naya Daur reminds of Kumar and Vyjanthimala on screen. This was commercial film music in its finest hour.
Apni azadi ko hum hargiz mita sakte nahi (Leader, 1964)
The song from the Dilip Kumar and Vyjanthimala starrer became synonymous with patriotism and revolution. It spoke of azadi — a concept pivotal to the idea of the Indian nation-state. In a newly independent India, the song struck a chord and is still sung like a slogan.
Ik shehenshah ne banwa ke haseen Taj Mahal (Leader, 1964)
Another absolute gem from Leader. Be it the sensational sarangi and sitar prelude or composer Naushad’s impeccable composition in Lalit, the poignant morning raga, Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar pulled off one of Naushad’s most intricate, thoughtful, and soulful compositions. The effortlessness with which Kumar lip syncs this complex song, with all of Rafi’s murkis and slides in place while presenting it, is splendid to watch.
Madhuban mein radhika naachi re (Kohinoor, 1960)
As the famed story goes, Dilip Kumar asked for a delay in the song’s shoot because he wanted to perfect the presentation of the song. He took sitar lessons from Ustad Halim Jaffer Khan, known for his quintessential Jafferkhani baaj. A labyrinthine composition in raag Hamir, Rafi sang this to perfection and one will never be able to forget Kumar’s delightful display. Even memorising the difficult taraana in the end.
Do sitaaron ka zameen par hai milan (Kohinoor, 1960)
Based in the romantic raag Pahadi, which straddles folk and classical music equally well, this Naushad composition sung by Rafi and Mangeshkar, opens with a theka on the tabla and is picturised on Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari, who look regal in this piece. The soundtrack of Kohinoor remains a cult classic.
Suhana safar aur ye mausam haseen (Madhumati, 1958)
The Salil Chaudhury composition in Bimal Roy’s masterpiece of a film and Shailendra’s lyrics in gentle shades of part philosophy and part fact with Mukesh’s voice is unforgettable. Dilip Kumar, with his sweater tied around his neck, delivers the ditty on-screen with simplicity, the way it’s meant to be.
Dil tadap tadap ke (Madhumati, 1958)
Salil Chaudhury, the composer, had once said that the song was based on a Hungarian melody. Though sung in Hungary at weddings and happy occasions, the melody is actually a folk song in Poland. Sung by Mangeshkar and Mukesh, Chowdhury transformed the song and has made it sound like a modern melody for the ’50s.
Sham-e-gham ki qasam (Footpath, 1953)
The melody allowed people to stumble onto composer Khayyam. Sung by Talat Mehmood, his silken voice in place, the song brings alive the ‘tragedy king’ image of Dilip Kumar. With the theme of black marketing in the background and the film was laid out in the world of the poor and homeless. This gentle ghazal with a waltz for rhythm remains a significant ditty in Kumar’s career.
Nain lad jai hai (Ganga Jumna, 1961)
Mohammad Rafi sings this piece perfectly in Awadhi. While one marvels at his excellent diction and musicality, Naushad’s prowess in folk music too needs to be applauded. Dilip Kumar, performing for the village, dances to this folk song with impeccable charm. The song starts at a medium pace but gets faster towards the crescendo, raising the pitch alongside. A melody that will always remind us of a happy and impish Dilip Kumar.