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Duets of Subir Sen

The other day I was reading a post on the duets of Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar on Mehfil Mein Meri. It was then that I wondered that Subir Sen (1934-2015), who hailed from Bengal and whose voice was very similar to Hemant Kumar’s (1920-1989) also sang quite a few memorable songs in Hindi films, some of which were duets. Whether this similarity of their voices was preordained or not, the fact remains that Subir Sen’s prowess as a singer is unquestionable.

Subir Sen was more prolific in Bengali film music. He has sung only about 23 songs in Hindi films. He was an accomplished Rabindra Sangeet exponent. In fact, he rendered Rabindra Sangeet in the film Anubhav in which he made a cameo appearance and played himself. He pulls off the entire song – Sedin dujone dulechhinu bone – on the strength of his voice with the humble harmonium as the only music support. Subir Sen also composed music for a movie called Midnight (1972); this was released in England. The songs of this movie were sung by Rafi, Talat Mehmood, Geeta Dutt (one of her last songs) and Subir Sen himself. Here I present his duets – with eight different playback singers – to illustrate that he sang with many of his great contemporaries with élan.

Another contemporary whose voice was indistinguishable from Hemant Kumar’s was Dwijen Mukherjee (1927-2018). He was introduced to Hindi film music by Salil Chowdhury. He has only 8 Hindi film songs to his credit but even with that negligible a number, he has surely left his mark. I will include two of his duets too in this post.

Subir Sen’s duets

1) With Lata Mangeshkar – Main Rangeela Pyaar Ka Rahee (Choti Behen, 1959) – Lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri, Music Directors Shankar Jaikishan. This is a lovely tanga/tonga song picturized on Mehmood and Shubha Khote. The song has a wonderful rhythm as is the case with all horse cart songs. The laughter that is a part of the singing also makes the song unique. Mehmood and Shubha Khote lit up the screen and provided comic relief in many a movie. They were cast together in films like Beti Bete, Phoolon Ki sej, Sasural and Humraahi and have memorable duets.

[ Subir Sen has sung about 4 duets in all with Lata Mangeshkar. Apart from the one above, the others are Pyaar Mein Milna Sanam Hota Hain (Ardhangini, 1959), Gagan Ke Chanda Na Pooch Humse (Apne Hue Paraye, 1964), and Dhire Chalao Zara (Aas Ka Panchchi, 1961; Subir sounds like Mukesh in this song!). There is a song of the movie Boyfriend (1961) which has two versions – Dekho Na Jao O Jaan-e-man – the male version has been sung by Subir Sen and the female one by Lata Mangeshkar.]

2) With Asha Bhosle – Gar Tum Bura Na Mano to (Mehlon Ke Khwaab, 1960) Lyricist Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Music Director S.Mohinder. This playful Subir Sen – Asha Bhosle duet composed by the lesser known S.Mohinder is picturized on Pradeep Kumar and Madhubala. I feel Subir Sen’s voice has a tinge of Talat Mehmood in this song. This movie was produced by Madhubala herself. It was also the time when her health was deteriorating quite perceptibly because of her congenital heart defect. It is said that during the shooting of this movie Madhubala fainted and her sister, Chanchal, then stepped in her place and completed some of the remaining scenes of the movie.

[ Apart from this duet above, Subir Sen has sung only one more duet with Asha Bhosle. This is a melodious devotional song – Aa Ja Re Aa Ja Nain Dware – from the movie Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1962). ]

3) With Geeta Dutt – Gori Tere Natkhat Naina (Hum Bhi Insaan hain, 1959) Lyricist Shailendra, Music Director Hemant Kumar. This song perhaps shows how magnanimous Hemant Kumar was as a person. He got Subir Sen, his musical clone (as he is often referred to!) to sing a duet with Geeta Dutt instead of singing it himself; Hemant Kumar was happy being the music composer. Shailendra the lyricist has also worked wonders with his pen. This is a playful duet which both Subir and Geeta carry off with ease.

[ Subir Sen sang just one more duet with Geeta Dutt. This was Kya Kaha Zara Phir Kaho (Gangu, 1962) which has a catchy tune.]

The same movie has another wonderful (female) duet sung by Geeta Dutt and Suman Kalyanpur – Phulwa Band Mehke – that has a strong tinge (or fragrance should we say?!) of classical music to it, which showcases the depth of Hemant Kumar’s compositions. Shailendra’s lyrics also draw vivid parallels between the beauty of nature and that of a young woman.

4) With Suman Kalyanpur – Bahaare Lutake Nazaare Dikhake (Anarbala, 1961) Lyricist Ramesh Chandra Pandey, Music Director Bulo.C.Rani. This is a lovely duet of Subir Sen and Suman Kalyanpur and a rare gem in that one of the forgotten composer of the golden era – Bulo C Rani – composed the score. The lyricist Ramesh Chandra Pandey who penned songs for this movie was not very prolific. Of the forty odd songs that he wrote, a majority were for mythological movies.

[ Apart from this duet, Suman Kalyanpur sang only two more with Subir Sen. These were Chanda Salone Itna Bata De from the movie Sati Renuka (1961) and Chand Tale Jhoom Jhoom from the movie Jabse Tumhe Dekha Hain (1963). Both of these are very pleasing to the ear. ]

5) With Aarti Mukherjee – Jaago Anjaani Raajkumari (Ek Surat Do Dil, 1968) Lyricist Ramji Singh, Music Director Brijan Pal. This unknown, unheard duet is of a movie which is also quite nondescript. The lyricist and the music director too do not seem have left their footprints elsewhere. Yet, this song is pretty enjoyable. This is the only duet of Subir Sen with Aarti Mukherjee.

6) With Kamal Barot – Dil Leke Jaate Ho Kahaan (O Tera Kya Kehna, 1959) Lyricist Indeevar, Music Director Kalyanji Anandji. This playful duet picturized on Mehmood and Chitra (original name Afsar Unissa Begum) is the lone duet Subir sang with Kamal Barot. Both the music and the lyrics are lovely. It has all the elements of a typical Mehmood song. Kamal Barot is usually known for her female duets pairing with Asha, Suman or Lata, but this is one of those songs where she sings with a male playback singer.

7) With Poornima Seth – Kasam Na Dijiye ( Jadu Mahal, 1962) Lyricist Shevan Rizvi, Music Director Bulo.C.Rani. This is a loveable duet of Subir Sen from a fantasy film which is not well known. The female playback singer of this song – Poornima Seth – did not sing too many songs. This makes me wonder as to how many singing talents were around in the golden era. It is a pity that we have not even heard their names though we may have heard their songs and ascribed them, without much thought, to more established singers.

There is a view that the singer Poorna Seth is the same as Poornima Sethi. If this is true then she sang in three films – Jadu Mahal (1962), Paatal Nagri (1963) and Badshaah(1964).

8) With Mahendra Kapoor – Jeevan Ki Lambi Rahon Par (Pick Pocket, 1962) Lyricist Gulshan Bawra, Music Director Sardar Malik. This song is all about camaraderie. This is perhaps the only male duet that Subir Sen ever sang. Surprisingly, barring Mahendra Kapoor, he does not seem to have sung with any other male playback singer.

Dwijen Mukherjee’s Duets

Dwijen Mukherjee as already mentioned above has only about 8 film songs in Hindi, out of which 6 are duets, 1 is a trio and 1 a solo. Barring one song (Teri Aankh Se Ankh Milana) all the other songs have been composed by Salil Chowdhury.

1) With Lata Mangeshkar – Ai Dil Kahan Teri Manzil (Maya, 1961) Lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri, Music Director Salil Chowdhury. This iconic duet is not a duet in the real sense. Lata’s voice can only be heard along with the chorus in the interlude. In fact, the chorus here becomes the interlude. This was the hallmark of Salil Chowdhury’s music. Dwijen’s voice conveys despondency – which is the dominant emotion of the song – beautifully. There is Lata’s version of this song as well but there is no lead male voice in the chorus in her version.

[ Dwijen has sung three more duets with Lata, all of which are endearing. These are Phir Ek Baar Kaho (Maya, 1961), Duniya Na Dekhe Zamaana Na Jaane (Honeymoon, 1960) and Yeh Pyaar Ka Zamaana (Jawaahar,1960). ]

2) With Binota Chakraborty – Teri Aankh Se Aankh Milana (25th July, 1951) Lyricist B.M.Sharma, Music Director Nachiketa Ghosh. This is a rare duet and the soundtrack available (on YouTube) is not clearly audible. The name of the movie – 25th July (‘1951’ also seems to be a part of the movie’s name?!) – is quite unique. There is very little information available about the movie. The music director Nachiketa Ghosh was very popular in Bengal but did not compose many Hindi film songs. The singer Binota Chakraborty does not seem to have sung a noticeable number of songs in Hindi or Bengali.

[Other than the duets mentioned above, Dwijen sang one with Savita Banerjee – Nazar Se Mil Gayi Nazar (Sapne Suhane, 1961). ]

This post was written with the intention of chronicling the contribution of two great singers of the golden era, who were very talented. Both Subir and Dwijen amply show that it is not quantity but quality that matters. They sang with frontline singers and made their mark. At the same time, the fact that Hemant Kumar as a composer gave an opportunity to Subir to sing one of his compositions knowing fully well that their voices sounded very similar demonstrates how mature and open-hearted he was. This post also shows how many unsung lyricists, singers and music directors there are behind the scenes. Posts like these may perhaps help to highlight their achievements.

It is possible that both the singers may have sung more duets. I would be grateful if they can be added by avid music lovers who visit my blog.

As I researched, I also realized that Bengal has been blessed so abundantly with musical geniuses who did not shy away from experimentation and improvisation. Their accomplishments not only enriched Bengali film music but also added immense value to Hindi film music.

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