The unbeatable combination
Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishan. Dev Anand and S D Burman. Dilip Kumar and Naushad. The 1950s and 1960s witnessed many fortuitous hero-composer jugalbandis.
Though Dilip Kumar scored hits with other music directors like O P Nayyar (Naya Daur), Salil Chowdhury (Madhumati) and Shanker-Jaikishan (Daag), most of his blockbusters and some of the tragedy king's signature songs were scored by Naushad.
On Dilip Kumar's 80th birthday, Dinesh Raheja celebrates this collaboration with eight unforgettable films:
When Mela was being made, Naushad was a bigger star than Dilip Kumar. After a commercially unremarkable three-film stint at Bombay Talkies, Dilip had just started taking on freelance assignments. After golden jubilees like Rattan and Anmol Ghadi, whose success was fuelled to a great degree by their music, Naushad was a star.
The rather maudlin Mela was directed by S U Sunny. Naushad chose Mukesh as the main male voice of the movie, but Mohammed Rafi had the hit solo Yeh zindagi ke mele.
The score included such dulcet tunes like Dharti ko akash pukaare the inspiration for which Naushad is said to have got in his dreams. Mukesh imbued Gayeja geet milan ke with his characteristic emotionalism making Naushad's happy-forlorn tune hugely popular.
Whatever Mehboob Khan did, he did king-sized. He got titans Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar to star together for the first and last time. And he got Naushad to tailor a towering score to befit the grand occasion.
Naushad composed four unforgettable solos to be picturised on Dilip: Tu kahe agar, Toote na dil toote na, Jhoom jhoom ke and Hum aaj kahin dil kho baithe. All four were voiced by Mukesh (in a quaint role reversal of the pairs that were to be formed subsequently, Rafi gave playback for Raj Kapoor in the song Yun toh aapas mein).
Mukesh deftly distills the hope and pain of unrequited love in Majrooh Sultanpuri's lyrics (In bolon mein tu hu tu hai, main samjhoon ya tu jaane), as Dilip eloquently puts forth this famous piano-based Naushad gem to a blithely unaware Nargis.
Naushad zeroed in on Dilip Kumar as the hero of this film which he co-produced. Naturally, he gave it his best. The film is a soppy Dilip-Nargis-Munnawar triangle, but the soundtrack is arguably one of Naushad's most delicate scores. Naushad chose Talat Mehmood for Dilip's vocals, giving the golden-throated singer his first major commercial success.
Milte hi aankhen is that rare duet where the female voice faithfully repeats every line sung by the male singer. It could sounded repetitive but thanks to the collective talents of Naushad, Talat and Shamshad. It is as charming off screen as when picturised on Dilip and Munnawar.
With Mehboob Khan's 1952 colour blockbuster Aan, Rafi's name was added to the Naushad-Dilip combination.
Aan had a 100-piece orchestra but Naushad's melodies were not basted in overdone orchestra (witness the minimalistic Teri yaad ayee tere jaane ke baad).
Incidentally, Dilip Kumar was famous for his tragic Sisyphean roles by then, but Aan's light-hearted, horseback numbers like Dil mein chhupake pyar ka toofan or Maan mera ehsaan were a fresh change from the morose Rafi-Naushad numbers from Dilip's Deedar. Backed by a rhythmic backbeat, these songs encapsulated the spirit of the challenge flung by commoner Dilip to fiery princess Nadira.
Consider Dilip Kumar's confidence in himself. In the next Naushad-Dilip-Mehboob Khan film, Amar, there was no song for Dilip Kumar to sing! Then again in the Dilip Kumar-Naushad partnership, Mughul-e-Azam (1960), there was no song for the actor. Apparently, director K Asif was very clear: 'Woh Hindustan ka honewala baadshah hai -- woh gana nahin gayega.'
Udan Khatola (1955)
The two December-born artistes Naushad (December 25), and Dilip had formed a formidable team by the mid 50s.
While O door ke musafir, which Dilip Kumar sings in the climax of the film is intense, also worthwhile are the two playfully romantic numbers Na toofan se khelo na sahil se khelo, mere paas aao mere dil se khelo and Mohabbat ki raahon mein chalna sambhal ke, which are representative of the smoothly assertive way in which Dilip Kumar wooed his heroines in the 1950s.
1960, the year in which Mughal-e-Azam and Kohinoor were released, marks the apogee of the Dilip-Naushad collaboration. Naushad's affinity for classical Indian music is well-known and Dilip Kumar learnt to play the sitar for the Naushad's intricately classical composition, Madhuban mein Radhika.
If Dilip was famous for his homework, so was Naushad. He says, 'It used to take me 15-20 days for each song -- sochna, banana, mitana, phir banana, phir mitana.'
Ganga Jumna (1961)
It was but natural that Dilip chose Naushad for this home production. The star and the composer had influenced each other. They were both now doing roughly a film a year, and still thriving.
Till the late 1950s, there was still the occasional Talat Mahmood giving playback for Dilip Kumar in Devdas or Mukesh in Yehudi and Madhumati. But Naushad made Rafi Dilip's exclusive voice in the sixties.
In Ganga Jumna, though he characteristically reserved a chunk of the score for Lata Mangeshkar, he kept one light-hearted Rafi song to be picturised on Dilip Kumar. The song was Nain lad jaye hai -- where Dilip surprised moviegoers by vigorously dancing to the tune as well.
Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966)
The Dilip-Naushad team met with many tepid responses at the box-office in the 1964-1968 phase in films like Leader, Dil Diya Dard Liya and Sangharsh. The success of Ram Aur Shyam could not halt the trend. And in the 1970s, Dilip Kumar's producers moved on to new generation composers like Kalyanji Anandji (Bairaag) and Laxmikant Pyarelal (Daastaan).
But films like Dil Diya Dard Liya, while trying to reinterpret Withering Heights, continued to have their rewards musically. One masterly mood melody from the film is Koi saagar dil ko behlata nahin. Constant collaborator lyricist Shakeel Badayuni recaptured the quintessential magic of a Dilip Kumar-Naushad sad song with his poignant lines:
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