He was known as the voice of Raj Kapoor – he was synonymous to almost all hit songs attributed to the late actor, director and producer. The combination of Raj Kapoor as actor, Mukesh as male vocalist, Shankar-Jaikishan as Music Directors and Shailendra as lyricist created many magical offerings. Many other top heroes of those times including Manoj Kumar, Feroz Khan, Sunil Dutt would request that his voice be the playback for their songs. Let us wish the legendary singer Mukesh Chand Mathur, popular to the world as Mukesh, on his birth anniversary.

Born in Delhi on 22nd July 1923, Mukesh was the sixth of ten children of Zorawar Chand Mathur, who was an Engineer, and Chandrani Mathur. His love for singing was noticeable at an early age, when he secretly listened to his elder sister being taught music. To further improve his singing abilities and also learn playing musical instruments, he gave up his studies after the 10th standard.

Actor Motilal, who happened to be a distant relative of the family, first noticed a spark in Mukesh’s voice, when he was performing at the wedding of his sister. He arranged for Mukesh’s training under Pandit Jagannath Prasad after bringing him to Mumbai and even gave him his first offer as a playback singer in the movie Pehli Nazar (1945) for which Anil Biswas had composed the music. Mukesh, at that point, idolized the legendary K.L. Sehgal, and this particular song “Dil Jalta Hai Toh Jalne De” was sung so much with Saigal’s mannerisms that the legend himself was confused as to when he had sung this song.

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Music Director Naushad Ali helped Mukesh nurture a single style of his own and his first movie thereafter as playback was Andaz (1949), where he was the playback for Dilip Kumar and Mohd. Rafi
gave voice to Raj Kapoor’s songs. However, the tables would turn in the future and he would become the preferred voice of Raj Kapoor whereas Dilip Kumar chose Rafi Saab, though he did sing some memorable songs for Dilip Kumar including “Dil Tadap Tadap ke keh raha hai aa bhi jaa” from Madhumati.

Shankar- Jaikishan and Kalyanji Anandji were the music composers with whom he forged long partnerships, singing 133 and 99 songs respectively for the two musical duos. He had a glorious career and sang more than 1300 songs. In the 1970s, he reduced singing a bit, as his health was not very supportive but this was the period when he won his only National Award for the song “Kai Baar Yuhi Dekha Hai” from the movie Rajnigandha (1974).

Mukesh had also won 4 Filmfare Awards for “Sab Kuch Seekha Humne” from Anari (1959), “Sabse Bada Nadaan” from Pehchaan (1970), “Jai Bolo Be-imaan Ki” from Be-imaan (1974) and of course the legendary song “Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein Khayal Aata Hai” from the movie “Kabhi Kabhi”.

On the personal front his life was also filmy, to an extent, as he eloped with his would-be wife Sarla Triveni Raichand, as her millionaire father did not have much regard for singers, as they did not have any stable income. They got married on 22nd July 1946 (23rd birthday of Mukesh) at a temple in Kandivili, Mumbai and together overcame all hardships life threw at them and had a married life of 30 years, which was only cut short by the singers’ death. They had 5 children – Ritin, Nitin (who became a famous playback singer following father’s path), Nalini (passed away in 1978), Namrata and Mohnish. Nitin’s son, Neil Nitin Mukesh is currently a successful actor in Bollywood.

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Mukesh’s death came all of a sudden, though he had been experiencing health complications throughout the 1970s. On 27th August 1976, he passed away, aged only 53, after suffering a cardiac arrest at Detroit, Michigan, USA, where he had gone for performing a concert with Lata Mangeshkar and other artists. His body was accompanied back to India by Lata Mangeshkar and the entire film fraternity paid him glowing tributes at his funeral.

Let us remember this legendary artist on his 97th Birth Anniversary!

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Management graduate with 20 years experience serving in Senior Management role, from Guwahati but currently based in Mumbai, writer by passion regularly blogging on happenings across the world!

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