Ten of my favourite Hemant songs – as a composer

There is already a ‘Ten of my favourite Hemant songs’ list on this blog, compiled in the very early days of my blogging. Those songs were of Hemant singing; songs like Tum pukaar lo, where the haunting beauty of Hemant’s voice immortalized a song for me.

This list, to differentiate it from that one, is of songs composed by Hemant—since Hemant, besides possessing a beautiful voice, was also a very talented composer. And today being the birth centenary of Hemant, it would be unforgivable for me to not post a tribute to one of my favourites from Hindi film music.

Born on 16th June, 1920 in Benares, Hemant grew up in Calcutta, where he dabbled in various fields: writing short stories now and then, enrolling at Jadavpur to study engineering—but eventually deciding that music was where his heart lay. He first began as a singer, recording a song in 1935 for All India Radio. Starting from 1941, he began singing film songs—first for Bengali cinema and later for Hindi cinema as well. Interestingly, Hemant’s tendency to emulate his hero, Pankaj Mullick, was so pronounced that it led to him being nicknamed ‘Chhoto Pankaj’ (‘Little Pankaj’).

In the late 1940s, with the Bengali film Abhiyatri (1947), Hemant also made a transition into composing music for cinema. A few years later, at the invitation of the director Hemen Gupta, who had moved to Bombay, Hemant too shifted there to compose music for Gupta’s Anandmath. Over the decades to come, Hemant composed music for well over hundreds of Bengali and Hindi films, some TV series, as well as an English language film (Siddhartha, 1972).  Besides, he continued to sing both in cinema and off it, and from 1959 onwards, began to produce films as well.

So, as tribute, ten of my favourite songs composed by Hemant. As always, these are all from pre-1970s Hindi films that I’ve seen, and there are no two songs from the same film. Also, to distinguish this from my post on Hemant as a singer, I’ve made sure that none of the songs from that post figure on this one.

In no particular order:

1. Woh shaam kuchh ajeeb thhi (Khamoshi, 1969): If I were asked to name my very favourite Hemant song, whether sung by him or composed by him, it would be Tum pukaar lo. But, since I promised myself I wouldn’t repeat any of the songs from my ‘songs sung by Hemant’ list, I’m choosing another song from Khamoshi to begin this list. Hemant composed four songs for this tragic, tumultuous film, and of those four, this comes for me at #2. Kishore Kumar, singing playback for Rajesh Khanna, does full justice to the gentle, loving tune Hemant creates here. The music, with the tabla providing an almost continuous accompaniment—with the swelling of violins (?) and what sounds like the barely-heard voices of a chorus—strikes me as perfect to depict a song picturized aboard a boat.

2. Koi door se aawaaz de (Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, 1962): Long back, I had started compiling a list of ‘gooseflesh inducers’: songs that are utterly haunting. At the top of that list was Koi door se aawaaz de chale aao. I have a very long association with this absolutely beautiful song: when I was a child, my parents had a ‘Best of Geeta Dutt’ LP, and this was part of that compilation. Shakeel Badayuni’s lyrics are beautiful, and Geeta’s voice expresses the heartache and longing of the neglected Chhoti Bahu perfectly. And Hemant gives it the music that melds the voice and the lyrics together in such a way that the emotion—both in the lyrics and which Geeta portrays—holds centrestage. The music itself is very subdued, barely there. Exquisite.

3. Zara nazron se keh do ji (Bees Saal Baad, 1962): Hemant sang playback for Biswajeet in a lot of films—the softness and somewhat Bengali-ness (forgive the stereotyping; I cannot find a better way of putting this!) seemed to be a perfect fit for the actor. Hemant even ended up composing the music for several Biswajeet starrers, including Kohraa, Bin Badal Barsaat, Biwi aur Makaan, and Do Dil. And Bees Saal Baad, Biswajeet’s very first Hindi film. Beqaraar karke humein yoon na jaaiye was a song I included in my ‘Hemant sings’ list, so here I’ll feature my other most favourite song from the film. A playful, teasingly romantic song with cute little twirls and twists in the music.

4. Jhoom-jhoom dhalti raat (Kohraa, 1964): Another Biswajeet film, and another haunting song. Jhoom-jhoom dhalti raat appears in two versions in Kohraa, and both—one slightly less despairing than the other—are memorable. The music remains the same in both songs, it’s mainly the words that change. A song of pain, of loneliness, of leaving the world behind: and how brilliantly Hemant puts it to music, inserting those inspired pauses, those silences just before Lata’s voice again commences singing. I love that—the way she keeps singing, and then, just before the last line of each stanza, she pauses and the silence takes over. Then, when she sings the last line, it’s only her singing, with no musical instruments as accompaniment. Her voice echoes in the silence, highlighting the loneliness of this woman. Genius.

5. Kuchh dil ne kaha (Anupama, 1966): Hemant was one of those composers who seems to have been very good at recognizing good lyrics, and of having the necessary sense (and grace) to tailor the music to act only as a sort of backdrop to highlight the lyrics. With great lyrics—see Tum pukaar lo, Jhoom-jhoom dhalti raat, Koi door se aawaaz de, etc—he composed muted, subtle tunes that do not impress because of the flamboyance of the music, but simply because they are so gentle. Kuchh dil ne kaha is another example of this particular skill of Hemant’s.  Kaifi Azmi’s lyrics are the aching words of a timid, submissive girl who has only ever known rejection from her father. The softness of Hemant’s music, the near-whisper of Lata’s voice at times: so lovely an expression of the lyrics.

6. Gumsum sa yeh jahaan (Duniya Jhukti Hai, 1960): This is one of those songs for which I can pretty much pinpoint where I first heard it—it was on a ‘Best of Geeta Dutt Duets’ CD which my father had bought when I was perhaps in my early twenties. The rest of the songs on that list were old favourites of mine; Gumsum sa yeh jahaan was new to me—and, from the moment I first heard it, I fell in love with it. So much that I watched Duniya Jhukti Hai (an otherwise forgettable film, though it starred two of my favourite actors) just for this song. Although what struck me first was the sheer beauty in the way Geeta’s and Hemant’s voices blend together here, I also really like Hemant’s composition of it. The echoing “O-o-o” of the beginning, followed by that lilting music before the (equally lilting) voices begin. The tune is simple, uncomplicated—but there’s an elegance to that simplicity which I really love.

7. Saanwle-salone aaye din bahaar ke (Ek Hi Raasta, 1956): Sunil Dutt starred in several films for which Hemant composed the music. Ek Hi Raasta, while Ashok Kumar was the leading man for the bulk of the story, started off with Sunil Dutt paired with Meena Kumari, the two acting as a much-in-love couple, with a pampered and precocious child (Daisy Irani in one of pretty much cookie-cutter roles she played). In this song, as the little family sets off on a picnic in the countryside, Hemant composes a lovely, chirpy little duet which has all the pep and cheeriness of the sort of song I tend to usually associate with OP Nayyar. The rhythm is delightful, and the harmonica coming in here and there, the way Lata and Hemant take turns to sing alternate words or phrases: all contribute to make this a song which evokes spring perfectly.

8. Hawaaon pe likh do hawaaon ke naam (Do Dooni Chaar, 1970): Hemant and Kishore Kumar had, from what I can tell of their collaborations, a fruitful relationship. Both were composers as well as singers, and there are many instances of Kishore singing songs composed by Hemant (Woh shaam kuchh ajeeb thhi, Ek roz hamaari bhi daal galegi, etc) and the other way round—for example, the beautiful credits song of Door Gagan ki Chhaon Mein). In Do Dooni Chaar (a rejig of Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors) Hemant composes the music for a lovely song in praise of nature. I love the way he is able to give us a glimpse of nature through the music itself, fitting the tune so well to the images conjured up by Gulzar’s lyrics: the rippling of the water, the tweeting of the birds, the sunshine…

9. Na yeh chaand hoga (Shart, 1954): Before I actually watched Shart, whenever I’d watch Na yeh chaand hoga, I’d think: this is a really sad, melodramatic film. These two are being separated forever and ever (Deepak, whom I don’t recall having seen in any other film, has this effect on me). Shart turned out to be quite different from what I imagined: Shyama’s character spends most of the film being harried and pursued by a psychotic IS Johar, who wants her to marry him, or (failing that) murder his uncle—either option will enable him to inherit. Shyama, however, falls in love with Deepak, and he (a cop in training) only discovers much later that his beloved is accused of murder (she’s been framed, though he doesn’t know it). But, heartbroken at her treachery, he decides to part ways, by singing the song he had heard her sing as a lullaby to her little brother.

Na yeh chaand hoga has two versions, the first sung by Geeta Dutt for Shyama. While that one’s beautiful too, this version, by Hemant himself, is for me the better one. His voice is so mellifluous and velvet (and of course, his music is so good).

10. Pyaar ki daastaan tum suno toh kahein (Faraar, 1965): Faraar is one of those many films I’ve watched simply because of one song; in this case, Pyaar ki daastaan tum suno toh kahein. Interestingly enough, this film did not just have its music composed by Hemant; it was even produced by Hemant, and he brought in two members of his family to sing for it. Hemant’s wife Bela Mukherjee sang Ae deendayal daya do humein, and their daughter Ranu Mukherjee sang Mera qaatil haseen qaatil, singing playback for Helen in what struck me as an offbeat and unexpected choice of voice.

But, back to Pyaar ki daastaan, for which Hemant opted for Lata’s rather more conventional voice, given that it was to be lip-synced by the film’s heroine, played by Shabnam. A lovely, melodious song, lots of sitar and tabla notes providing the accompaniment.

Thank you for the music, Hemantda. May your songs live on.

47 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite Hemant songs – as a composer

  1. Great list as always.

    The Saheb Bibi aur Ghulam song is a masterpiece. Want to hear more even if it leaves you feeling sad.

    I am a Telugu person born and grew up in Hyderabad. Whenever I meet a Bengali person, I search for the first opportunity to mention how much I love Hemant Kumar. Successful – Singer & MD in Hindi as well as Bengali, Rabindra Sangeet and Successful Film Producer. And Guru to Kalyanji and Ravi

    Just wanted to convey how much I love him, even if you dont happen to be a Bengali (I am assuming) :-)

    • “Just wanted to convey how much I love him, even if you dont happen to be a Bengali (I am assuming) :-)

      I love him a lot too. :-) Even though I’m only one-fourths Bengali! He’s simply superb, and his voice is exquisite.

  2. This is a lovely list Madhu…..Apart from having a deep resonant voice, he was a great composer as well. One of my favourite Hemant compositions is Tum Pukaar Lo – the music, humming, the lyrics and the singing make this an awesome haunting song that keeps reverberating in your head many times after you heard it.

    As you highlight in some of his compositions, he brings out the emotion in the lyrics very well. Ya Dil Ki Suno from Anupama is sung with so much of pathos that the lyrics and pathos really move you to tears. Another great song with some of the most sensitive lyrics about love is Humne Dekhi Hai from Khamoshi. Hemant does not drown these type of songs in music, but makes the songs and lyrics memorable with beautifully composed tunes. The following lyrics from Humne Dekhi Hai with emphasis on Khamoshi capture the depth of love beautifully.

    Pyar koi bol nahin, Pyar awaaz nahin

    Ek khamoshi hai sunti hai kahaa karti hai

    Noor ki boond hai

    Sadiyon se bahaa karti hai

    Sirf ehsaas hai yeh, rooh se mehsoos karo

    Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam na do

    • You’re very right about him understanding the depth of the lyrics and letting them take centrestage instead of drowning them out with flamboyant orchestration. The words you have quoted above are stunning in that respect – actually, so is Tum pukaar lo: the music is fairly minimal even there, it’s Hemant’s voice which makes that song what it is, and the emotion he manages to express is so deep.

  3. Hi Madhu,

    A great post, as always…..
    Thank you!

    Director Basu Chatterjee worked with Hemant Kumar on the 1978 film
     “Do Ladke Dono Kadke” (featuring Amol Palekar, Moushami Chatterjee and others…).

    (Produced by Jayantha Mukherjee, Hemant Kumar’s son).

    Here are two songs from the film “Do Ladke Dono Kadke (1978).
    ——————————————————————-
    (1) 

    “Kise Khabar, Kahan Dagar”

    Singer : K. J. Yesudas
    Lyrics: Yogesh
    Music Director: Hemant Kumar   


      

    and 

    (2)  the duet

    “Chanda ki Doli Mein”

    Singers : Asha Bhosle, K. J. Yesudas
    Lyrics: Yogesh    
    Music Director: Hemant Kumar

    ——————————————————
    Spoiler alert ( of a sort….) “Do Ladke Dono Kadke” (1978)
    is among the 15 films on which Basu Chatterjee and K K Mahajan worked together, beginning with “Sara Akash” (1969).

    Anticipating….a great post from you on Basu Chatterjee, and all those memorable songs from his films…..

    Praba Mahajan

    • Thank you for these songs, Praba (see, I remembered you don’t like to be called ‘Prabaji’!). I have heard of Do Ladke Dono Kadke, but wasn’t familiar with its music. Nice songs!

      I’d thought of doing a Basu Chatterjee tribute post, but since this blog focuses on pre-70s films and he made only Sara Akash in the 60s (as far as I know), it’s a bit restrictive. Anu, however, did a lovely tribute post which I liked a lot:

      https://anuradhawarrier.blogspot.com/2020/06/the-masters-basu-chatterjee_8.html

    • Hi Praba, this is Anirudha.

      Here is the original Hemant Kumar composition which was used as the template for Chanda ki doli mein. Filmed on Sonali Gupta. I continue to have a crush on her :)

        • Thanks Anirudha for giving the link to the original Bengali version, “Eso eso priyo amar ghare”, the original template for “Chanda ki doli Mein”.

          There was also a reference, by Soumya Banerji to a Bengali version
          “Prem Ekbari Esechhilo Neeerabe”  and to  “Aaj Rona Pada To Samjhe” in Hindi.

          Madhu, do hope you will consider including these two songs in Bengali,  composed by Hemant Kumar
          (esp. the inspirational “O Nadire, Ekti Katha”),
           even though they are not Bengali versions of songs in Hindi …….

          From Mrinal Sen’s “Neel Akasher Neechey” -1959  with Hemant Kumar as Producer, Music Director and Singer.
          ——————————————————————————-

          (1)

          Song : “O Nadire, Ekti Katha”
          গান : ও নদীরে, একটি কথা
          Movie : Neel Akasher Neechey
          Artist : Hemanta Mukherjee
          Music Director : Hemanta Mukherjee
          Lyricist : Gauriprasanna Mazumder
          Director : Mrinal Sen
          Cast : Kali Banerjee, Manju Dey, Bikash Roy
          Release : 1959    

          LINK:

          ——————————————————————————-

          (2)

          Song :” Neel Akasher Neechey Ei Prithibi”
          গান : নীল আকাশের নিচে
          Movie : Neel Akasher Neechey
          Artist : Hemanta Mukherjee
          Music Director : Hemanta Mukherjee
          Lyricist : Gauri Prasanna Mazumder
          Director : Mrinal Sen
          Cast : Kali Banerjee, Manju Dey, Bikash Roy    
          Release : 1959

          LINK:

          ———————————————————————————————————And here are some rare photographs of Hemant Kumar, (as also one with director Mrinal Sen), taken on the occasion of the screening of “Neel Akasher Neechey” at Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

          http://mrinalsen.org/images/neel3f.jpg  

          http://mrinalsen.org/images/neel4f.jpg  

          http://mrinalsen.org/images/neel5f.jpg  

          http://mrinalsen.org/images/neel7f.jpg  

          For more info,  Please see:

          http://mrinalsen.org/neel_akasher_niche.htm  
          via
          mrinalsen.org
          ——————————————————–

          • Thank you so much for these! I love it when people offer songs from other languages too that fit the theme, and these two were lovely. I was already familiar with O nodi re, so that was even better for me. :-)

            The photos were interesting too, thank you.

            • Hi again,

              Thanks Madhu!

              Just realised that for some inexplicable reason, the LINK to the 1st song did not work….

              Here it is, once more, with feeling…
              (Fingers crossed, it works this time around)

          • Hi Praba, Prem ekbaari eshechilo nirobe and the other Bengali songs you mentioned are very famous songs. Aaj rona pada is one song where I think Kishore faltered. This I am saying as one of the biggest fans of Kishore Kumar

        • Not a very well know song. The film did not have a great run, and the song faded out… in no time. I am a Bengali, hence I know. The leading lady was Dinen Gupta’s daughter and extremely beautiful. She came back to do a film after three decades around 2014-5.

  4. How nice to read another post in quick succession, Madhu. I honestly preferred Hemant Kumar as a composer than a singer, and all the songs in your list would have appeared in several of mine. Kahin door se awaaz do is a particular favourite. It’s really goose-flesh inducing.

    Khamoshi had such lovely songs – apart from the two you mentioned, I was going to add Humne dekhi hai in aankhon ki mehakti khushboo which is a particular favourite, but I notice that it’s been mentioned.

    I’d like to mention a Kishore-Asha duet that is so unlike the Hemant Kumar one usually knows. From GirlfriendBoom booma boom.

    This lovely one from Miss Mary – Sakhi ri sun bole

    The entire score was great, and it included the zany Gaana na aaya bajaana na aaya as well as the quietly romantic O raat ke musafir.

    Chup gaya koi re from Champakali

    And this one, Lata is so meditative in this.
    Ye hawa ye fiza from Ek Jhalak

    • Thank you, Anu! For the appreciation, and for the songs. I especially love Chhup gaya koi re (I wish I’d remembered that) and Boom booma boom – yes, that’s quite an unusual Hemant composition, more the sort of song I’d expect of Shankar-Jaikishan or OP Nayyar. Incidentally, another song from Girlfriend that I like a lot is this one, Kashti ka khamosh safar:

  5. A great list Madhuji.
    Enjoyed every song.
    But oh! I missed his birth centenary year. So Sad!
    I’m into Anil Biswas posts, and a bit too busy with patients as well. I didn’t realize it in time.
    Anyway, next year, I hope. I love Hemant kumar songs, both sung and composed. More so the latter.
    :-)

  6. Hemant Kumar did not have a prodigious output in Hindi films but whatever he composed was gold. Nice selection, Madhu – all in my list of favorites. One song that you did not include but I love very much is “Aaj Rona Pada To Samjhe”.

    The bengali version –

  7. This is a good list as always, Madhu. But my own list would start with song scenes that included the great South Indian dancers. :)

    I may have posted this one for some other list of yours. I post it wherever and whenever I can:

    And there’s this song, which might be the first Hemant Kumar song that I ever heard (and I suspect I’m not the only one :) ):

    • I’m glad you enjoyed this list, Richard! Jaa re saanwle-salone has some lovely dancing indeed, and Mann dole mera tann dole is probably among the first Hemant songs I heard too, though I can’t be certain. That honour may go to Koi door se aawaaz de, since it was part of a Geeta Dutt LP that my parents used to play a lot when I was a child.

  8. Madhu,
    This is an outstanding collection of songs. We know him more as a singer. But as a composer also he gave us some of the greatest songs. I am especially fond of two Lat Mangeshkar songs ‘Chhup gaya koi re door se pukar ke’ and ‘Pyasi hirni ban ban dhaaye koi shikari aye re’.
    AK

    • Thank you, AK. Chhup gaya koi re door se pukaar ke is also a song I like a lot. Pyaasi hirni ban-ban dhaaye was new to me, but am listening to it right now and liking it. Nice!

  9. Hi Madhu!

    What a fabulous post on composer Hemant Kumar!

    Did send out a post in reply yesterday, with Links to 2 songs composed by Hemant Kumar for a film produced by his son, Jayantha Mukherjee, directed by Basu Chatterjee. (“Do Ladke,Dono Kadke”- 1978, one to a song by Yesudas, and the other to a duet by Asha Bhonsle and Yesudas)

    Thanks for all that you do!

    Praba Mahajan

    • WordPress tends to regard posts with two or more links as suspicious, sometimes. :-) So your earlier post popped up as ‘to be approved’.

      You’re very welcome, thank you for reading!

  10. I join in the love for Hemant Kumar, the music director, and you’ve included some of my favorites (woh shaam kuch, pyar ki dastaan, koi door see, hawaaon pe likh do) by him in your list.

    Here are a couple more that haven’t been mentioned yet. Interestingly, they’re all duets..

    Phulwa ban mehke – Hum Bhi Insaan Hai/Geeta Dutt – Suman Kalyanpur/Shailendra

    Ek baar zara phir keh do – Bin Badal Barsaat/Hemant – Lata Mangeshkar/Shakeel Badayuni

    Yeh mehfil sitaron ki – Arab Ka Saudagar/Asha Bhonsle – Hemant/SH Bihari

    • Lovely songs, Shalini! I especially love Yeh mehfil sitaaron ki: so dreamy. I should’ve remembered the song from Bin Badal Barsaat since I’ve seen the film, but I guess the overall idiocy of the film itself blanked out even the songs for me. :-(

    • Hi Shalini

      Phulwa ban meheke is actually a Nachiketa Ghosh composition that HK used. Probably with his permission. I would like to go deep into this for more than one reason

  11. Love Hemanta Mukherjee, both as a singer and a composer!

    I wasn’t alive during Hemanta Mukherjee’s lifetime, but I grew up with his music courtesy of my mom’s side of the family. He created, what I feel, one of the best Bengali movie songs ever, ‘Ei raat tomar amar’ from “Deep Jwele Jaai”. The tune was reused by him for the movie “Kohra” as ‘Yeh nayan dare-dare’, but the Bengali version is so dreamy!

    I’m not exactly an ardent Lata Mangeshkar fan, but in my mind, ‘Kuchh dil ne kaha’ is a near perfect song.

    • I second the vote for Ei raat tomaar-amaar. I know barely a handful of songs from Bengali cinema, but that one is absolutely the best of all that I’ve heard. I remember watching Deep Jwele Jaai and springing out of my chair when that song came on, because I recognized the tune, of course. I personally love that more than Yeh nayan dare-dare.

      After all that love for the song, I really must listen to it again. And add it here:

  12. Loved this, as always. My favourites among these…Koi door se aawaaz de…(what. a. song!), kucch dil ne kaha (which my Bengali friend used to sing to perfection, during college day. I still associate this song with her. Coincidentally, her name also began with Anu…as the movie) and of course, Hawaon pe likh do (in which of course the lyrics are the star, but the I love the flute interludes)

    • Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I liked your memory of your friend singing Kuchh dil ne kaha – it reminded me of a school friend of mine (coincidentally, also a Bengali) who used to sing Ae mere pyaare watan beautifully. To this day I associate that song with her.

  13. Madhuji, It was nice to read and hear about Hemant Kumar. I have always liked his singing and his music from the time I was in college. Those slow compositions of his even now sound fresh and a treat for the ears. From this selection, the songs of Khamoshi, Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, Kohraa, Anupama, Do Dooni Char and Shart are my personal favorites too. Thanks for the post.

  14. Lovely songs,as always. Went to the link from the opening para to the list of songs sung by Hemant Kumar posted in 2010. Really liked the song from the film ‘detective’, so melodious and the voice of Hemant and Geeta Dutt, simply sublime, music , lyrics all in all a great song. Have listed to it already six times in two days.
    Thanks for the memories.
    Girish Vaidya

  15. When I was growing up and TSeries started coming up with those collection cassettes, I remember going on long road journeys with Kishore Kumar, Geeta Dutt, Manna De, Md Rafi, but never Hemant Da. In fact, my earliest memory of Hemant Da, the singer, is when I watched Khamoshi in college. This was followed with Kohra and Anupama. And then it took me an even longer time to know that Hemant Da was a composer :-)
    His music really is brilliant, no? And his voice is so soothing! Thank you for this post.

  16. Hi I cant find a link to to the song.
    But here is the movie

    Watch from 1:55:46
    A beautiful composition by hemant ji. Singer is Hemant ji and Lata

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