One Voice, Two Faces: Ten of my favourite ‘one-singer-duets’

One playback singer sings for two (or, in some cases, more than two) people who lip-sync to the song onscreen. Within the same song, not two different versions of the song.

You’d have thought that wouldn’t be very common, given that a lot of our playback singers have had such distinctive voices that you wouldn’t expect two people in the same setting to be singing with that same voice. But then, reality and Hindi cinema have never been the best of friends; and anyway, there were probably other considerations: one singer is cheaper than two; it’s easier to get recording dates if you don’t have to juggle dates for two people; and all said and done, Hindi cinema is all about the willing suspension of disbelief. If three women (or four, or five) can all ‘sing’ in Shamshad Begum’s voice, so be it.

So here it is: a list of ten songs in which one playback singer has sung for two or more actors. As always, these are all from pre-1970s Hindi films that I’ve seen.

1. Aake seedhi lagi dil pe (Half Ticket, 1962): This was the first song that came to my mind when I began compiling this list, because Aake seedhi lagi dil pe is such a unique song. The story goes that Lata Mangeshkar was supposed to have sung the female part for this duet, but couldn’t (for reasons I haven’t been able to get hold of) come for the recording. Kishore, for whose man-in-drag character Lata was supposed to be singing, then persuaded the music director, Salil Chowdhury, to let him sing playback for himself. In any case, Kishore was going to be singing playback for Pran.

Thus we have this hilarious song. Kishore sings falsetto for himself and sings in his regular voice for Pran. The mayhem and the fun are echoed in the antics onscreen, as Pran pursues the ‘gypsy woman’ Kishore. Utterly nutty, and possibly the only example from old Hindi cinema of someone singing in two different voices in the same song.

2. Holi aayi re Kanhaai (Mother India, 1957): I have a confession to make: I find it impossible to differentiate between the voices of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle. Several other female playback singers, like Usha Mangeshkar or Suman Kalyanpur, also pretty much fall into the ‘who is this?’ bracket for me. The singers I can identify tend to be the ones with (for me) very distinctive voices: Geeta Dutt, Sharda, Noorjehan, and Shamshad Begum. Shamshad’s somewhat nasal tones are I think unmistakable: not at all a common type of voice. Which is what makes Holi aayi re Kanhaai such an unusual song, since Shamshad sings here for not just one actress, but four of them: Kumkum, Nargis, Chanchal, and Azra.

3. Phir wohi dard hai, phir wohi jigar hai (Apradhi Kaun, 1957): Like Shamshad Begum, Manna Dey is one of those playback singers who I think had a very distinctive voice (actually, I don’t find it difficult to distinguish between most of the major Hindi male playback singers). You wouldn’t have thought Manna Dey the obvious choice for the voices of two people onscreen at the same time; yet here he is, singing playback for both Kumud Tripathi and Dhumal. Two men, both high on whatever they’ve been smoking, start off a song of oh that heartache, oh that heartbreak—a song which quickly changes track, though, sliding into hilarity and then into a light-hearted dreaminess as both men dream of the ladies they’re infatuated with. A fun song, and one Manna Dey does very well indeed.

4. Kya rang-e-mehfil hai dildaaram (Dil Diya Dard Liya, 1966): For me, Dil Diya Dard Liya was a bit of a dud; I had heard a lot about its being inspired by Wuthering Heights, but all said and done, this was not a film that appealed to me. What I did like about the film, though, was its superb music. Naushad was nearing the end of a stellar career, but this one was among his last great scores, each song a superb one. This party song, where one woman sings while another dances (and later joins in the song as well), featured Waheeda Rehman and Shyama, both lip-syncing to the voice of Lata Mangeshkar.

5. Jaise ko taisa nehle pe dehla (Miss India, 1957): Shamshad Begum again, singing for two women, though in this case, one of the women is masquerading as a man. Nargis’s character in Miss India disguises herself as a man in order to teach her wayward husband a lesson; in the process, while out on the streets, she comes across a street performance in progress. Minoo Mumtaz, as the dancer-singer, sings of the vagaries of human nature; and Nargis, unable to just stand by and watch, joins in. A good song, and one particularly suited to Shamshad Begum’s voice, which was always a good fit for both Minoo Mumtaz as well as Nargis.

6. Unse rippi-tippi ho gayi (Agra Road, 1957): This is one of those instances of a bunch of people onscreen, both men and women, many of them singing—but in the same two voices. Shakeela and Vijay Anand play the romantic leads in Agra Road, and in this light-hearted song, they and their friends go out for a ride. The hero and heroine are in their car (driven by the woman, too!) while their friends are on bicycles; but they sing along perfectly well together, lip-syncing to the voices of Mohammad Rafi and Geeta Dutt. What’s interesting here is that not just each stanza, but even occasionally each line is picturized on a different character.

7. Dil ki manzil kuchh aisi hai manzil (Tere Ghar ke Saamne, 1962): Asha Bhonsle this time, and singing for two women. Asha’s sultry voice was very suited to ‘Westernised’ songs, which was probably why she ended up singing a lot of ‘club songs’ (I wonder who sang more of these: Asha Bhonsle or Geeta Dutt?) Here, in a song that sadly butchers what sounds like Spanish or Italian but is otherwise brilliant—the arrangement is inspired, the rendition superb—two actresses lip-sync to Asha’s voice. Helga, who acted in only two films, begins the song; it later shifts to Edwina Lyons, and from then on, the two women lip-sync to parts of the song, sometimes Helga ‘singing’ it and sometimes Edwina. This is one of my favourite club songs, because every aspect of it, from the picturization to the music, is so very good.  

(Do read this very interesting little post by Ava, Helga’s daughter, on her recollections of her mother and about this song, on Atul’s blog).

8. Mere saamnewaali khidki mein (Padosan, 1968): Kishore Kumar seems to have been part of some unusual songs. Here is another for which there are few parallels in Hindi cinema. Two actors (one of them Kishore Kumar himself) lip-sync to the same song, but the situation is such, the voice is supposed to be the same. Kishore Kumar is the ‘ustaad’, the mentor and friend and guide of the simpleton Bhola (Sunil Dutt). And when Bhola falls in love with the girl next door, it’s Ustaadji who comes to the rescue, singing a song to woo the lady, and letting Bhola, lip-syncing to the song, pass it off as his own song. Onscreen, therefore, we have Sunil Dutt lip-syncing to Kishore Kumar lip-syncing to his own voice. An iconic song.

9. Chaakuwaala chhuriwaala (Al-Hilaal, 1958): For someone with such a distinctive voice, Shamshad Begum seems to have sung a fair number of songs of this type. Bulo C Rani, who composed some great songs for Shamshad Begum, chose her to sing this delightfully peppy song for two actresses. Of the two women who lip-sync to her voice here, one is Shakila; the other I’m not able to identify. But the vigor and energy of Chaakuwaala chhuriwaala always makes me want to get up and dance! Interestingly, there was a second version of this song too in the film, though that only features Shakila singing it.

10. Mohabbat kar lo ji bhar lo (Aar Paar, 1954): The commonest example of one singer singing for two (or more) actors is in situations where there are several people onscreen singing a song. Sometimes, of course, everybody (or nearly everybody) gets a distinct voice. In other songs, they share voices, as in this case. Mohabbat kar lo ji bhar lo is sung by three singers: Mohammad Rafi, Suman Kalyanpur, and Geeta Dutt. Rafi’s part here is fairly straightforward: he sings for Guru Dutt. Suman Kalyanpur lends her voice to the actress who appears at the 1:28 mark in this video (I don’t know who she is; if you do, please let me know).

It is Geeta Dutt who gets to sing for two faces here. One is the actress (another one I don’t recognize) who plays the woman in a couple out on a date. Another is Meena Fernandes, for whom Geeta sings a couple of verses. (Aside: another song where Meena Fernandes ‘shared’ a voice is Tum jiyo hazaaron saal, from Sujata: Asha Bhonsle sang the song mainly for Meena Fernandes, but Shashikala too gets to do some wordless ‘aaa-ing’ here and there in it).

Which other songs of this type can you suggest? Please share!

49 thoughts on “One Voice, Two Faces: Ten of my favourite ‘one-singer-duets’

  1. Hmmm I think it was Pran himself who sang his part. Check? In the song, if feels distinctively Pran’s voice and then I read somewhere that it was him.

    I liked the inclusion of ‘Mere Saamne wali khidki mein’ in the list. It’s very meta!

    This post reminds me of the song, ‘Humko tumse ho gaya hai pyaar’ from Amar Akbar Anthony. You see, it has all the three couples (Amitabh Bachan – Parveen Babi , Vinod Khanna- Shabana Azmi, Rishi Kapoor- Neetu Kappor) admitting their love to each other. While LM sang for all the ladies, each guy had a different play back singer:
    Kishore Kumar for AB
    Mukesh for VK
    Md. Rafi for RK
    Plus, the words also change depending on the pair’s religion. So god promise becomes ram kasam becomes khuda gawah.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for suggesting Humko tumse ho gaya hai pyaar – great fit! Let me bung it in, just so that those who just skim through the comments do note it and don’t repeat it.

      And that is Kishore for Pran. Definitely. He does sound a lot like Pran, especially in the beginning, but further on if you close your eyes and listen, you can tell that it’s Kishore. Around 2:17 (and thereafter, particularly right at the end), you can hear the Kishore-underlying-Pran effect.

      Like

  2. Nice theme. Good songs.
    Of course, not a Golden Era song. But, iconic, nevertheless. The only such combination.

    AMAR AKBAR ANTONY.

    Humko tumse ho gaya hai pyar.

    Lata on Shabana, Neetu ,Parveen Babi.

    I always wished Asha Bhonsle was a part of this song.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely theme for a post, Madhu. And gosh, there are so many songs in which there’s only one singer singing for two or more people, aren’t there?

    To answer your question, I think the lady with Shakila in Chakuwala chhuriwala is Indra. I’m hard put to identify the two other ladies in Mohabbat kar lo jee bhar lo, though the dating couple are very familiar faces.

    Asha singing for both Sadhana and Azra in Love in SimlaLove ka matlab hain pyaar

    And here’s Rafi and Asha singing for two people each – Rafi playbacks for both Kishore and Bhagwan; Asha playbacks for Shashikala and Smriti Biswas :) The film is Bhaagam Bhag, the song is Humein koi gham hai

    Here is Rafi singing Tune maar ke pyaar ki bomb for both Johnny Walker and Mehmood in Mr Qartoon

    Geeta Dutt singing for Shama and (?) in Inquilab, 1956 – Dilbar se pyaar chhupaane mein bada maza hai

    Lata singing for Meena Kumari and Roopmala (?) in Adl-e-JehangirAaj Laila ko Majnu ka pyaar mila

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ooh, what a lot of songs, Anu! And, to be honest, the only one I recall having heard before is Love ka matlab hai pyaar – and I’d forgotten that it was really a solo, even if a duet onscreen. :-)

      And thank you for identifying Indra. She looked very familiar, though I know for a fact I didn’t know her name!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great list….Shamshad Begum had been favourite of O.P.Nayyar who had thin voice with fat body.Some of hit songs of OP ( a girl who was friend of O.P.Nayyar’s daughter both students in National College would always refer him as OP)
    are…O leke pehla pehla payar,Kahin pe nighahen kahin pe nishana,Aaj suhani raat hai…O y tu aaja re ke dil hai beqarar,Chana jor garam….Meri needon mein tum mere khwabon mein tum.,… another song sung under Roshan by Shamshad Begum is which I love..
    Badi mushkil se dil ki beqarari ko qarar aaya…ke us zalim ne tadpaya jis pe mujh ko pyaar aaya…badi mushkil se….

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Uthe sab ki kadam, BATON BATON MEIN .

    Besides having 2 singers giving playback for 2 persons each, has a non singer ( who is one of the voice receiver ) sings for a 5th person!

    Lata, Amit Kumar: Pearl Padamsee, Tina; Ranjith Chowdhury, Amol.
    P Padamsee : Leela Mishra.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh!
    I remember you mentioning about your list when I posted my list a few months back. And you were correct, there’s no overlap.
    Enjoyed the list and the songs added in the comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You should get an award for coming up with innovative subjects for song lists. This one was crying to be written about. So often have we looked at songs sung by one person picturized on many that it has become ‘normalized’.

    Thank you for mentioning my article here. When I was talking to my mother about her song, I said that she does not really dance in this song. “I was the crooner”, she explained. Dev Anand, Nutan, and Rajendra Kumar are seen sitting at a table and enjoying the song. If you look closely, the clips of them sitting there seem ‘inserted’. My mother confirmed that they weren’t present during the filming of the song.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Ava! And thank you, too, for sharing that interesting little bit of trivia about the people sitting at the table – I hadn’t realized it, but of course, now that I’m watching it carefully, I can see what you mean.

      And yes, your mom is absolutely the crooner here. She plays the part really well, and she’s SO beautiful. :-)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great theme, Madhu! I really enjoyed going through all the songs mentioned in your post and in the comments.

    And here is the song that popped into my head as fitting the theme. I love the way Asha actually changes her voice for Aruna Irani vs. Asha Parekh.

    Ab jo mile hain toh – Caravan/Asha Bhosle

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great selection of songs with a twist in them!! I vaguely recall a song, filmed on Meena Kumari and Rajendra Kumar, it was a black and white film, where all Mohamed Rafi sings is ‘yes my darling’ and whistles. Well a search in youtube showed the song- yeh to kaho kaun ho thum from the film akeli math jaio. May be you can do a list where the singer only tells three words in english!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A lovely list, dear Madhu.
    Although I have seen many such songs with one singer singing for many charachters on the screen in one song. I can’t seem to remember much of them.
    Many of them fall in the category where the hero and heroine come to a song-dance performance and then fantasise themselves to be singing that song.
    One song which I do remember is jab naam-e-mohabaat leke kisi from Kala Pani (1958). I am sure that if SDB were in speaking terms with Lata, he would have given Nalini Jaywant Lata’s voice and the other lady Asha’s voice.

    A very curious case is jaan-e-man ek nazar dekh le from Mere Mehboob (1963), where the song is recorded as a duet and filmed as a solo on Ameeta. Thus, Ameeta has the rare distinction of playbacking to Asha and Lata in the same song and for her alone. It does happen that in a duet that while filming the voice for the character changes. This happens mostly when the song is not filmed on principal characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Harvey, so lovely to have you commenting on this post! Thank you – and yes, you provide a very good example of a common scenario in which such a song is ‘sung’. I had forgotten about Jab naam-e-mohabbat leke, though the film is one of my favourites.

      Coincidentally, I mentioned Jaane-e-mann ek nazar dekh le the other day on my Facebook post about this blog post. Karan Bali had mentioned that Bechain dil khoi si nazar (from Yahudi) had Geeta Dutt and Lata sing for Helen and Cuckoo – sometimes one for one actress, sometimes the other! That prompted me to mention the Mere Mehboob song, another case of playback-onscreen syncing not quite as it should have been. :-)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Very interesting post. However, I wish to point out that KK sang in two voices, not his own. One was in a female falsetto and the other actually resembled Pran’s voice as if he were actually singing it! That was the genius of this man!
    Nitin

    Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Madhu,

        Words fail me, when I try to say something about the innovative themes that you literally conjure up, as it were, time after time!

        I did want to comment on this unique theme, in particular…but just could not find the right words….( already voiced so eloquently by so many others) to write anything.

        Also am hard-pressed for time and energy, ( am barely coping with a family member being quite unwell, and needing constant attention….).

        Your posts, and the responses they elicit each time, make my day…

        Thank you, all!

        Praba Mahajan

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Madhuji, your list is very interesting. I would like to add a song from the movie Khushboo – Bechara Dil Kya Kare, where Asha Bhosle lip sync primarily for Farida Jalal but also hums for Master Raju and Hema Malini after the antaras.

    This is a lovely song shot in a very minimalist yet impressive fashion.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Shreya sang for both Madhuri and Alia in Ghar More Pardesiya from Kalank. And Madhuri’s character has the audacity to say that Alia’s voice lacks ‘namak’. Of curse it got caught by observant viewers or rather listeners.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great idea! I enjoyed going through your list. Here’s a song with a twist. Asha Bhosle sings for both Helen(mostly) and Parveen Babi. RD created this double sound effect. He was amazing!!

    Koi aaya aane bhi de from Kala Sona

    Liked by 1 person

  15. An enjoyable theme complemented with some good songs!
    Dr. Shetty mentioned a song from Baato Baato Mein 1979
    Here’s one more- Na bole tum na maine kuchh kaha
    Amit K sings for Amol & Ranjit Chowdhury while Asha sings for Tina and Shobhini Singh

    Jewel Thief 1967
    Baithe hai kya uske pass – Asha for Helen and a dancer who has a resemblance to Faryal, but is thinner.

    Kabhi Kabhie 1976
    Tera phoolon jaisa rang – Lata singing for Neetu Singh and Naseem

    An underrated gem from Ghar 1978
    Botal se ek baat chali hai – Asha is wonderful here, both Rekha and Prema Narayan sing in her voice. Rafi sings for Vinod Mehra and another guy

    And Main chali main chali from Padosan 1968
    Asha sings for 5 of Saira’s friends

    Liked by 1 person

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