Hemant Kumar: On his birth centenary, a musical flashback

Posted on June 16, 2020


Recalling some of the composer-singer’s music, from the sombre Guru Dutt films to Girl Friend, which had ‘Boom booma boom’.

When it comes to films, we may admire the choices an actor makes, but there’s always a doubt: Is this great bit of dialogue delivery the actor’s own choice, or did the director prompt him to perform this way? (“Take it down a notch!” “When you say the second line, start pacing about!”) It’s the same with film music. Given a particular song, or even a particular phrase, when we say “X has sung it magnificently”, how much of it came from the directions of the composer and how much was X’s on-the-spot improvisation? That confusion does not arise with a song like Zara nazron se keh do ji, from Bees Saal Baad (1962). Before the first antara, there’s a bit of dialogue that’s half-spoken, half-sung: Hairat mein pad gaya hoon… The first syllable “hai” (of “hairat”) is uttered with an expulsion of breath that sounds like a sigh! That’s Hemant Kumar, the singer. That’s also Hemant Kumar, the composer. 

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