Bhupinder: The Voice of Dreams and Desire

‘Ek hi khwab kai baar dekha hai maine.’
‘Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi phursat ke raat din.’

Dreams and desires floating in Bhupinder Singh’s melodious, melancholic voice transported its listener to an idyllic, intimate space.

Even when he was conveying the most heart-breaking truths, a rare soul and ease accompanied his expressions.

Born in Amritsar, Bhupinder inherited his musician father’s gifts as well as a deep love for the guitar.

When he was living in Delhi, film-maker Chetan Anand spotted him and invited him to Bombay and try his luck in the movies.

Though he agreed to appear briefly as the singing soldier in Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat and a guitar-strumming hotel singer in Aakhri Khat, an otherwise shy Bhupinder showed little inclination to face the camera, instead focusing his energies on becoming a distinguished singer, master guitarist and ghazal maestro.

In the company of Madan Mohan, Khayyam, Jaidev and Rahul Dev Burman — he called it the golden era — Bhupinder emerged as an inimitable voice of depth and feeling whose timeless appeal has lasted generation after generation.

Especially significant was his friendship with RD after the latter encouraged him to learn the Spanish guitar.

Not many know but the iconic guitar riffs of Dum Maro Dum (Hare Rama Hare Krishna) and Chura Liya Hai Tumne (Yaadon Ki Baarat) are all Bhupinder.

As is the voice crying O Shalu in Jewel Thief‘s chartbuster Hothon Pe Aisi Baat, composed by Sachin Dev Burman.

Bhupinder tried his hands at music direction in Mahesh Bhatt’s directorial debut, Manzilien Aur Bhi Hai. But the film’s unpleasant experience — it was long delayed and ridden in controversy at the censors — put him off.

Much too straightforward and sensitive to understand such monitoring and meddling, he swore off composing movie soundtracks.

He once sang Kabhi kisiko muqammal jahaan nahi milta. Kabhi zameen toh kabhi aasman nahi milta.

With Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupinder passing within months of each other, the music world has lost both its zameen and aasman.

But Bhupinder’s magical legacy lives on in the musical masterpieces he left behind.

Sukanya Verma lists some of them here.

Hoke Majboor Usne Mujhe Bulaya Hoga, Haqeeqat (1964)
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
Music: Madan Mohan

A tall, young, handsome Bhupinder holds his own on screen and behind it in company of veteran singers like Mohammad Rafi and Talat Mehmood against Madan Mohan’s emotional melody in Chetan Anand’s war classic.

 

Rut Jawan Jawan, Aakhri Khat (1966)
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
Music: Khayyam

In an interview, Bhupinder shared how Chetan Anand, who introduced future superstar Rajesh Khanna on celluloid, originally approached him for the part.

But his disinterest in acting led to Kaka’s casting.

Bhupinder did make an exception for this lilting Khayyam ditty though, performing it before a restaurant crowd in the movie.

 

Beeti Na Beetai Raina, Mitwa Bole Meethe, Parichay (1972)
Lyrics: Gulzar
Music: Rahul Dev Burman

Beeti Na Beetai‘s poignant rendition garnered more attention, but the classical ardour of his solo Mitwa Bole deserves no less love.

 

Jab Andhera Hota Hai, Raja Rani (1973)
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Music: R D Burman

The nocturnal seduction and groovy vibes of Bhupinder’s sizzling duet with Asha Bhosle would go on to become a favourite of remix pundits decades later.

 

Dil Dhoondta Hai, Mausam (1975)
Lyrics: Gulzar
Music: Madan Mohan

Gulzar’s pining poetry, Madan Mohan’s awe-inspiring composition and Bhupinder’s serene singing alongside the tuneful Lata Mangeshkar is a sound of eternal harmony, the ultimate ode to nostalgia.

 

Ek Hi Khwab, Naam Ghum Jayega, Koi Nahi Hai Kahin, Meethe Bol Bole, Kinara (1977)
Lyrics: Gulzar
Music: R D Burman

RD’s songs in Kinara are a joy for any Bhupinder fan.

Whether it’s his presence in the iconic Naam Ghum Jayega, the erratic flavours of Koi Nahi, the classical vigour of Meethe Bol or the dreamy, irresistible romance of love at its leisurely best in Ek Hi Khwab, the singer is a gift that keeps on giving.

 

Ek Akela Is Shaher Main, Gharonda (1977)
Lyrics: Gulzar
Music: Jaidev

Bombay’s heartless and hopeless reality hits hard in Bhupinder’s rendition of Ek Akela‘s pathos and lonesomeness.

 

Thodisi Zameen, Sitara (1980)
Lyrics: Gulzar
Music: R D Burman

Another golden Bhupinder-Lata duet dipped in RD-Gulzar’s wizardry, Thodisi Zameen‘s laidback charms never cease to make our day.

 

Aaj Bichde Hain, Thodisi Bewafai (1980)
Lyrics: Gulzar
Music: Khayyam

The pain of parting ways pinches a tad more than usual when Bhupinder is at the helm.

 

Kabhi Kisiko Muqammal Jahan Nahi Milta, Ahista Ahista (1981)
Lyrics: Nida Fazli
Music: Khayyam

Golden words, golden voice, Kabhi Kisiko Muqammal Jahan Nahi Milta‘s standalone glory refuses to be confined within its mediocre movie.

 

Karoge Yaad Toh, Bazaar (1982)
Lyrics: Bashar Nawaz
Music: Khayyam

When the master of melancholy says it like it is, the upshot is as dramatic on screen as it is off it.

 

Pyaar Humein Kis Mod, Zindagi Milke Bitayenge, Satte Pe Satta (1982)
Lyrics: Gulshan Bawra
Music: R D Burman

Bhupinder’s team player skills are appreciation worthy.

He sure knew how to let his hair down around pal RD.

And you just cannot miss *that* voice even in a crowd.

 

Huzoor Is Kadar, Masoom (1983)
Lyrics: Gulzar
Music: R D Burman

Bhupinder and Suresh Wadkar’s friendly, flirtatious jugalbandi lends Masoom that happy-go-lucky feeling before it slips into super serious mode.

 

Zindagi Mere Ghar Aana, Dooriyan (1984)
Lyrics: Gulzar
Music: Jaidev

Bhupinder’s effortless grace shines through this Jaidev number co-sung by Anuradha Paudwal.

 

Kisi Nazar Ko Tera Intezar, Aitbaar (1985)
Lyrics: Hasan Kamaal
Music: Bappi Lahiri

Goosebumps are felt every single time Bhupinder carries this pensive Bappida ghazal and its spirited alaaps.

 

Badalon Ko Kaat, Satya (1998)
Lyrics: Gulzar
Music: Vishal Bhardwaj

Gulzar’s vivid poetry and Vishal Bhardwaj’s guitar rich tunes hit another level of sublime in Bhupinder’s intoxicating rendition and lingering romance.

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