Bhupinder Singh: The velvet voice is no more

A Bhupinder-Mitali album released on Saregama. Photo: Saregama CD Inlay

After he fell in love with and married Mitali in 1983, Bhupinder is said to have weaned off singing Hindi songs and shifted to ghazal albums more, including with his wife and as composer.

The velvet-voiced singer, whose voice was termed “smoky”, whatever that means, passed away at 82 on July 18 due to colon cancer and Covid-related complications. This article took its time before I was hunting for my own interview of his from about 20 years ago during the release of one of his albums and could not locate it even on the ‘Net.

What I remember about the cheerful man was his total honesty and frankness on whatever I asked him, so I would have loved to include some of his quotes on life, music and his beloved wife that were all a part of that feature!

Very few are aware that the singer, born Bhupinder Soni in Amritsar on February 6, 1940, was initiated into music by his father Natha Singh. But he was such a stern teacher that at one point Bhupinder even developed a distaste for music itself!

The obituaries and tributes we have read and heard on his demise speak of all the standard hits (see List below) that Bhupinder sang in his long playback and ghazal career that began in 1964 with Chetan Anand’s

Haqeeqat under Madan Mohan. His debut song was the classic Hoke majboor mujhe ussne bulaya hoga ‘live’ with a formidable trinity of Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mahmood and Manna Dey. Students have researched and found a solo version of this song by Bhupinder too, available freely on YouTube. His first full-fledged solo came in Chetan Anand’s next, Rut jawaan jawaan (Aakhri Khat), composed by Khayyam.

Before that, Bhupinder was an All-India Radio (AIR) artiste under the direction of musician and lyricist Satish Bhatia. Bhatia is known to Hindi cinema as the distinguished composer of V. Shantaram’s  1967 Jeetendra-Mumtaz musical Boond Jo Ban Gaye Moti.

Known not for just his voice but also as composer and guitarist, Bhupinder, like Bhatia, composed music for just one film in his long career, and that was Mahesh Bhatt’s 1974 directorial debut Manzilein Aur Bhi Hain—as Bhupendra Soni. This was presumably to chart a different identity from that of a singer, in which capacity, thanks largely to R.D. Burman’s Parichay, he had already got fame by then.

The music comprised of four Yogesh-written solos with a distinct imprint of his favorite composer, R.D. Burman, three of which were self-rendered, and the best, Aaj naye geet saje¸ sung by Asha Bhosle.

Despite the formidable debt the singer owed this composer, who was also his dear friend, through the 1970s and 1980s, and for whom he also played the guitar in many songs, including Dum maro dum (Hare Rama Hare Krishna) and Chura liya hai tumne (Yaadon Ki Baraat), Bhupinder had an aversion to exaggerated untruths about him, as I discovered in our sole meeting.

When he mentioned that he had been a guitarist with R.D.’s father S.D. Burman and others, including on the cult S.D. Aradhana hit by Kishore Kumar, Roop tera mastana, I asked him whether it was true, as per Asha Bhosle’s claim, that R.D. had actually composed the tune.

Forthrightly and instantly, Bhupinder replied, “Pancham (as R.D. is known) wasn’t even around when Dada created the song! Only (Anand) Bakshi-saab and Shakti (Samanta)-da were present, along with me on the guitar!”

Among his most famous songs as a guitarist were also Madan Mohan’s immortal Tum jo mil gaye ho (Hanste Zakhm) and another cult classic, the title song of Bappi Lahiri’s Chalte Chalte.

With Mitali (nee Mukherjee), Bhupinder’s ghazal albums included Chandani Raat, Gulmohar, Ghazal Ke Phool, Ek Arzoo and Anand Lok Meh, but the singer also had solo albums, including Surmai Raat, and shared albums with singers like Jagjit and Chitra Singh.

Bhupinder Singh sang infrequently in cinema, but managed to sing at least once (and usually more) for almost all top-name composers besides the Burmans and Madan Mohan—Naushad, Ravi, Jaidev, Khayyam, Jaikishan (as Shankar-Jaikishan), Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Ravindra Jain, Bappi Lahiri, Rajesh Roshan and Anu Malik. He also opened his tallies with composers as varied or as contemporary as Ustad Vilayat Khan, Kanu Roy, Vanraj Bhatia, Anand-Milind, Vishal Bhardwaj, Jatin-Lalit, Viju Shah, Nikhil-Vinay, Anand Raaj Anand, Shamir Tandon and Shantanu Moitra among others.

Even among actors, he managed to sing playback for Ashok Kumar, Dharmendra, Dev Anand, Sanjeev Kumar, Randhir Kapoor, Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna, Raj Babbar, Mithun Chakraborty, Vinod Khanna and others.

Bhupinder, as a voice and as a talent, was decidedly in a league of his own.

Bhupinder Singh Toppers:

  1. Naam gum jaayega / Kinara
  2. Beete na bitayi raina / Parichay
  3. Dil dhoondta hai / Mausam
  4. Hoke majboor / Haqeeqat
  5. Saiyyan nikas gaye / Satyam Shivam Sundaram
  6. Do deewane shaher mein / Gharaonda
  7. Kisi nazar ko tera / Aitbaar
  8. Dukke pe dukki ho / Satte Pe Satta
  9. Zindagi mere ghar aana / Dooriyaan
  10. Honthon mein aisa baat / Jewel Thief

My Other Special Personal Favourites:

  1. Awaaz di hai / Aitbaar
  2. Salaam kijiye / Aandhi
  3. Gham ko bhool daalo / Prem Pujari
  4. Mujhe zindagi ki dua na de / Galiyon Ka Badshah
  5. Aane se usske aaye bahaar / Jeene Ki Raah






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