Biswajeet: For the record, a true man of music

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Biswajeet, then 83, performs live at a concert in 2019. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

Like Raj Kapoor, Biswajeet too was born on December 14. And though far less celebrated (though he too was a producer and director with the 1976 Kehtey Hain Mujhko Raja), the Bengali-Hindi actor was also very musical—another similarity between them!

Not only did Biswajeet once record (rather nicely) the song, Ae dil meri jaan in composer Chitragupta’s Do Shikari, like Raj Kapoor did (in two songs in Dil Ki Rani), but Biswajeet also became known in his limited successful innings as a star as one of our most musical heroes.

Biswajeet, it is not so commonly known, remained a live performer right until the pre-pandemic era, performing concerts energetically in both India and overseas. Arriving in Mumbai after a brief stint in Kolkata, where he also went back to work later, Biswajeet was considered one of the many, not-so-versatile stars who came in the wake of Shammi Kapoor’s success. And that, probably, was a key reason why he also got the cream of songs, sung by Mohammed Rafi, with contributions from Hemant Kumar, Mahendra Kapoor and even occasionally by Mukesh and Kishore Kumar. And let us also not forget that even Shamshad Begum has lent her voice for him!

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Biswajeet is remembered essentially for his musical hit films, regardless of genre (rom-com, crime, social or supernatural). Music composers as varied as Hemant Kumar (who also was the producer of Bees Saal Baad), Ravi, O.P. Nayyar, Chitragupta, Shankar-Jaikishan and Laxmikant-Pyarelal and the two Burmans gave him unforgettable melodies.

For the record, Biswajeet also cut two albums as a singer of original Bengali modern numbers, Tomar Chokher Kajole and Jay Jay Din, both composed by Salil Choudhury, with whom he had never worked in Hindi films. In the 1990s or early millennium, an album of cover versions sung by Biswajeet himself of his own Hindi film hits, titled Nazar Na Lag Jaaye, was also issued.

Picking up dozen dazzlers from his discography was a fairly tough task, but here, in alphabetical order of the films, is a carefully curated list.

Bees Saal Baad / Beqaraar karke hamein

The film had two Hemant Kumar lovelies, But Beqaraar karke hamein was not only the more popular but also the better-enduring one. Zaraa nazaron se kehdo ji was the other winner. Hemant-da was the composer too, and made sure that Biswajeet got a great head-start as a hero. Shakeel Badayuni penned the lovelies.

Hare Kanch Ki Chooriyan / Panchchi re o panchchi

Panchchi re o panchchi was the masterpiece composed by Shankar-Jaikishan in the waltz tenor. Sung by Mohammed Rafi with Asha Bhosle, the smooth Shailendra-written song remains evergreen even 55 years after release.

Jaal / Akela hoon main

Akela hoon main humsafar dhoondta hoon was soulful, wistful, and rendered by Rafi again. Filmed at night on a launch, with enticing words by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and a smooth and pensive tune by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, the song has outlasted the film, which did not do well. Rafi’s husky tones set the pace for a different kind of romantic number.

Kaise Kahoon / Manmohan man mein

S.D. Burman did only one more film with Biswajeet, Ishq Par Zor Nahin, which had no song filmed on the actor, who had played a gray role there. But in Kaise Kahoon, Biswajeet actually got to enact a raag-based semi-classical beauty, Manmohan man mein ho tumhi, sung also by Suman Kalyanpur for co-star Nanda and S.D. Batish for character artiste Manmohan Krishna. Shakeel gave us yet another example of his brilliance at writing songs in the Hindu ethos in this lovely devotional. Both the tune and orchestration were exquisite.

The Kismat chartbuster Kajra mohabbatwala had Biswajeet in drag as leading lady Babita played a male. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Kismat / Kajra mohabbatwala

This thriller directed by Manmohan Desai, with whom Biswajeet was closely associated—officially in Shararat and Desai’s presentation, Allahrakha, besides one more film, Naami Chor, that was delayed, flopped, but was actually directed by him. But Kismat, also from the same producer, was a music-fest by O.P. Nayyar. Mahendra Kapoor excelled in Ankhon mein qayamat ke kajal. There was another Mahendra nugget, Lakhon hai yahaan dilwale, but the Biswajeet cream was really Kajra mohabbatwala¸ in which he was dressed in drag! This S.H. Bihari-penned chartbuster was sung (her last hit, incidentally) by Shamshad Begum for him, with Asha Bhosle singing for heroine Babita! The song was later used in Tanu Weds Manu Returns in 2015!

Kohra / Yeh nayan dare dare

After Bees Saal Baad, Hemant Kumar produced and scored and sang for Kohra, though the film did not succeed. Just as Bees… was adapted from The Hound of the Baskervilles, Kohra was inspired by Rebecca, and again featured Waheeda Rehman opposite Biswajeet. Musically brilliant, the score was distinguished not only by Lata Mangeshkar’s superb solos but also the Hemant Kumar lovely, Yeh nayan dare dare. Also close in excellence was the other Kaifi Azmi-written classic, Raah bani khud manzil.

Mere Sanam / Pukarta chala hoon main

But if any Biswajeet film truly gave me a challenge about which single song to choose among three gems, it was this O.P. Nayyar-Majrooh Sultanpuri hit in which Mohammed Rafi excelled in his three solos. My choice here would be the breezy, groovy, joie-de-vivre-filled chartbuster, Pukarta chala hoon main. Very near in excellence, however, were Humdum mere maan bhi jao and that pathos-laden stunner, Tukde hai mere dil ke.

Biswajeet with Mala Sinha as he enacts Nazar na lag jaye in Night In London. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Night In London / Nazar na lag jaaye

From a bevy of Rafi beauties and a Mahendra Kapoor song as well, my choice would naturally be the cult Rafi song that the actor choose to title his self-rendered cover-version album. The introductory notes of the electric guitar were stunning, and the lyrics (Anand Bakshi) were oh-so-passion-suffused. Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s heady tune was just one of dozens that catapulted the duo then to the top in those exhilarating times for Hindi film music.

Phir Kab Milogi / Kahin karti hogi

R.D. Burman was a personal friend of Biswajeet, even though they collaborated only on two flops films, of which this was one—the other was Kehtey Hain Mujhko Raja (see above). This Mukesh number was a slow starter after the Hrishikesh Mukherjee film was dumped by the audience. But soon, it became a hit remix (sung by a female) and was discovered late. The composition was remarkably in the Salil Chowdhury mode, and Mukesh was at his eloquent best in the Majrooh-written soother.

Shehnai  / Na jhatko zulf se pani

Composer Ravi did his fair share of films with the actor, but most of the films were melodramas. In Shehnai, Rafi’s Na jhatko zulf se pani stood out for its seductive appeal as Biswajeet woos heroine Rajashree. Rajendra Krishan wrote the words filled with subtle erotica.

Vaasna / Yeh parbaton ke daeere

Though this film had another stunning Biswajeet-Rafi solo, Itni nazuk na bano, my choice among Biswajeet exotica would be what I consider among the finest Lata-Rafi duets ever, Yeh parbaton ke daeere. The Sahir-written lyrics suffused with rare ardor and Chitragupta’s atmospheric tune and orchestration were taken to rare heights by Rafi’s dreamy rendition and Lata’s matching vocals.

Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi / Mera pyar woh hai

O.P. Nayyar was the go-to man for mid-budget thrillers the early and mid-1960s, and this film was no exception as he added his musical magic to it. Mahendra Kapoor’s superbly rendered Mera pyar woh hai, written by Shevan Rizvi, remains an unforgettable ode to love with its intense sentiments of choosing the beloved even over heaven, and the matching heartfelt tune.

 

 

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