"When he died, I felt there goes away my voice."
Mukesh Chand Mathur was born on July 22, 1923. He was an Indian playback singer who sung in numerous Hindi films.
He rose to prominence in the 50s and managed to sing over a staggering 1200 songs.
With other established names such as Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar, Mukesh has solidified himself within Indian cinema.
Although Mukesh has not sung as many songs as his contemporaries, he’s still known as “The Man with the Golden Voice.”
Heavily typecast as the voice of Raj Kapoor, Mukesh sang for the showman in almost all of his films.
But to say that he was only Kapoor’s voice would not be giving him enough credit.
Many yesteryear actors including Dilip Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Rajesh Khanna owe some of their memorable melodies to Mukesh.
His tender, raw and imitable voice resonated with the hearts of millions and still does today.
He managed to deliver legendary tracks throughout his reign and still soothes the cracks of heartbreak and despair.
So, to keep the magic of Mukesh alive, here is a list of 20 best Indian songs by Mukesh.
Dil Jalta Hai – Pehli Nazar (1945)
It’s only fitting to kick off this list with the first song Mukesh ever sung for an Indian film.
Composed by Anil Biswas, ‘Dil Jalta Hai’ could be considered as Mukesh’s first-ever gig.
For the uninformed, Mukesh was a devoted fan of renowned singer KL Saigal.
In this song, Mukesh imitated his idol immaculately. In fact, when Saigal heard the song, he could not remember when he sang the song himself.
A comment underneath the YouTube music video reads:
“Mukesh in the style of K.L. Saigal, love it!”
There is no denying Mukesh’s uncanny ability to mimic Saigal.
If it wasn’t for composer Naushad encouraging Mukesh himself, he may have gone on to become another KL Saigal.
Layi Khushi Ki Duniya – Vidya (1948)
‘Layi Khushi Ki Duniya’ is yet another memorable song of Mukesh. This is a song, which many may have not heard.
The charming duet of Mukesh and singing star Suraiya (Vidya) bring light to melodious number.
This song makes our the list because it showcases a rare collaboration between Mukesh and the late actor Dev Anand.
This was one of Anand’s early films and composer SD Burman chose to have Mukesh sing for him.
However, this collaboration did not last. This is because Anand subsequently began using Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar as his playback voice.
But, listening to this song, the melody that Mukesh gives to Anand’s (Chandrashekhar) voice is unique.
Main Bhawra Tu Hai Phool – Mela (1948)
‘Main Bhawra Tu Hai Pool’ is remembered for its duet by Mukesh and Shamshad Begum.
Times move on and here we are talking about a number that came out over seven decades ago.
Mukesh gives an important message in this song composed by Naushad. He touches on the universal appeal of youth never returning.
It’s a theme that is still hummed, sung and belted in songs.
Mukesh sang this song beautifully to a smiling Dilip Kumar (Mohan). His words are complimented sensually onscreen by a charming Nargis (Manju).
Mela was a hit film and only added to the growing love for the popular onscreen pairing.
This was one of the films, which saw Mukesh, perfectly putting his voice to Dilip Kumar on screen.
Awara Hoon – Awara (1951)
In 1949, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor appeared onscreen together for the first and only time in Andaz.
In that film, Mukesh was the voice of Kumar and Rafi sung Kapoor’s lines. However, two years later, when Kapoor’s Awara released, things changed.
Mukesh sang for Kapoor (Raj Raghunath) in the film and it became a thundering success.
Aamir Khan is the Indian star in China today. But in the 1950s, Raj Kapoor became a popular film actor in Russia.
Awaara broke boundaries for Indian cinema across the world.
The song ‘Awara Hoon’ became the selling point of the film in Russia. It transformed both Kapoor and his Charlie Chaplin persona into a big hit.
Most importantly, Mukesh had officially become Kapoor’s voice.
Mera Joota Hai Japani – Shree 420 (1955)
Viewers can see a happy-go-lucky Kapoor (Ranbir Raj) riding camels and elephants. Mukesh sang this upbeat song with patriotism echoing in every word.
‘Mera Joota Hai Japani’ still holds a great resonance. This is because it illustrates the proudness of being an Indian, despite being dressed in western clothes.
A Mexican viewer wrote underneath the YouTube video:
“This song is so amazing.”
In 2020, it was used in the closing credits of an episode of the BBC’s, The Real Marigold Hotel.
Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai – Yahudi (1958)
Mukesh had been cemented as Raj Kapoor’s voice, while Rafi sang for Dilip Kumar.
Hence, it was natural that Kumar wanted Rafi to sing for him in this film.
However, blue-chip composers Shankar-Jaikishan wanted Mukesh to sing this song. And when Kumar heard Mukesh’s rendition, he was pleasantly surprised.
This song is focused on a solemn Dilip Kumar (Shehzada Marcus) pining over an emotional Meena Kumari (Hannah).
Mukesh was also dabbling in acting at this juncture, albeit with little success.
This song was loved deeply by many. It is said to have reaffirmed Mukesh’s position as a leading singer in Indian cinema.
In the midst of the adulation, writer Shailendra bagged the Filmfare Award for ‘Best Lyrics’ in 1959. He was the very first recipient.
Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam – Madhumati (1958)
‘Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam’ was another song, featuring Dilip Kumar (Devinder/Anand) in this Bimal Roy directorial.
Mukesh’s grandson, actor Neil Nitin Mukesh, wrote on Twitter that this song was his favourite.
A lot of people evidently thought the same as Madhumati was the highest-grossing Indian movie of 1958.
A comment from a Mukesh fan underneath the YouTube video reads:
“Hats off to Mukesh.
“All parents are advised to show these types of musical hits to their children for developing good thoughts and feelings.”
Also starring top 50s and 60s actress Vyjayanthimala (Madhumati), Madhumati is a suspenseful yet romantic film.
Yaro Surat Humari – Ujala (1959)
Raaj Kumar and Shammi Kapoor were two top stars of Indian cinema in the 50s and 60s. But very few people know that they worked together.
Indeed, they came together for Ujala in 1959.
In this energetic duet, Mohammed Rafi sang for Kapoor (Ramu) while Mukesh sang for Kumar (Kalu).
Reportedly, Kumar was unhappy that Kapoor had all the songs focused on him. Hence, this song was created especially for an onscreen duet between the two.
Both singers did a mind-blowing job. On YouTube, the song has over 750 likes.
The message of always moving on holds a positive relatability for listeners.
Sab Kuch Humne Seeka – Anari (1959)
Raj Kapoor (Raj Kumar) impressing an emotional Nutan (Aarti Sohanlal) sounds like a divine recipe for success.
Raj Kapoor won his first ‘Best Actor’ Filmfare Award for his performance in this film.
Mukesh also became the first recipient of the ‘Best Playback Singer’ Filmfare Award in 1960 for this song.
This was at a time when the award was not split into the sub-categories of male and female.
But regardless of the awards, when viewers listen to this song, they get as emotional as a teary-eyed Nutan.
A comment from Shah Muhammad underneath the YouTube video reads:
“Raj Kapoor and Mukesh are the best (of the) best in Bollywood.”
Ardent Mukhesh fans will enjoy listening to this song.
Kisi Ke Musukarahaton Se – Anari (1959)
Strutting along the road, Raj Kapoor (Raj Kumar) is careful not to step on a little cricket, while singing this song.
His rolled-up trousers became as infectious as Dilip Kumar’s loose hair falling on his forehead during romantic scenes.
Mukesh’s voice hits the high pitches in this song and he does full justice to it.
Raj Kapoor lip-syncs every word and every syllable immaculately, with the right expressions.
If none of the previous songs did, this proved that this singer-actor combination was here to stay.
In an online interview, Mukesh’s son, the singer Nitin Mukesh says that this song’s lyrics formed his father’s life philosophy.
Dum Dum Diga Diga – Chhalia (1960)
India is a country that proudly boasts its famous rivers of rain, which create refreshing monsoons.
Songs in Bollywood films that are picturised in the rain are particularly talked about.
But in ‘Dum Dum Diga Diga’, viewers get to see one of the very first songs filmed entirely in the rain.
Stepping away from the emotion of Anari, Raj Kapoor (Chhalia) and Nutan (Shanti) swooned into the drama of Chhalia.
The film interestingly was Manmohan Desai’s directorial debut.
Desai later helmed many of Amitabh Bachchan’s hits of the 70s. This including Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Parvarish (1977).
Mukesh’s intonation is melodious, like the note a raindrop produces when falling on a wilted leaf.
Mere Mann Ki Ganga – Sangam (1964)
It is almost obvious that Mukesh would lend his voice to the showman in Raj Kapoor’s magnum opus, Sangam.
Mukesh belts out ‘Mere Mann Ki Ganga’ early on in this film which had a run-time of nearly four hours.
In the track, Raj Kapoor (Sunder) is wooing Vyjayanthimala (Radha), while playing the bagpipes.
Vyjayanthimala, meanwhile, enjoys Kapoor’s attempts and laps them up, while swimming down below in a lake.
Unlike typical Mukesh numbers, ‘Mere Mann Ki Ganga’ is not soulful. The track has a more upbeat energy and warmth to it.
Sangam also stars Rajendra Kumar, whose songs were rendered by Mohammad Rafi.
It could be argued that Rafi’s ‘Yeh Mera Prem Patra’ is Sangam’s most popular track. But it is undeniable that this song of Mukesh also won hearts all over the world.
Sangam was ranked eighth by Planet Bollywood in its list of 100 Best Bollywood Soundtracks.
Saawan Ka Mahina – Milan (1967)
As previously mentioned, to tie Mukesh down as simply Raj Kapoor’s voice would be rather short-sighted.
If nothing else, then this intimate duet from Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar from Milan proves that.
In this film, Mukesh lends his voice to actor-turned-politician Sunil Dutt (Gopi).
‘Saawan Ka Mahina’ is picturised elegantly on a romantic Suni (Gopi) and a beautiful Nutan Bahl (Radha).
Mukesh brilliantly sings this song with the raw emotion he is famous for.
In his book, Bless you Bollywood (2012), Tilak Rishi cites how Milan elevated the writer of the song:
“Finally taking (lyricist Anand Bakshi) to the top.”
Composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal also bagged a Filmfare Award in 1968 for their work in Milan.
Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan – Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Almost every Bollywood film buff knows about Raj Kapoor’s debacle-turned-classic Mera Naam Joker. In the film, the showman plays an ageing clown.
Also, starring legends like Manoj Kumar (David) and Dharmendra (Mahendra Singh), the film is said to have been loosely inspired by Kapoor’s life.
Like in Sangam, Mukesh would obviously be the voice behind the showman.
Mukesh puts his all into this closing number of the film, as Kapoor (Raju) dances in his circus to thundering applause.
One cannot forget Mukesh’s passion that drips off every word in this song. Shubham writes underneath the YouTube video:
“This song totally says the true meaning of life.”
Music directors Shankar-Jaikishan won a Filmfare Award in 1972 for their work in the film. They were instrumental in using Mukesh’s voice for Kapoor.
Tick Tick Tick Chalti Jaaye Ghadi – Kal Aaj Aur Kal (1971)
This 1971 film marked the acting and directorial debut of Raj Kapoor’s eldest son Randhir Kapoor. He later went on to become a renowned actor of the 70s.
This titular track is picturised on Randhir Kapoor (Rajesh Kapoor), dancing happily.
Father Raj Kapoor (Ram Bahadur Kapoor) and grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor (Diwan Bahadur Kapoor) look on.
Singer Asha Bhosle also lends her vocals to the heroine Babita (Monica). In this song, most of the heavy lifting is looked after by Bhosle and Kishore Kumar as Randhir Kapoor’s voice.
Mukesh has one small yet impactful verse. This is followed by an ensemble rendition of the chorus when Raj Kapoor joins in onscreen.
Mukhesh comes in like a breath of fresh air for this song. While the film may not have done too well, this song is indeed a hummable track.
Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaaye – Anand (1971)
In this Hrishikesh Mukherjee directorial, Rajesh Khanna plays an ailing, yet positive patient suffering from an incurable illness.
Alongside him, Amitabh Bachchan plays a pessimistic doctor.
Mukesh sang two songs in this film.
‘Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaaye’ perfectly sums up Anand’s fear and sadness that is hidden in his positive zest for his limited life.
This song is focused on Khanna (Anand Saigal) and Bachchan (Bhasker Banerjee).
Khanna lip-syncs to perfection, standing forlornly on a balcony. He and Bachchan both won Filmfare Awards for their performances in this film.
Mukesh’s lilting voice has melody and pain echoing in every word. If his previous numbers did not prove his penchant for melancholic songs, then this definitely does.
Maine Tere Liye – Anand (1971)
‘Maine Tere Liye’ is slightly happier than ‘Kahin Door Jab Din.’ However, it still has shades of tragedy.
The song showcases Rajesh Khanna (Anand Saigal) elegantly singing and playing the piano.
Amitabh Bachchan (Bhasker Banerjee), Ramesh Deo (Prakash Kulkarni) and Seema Deo (Suman Kulkarni) bask in his performance.
In Yasser Usman’s book Rajesh Khanna: The Untold Story of India’s First Superstar (2014), the music of Anand is examined.
Interestingly, Kishore Kumar, who was Khanna’s exclusive playback voice, did not sing a single song in the film. The book quotes:
“Salil Chowdhury felt that Mukesh’s voice would better suit the spirit and pathos of the character of Anand.”
The book further states that “each song of Anand is considered a gem” with “Mukesh breathing life” into his two numbers.
Ek Din Bik Jayega – Dharam Karam (1975)
‘Ek Din Bik Jayega’ picturises Raj Kapoor (Ashok ‘Bonga Babu’ Kumar) performing in a packed theatre.
This song about leaving something behind for the world truly does have a deep resonance. However, like Kal Aaj Aur Kal, this film did not do well.
Referring to this number, Gayatri Rao of LemonWire expresses:
“The late Mukesh has soulfully sung this song.”
But the song shows you, as Rao puts it:
“How to live life in a worthy manner.”
Although a version of the song, sung by Kishore Kumar, is very charming, Mukesh’s rendition is still the most remembered.
Besides, if COVID–19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to fulfil our karma and do good deeds.
That is what the song is all about. That message will never fade.
Main Pal Do Pal Ka – Kabhi Kabhie (1976)
Zanjeer (1973), Deewaar (1975) and Sholay (1975) had happened and they all turned Amitabh Bachchan into the next big thing.
All of these were action movies, establishing Bachchan as the ‘angry young man.’
In 1976, director Yash Chopra introduced a romantic side to Bachchan in Kabhi Kabhie. He played a romantic poet singing and swooning in the picturesque valleys of Kashmir.
Some of Bachchan’s most memorable numbers in this film were rendered beautifully by Mukesh.
In this song, Bachchan (Amit Malhotra) sings standing in front of a microphone to a dazzled audience.
The audience includes an impressed Raakhee (Pooja Khanna).
This song is relatively short, but accurately conveys the lonely life of a poet. Mukesh also does full justice to Bachchan’s baritone voice.
Like Rajesh Khanna, in the 70s, Kishore Kumar became Bachchan’s playback voice. But there is no denying that Mukesh is a glorious fit to the actor’s tone in this track.
Kabhie Kabhi Mere Dil Mein – Kabhi Kabhie (1976)
‘Kabhie Kabhi Mere Dil Mein’ is perhaps the most remembered from Kabhie Kabhi. Yash Chopra’s trademark iconography is filmed with a romantic couple relaxing in front of a fire.
Amitabh Bachchan (Amit Malhotra) romances Raakhee (Pooja Khanna) in a never-before-seen avatar.
Originally, music composer Khayyam created this tune for Geeta Dutt, but that version never released.
It’s safe to assume that no one can imagine this song being sung by anyone other than Mukesh.
Mukesh romanticises each one of Sahir Ludhivani’s lyrics and breathes life into this soulful track. He once again proved that he was more than simply the voice of Raj Kapoor.
Mukesh won a “Best Male Playback Singer’ Filmfare Award in 1977 for this song. Sadly, this award turned out to be posthumous.
Mukesh died during one of his concerts in America on August 27, 1976. Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar attended his funeral.
Once, veteran actress and television talk show host Simi Garewal produced a documentary on Raj Kapoor.
Talking about Mukesh, Kapoor said:
“It is he that sung through the hearts and minds of people all over the world. When he died, I felt there goes away my voice.”
Mukesh may not be as well-known as Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar, but that doesn’t mean he is any less of a legend.
Sure, maybe he did not have the quality to modulate his voice like Rafi or Kumar.
But it could be argued that no one could beat him whenever it came to soulful or melancholic songs and for that, his voice will always live on.