Even 37 years after his death, the magic of Mukesh's voice remains etched in the minds of music lovers. Known as a gentleman singer for his sober songs, a few lesser-known incidents from his life, narrated by his contemporaries, throw more light on Mukesh's humane qualities, making him an even greater artiste.
Once the father of a terminally-ill little girl approached Mukesh and told him that she wished to meet the singer who had sung her favourite song. Mukesh cancelled a stage show to meet the child. He sang a number of songs for her; he said that one smile on her face was more than what he would have earned from the stage show, 'Kisi ki muskarahton pe ho nisaar'.
Singer Mahendra Kapoor narrated me an incident. The principal of Rohan Kapoor's (Mahendra's son) school was a great fan of Mukesh. He requested if he could ask Mukesh how much he would charge to perform in the school. Mahendra Kapoor asked Mukesh and informed the principal.
Later, the former got a call from the principal that after the show, Mukesh had refused to take money. He thought he must have heard the wrong figure, maybe that's why Mukesh refused the money. He called him to clarify. The simple answer he got was that on being asked, he had quoted the amount he charged for such shows, but he had never said that he would actually charge. Affectionately, he asked Mahendra Kapoor: would he charge if he asked him to perform in his son Nitin's school?
Kalyanji-Anandji recorded a song for the film Vishwas in the voice of Manhar Udhas, with the condition that when Mukesh returned from his tour, it would be dubbed in his voice. When Mukesh heard Manhar's song, he told Kalyanji that it would be a great injustice with the young singer. Kalyanji said the producers would not agree. Mukesh spoke to the producers and convinced them to retain Manhar's voice. Thus, the industry got Manhar's first hit, 'Aapse hum ko bichhde hue'.
During a meeting with Khayyam Sahib and Jagjit Kaur in 1997, they narrated that once in the late 1950s, they were to pay an instalment for their flat, and if they defaulted they would lose their flat; they tried their best, but got no help. Jagjit Kaur called Mukesh and explained, but he banged the phone down. Hardly had they recovered from the shock when Mukesh was at their door with the money. The reason for banging the phone down was he didn't want to waste any more time!
Mukesh was known to be a peacemaker in the Bollywood music industry. He convinced Lata Mangeshkar to sing for Raj Kapoor's Bobby (RK and Lata had fallen apart after Sangam). He again convinced Lata to sing for Shankar (of the Shankar-Jaikishan duo) in Sanyasi, Lata had not been on good terms with Shankar, and after Jaikishan's death she didn't sing for Shankar.
Lata had great respect for Mukesh and regarded him as an elder brother. It was on Mukesh's insistence that she accompanied him to the US tour in 1976, least knowing that he was honouring a commitment to the sponsors, not heeding the advice of doctors. On August 27, 1976, a few hours before the show, he departed from this world, leaving behind the treasure of his songs and memories of his generosity.
A song only touches the sensitive strings of the listeners' hearts. When the performer himself is an honest and emotional person who feels the pain and instills it in his singing, he becomes a legend. Mukesh was such a legend.
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