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As Yesudas Turns 84, Subhash K Jha Profiles The Divine Singer




Composer  Ravindra Jain had once said, “If God had a voice it would be  that of Yesudas. Sometimes I wish I  could get my eyesight back only  so that I could see what  Yesudas looked like.”

Ravindra  Jain  brought  Yesudas to  Mumbai to sing the songs of  Basu Chatterjee’s Chitchor. Jain was  looking for a  new  voice for Amol Palekar. Yesudas  felt it was destiny . “I have never sought  singing opportunities.They have come to me. Right from the song “Aliyambal Kadavil” in the  film Rosi , I have believed what is mine will come to me.”

  Interestingly K.P. Udayabhanu was supposed to sing  “Aliyambal  Kadavil”. He fell ill and when the director asked Yesudas  to sing, he very reluctantly agreed. Only after Udayabhanu gave his  consent  did  Yesudas step in.

The  rest, as they say, is chemistry. In Hindi cinema, most of  Yesudas’   hit songs  were for Ravindra Jain. But it  was Salil Chowdhary who  gave Yesudas his first big break in Filmistan with the  breezy  blockbuster duet Jaan-e-man  jaan-e-man tere do nayan with Asha  Bhosle  in Basu Chatterjee’s  Chotisi Baat.

From that point onwards, there was no looking  back for Yesudas .Strangely he hardly sang for big-budgeted Hindi  films except  Yash Chopra’s Trishul. According to a leading composer  of the 1980s, “Yesudas was  not considered  the  voice  of the  leading man in Hindi cinema. Voices with a  strong classical base were  never favoured in Hindi cinema, be it Suresh  Wadkar or Yesudas.”

In Hindi, Yesudas sang largely for small-budgeted  Rajshri Production where  his  partnership with  Ravindra Jain was  hugely  fruitful. Although the duo’s  most successful songs were for   Basu Chatterjee’s Chitchor(Tu jo mere  sur mein,Aaj se pehle,Gori tera  gaon bada pyara  and Jab deep jale  aana are hummed to this day) it was  the song Shadjane  paaya   yeh vardaan from the  unreleased  film Tansen of which  Jain and Yesudas were  the  proudest.

In the  9-minute  classical  masterpiece  Yesudas  holds court  in  true  Tansen  tradition.  Jain composed this masterpiece  for a bio-pic on  the legendary singer  Tansen which never got made. But the song survived.   It’s a living testimony  of Jain’s  outstanding collaborative commitment  to Yesudas’s vocal  mastery.

 When Jain composed the music for Tansen, there was one particular song that played on the ragas Mohammed Rafi was at his peak then. When  Jain  played this song for him,Mohammed Rafi had  apparently declined  saying it was beyond his range. It was finally sung by Yesudas.

Both  Jain and  Yesudas  worked on that song for two  days  without  any food, or break or even a sip of water.  At the end of the recording, both of  the composer  and  singer  fell ill.

When I  recounted this incident to Lataji she  had commented,  “It is in  character with the artiste that he is. Yesudas is  one of the rare breed  that won’t breathe  easily until  attaining perfection.His has  the voice of  a prophet,  a saint. I have sung a handful of songs with him in Trishul, Jeena Yahan and Mera Rakshak. We also  sang a beautiful duet for  an  unreleased  film for Khayyam(Yeh haseen raat  for Kamal Amrohi’s shelved  film  Majnoon).It was  a pleasure to  share  the mike with someone so knowledgable and accomplished.”

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