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Shocking! “I Was Supposed To Sing Oh Hanseeni and all the songs of Sagar For Rishi Kapoor,” Shailendra Singh Exposes The Politics That Killed His Promising Career

Main shayar to nahin in  Bobby  gave  birth to  two stars. Rishi Kapoor who  lip-synced this timeless song, and  Shailendra Sing who  actually sang the tune to eternal  fame.

Singh, now  67,living alone in blissful isolation, blames  his  own  poor networking  abilities to  his short-lived  stardom.

“I  don’t speak about my past glory  and  when  my friend Chintu(Rishi Kapoor) passed away I  saw  that  wonderful  phase in my life when we  both dazzled  the world come to a closure,” says  the affable singer  when I coax him  into an interview.

“I met  him  after he returned from his treatment, three months ago. He  was his usual self, so full of life, sparkling with  humour and  warmth…Why does such a  man leave us so quickly?…We were almost the same age. I still remember a very young fair-skinned  boy standing quietly  in  the studio when I  I was recording Main shayar  toh nahin for Raj Saab and  Laxmikant-Pyarelalji . He didn’t say anything. Just  kept  observing ,  later he introduced himself as the hero  of the film that I was singing for,says Shailendra fondly.

How did  he , a newcomer, get such a prized  singing assignment like Bobby?

Shailendra sighs, “Even I wondered why , and how. I had nothing to do with the  film fraternity.  I lived in Pune  and learnt classical  Hindustani music from my Guru. Then suddenly one  day I was told that Raj Kapoor Saab  was  looking for  a fresh  voice  for  his son, and why don’t I  try for it?”

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Shailendra “gave it a try” with no  expectations. “How  was I to know   that Raj Saab would  like my voice? At the that  time I had no idea what  it was  for,that Raj Saab was making a film called Bobby  with his son Rishi Kapoor in  the lead.Or that the composers were  the  great Laxmikant-Pyarelal and   that  my duets would be with the Singing Queen Lata Mangeshkarji. I knew none  of this.”

 Here came  a  seemingly insurmountable  hurdle. “Laxmikant-Pyarelal  wanted the voice  of Mohd  Rafi Saab for Chintu.  But Raj Saab  was adamant. It had to be  a  fresh new voice  for  Chintu. Aur bhala Raj Saab ki baat kaun taal sakta ttha? So there I was,   being told  by Laxmikantji to sing  something, anything…And guess what  I chose to sing for him? Dekha na haye re socha na  haye re  from Bombay To Goa.An R  D Burman composition for Laxmikant-Pyarelal! I remember the  very talented  composer  Rajesh Roshan played the congo as  I sang for  Laxmi-Pyareji. That was the song of  my life  Dekha na  haye re socha na  haye re.I  never  cared about cultivating  the right people  in the film industry,or belonging  to any camp.”

Thereafter  a couple of  significant  incidents  happened  in    the  Kapoor parivar . “Daboo(Randhir Kapoor) got married. Raj Saab lost his father (Prithviraj Kapoor). Finally  I recorded Main shayar  toh nahin. Everyone congratulated me. I  was  formally introduced to the  film fraternity  by Raj saab at  a get-together . I remember  Sharmila Tagore, Mumtaz, Rajesh Khanna, R D Burman they were all there. My dream run had  just begun. The duets with Lataji were yet to come, though she was there  for   my recording of  Main shayar toh nahin. I remember  she  introduced herself( as  though I  didn’t know who she was!),watched me  sing and then left quietly. Soon I was singing Hum tum ek kamre band  ho with her. The first  of our three  superhit duets in Bobby. She  saw my nervousness and  put me at  ease. I became  a lifelong fan. My day still  starts with her song. By the way  Main shayar toh nahin was re-recorded. I had to do it a second time, though I thought I was  better  in the  first  version.”

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Shailendra Singh reveals how his dream of becoming Rishi Kapoor’s permanent  ghost voice were shattered .  “I thought I’d be Chintu’s ghost-voice , just like Mukesh Saab for  Raaj saab. Chintu of course  believed  in my voice. He  would always recommend me. I sang two songs  for him in his second film Zehreela Insaan. I was supposed  to sing a third song Oh hanseeni, which became the biggest hit of the film. Before I knew  it , the song was taken away from me  and given to Kishore Kumar Saab.”

An identical situation arose  during Saagar.  “I  was  told  S P Balasubramaniamji would  be Kamal Haasan’s voice. And I would  be  singing all the songs for Chintu.  I recorded one song  Jaane  do na   with Ashaji  for Saagar .It was used  for the mahurat  of  the film. And then suddenly , all the other  songs were  sung by Kishore Kumar Saab. I  don’t blame anyone for  this sudden change. Kishoreda was a  much bigger and better  singer than me. I am happy to have got songs  like  Main shayar toh nahin(Bobby), Humne tumko dekha(Khel Khel Mein),  Sham suhanee aaye(Zinda Dil) , Hoga tumse pyara  kaun(Zamane  Ko Dikhana Hai) , Jaane  do na(Saagar) and  Oh meri jaan(Manzil  Manzil). The rest was all destiny.”

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 In  1994, Shailendra Singh  was  hospitalized for complication due  to  diabetes.  “The  talk in  the industry was  that  I  had a heart attack and that  I had died. I didn’t die. But the  rumours  killed my career.”

  Shailendra’s acting ambitions also came  in  the  way of his singing career. “ I played  the lead   in a couple of  Hindi films  Agreement  opposite Rekhaji and  Do Jasoos where I  got to work with Raj Saab as an actor.  Then I   did guest appearances in two films  with  Bhaijaan(Mehmood) Ginny Aur Johnny  and Naukar.  I  was very close  to  Bhaijaan. I also played the lead in a Bengali film Ajosro Dhanyobaad with Aparna Sen as my leading lady. I  spoke all my dialogue in Bengali and sang all the songs…I soon realized acting wasn’t my forte.Singing was. And singing it shall remain. Even today no matter  where I go at every concert the audiences go wild when I  sing Main shayar toh nahin. Incidentally Chintu returned to sing Main shayar toh nahin  in Kunal Kohli’s  Hum Tum in  my voice.  It was  a grand reunion. Now I will sing  Main shayar toh nahin for  Chintu when we meet again.  ”

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