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Article Hindi

When Mukesh fought for ‘Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De’

On the famed singer’s 93rd birth anniversary, a look at his first hit song from Pehli Nazar (1945).

Sonal Pandya

With over 1,000 songs to his credit before he passed away, singer Mukesh was quite the force in Hindi film music in his heyday. But did you know that he had to struggle initially in his career to even be heard?

Mukesh received his first big break in Mazhar Khan’s Pehli Nazar (1945). Previously, he had tried his hand at acting with Nirdosh (1941), in which he also sang his own songs, as, indeed, was the norm in those days.

Years later, he also appeared as an actor in Malhar (1951), Mashuqa (1953) and Anuraag (1956). But he became a professional playback singer with Pehli Nazar. Mukesh sang his first song ‘Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De’ for music composer Anil Biswas with lyrics by Aah Sitapuri.

Today, the song ‘Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De’ is a treasured classic, but Mukesh had to fight to persuade the film’s producer, Mazhar Khan, to allow the song to be included in the film. In the early 1960s, Mukesh was touring England for a series of concerts with lyricist Indeevar and music composer Anandji.

In a Hindi interview with Himanshu Kumar Bhaduri for the BBC, he recalled that the producer wasn’t keen on retaining the song which was to be picturized on the actor Motilal. Khan felt the song was too sad to be used on so jovial a personality as Motilal. Mukesh, who had sung the song in the style of his idol KL Saigal, was heartbroken to hear that the song was to be dropped.

Nevertheless, Mukesh persisted and pleaded his case with Mazhar Khan who felt the song was too boring. Eventually, after much persuasion, they agreed to leave the song in for one week. Mazhar Khan said that if the audience rejected the song, then it would be out of the film.

But that was not to be. Mukesh said: “Aur saheb, mujhe ye kehte hue bada faqr hota hai ki aaj picture bhi sab log bhool gaye honge, shayad Motidada ko bhi bhool gaye honge, shayad Mazhar Khan ko bhi bhool gaye honge, magar uss gaane ko sab yaad rakhte hain [And sir, it gives me great pride to say that today everyone may have forgotten the film, maybe even Motilal and Mazhar Khan, but they haven’t forgotten the song]."

The song became a stepping stone to an illustrious career, though Mukesh's name never appeared on the album as the song was credited to Motilal’s character Mushtaq in Pehli Nazar. In a few years, he became the regular choice as playback singer for stars like Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor, and never looked back.