Hariharan birthday special — Riding on a lyrical wave of nostalgia

As the singer turns 62 today (3 April), we take a look at the memorable songs by the underrated singer.

Mayur Lookhar

Versatility is a gift, but certain voices have a peculiar characteristic that make them apt for certain tracks. Seasoned singer Hariharan did well in pop music as one half of the band Colonial Cousins, but it was in the Tamil and Hindi film music industry that he discovered his true identity. If one looks at his singing career, especially in the Hindi film industry, Hariharan has quite a few songs that induce a sense of nostalgia. As the singer turns 62 today (3 April), we take a stroll down memory lane of soothing sound waves created by Hariharan's voice.

1. 'Yeh Lamhe' – Lamhe (1991)

Hariharan was credited as one of the singers in the Mashal (1984) track 'Footpathon Ke Hum Rehne Wale', where Suresh Wadkar is the defining voice.  Hariharan would come into his own seven years later singing a couple of tracks for another Yash Chopra film, Lamhe. One of them was the timeless titular track 'Yeh Lamhe'. 'Yeh lamhe yeh pal barso yaad karengey' — true to its lyrics, fans still haven't forgotten this nostalgic number.

2. 'Uyire Uyire/Tu Hi Re' – Bombay (1995)


The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Hariharan is 'Tu Hi Re'. This is arguably his finest song, especially for the Hindi audiences. As good as the Hindi version was, nothing beats the original Tamil song 'Uyire Uyire'. Hariharan was brilliant in both versions.

Often such songs are lost in translation. Lyricist Mehboob penned a classic in 'Tu Hi Re'. Remarkably, AR Rahman was contemplating on picking either SP Balasubrahmanyam or Yesudas, but thought of giving Hariharan a go as he hadn’t heard his voice in a non-Ghazal song. The rest, as they say, is history. The Tamil lyrics were penned by Vairamuthu. 

3. 'Hai Rama Yeh Kya Hua' – Rangeela (1995)

AR Rahman’s intoxicating music and Urmila Matondkar’s beauty epitomised through the sensuous voice of the late Swarnalatha made this song memorable. Hariharan’s voice reflected the desperation of a parched Raj Kamal (Jackie Shroff). Lord Rama, too, would be smitten by the 'Hai Rama Yeh Kya Hua' track from Rangeela.

4. 'Bahon Ke Darmiyan' – Khamoshi: The Musical (1996)

Khamoshi: The Musical lived up to its name. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s musical was revered more for its music than its plot. This romantic duet with Alka Yagnik was a true celebration of muted love. Here’s a song that is liked by all generations.

5. 'Chappa Chappa Charkha Chale' – Maachis (1996)

This was a Gulzar directorial based on the insurgence in Punjab in the 1980s following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The legendary writer-combined forces with then rookie Vishal Bhardwaj to compose some memorable tracks, none so endearing than 'Chappa Chappa Charkha Chale' track that sees the wanted protagonists reminisce their good times. Suresh Wadkar, a Maharashtrian and Hariharan, a Tamilian, found themselves crooning a Punjabi-Urdu track. They were far from perfect, but the two distinct voices complimented each other beautifully.

6. 'Dheemi Dheemi' – 1947 Earth (1998)

This was an underrated film and most people wouldn’t even recollect the music of Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth. Sukhwinder Singh’s 'Ruth Aa Gayi Re' was more popular, but it was the romantic number 'Dheemi Dheemi' that stayed with us. Using minimum musical instruments ,the song purely rides high on the mellifluous voice of Hairiharan. It remains one of AR Rahman and Hariharan's underrated compositions.

7. 'Nahin Samne' – Taal (1999)

Be it 'Tu Hi Re' or 'Nahi Samne', the word Tu (you)  has never been spelt so magically than in the voice of Hariharan. And yet again, it needed AR Rahman to get the best out of him. You can get a fair idea of Hariharan’s vocal range through this soulful ballad.

8. 'Yaadein' – Yaadein... (2001)

It’s not often that you come across a song where a singer is not singing, but reciting a poetry. The late Anand Bakshi penned a beautiful poem in the title track of Yaadein. Anu Malik’s music was exemplary, but the 'Yaadein' track would have no soul if it wasn’t recited in the voice of Hariharan.

9. 'Kitni Baatein' – Lakshya (2004)

Nostalgia is best expressed in the voice of Hariharan. The yaadein (memories) just refuse to leave Hariharan. Joining him in this wave of nostalgia was Sadhana Sargam. This Lakshya track leaves you with a heavy heart. Therein lies its bitter-sweet victory or should one say, its bitter-sweet memory.

10. 'Yun Hi Chala' – Swades: We, The People (2004)

For a man who got used to singing nostalgic songs, Hariharan must have been pleasantly surprised that he was offered a little part in the peppy, vagabond track 'Yun Hi Chala' in Shah Rukh Khan’s Swades: We, The People. Udit Narayan and Kailash Kher were the principal singers, but the song begins and ends with a fusion aalap by Hariharan, which is endearing to listeners of all ages.