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10 fine romantic numbers by Abhijeet Bhattacharya – Birthday special

From Anjaam's 'Badi Mushkil Hai' to the soulful 'Suno Na Suno Na' from Chalte Chalte, we revisit the songs that made Abhijeet the go-to guy for romantic numbers.

Mayur Lookhar

The last decade of the 20th century saw Kumar Sanu and Udit Narayan dominate playback singing in Hindi cinema. However, Abhijeet Bhattacharya, too, became popular as the voice of Shah Rukh Khan in the mid-1990s. Even with the competition around, he managed to make a mark, standing out for his mellow voice.

Born in Kanpur, the Bengali singer was launched by the late singer-composer RD Burman. But the early period was tough and it wasn’t until Abhijeet sang for Salman Khan in Baaghi: A Rebel For Love (1990) that his career got a boost. Four years later, he sang for Shah Rukh Khan in Anjaam (1994), and life was made.

Abhijeet is rarely heard singing in films these days and has taken to courting controversy with his radical socio-political views instead. What cannot be disputed, however, is that he was among the top playback singers of the 1990s.

As Abhijeet turns 60 today (he was born on 30 October 1958), we look back at 10 of his finest numbers.

1. 'Nasha Hai Mujhe Bhi' — Anand Aur Anand (1984)

If someone like RD Burman gives you a break, it speaks volumes for your talent. Abhijeet had three tracks in this film's album — one a solo number and two duets. Of these, it is the 'Nasha Hai Mujhe Bhi' duet with Lata Mangeshkar that cannot be forgotten. Anjaan’s simple lyrics were a celebration of young love.

The magic of the song lies in the divine voice of Mangeshkar and the refreshing tone of Abhijeet. Unfortunately, the film's music could not save it at the box office. Actor-director-producer Dev Anand's launch pad for son Suneil and actress Natasha Sinha was a disaster.

2. 'Badi Mushkil Hai' — Anjaam (1994)

Success is rewarding and failure, punishing. Despite showing promise in his early films, Abhijeet, perhaps, was hit by the failure of Anand Aur Anand and only met with success for the first time with Deepak Shivdasani's Baaghi: A Rebel For Love (1990), though the film's music was far from memorable.

Abhijeet next sang 'Chota Sa Ghar', a fine romantic number in Yash Chopra's Darr (1993). But his career really took off the moment he began singing for Shah Rukh Khan.

Their first collaboration was the revenge drama Anjaam. After Darr, Khan returned as the possessive lover again in Rahul Rawail's revenge drama. The film had a few memorable tracks. For Abhijeet, 'Badi Muskhil Hai' proved to be a boon as his career took off thereafter. 

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Though Vijay (Khan) was stalking Shivani (Madhuri Dixit), the Anand-Milind composition was a sweet, romantic melody and Abhijeet sang it with effortless ease as the lyrics and the rhythm all flowed harmoniously.

3. 'Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main' — Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

Talk of the music of Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and you are at once reminded of classic numbers like 'Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna', 'Ruk Ja O Dil Diwane', 'Ho Gaya Hai Tujhko Toh Pyaar Sajna' and 'Tujhe Dekha Toh' sung by Kumar Sanu, Lata Mangeshkar, and Udit Narayan. One almost forgets that Abhijeet Bhattacharya, too, contributed to the film's melodious album.

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As opposed to his first duet 'Nasha Hai Mujhe Bhi' for Anand Aur Anand with Lata Mangeshkar, Bhattacharya sounded much more confident singing the 'Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main' song with Asha Bhosle. One only gets better with experience.

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Also, 'Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main' was all about breaking the shackles and unwinding. One drink too many makes Simran (Kajol) lose her bearings and go wild and Raj (Shah Rukh Khan), her travel companion, saves her the blushes. Eventually, the madness gets to Raj, too, and the roles are reversed for the characters and the singers. Abhijeet and Asha Bhosle basked in this Jatin-Lalit composition. The song was penned by Anand Bakshi.

4. 'Mai Koi Aisa Geet Gaoon' — Yes Boss (1997)

How a couple of years can turn things around. Once assigned to singing just a couple of songs in a film album, Abhijeet Bhattacharya had gone on to become the voice of the superstar of the 1990s, Shah Rukh Khan.

This Aziz Mirza film is remembered as much for its music as for its endearing slice-of-life tale. Stars, butterflies, flowers, king and queen and stories — lyricist Javed Akhtar conjured up all means of flattery into this delightful romantic number. Another fine soothing score by composer duo Jatin-Lalit.

The real soothing touch, however, came from Abhijeet's vocals. He sang this track with such ease that the listener cannot but be pleased. No wonder he went on to pick up the Filmfare award for Best Playback Singer (Male) that year. Play this song any time and most listeners would join along.

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5. 'Suniye Toh' — Yes Boss (1997)

Hisham Abbas is a name that most Indians may never have heard. The Egyptian pop singer's 'Ahla Ma Feki' track became the inspiration for Jatin-Lalit to compose the 'Suniye Toh' number for Yes Boss. Of course, Javed Akhtar added the desi lyrics. The music, too, was peppier than in the Arabic track. And Abhijeet revelled in this rollicking score with a boisterous performance.

6. 'Tan Tana Tan Tan Tara' — Judwaa (1997)

It was a Salman Khan film, Baaghi (1990), that had revived Abhijeet’s career as a playback singer. And he was reunited with Salman Khan for David Dhawan's comedy caper Judwaa.

Anu Malik scored the music for the film. The songs were anything but poetry. Yet, what worked for the music was its strong mass appeal. The 'Tan Tana Tan Tan Tara' track was popular for its easy lyrics and foot-tapping music. It fitted well with the essence of the comedy. For Abhijeet, it was all about soaking in the fun. And the listeners rejoiced with him.

7. 'Ae Nazneen Suno Na' — Dil Hi Dil Mein (2000)

A relatively unheralded song, 'Ae Nazneen Suno Na' was probably lost because it did not feature any big star. Kathir Subbiah's Tamil film Kadhalar Dhinam (1999) was reshot in Hindi as Dil Hi Dil Mein. This was a maiden collaboration between AR Rahman and Abhijeet and the singer got a taste of music that he had never explored before. Mehboob’s lyrics were filled with flattery and had the hero almost worshipping his beloved.

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Abhijeet had seldom had the chance of lending his voice to such poetic lyrics, or sing along to the magic of Rahman’s music. The singer cashed in on this opportunity with a memorable performance. Sadly, this was his only collaboration with the Mozart of Madras.

8. 'Mere Khayalon Ki Mallika' — Josh (2000)

Even though the film had Shah Rukh Khan, Abhijeet sang for Chandrachur Singh in Mansoor Khan's Josh. This song had Chandrachur Singh's Rahul admiring the beauty of Aishwarya Rai's Shirley. The soulful lyrics by Sameer were aided by the soft, soothing romantic score by Anu Malik. Abhijeet's performance can only be described as mesmerizing.

9. Title track — Chalte Chalte (2003)

Abhijeet was slowly fading away as the likes of Sonu Nigam, Shaan and KK were beginning to shine in Hindi cinema. But with Shah Rukh Khan still reigning supreme, the singer continued to be in demand. With Jatin-Lalit doing the composition, Aziz Mirza helming the film, and Khan playing the lead, Abhijeet was in his comfort zone again with Chalte Chalte.

The hallmark of the romantic film was its endearing music. The title track, though pleasant, was actually a song that saw the lovers drifting apart. While Javed Akhtar penned the lyrics, Alka Yagnik and Abhijeet did a fantastic job of rendering it. The two singers created magic whenever they collaborated.  From the start to the end, the 'Chalte Chalte' song hits your senses like a soothing symphony.

10. 'Suno Na Suno Na' — Chalte Chalte (2003)

Shah Rukh Khan always knew how to change the mood of his aggrieved heroines on screen and, more often than not, the flattery flowed through the voice of Abhijeet Bhattacharya. 'Suno Na Suno Na' was another jewel in the singer's crown. With a voice like Abhijeet's, it would have been hard for any heroine to ignore the advances.