Posted by Fenil Seta
Roshmila Bhattacharya (MUMBAI MIRROR; August 10, 2017)
It may not have been a real ghost story but even after 68 years, Late Mangeshkar’s “Aayega Aanewala” from Kamal Amrohi’s 1949 directorial debut Mahal continues to haunt our collective imagination. It was composed by Khemchand Prakash, who the Melody Queen fondly called “chachaji”. He heard her singing for Ghulam Haider and offered her a song in Bombay Talkies’ Ziddi, “Chanda Re Ja Re Ja Re”, picturised on Kamini Kaushal. The film launched Dev Anand as a leading man and featured Kishore Kumar’s first song, “Marne Ki Duaayen Kyun Maangoon”.
The singing doyen remembers running into Kishore in the local train. Dressed in kurta, pyjama and a muffler, he unnerved her by singing to himself. Then, he hopped into a Victoria at Malad station and followed her to the studio. She was complaining about the ‘stalker’ when Kishore walked in and, with a laugh, Khemchand informed her he was studio boss Ashok Kumar’s younger brother. “Chachaji then gave us the duet, ‘Yeh Kaun Aaya Re’ and Kishore went on to joke about our introduction on stage at a show in Jalandhar,” reminisces Lata, who sang five solos and the duet for Ziddi.
Impressed, Khemchand then offered her “Aayega Aanewala”. She recalls Kamal Amrohi telling the composer that he wanted her to convey that the hero, Ashok Kumar, was listening to Madhubala sing from a distance.
“Those days the producer and director had a lot of say in the music and Chachaji was worried about how the song would shape up. The musicians, who played live, were sitting up front while I was despatched to the farthest corner of the studio and asked to slowly walk towards the mic, singing the song. After several rehearsals we went for a take. We recorded on film then and it wasn’t till he heard it the next day that Chachaji knew his experiment had succeeded.
Thrilled, he blessed me and gave me ‘Dil Ne Fir Yaad Kiya’ and ‘Mushkil Hai Bahot Mushkil’,” says Lata, looking back at how, after learning that she left home after drinking a cup of tea and didn’t eat all day, the composer got her a dabba of homemade parathas, achaar and halwa and insisted she eat before they started rehearsals.
“Chachaji treated me like his own daughter, regaling me with stories of (KL) Saigal saab, whom I idolised. He even reprimanded a studio employee who tried to chat me up and threatened to beat him up. The man never troubled me again,” she laughs.
Those days, the record released before the film. All Mahal songs were well received, with “Aayega Aanewala” becoming the chant of the nation. It was voted the song of the millennium. “Bol bahut achche the and it was filmed beautifully. My only regret is that Chachaji fell ill soon after and didn’t live to see how successful his songs and the film became. He would’ve been so happy. I was devastated the day he passed away.” Khemchand Prakash died aged 42 on August 10, 1950, two months before Mahal released.