In person, he comes across as serious, strong and silent; whereas she is sweet, soft and smiling. As a singer, he has a unique heavy bass voice; whereas she errs on the higher and sharper side! As a husband-wife couple and as a singing team, Bhupendra and Mitali make an interestingly contrasting pair.
Recently the acclaimed singing couple was in Dubai for a public concert organized by Neha Singh- Dubey. Just 1 hour before the show, I managed to get hold of them for a quick chat. May be it wasn’t such a good time to meet them after all because even though Mitali went out of her way to accommodate this request of the hastily arranged interview, her hubby seemed distant and distracted throughout. Perhaps I had unwittingly disturbed his pre-concert preparation! Still I managed to get quite a few of their interesting quotes on various topics.
When reminded of his famous guitar-interludes (He is a superb guitarist, too!) in songs like Chura Liya and Chanda O Chanda and his vocal contribution in the Raja Rani-gem Jab Andhera Hota Hai, Bhupendra wistfully said, “Those were the days! We worked so passionately on our music. The Chura Liya- piece was played without using the plectrum. ”
He lamented the effects of digitalization of music and remarked, “Keyboards can perhaps reproduce the sound of the instruments but from where will they bring the human touch of emotions? Just because multi-track digital recording is available, arrangers fill those tracks with needless music. Any Tom, Dick and Harry is opening up a recording studio without having the real musical know-how.”
When asked about how she entered into Bhupendra’s life, Mitali fondly reminisced: “I actually met him face to face in Mumbai in 1978. But much before that I was fascinated by his singing through his Bengali songs and the Parichay- song ‘Mitawa’. Actually my brother Deepak Mukherji first made me listen his singing. I found his voice, tonal quality and singing style to be totally different from the then popular voices and I became his fan. I originally hail from Bangladesh and never ever thought that I would ever meet him!”
Bhupendra then continued the love-story further and said, “After we met in Bombay, we came closer through music. In 1983 we got married and then started doing shows together. We also started making our music albums. Mitali’s first solo album was Saahil and later we also did many duet albums together.”
When I asked him whether he enjoys his live programs more or his recordings, Bhupendra favoured the latter. He said, “Live stage program is no place for enjoyment. It is a commitment. It is like a duty. Sound, instruments, musicians- there are so many different things to look after. If everything goes well, then we feel happy but while recording it is a much more relaxed atmosphere. If we make mistakes in a recording, we can do re-takes but not on the stage. There we can’t make mistakes.” But Mitali begged to differ and chipped in: “I think both live shows and recordings have their unique plus points. In a live show, we get instant appreciation which often provides inspiration for doing something new, whereas in a recording, we get time to properly plan according to the audience tastes. There we can tell the song-writers to come up with romantic songs, which the listeners have come to associate with our pair. Sach Kahte Hain Tum Roothe To Hum Mar Jaayenge is one such song, which has become very popular.”
So has this musical bonding helped their marital bond as well? Even though Bhupendra was not too keen to endorse this observation and tried to laugh it off; Mitali immediately countered him and said, “Music has definitely brought us closer in everyday life. As a singer and as a person, I have grown immensely just by being with him, listening to him and observing him from close quarters. Even while doing the house chores, I am constantly thinking of some musical tune and through that I am thinking of him. Otherwise there are so many couples who are physically together but emotionally distant.”
Then I asked Bhupendra about his entry in film-music and he replied: “I was a casual artiste in All India Radio, Delhi. Once Madan Mohan-saab heard my song there and he was impressed. He promised to call me to Bombay if something suitable came up. After a few months, I got a call from him to come to Bombay for a song-recording. The first song that I recorded was the Haqeeqat- song Hoke Majboor Mujhe.”
Didn’t his different voice kept him away from the mainstream? Replying to this question, Bhupendra admitted that it did happen that way but he couldn’t help it as that’s the way his voice was. Immediately Mitali quipped- “Meri aawaz hi pehchan hai”-(My voice is my real identity!), which incidentally is the refrain of his famous duet with Lata in Kinara!
Speaking about R.D. Burman- a composer with whom he worked for years as a singer and a musician, Bhupendra said, “24 hours, R.D. used to just think about music. He liked to listen to different types of music and instruments and then would try them out in his own music. He introduced a lot of new musical styles, rhythms and sounds in film music. He was a genius.”
He quickly added - “That way most of the composers that I worked with were geniuses” and went on to describe the working patterns of some major composers: “Jaidevji’s music was based on Hindustani classical music and used a lot of Gaayaki ang. He had a distinctive style and it was a real pleasure working with him. Madan Mohan’s music was melody-based and used Thumris and Ghazals a lot. Whether it was Jaidev, Madan Mohan or S.D.Burman, each composer was like an institution and from them I learnt a lot- not only about music but also about the way of life. So I will always be grateful to all of them.”
As a parting question, my friend Vijay Sharma asked Bhupendra what was his preferred field since he was an all-in-one singer, musician and composer. Bhupendra’s answer was simple. “I am first a singer. Later I became a musician. As a composer, I compose only for my own ghazal albums. All these skills have given me joy and contentment. I am a contented man!”