On Kavita Krishnamurthy's birthday, listing her top five songs from Hawa Hawaii to Maar Dala
Birthday Special: As Kavita Krishnamurthy turns 64, here's a list of top five songs from the playback singer
When I met her for the first time many years ago, Kavita Krishnamurthy had every reason to be angry. I had constantly been criticising her voice for being shrill and I expected to meet a highly disgruntled singer. Instead, Kavita was gracious and generous. “I know Lataji is your favourite, She is my favourite too. I’ve never resented your criticism. Rather, I’ve used it to better myself,” we chatted for hours over coffee and orange biscuits.
Over the years she got married to the musical giant L Subramaniam and continued to sing in Hindi and several South Indian languages. Today when I look back at her vast repertoire I am amazed at her prolificacy.
Kavita started her career as a dubbing artiste. In 1984 Lataji was instrumental in giving Kavita Krishnamurthy her first big break. The song was the chartbuster 'Tumse milkar na jaane kyon' in the Mithun Chakrbaorty-Padmini Kolhapure starrer Pyar Jhukta Nahin. Composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal invited Kavita to do the ‘scratch’ recording (the basic recording to be used for shooting purposes) with the rider that Lataji will record the final version of the song when she returned from her trip abroad. But here’s what happened when Lataji finally reached for the recording: she heard the version recorded by Kavita and told Laxmikant-Pyarelal to keep it.“Why do you want me to sing again when Kavita has sung it so well?” Lataji asked and left the recording before the composers could reply.
Kavita never forgot Lataji’s gesture. “Tumse milkar was a turning point for me. And it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Lataji. She insisted that my voice be retained,” she told me gratefully many years after the incident. There was no turning point thereafter for Kavita.
Here is my list of KK’s best
'Pyar hua chupke se' (1942: A Love Story)
I don’t know how RD Burman managed to convince his wife the great Asha Bhosle to let Kavita sing for the ethereal Manisha Koirala in this film. A hugely talented music composer RD Burman was allowed to work with only one other female singer by his wife, and that was Asha Bhosle’s sister Lata Mangeshkar. It was therefore a moment of stark terror for RD when filmmaker Vinod Chopra announced to RD that his main female vocalist in 1942: A Love Story for the leading lady Manisha Koirala would be Kavita Krishnamurthy. RD insisted Vinod Chopra to call and have a chat with Asha Bhosle about it. Pancham (RD) was not willing to comply with Vinod Chopra’s wish (of using Kavita Krishnamurthy's voice) unless he told Ashaji that the decision was Chopra’s and Pancham had nothing to do with it. Only then did RD record the beautiful melodies in 1942 in Kavita’s voice.
'Hawa Hawaii' (Mr India)
This gibberish classic written by Javed Akhtar would not have ignited into immortal life were it not for Kavita’s voice on the great Sridevi.
Said Sridevi, “When I did the Hawa Hawai song, I never thought it is going to be rated as one of the best songs of my career. It is very close to my heart.” Mr India’s director Shekhar Kapoor told me, “ 'Hawa hawaaii' was all done in dollops of improvised craziness. Everything was just achieved in a rush of madness. And Sri grasped that element of madness perfectly.” Kavita Krishnamurthy who sang 'Hawa Hawaii' is delighted to see the song withstanding the test of time. “It has been thirty-five years since that song was first released. I am happy to know the number still has a value. To my delight and surprise, they kept my voice in the re-mix for the film Tumhari Sallu.”
'Maar daala' (Devdas)
In her entire career Asha Bhosle has been replaced only once. And it is the perfectionist Sanjay Leela Bhansali who decided to scrap her voice after recording. The film was the epic blockbuster Devdas. The song was the chartbuster 'Maar dala'. It was originally recorded in Asha Bhosle’s voice. But something was amiss…Or so the perfectionist filmmaker thought. He wanted it re-recorded.Composer Ismail Durbar was aghast, “How can you ask THE Asha Bhosle to do the song again? No one tells her to do something like that,” Durbar couldn’t believe what Bhansali intended to do.
Bhansali had a better idea. Instead of asking he decided to scrap the ditty altogether and do it all over again in Kavita Krishnamoorthy’s voice. That’s how we finally heard 'Maar dala' in Kavita and not Asha Bhosle’s song. Everyone in the Devdas team expected all hell to break lose once the song was released. To her credit, Ashaji didn’t create any fuss in what must have been the most unexpected shock of her career. In fact for a long time after Devdas was released the dulcet diva continued to tease Bhansali about how her voice was not good enough for him.
'Na jaane kahan se aayee hai' (Chaalbaaz)
Another Sridevi special where Kavita blows your mind with her comic chiming. I know of no other singer with such a goofy comic sense. A trait Kavita imparted in her songs for Sridevi (and that included the neglected comedy song 'Chai mein chini' from the flop Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja). Kavita once shared the secret of her comic aptitude. “If it’s a fun song you have to make it sound like fun. You can’t come to recordings like these with a heavy heart. Having Sridevi on screen was a blessing.”
'Ya Allah yeh Mohabbat' (Qatl)
One of Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s most underrated soundtracks Qatl which was Sanjeev Kumar’s last film, had two monumental Lata Mangeshkar melodies ('Koi nahin koi nahin' and 'Mora roop rang'). Yet Kavita stood her ground with the breathy sexy arabesque 'Ya Allah Yeh Mohabbat Dard Hai Kya'. Her throaty thundering rendition blended into the cascading composition generating an aura of amorous allure. Kavita herself rates this as one of her best songs.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.
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