“Dil Jalta Hai” (My heart is aflame) is acknowledged as Mukesh Chand Mathur’s first song in his storied career. People often mistake this to have been sung by KL Saigal. Saigal was the leading singer of the 1940s and his influence extended over the entire generation of male singers that followed him. The song is from the film “Pehli Nazar” (First Glance) and was released in 1945. Lyrics by Safdar Aah Sitapuri and music composed by Anil Biswas, a legend in his own right.
I have fond memories of listening to this song on radio when I was growing up. I suffer from a malady that irks my wife. I don’t pay attention to the lyrics of a song, I enjoy it primarily based on the melody and the memories it holds for me. I often hum sad songs blithely or sing them with mangled lyrics much to my wife’s irritation! Now that I look back, it must have been incongruous for a ten-year-old boy to listen to or sing tragic songs of heartbreak or separation!
My mother used to mention that the producer had originally planned to cut this song from the movie. Mukesh pleaded for the song to be included and the movie eventually ran because audiences streamed in to watch this song on screen. I used to wonder if this story was apocryphal but I have come across an article where Mukesh confirms this narrative. The producer apparently felt that the song was too sad to be filmed on the character Motilal who was not cast in the tragic mold.
Annu Kapoor, the Indian film actor, has mentioned that when Saigal heard this song, he was astonished and said that it sounded just like him. He had his secretary, invite Mukesh home. It must have been an honor for Mukesh to be invited to his idol’s house. Mukesh sang a few songs for Saigal who then predicted a successful career for him and gifted Mukesh his harmonium. Two authoritative biographies of Saigal that I have read do not mention this episode, but this just adds more mystique to the song that I love.
Mukesh’s last song “Chanchal, nirmal, sheetal, komal” (Lively, pure, soft, tender) was pictured on Shashi Kapoor for the movie “Satyam Shivam Sundaram” released in 1978. The song was recorded earlier. “Dil jalta hai” from 1945 had Motilal pining for Munawar Sultana. Shashi Kapoor’s “Chanchal, nirmal, sheetal, komal” was addressed to Zeenat Aman. Munawar Sultana came into prominence through the film “Pehli Nazar” produced by actor-producer Mazhar Khan. Several decades later, Zeenat Aman, already an established star, married an actor-producer called Mazhar Khan!
Incidentally, Mukesh started his career as an aspiring actor and probably did sing a couple of songs prior to this song. However, this is the song that catapulted him to fame and was his first professional playback song. Mukesh passed away shortly before his concert in Detroit in 1976. Here is a version of his song sung during his last concert. The video claims that it was recorded in Detroit, but Mukesh passed away before the concert in Detroit, so this likely is from the concert in Toronto.
The featured image of Mukesh is from bbc.com