It’s just another day in Bombay, except in Deepa’s (Vidya Sinha) life, who is the city for a job interview. But, it turns out, career is hardly a preoccupation for the aspiring scholar when she meets Navin at the railway station.

Navin (Dinesh Thakur) is tall and lanky, wears short kurtas, now sports a full beard, and is seldom seen without his sunglasses and a compulsive cigarette. So when the young woman from Delhi, in her mandatory sari, gets off the train and spots an ex-lover waiting for her at the crowded railway platform, life changes.

She revisits old days when, once upon a time, this man publicly dumped her for defying his orders of joining a college strike.

220px-Rajnigandha,_1974Meanwhile, Sanjay (Amol Palekar) is waiting for her in Delhi, her self-absorbed, not-so-punctual and buffoon of a boyfriend. He first met her on a rainy day, when he had an umbrella and she didn’t. They were due to take a college examination.

“Tomorrow, I’ll see you there.”

“No, I will get my own umbrella.”

“Sure. Then I won’t get mine.”

Cut back to Bombay. After many unplanned meetings over coffee and city-sightseeing, she feels drawn to Navin, once again. She compares personalities of the two men, their value of time, and the measure of attention she gets from each of them.

One day, getting into a taxi with the flamboyant ad man, the Basu Chatterjee film introduces another character, a man.

Not a third love interest, however. But playback singer Mukesh, who croons about the situation thus:

कई बार यूँ भी देखा हैं
ये जो मन की सीमा रेखा हैं,
मन तोड़ने लगता हैं
अनजानी प्यास के पीछे,
अनजानी आस के पीछे,
मन दौड़ने लगता हैं

kai baar yoon bhi dekha hain
ye jo man kee seema rekha hain,
man todne lagta hain
anjani pyaas ke peeche, anjani aas ke peechhe,
man daudne lagta hain

राहों में, राहों में, जीवन की राहों में
जो खिले हैं फूल, फूल मुस्कुरा के
कौन सा फूल चुरा के, रखूँ मन में सज़ा के

raahon men, raahon men, jeewan kee raahon men
jo khile hain fool, phool muskuraa ke
kaun saa phool churaa ke, rakhooan man men sajaa ke

जानू ना, जानू ना, उलझन ये जानू ना
सुलझाऊ कैसे कुछ समझ ना पाऊं
किस को मीत बनाऊ, किस की प्रीत भुलाऊं

jaanoo naa, jaanoo naa, ulajhan ye jaanoo naa
sulajhaaoo kaise kuchh samajh naa paaoon
kis ko meet banaaoo, kis kee preet bhulaaoon

In its words and music, ‘Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai’ is a frugal song, but its melody never fails to strike a chord. That’s because of lyricst Yogesh’s quintessentially lucid writing, made poignant in Mukesh’s golden voice.

This musical intervention in ‘Rajnigandha’ has a moral tone to it, while delineating the woman’s dilemma, who eventually doesn’t “transgress” and decides to marry Sanjay in the end.

MukeshMukesh got his only National Award for this background song – a breakaway from his playback singing for actors, most notably for Raj Kapoor, considered his double because of the way the actor’s screen presence and the singer’s voice complemented each other.

Delhi-born Mukesh Chander Mathur’s singing has a conversational, no-frills quality, and yet its simplicity is his forte. As if he is sitting next to you and without any prodding breaks into a melody, sans a battery of musicians to back him.

Whether its romance, separation or life’s hard lessons, Mukesh’s songs carved a niche in an age that also saw domination of stalwarts Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar.

Kabhie Kabhie, released in 1976, gave him the most romantic song of his career, and his last (posthumous) Filmfare trophy.

Mukesh, who would have been 91 on July 22, died of a heart attack in 1976 during a concert tour with Lata Mangeshkar in the United States.

“I have lost my voice,” Kapoor said on the singer’s death.

For more insight and interesting anecdotes about Mukesh’s life, listen to actor-turned-RJ Annu Kapoor’s show ‘Suhana Safar…” on 92.7 FM.

(On Twitter, I am @Ankush_patrakar)

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