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I wanted to be Chintu's 'voice', but...

May 08, 2020 11:29 IST

'I thought I'd be Chintu's ghost voice, just like Mukeshsaab for Rajsaab.'
'Chintu believed in my voice. He would always recommend me.'
'I sang two songs for him in in his second film, Zehreela Insaan.'
'I was supposed to sing Oh Hanseeni, which became the biggest hit of the film.'
'Before I knew it, the song was taken away from me and given to Kishore Kumarsaab.'

Main Shayar To Nahin in Bobby gave birth to two stars: Rishi Kapoor, who lip-synced this timeless song on screen and Shailendra Singh, who sang it.

Today, Shailendra Singh, 67, lives in blissful isolation and blames his networking abilities for his short-lived stardom.

"I don't speak about my past glory. But when my friend Chintu (Rishi Kapoor) passed away, I saw that wonderful phase in my life, when we dazzled the world, come to a closure," the affable singer tells Subhash K Jha.

"I met him after he returned from his treatment three months ago," says Shailendra. "He was his usual self, full of life, sparkling with humour and warmth..."

"Why does such a man leave us so quickly? We were almost the same age. I still remember a very young, fair-skinned, boy standing quietly in the studio when I was recording Main Shayar Toh Nahin for Rajsaab (the legendary showman Raj Kapoor, Bobby's director and Rishi's dad) and Laxmikant-Pyarelalji. He didn'/t say anything, just kept observing. Later, he introduced himself as the hero of the film."

How did he, a newcomer, get such a prized singing assignment like Bobby?

"Even I wondered why," Shailendra sighs. "I had nothing to do with the film fraternity. I lived in Pune and learnt classical Hindustani music from my guru. Then suddenly one day, I was told that Raj Kapoorsaab was looking for a fresh voice for his son. (So I thought) 'Why don't I try for it?'"

Shailendra 'gave it a try' with no expectations.

"How was I to know that Rajsaab would like my voice? At that time, I had no idea what it was for, that Rajsaab was making a film called Bobby with his son in the lead. Or that the composers were the great Laxmikant-Pyarelal and that my duets would be with Lata Mangeshkarji."


Here came a seemingly insurmountable hurdle.

"Laxmikant-Pyarelal wanted the voice of Mohammad Rafisaab for Chintu. But Rajsaab was adamant. It had to be a fresh new voice. Aur bhala Rajsaab ki baat kaun taa sakta tha? So there I was, being told by Laxmikantji to sing something, anything," Shailendra remembers.

"Guess what I chose to sing for him? Dekha Na Haye Re Socha Na from Bombay To Goa. An R D Burman composition for Laxmikant-Pyarelal! I remember the very talented composer Rajesh Roshan played the congo as I sang," he adds.

Thereafter, a couple of significant incidents happened in the Kapoor parivar .

"Daboo (Randhir Kapoor) got married. Rajsaab lost his father (Prithviraj Kapoor). Finally, I recorded Main Shayar Toh Nahin. Everyone congratulated me. I was formally introduced to the film fraternity by Rajsaab at a get together," Shailendra recalls.

"I remember Sharmila Tagore, Mumtaz, Rajesh Khanna, R D Burman were all there. My dream run had just begun. The duets with Lataji were yet to come though she was there for my recording of Main Shayar Toh Nahin. I remember she introduced herself as though I didn't know who she was!), watched me sing and then left quietly."

"Soon I was singing Hum Tum Ek Kamre Band Ho with her. The first of our three superhit duets in Bobby. She saw my nervousness and put me at ease. I became a lifelong fan."

"My day still starts with her songs. By the way, Main Shayar Toh Nahin was re-recorded. I had to do it a second time though I thought I was better in the first version."

Shailendra reveals how his dream of becoming Rishi Kapoor's permanent voice was shattered.

"I thought I'd be Chintu's ghost voice, just like Mukeshsaab for Rajsaab. Chintu, of course, believed in my voice. He would always recommend me. I sang two songs for him in his second film Zehreela Insaan. I was supposed to sing a third song Oh Hanseeni, which became the biggest hit of the film."

"Before I knew it, the song was taken away from me and given to Kishore Kumarsaab."

An identical situation arose during Saagar.

"I was told S P Balasubramaniamji would be Kamal Haasan's voice and I would be singing the songs for Chintu. I recorded Jaane Do Na with Ashaji. It was used for the mahurat of the film."

"Then suddenly, all the other songs were sung by Kishore Kumarsaab. I don't blame anyone for this sudden change. Kishoreda was a much bigger and better singer than me."

"I am happy to have got songs like Main Shayar Toh Nahin, Humne Tumko Dekha (Khel Khel Mein), Sham Suhanee Aaye (Zinda Dil), Hoga Tumse Pyara Kaun (Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai), Jaane Do Na (Saagar) and Oh Meri Jaan (Manzil Manzil)."

In 1994, Shailendra was hospitalised for complications due to diabetes.

"The talk in the industry was that I had a heart attack and that I had died. I didn't die, but the rumours killed my career," he says.

Shailendra's acting ambitions also came in the way of his singing career.

"I played the lead in a couple of Hindi films like Agreement opposite Rekhaji and Do Jasoos where I got to work with Rajsaab as an actor. Then I did guest appearances in two films with Bhaijaan (Mehmood) -- Ginny Aur Johnny and Naukar."

"I was very close to Bhaijaan. I also played the lead in a Bengali film, Ajosro Dhanyobaad with Aparna Sen as my leading lady. I said my dialogues in Bengali and sang all the songs. Soon, I realised acting wasn't my forte; singing was."

"Even today, at every concert, audiences go wild when I sing Main Shayar Toh Nahin. Chintu returned to sing Main Shayar Toh Nahin in Kunal Kohli's Hum Tum in my voice. It was a grand reunion."

"Now I will sing Main Shayar Toh Nahin for Chintu when we meet again."