This memorable number from Aakhir Kyon? picturised on Rajesh Khanna and Smita Patil still resonates in our heart. The lyrics infuse life into a person who throws his hands in despair much like in the film when Alok (Khanna) tries to instill confidence in Nisha (Patil) who has been duped by her husband Kabir (Rakesh Roshan). Well, the voice behind the number composed by Rajesh Roshan is no more – yes we are talking about Kolkata’s dearest Mohammed Aziz aka Munna who breathed his last on Tuesday. And quite in consonance with the mood of the lyrics, Munna’s numbers also enthralled viewers cutting across ages.
Never got things on a platter
Munna’s journey as a star singer wasn’t laid on a bed of roses. Hailing from Guma in West Bengal, Munna was a singer at the Ghalib restaurant in Kolkata before he made his way to Mumbai at a time when the Kishore Kumar wave was in full swing especially thanks to the Jeetendra-Sridevi-Jaya Prada and music director Bappi Lahiri combination. There was a vacuum created after the sudden demise of Mohd. Rafi in 1980. As his replacement, Shabbir Kumar was already making inroads post-Betaab (1983) and was the first choice for many music directors who felt the absence of Rafi. After Kishore’s death in 1987, it was Munna all the way thanks to his ability to sound natural for any actor. But without sounding biased Munna was in a different league because of his range. After Mard Taangewala, which he sang for Amitabh Bachchan in Manmohan Desai’s Mard (1985), music directors stood up and took notice of his voice and from then on began a successful trip that saw him go from strength to strength till the advent of the Khans (Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir) and with them a series of new singers like Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan and Abhijeet in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
In a different league
Such was his versatility that he could be comfortable rendering all kinds of numbers be it peppy – Gori Ka Saajan (Aakhree Raasta), Tera Beemaar Mera Dil (Chaalbaaz), My Name Is Lakhan (Ram Lakhan) and Aapke Aa Jaane Se (Khudgarz) or romantic- Tu Hi Bekaraar (Waqt Ki Awaz), Aaj Kal Yaad Kuch (Nagina), Pyaar Hamara Amar Rahega (Muddat), Ungli Mein Anghoothi (Ram-Avtar) or serious Ek Andhera (Aakhir Kyon?), Munna was in a league of his own with his ease at getting the rhythm right. And this was the main reason why he was the most sought-after singer for every music director in that phase – Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Bappi Lahiri, Anu Malik, Usha Khanna and Rajesh Roshan to mention a few. In terms of actors right from Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty and Rishi Kapoor to Anil Kapoor, Govinda and Sunny Deol, they do have Munna to thank for giving them innumerable hits during that period.
Not a Rafi clone
Munna may have idolised himself on Rafisaab, but unlike Shabbir and later Sonu Nigam, he never fell into the trap of riding piggyback on his style. Yet, we can jolly well say that he did have Rafi’s versatility as mentioned before. The reason why he stood out is because he could adapt to situations and change his voice for different actors. For example, Khanna whose name is synonymous with that of Kishore was never out of place lip syncing in Munna’s voice and this goes to the latter’s credit much like legendary singers like Rafi, Kishore, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. And this is where Munna’s speciality lies.
Munna was hot property in Mumbai, but he never forgot his roots and continued to sing for Bengali films simultaneously. And like in Hindi films, in Tollywood too, he was the voice for several big stars including Prosenjit (Bidesh Theke-Amar Prem), Tapas Paul (Khushir Jowaare-Mangal Deep and Prithibi Haariye Gelo- Gurudakshina) and others. Munna also won a lot of laurels with his modern non-filmi song Lal Shaari Laal Tip, that was a massive hit too.
Having achieved so much as a singer, needless to say he didn’t get his due and even after his death, condolences haven’t been pouring in. In one sense, Munna got overshadowed by the likes of Sanu, Narayan and others who knew how to market themselves. It is really shocking that a singer of his stature, is still an unknown entity to the new generation. They still go crazy listening to a Sanu or an Abhijeet, but a true legend like Mohammed Aziz is like a forgotten hero. Sanjeev Shrivastava, a college teacher from Madhya Pradesh took the internet by storm when he danced to the tune of Aap Ke Aa Jaane Se. Not to forget, the number was a duet between Munna and Sadhna Sargam. Perhaps, his die-hard fans who rued the treatment meted out to him, took a trip down memory lane thanks to the popularity of the video. But there was more to Munna than this one number. A real talent has left us! But his volume of work will be cherished forever.