Mukesh was the master singer of yesteryear, with a peculiar nasal voice, which was loved by the music lovers of the world. He was active from the 1950s to early 1970s. Along with Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar, they were the major playback singers of that period.
He was the special singer for director Raj Kapoor who chose him in most of his films.
Starting with Aag (1948) all the way through to Dharam Karam (1975), Mukesh sang for Raj Kapoor and together they produced some of the greatest film songs in Bollywood history, most notably in Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955), Anadi (1959), Sangam (1964) and Mera Naam Joker (1972).
Mukesh was born on July 22, 1923, the sixth out of 10 children, to Chand Mathur and Chand Rani of Delhi. From his early childhood he was an ardent lover of music. He used to listen to the music classes of his sister in their house and would imitate the legendary singer K L Saigal.
His turning point came when he sang during his sister’s wedding. This was heard by Motilal, a distant relative, who was an actor in Bollywood. Impressed by Mukesh’s talent,he took him to Mumbai and placed him under the guidance of Pandit Jagannath Prasad, a noted singer. Mukesh acted and sang in the film, Nirdosh in 1941. Even though it was a flop he got another break in Pahli Nazar in 1945.
Encouraged by his success as a singer, he made a few more attempts to make it as a star, and acted in Mashooka (1953) and Anuraag (1956). Sadly, they flopped at the box office. To make matters worse, when he returned to singing, he found that the offers had dried up. He fell into financial problems and could not pay the school fees of his two children.
Mukesh rendered songs for almost all the leading actors of yester years, and also sang with Lata Mangeshkar, Shamshad Begum, Suraya, Asha Bhosle and other female singers.
Mukesh died, of a heart attack, on August 27, 1976, in Detroit, Michigan, USA, where he had gone to perform in a concert with Lata Mangeshkar.
He got the national award for best playback singer in 1974, for the song, ‘Kai Baar Yuhi Dekha Hai’ from the film Rajnigandha. He also won Filmfare awards for Anadi in 1959, Pehachan in 1970, Baiman in 1972, and for Kabhi Kabhi in 1976.