Stories in a song

Redemption song: ‘Hansta Hua Noorani Chehra’ by Kamal Barot

The little-known singer was a champion of the ensemble number.

Kamal Barot was best known for her ensemble songs with female co-singers. In one of her earliest numbers, she was paired with Suman Kalyanpur for Garjat barsat saawan aayo re in the film Barsaat Ki Raat (1960).

The song was immensely popular, partly because it confused listeners into believing that it was Lata Mangeshkar singing. Suman Kalyanpur had a thin and high-pitched voice similar to Mangeshkar’s. Kalyanpur was often asked to sing in place of Mangeshkar when she was not available. Kamal Barot sounded distinctly original and was chosen for that very reason, to contrast the familiar sounding Kalyanpur. Barot had a sharp, if somewhat nasal, tone to offset the sweet timbre of her co-singer.

Barot made her debut in 1957 with the ensemble song Bhaagwan zara dhire bol (Sharada, 1957) featuring Chandbala, Shamshad Begum and Asha Bhosle. Barot was the first choice for composers in multiple-singer tracks. Akeli mohe chhod na jana, with Mangeshkar in Madari (1959), Daadi amma, with Asha Bhosle in Gharana (1961) and Main toh ho gayi re badnaam, with Lata and Mubarak Begum in Sunehri Naagin (1963) are a few of her ensemble tracks. Barot sang duets with all leading male playback singers too, including Mukesh, Mohammad Rafi and Mahendra Kapoor, but none of those songs attained the popularity of her female duets.

‘Hansta hua noorani chehra’.

In Hansta hua noorani chehra, (Parasmani, 1963), written by lyricist Bhopali and composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Barot got to perform with Mangeshkar again. The composers were making their debut as a team with the film. All the songs of the musical fantasy proved popular. Barot was cheered for holding her own in a duet with the doyenne of Indian film playback.

It also became her only sterling performance and is often recalled in a brief singing career that lasted for a decade. Her last recorded song was Teri aankhon ne (Nasihat, 1967), with Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor. Her brother Chandra Barot shares her fate. He directed a few films, but remains known only for the cult hit Don (1978).

Singer Kamal Barot.
Singer Kamal Barot.
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