Showman Raj Kapoor was a shattered man post debacle of his dream song Mera Naam Joker. He thought he had made a classic a masterpiece, but the box office thought otherwise.
Of course, he was too big and too engrossed a filmmaker to have shut shop and he decided to go back to his familiar terrain of making a love story, but with new theme, new actors, new team of lyricist, music directors and new singers. So, he made Bobby, a love story set on the theme of rich boy meets poor girl with an added twist of interfaith love, cast his younger son Rishi, barely out of his teens as hero with 15 years old Dimple as heroine, brought in the then happening lyricist Anand Bakshi and changed his long time trusted music duo of Shankar Jaikishan with Laxmikant Pyarelal. He also needed a fresh voice for his son Rishi and we heard mint fresh voice of Shailendra Singh, but the biggest hit song amongst the blockbusters such as main shayar to nahin, hum tum ik kamre main band hon, main mayke chali jaaoongi was Beshak mandir masjid todo sung by then relatively unknown Narendra Chanchal. Of course, we Delhiites knew Narendra Chanchal for he had already established himself as a highly popular crowd puller jagran singer – for the uninitiated, jagran is night long chanting of devotional songs in praise of sheranwali maan or Vaishnodevi, a manifestation of Mother Durga. And Narendra Chanchal was the undisputed king of the stage, such was Maan’s blessing on him!
I know all this because as some of my readers know, my mother in her hey days was a celebrated singer and amongst other events, there was a time when she was very active in singing in such jagrans. I distinctly remember she paying heartfelt tributes to Narendra Chanchal. She had the good fortune of sharing the stage with the great man on couple of occasions and she’d tell how Chanchal mesmerised the devotees, transporting them to a different planet where they could virtually realise the mother or have a sakshatkar of mother as would be more appropriate!
I made a mention of his Bollywood debut by that gem of a song that earned him coveted Filmfare award for the best playback singer. He intermittently flirted with Bollywood, but as I heard, he was unavailable to the music directors for he was always occupied with his first love – devotion to maan ! He visited Katra – abode of the divine Ma Vaishnodevi, every year on the last day of December to sing the paeans of Maan on the new year. His biography “ Midnight Singer” narrates his journey and as the name says, singing for whole night and that too night after night, especially during auspicious period of Navratri, is no mean job and Chanchal whose scale of singing was extremely high electrified the audience to keep them glued and soaked in devotion.
He was unwell for last 2-3 months but I am sure he has gone to her beloved mother whose paeans he sang all his life without getting distracted by anything else!
RIP Narendra Chanchal! For as and when devotees pray to their beloved mother, memories of Narendra Chanchal’s bhents ( as the devotional songs sung in mother’s honours are famously known as ) will remain alive in their hearts!