Composer Ravindra Jain had once said, “If God had a voice it would be that of Yesudas. Sometimes I wish I could get my eyesight back only so that I could see what Yesudas looked like.”
Ravindra Jain brought Yesudas to Mumbai to sing the songs of Basu Chatterjee’s Chitchor. Jain was looking for a new voice for Amol Palekar. Yesudas felt it was destiny . “I have never sought singing opportunities.They have come to me. Right from the song “Aliyambal Kadavil” in the film Rosi , I have believed what is mine will come to me.”
Interestingly K.P. Udayabhanu was supposed to sing “Aliyambal Kadavil”. He fell ill and when the director asked Yesudas to sing, he very reluctantly agreed. Only after Udayabhanu gave his consent did Yesudas step in.
The rest, as they say, is chemistry. In Hindi cinema, most of Yesudas’ hit songs were for Ravindra Jain. But it was Salil Chowdhary who gave Yesudas his first big break in Filmistan with the breezy blockbuster duet Jaan-e-man jaan-e-man tere do nayan with Asha Bhosle in Basu Chatterjee’s Chotisi Baat.
From that point onwards, there was no looking back for Yesudas .Strangely he hardly sang for big-budgeted Hindi films except Yash Chopra’s Trishul. According to a leading composer of the 1980s, “Yesudas was not considered the voice of the leading man in Hindi cinema. Voices with a strong classical base were never favoured in Hindi cinema, be it Suresh Wadkar or Yesudas.”
In Hindi, Yesudas sang largely for small-budgeted Rajshri Production where his partnership with Ravindra Jain was hugely fruitful. Although the duo’s most successful songs were for Basu Chatterjee’s Chitchor(Tu jo mere sur mein,Aaj se pehle,Gori tera gaon bada pyara and Jab deep jale aana are hummed to this day) it was the song Shadjane paaya yeh vardaan from the unreleased film Tansen of which Jain and Yesudas were the proudest.
In the 9-minute classical masterpiece Yesudas holds court in true Tansen tradition. Jain composed this masterpiece for a bio-pic on the legendary singer Tansen which never got made. But the song survived. It’s a living testimony of Jain’s outstanding collaborative commitment to Yesudas’s vocal mastery.
When Jain composed the music for Tansen, there was one particular song that played on the ragas Mohammed Rafi was at his peak then. When Jain played this song for him,Mohammed Rafi had apparently declined saying it was beyond his range. It was finally sung by Yesudas.
Both Jain and Yesudas worked on that song for two days without any food, or break or even a sip of water. At the end of the recording, both of the composer and singer fell ill.
When I recounted this incident to Lataji she had commented, “It is in character with the artiste that he is. Yesudas is one of the rare breed that won’t breathe easily until attaining perfection.His has the voice of a prophet, a saint. I have sung a handful of songs with him in Trishul, Jeena Yahan and Mera Rakshak. We also sang a beautiful duet for an unreleased film for Khayyam(Yeh haseen raat for Kamal Amrohi’s shelved film Majnoon).It was a pleasure to share the mike with someone so knowledgable and accomplished.”