In the recent past I have made an interesting observation. The greatest truths of life dawn upon me when I am indulging in my favourite guilty pleasure - you Tubing. The last time it was the discovery of the phenomenal talent called Dr Chaudhury, this time it is the realisation of the phenomenal luck of Kalpana Kartik.
For those who have been weaned on the trivia of Indian cinema it is a known fact that Kalpana Kartik was a one-time actress who ended up as screen legend Dev Anand's wife. For those who are tuned in to me and my preferences it is a known fact that I was a one-time fan of the same screen legend Dev Anand (before you put two and two together, that is not the luck factor that I allude to here). For those who are not tuned in to either to my whims or to the bylines of Indian cinema, this will not be making much sense, so to un-complicate matters I shall start at the very beginning.
We can start in the 1949-50 frame. Mona Singha was a student of the prestigious St Bedes college in Shimla. In her graduation year, she participated in the Ms Shimla contest, and as luck would have it she bagged the trophy and also the attention of a struggling film-maker from
Anyway, the year was 1951. Six years, six films, a marriage and a baby later, Kalpana Kartik had retired from limelight forever. She settled into her role as Mrs Dev Anand and her only contact with films was in being credited as 'Associate Producer' for all Navketan Films (which, I think was a good excuse to keep an eye on her husband). In the later years she completely disappeared from public life and became a recluse. It was rumoured that the Anand marriage ran through many problems driving her towards religion with the zeal of a fanatic. She is still married to Dev Anand but keeps a strong distance from his public life.
So that is her story. Now you would ask, where is the luck there? Surely being the most forgettable component in some of the most unforgettable films is not 'lucky'. And however much the smitten grandmother might disagree, being Mrs Dev Anand is not really a piece of fantastic luck either (a woman who has a husband who wears orange trousers and a yellow shirt cannot possibly consider herself lucky - look left).
So then where is the luck? This is where a little musical bent of mind comes handy.
Kalpana Kartik, became a part of Navketan when it was beginning to spread it's wings. She was associated with the film company during it's most momentous years. She started with 'Baazi', the debut of Guru Dutt and ended with 'Nau Do Gyarah', the debut film of Vijay Anand! Between these two films came 'Taxi Driver', which was the 'coming of age' film of the Navketan banner. It was Navketan's first super-success and also the film on whose sets Dev Anand secretly said 'I do' to Ms Kartik making them Man and Wife (an event that apparently still haunts her, see 'Taxi Driver still haunts Kalpana Kartik' ). Her time in Navketan saw four different directors take reign - Guru Dutt, Chetan Anand, Mandi Burman and Vijay Anand. Musically it was the period of the mighty SD Burman and his memorable partnership with Sahir and Majrooh. She was also the heroine of the only two films for which the sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan composed music. If one sets out to make a list of songs picturized on Kalpana Kartik, it is likely that the count would stop before fifteen. The wonder is that the top ten of those fifteen songs could give any legendary song a run for it's money.
That is what makes Kalpana Kartik extremely lucky. For an actress whose acting skills were less than adequate, screen charisma quite limited and filmography a mere six films, her visibility from a musical perspective is extremely high. Unwittingly she has landed up with a bite-size of musical history that is not backed with justifiable talent or charisma. There have been other lesser actresses down the ages who gained a lot of visibility because they became the muse of a great director. Sandhya of 'Jal Bin Machhili Nritya Bin Bijli' fame is one such case, Priya Rajvansh is another such case (Actually Sandhya and Priya Rajvansh had a genius of their own, that only a priviledged few, such as yours truly, can spot, but that is a topic for another day). For now, lets be content to cite them as examples of not so popular actresses getting a large bite of cinematic history thanks to the over-active hormones of some otherwise legendary directors. Sandhya was V Shantaram's muse and Priya Rajvansh, as we know, Chetan Anand's. But Kalpana Kartik is different. She was not the muse of any of the great directors she worked with, Dev Anand gives no indication of her even being his 'produceral' muse . (the only real muse Dev Anand has ever had as a producer-director is himself), talent she lacked in great quantities, yet she managed to garner such an enviable booty!
To prove my point I showcase ten gems that will ensure Kalpana Kartik a permanent place under the sun. If this is not 'Luck by Chance' what else is?
Click on the links to view the songs on youTube
1. Phaili Hui Hain Sapno Ki Baahen (House # 44) - This song arguably is the finest effort from the SDB-Lata team. If I were Ms Kartik I would be honored to be within sniffing distance of this song. And she actually had the song created for her!. Though most people who have watched this song wish they had never seen it. Her PT exercises tell you that some people stretch their luck too far. In his auto-biography Dev Anand mentions of hallucinating about his wife singing this song in a far away meadow long after the romance had gone out of their life.
2. Aakhon Mein Kya Ji (Nau Do Gyarah) : A fine Asha-Kishore duet from the pen of Majrooh Sultanpuri, this is a sizzler. The chemistry between Dev Anand - Kalpana Kartik on screen and Kishore - Asha off screen sizzles as does the chemistry between Dada Burman and Majrooh Saab in the music room.
3. Aaja Panchhi Akela Hai (Nau Do Gyarah): When it comes to Nau Do Gyarah, the choice between the duets is always a difficult one. If we have a vibrant Kishore-Asha in one end we have this extremely cute Rafi-Asha duet on the other side. Dada Burman shows another ace up his sleeve.
4. Kali Ke Roop Mein (Nau Do Gyarah) : Even though this duet is lesser known, it is not any less of a delight. With a deft picturisation by Vijay Anand and spirited performance by Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik, the duet is a joy to watch. Majrooh saab is cheeky and classy all at the same time.
5. Dhalki Jaaye Chundariya (Nau Do Gyarah) : Even though this song does not get that much air-time, it is a good candidate for the best songs that Dada Burman ever composed for Asha. With beautiful sitar interludes interspersed with whistling, the song is breezy and extremely romantic. Vijay Anand’s picturisation plays on the romance between the newly married Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik making the song extremely endearing.
6. Peeche Peeche Aake (House # 44): A lovely and breezy Hemant-Lata duet that is a quiet winner.
7. Teri Duniya Mein Jeene Se (House #44) : No Hemant Kumar list could be complete without this song. Hemantda at his swoony best, the little humming by Asha in the beginning is picturized on Kalpana Kartik
8. Jaayen to Jaayen Kahan (Taxi Driver): The crowning glory of the Taxi Driver score that got SD Burman his first Filmfare award. The Talat version is the more famous one, but the Lata one endures (in my opinion ofcourse). Ms Kartik, does an adequate job with the on-screen depiction. 'Adequate' was actually her keyword. It worked well for Dev Saab as well, since it did not take the focus off him.
9. Aaj Ki Raat Piya (Baazi) : Tender and romantic, sung by a young Geeta Roy. This song is from Baazi a film that not only launched many faces, but also launched many romances. Guru Dutt and Geeta Roy behind the screen and Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik in front.
10. Ghanshyam ke hain ghanshyam nayan (Aandhiyan) : Even though this song and the film have disappeared from public memory, the vintage film buff still holds the soundtrack in very high regard. One of the two forays of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in film music (the other being Humsafar, also featuring Kalpana Kartik) the music befits the legendary status of the ustaad. This song is sung by Lakshmi Shankar and the beautiful lyrics are by Pandit Narendra Sharma. Ghanshyam ke hain ghansyam nayan, man mora bana man mor sakhi - only Narendra Sharma could write lyrics like these.