It all began with Muqaddar Ka Sikandar. Sudesh Bhosle who was in the 11th or 12th standard then had seen the film the previous night and the scene where Amitabh Bachchan comes knocking on Rekha’s door towards the end, was playing on his mind as he was walking down the school corridor. Spontaneously, he spoke out aloud, “Zohra… Zohra darwaja khol, main Sikandar” in a perfect imitation of the actor’s famous baritone. It took not just his friends but even him by surprise after he’d been cajoled into recording the lines again, “mazak mein”, and was the stepping stone to live stage shows.
“I was a member of the popular band, Melody Makers, and did 35-40 shows a month, with actors like Jeetendra, Shatrughan Sinha, Amjad Khan and Sridevi,” informs Sudesh. A good mimic, he’d do take-offs on Sunil Dutt, Vinod Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Ajit, Asrani and even SD Burman.
Back then, stand-up comedians were popular and mimicked Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar and even Shah Rukh Khan, but no one dared take on Bachchan’s baritone. “Once people discovered my voice was a perfect match, I got requests to sing his popular songs, like Rang barse and Mere angne mein, on stage,” Sudesh informs.
While Bappi Lahiri, Kalyanji -Anandji and RD Burman loved his “Amitabh songs”, it was Laxmikant-Pyarelal who gave him a break as a playback singer, getting him to record Ya Ali ya Ali, and Arre tajub hai for Shashi Kapoor’s Ajooba. “This was the first time a singer was singing in an actor’s voice. Amitji called me to Film City to compliment me. Rishi Kapoor, standing outside Mehboob Studio’s recording room during Arrre tajub hai, waited to meet Amitji before leaving, refusing to believe that it was me and not him singing inside,” he laughs.
Then came Jumma chumma de de. Laxmikant wrote the mukhda and asked Sudesh to sing Arre O Jumma, mere janeman, bahar nikhal aaj jumma hai the way Bachchan would sing it. A few days later, he recorded two more lines with him. This continued till they reached the refrain, Aaja, aaja, aaja, aaja… Hey, after which Anand Bakshi was roped in to write the antara. “Amitji was then invited to Laxmiji’s Juhu bungalow and I was asked to sing the song for him, without even a microphone,” recounts Sudesh.
Bachchan loved the song and one morning at 9 am, the singer was pushed into the recording studio with Kavita Krishnamurthy and 80 musicians playing live to record Jumma chumma. “It was terribly unnerving because Amitji’s steady gaze was on me all day, through every rehearsal. It was well past midnight when we were ready for ‘take’ and I told Laxmiji I couldn’t do it, not with Amitji watching. He told me to sing a few lines in my voice, then asked me to sing the same in Amitji’s voice. Nervously, I obliged, and he quietly recorded the second version. This way I was coaxed into doing the full song, which we completed around 2 am,” Sudesh narrates.
It’s been 30 years since Hum released, but this is the one song he has to sing at every show, party and function on public demand. “The minute I step on stage, people start shouting, “Aree O Jumma,” and I know that’s my cue,” he laughs.
As ‘Amitabh Bachchan’s voice’, Sudesh has sung other chartbusters, including Sona Sona (Major Saab), Shava Shava (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham), Assi chutki nabbe taal and the title track of Bade Miyan Chote Miyan and Meri makhna (Baghban). “Amitji would be present at most recordings. During Shava Shava he even directed me, telling me at which point the girls would come in,” Sudesh informs, adding that for Meri makhna he sent wife Jaya and son Abhishek. “Jayaji gave me a token of Rs 100 after the recording, with Abhishek insisting it was Paa’s best song.”
He goes on to reveal that Mrityudaata’s Na na na na re was initially sung by Bachchan and Daler Mehndi. While everyone loved what he’d done, the actor insisted that it be re-recorded with Sudesh.
The singer has accompanied him on shows across the world, including ‘Jumma Chumma In London’, sometimes lip-syncing from the wings, sometimes crooning with him in front of the audience. “In 1990, during ‘Hum Sab Ek Hain’, a series of five shows organised by the Maharashtra Government and Mumbai Police, Amitji was singing at one venue while I was singing somewhere else in his voice at the same time,” he smiles.
At the ‘Amitabh Aur Main’ concerts, produced by his wife Hema, Sudesh, with son Siddhant, sings only Bachchan songs and recites his famous dialogues like “Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai”. They bring the house down every time.
Today, the superhit jodi has moved beyond being just fellow artistes and collaborative performers. “Ten years ago, he learnt that I was born on July 1, and since then, Amitji’s is the first birthday message to arrive, one second after midnight,” beams Sudesh, who plans to play the actor’s songs every day, from Monday to Friday, on Radio Nasha this week, to commemorate his 79th birthday.