Sanjeev Kumar: lip-syncing with the eyes by Shraddha Kaul
During the making of Stagecoach, director John Ford angrily caught hold of the then young John Wayne by his chin and said, " Don't you know, you don't act with your chin, shoulders and all, you act with your eyes on screen!" Post that learning, the celebrated John Wayne used his eyes so well in every picture he ever made.
On the other side of the globe the wonderful Indian actor Sanjeev Kumar emoted with his lovely eyes. Like the cinematographers who shot the duke, most of the cinematographers who shot Sanjeev Kumar made ample use of his eyes, and the gravitas they displayed by always catching his shiny waterline in his wide eyes so well.
Sanjeev Kumar made those memorable Hindi film songs look visually superior and sound even better without even lip synching some of them on screen. With his eyes full of warmth, which always spoke volumes about some hidden inherent sadness, it hardly was a wonder why filmmakers like Gulzar & Basu Bhattacharya loved to picturize songs on him where he didn't need to lip synch because his face & eyes spoke loudly than any song lyrics, vocals or music. He made the songs stand out beautifully, putting the works of his directors & all those involved in the song & film on a pedestal and marvelously stealing the thunder from the equally talented and beautiful actresses he was paired with, in those films.
Those songs were the cherry on the cake. Not that he wasn't enjoyable in the songs where he mouthed the lyrics, just that he was more potent when he didn't lip synch, and his directors knew that. His sparkling eyes did the lip synch.
In “Dil Dhoondta Hai…” from the film Mausam, senior Sanjeev Kumar is watching the young Sanjeev Kumar, who is actually singing the song but the point of view in the song belongs to Sanjeev senior. “Raah Pe Chalte Hein…” from Namkeen, doesn’t even have the actor’s face for the first sixty seconds and of course it is another non-lip sync gem. A fine example is” Logon Ke Ghar…” in Griha Pravesh where the song technically is sung by Dinesh Thakur on screen but Sanjeev Kumar is in the scene and the point of view is his. Another fantastic example of a non-lip sync song of his is Kanu Roy’s brilliant composition from Anubhav, “Phir kahin koi phool khila…”. These numbers provide much evidence of how those "mum" songs remain unforgettable because of him despite being picturized in a time when it mattered for the box office collection that lyrics of the songs are mouthed by the actors on the screen in mainstream Hindi film.
Even now when you watch these songs on YouTube, they are still wonderful, they still exude class, embody all things what film songs need to make the audience feel the mush and reach out and get in touch wth their own sadness and thereby the story, all because of those eyes and the beloved face.
Like flour dough rising in warm temperatures Sanjeev Kumar held something tragic and tender which rose on screen in those songs really well. With his eyes which could speak in huge decibels, and that masculine, yet tender face that was at the heart of these songs He ignited romance and love in many a hearts despite being no Adonis, in a manner of speaking.
Sanjeev Kumar was an eye wonder! His demise at such a young age was a tragedy for his fans and Indian cinema because he was capable of a lot more than he was assigned to play on screen. Eye love it!
Shraddha Kaul is an Indian film and television actor