True music lovers have always valued and cherished the songs of Suman Kalyanpur. Suman has sung a wide range of variety of songs, be it playful song of the carefree youth ('Aha Aha Aa Ye Suhana Safar') or a song instigating the immovable depths of love ('Chale Ja Chale Ja Jahan Pyar Mile') or an impish song based on a western tune ('Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke Charche') or a classical number ('Aajhu Na Aaye Baalam Sawan Beeta Jaye') with equally beautiful effects.
Suman was born on January 26, 1937 in Dhaka (now a part of Bangla Desh). In 1943, her family shifted to Bombay. She received her musical training in Bombay itself. Before marriage, Suman was known as Suman Hemadi, and, after getting married to a Bombay based businessman, she became Suman Kalyanpur, the name by which we all know her.
Once, Talat Mehmood heard her voice in a musical concert. Highly impressed by her voice, he recommended her to his music recording company HMV. Suman got her first chance of giving playback in the film ‘Mangu’(1954). She sang 'Koi Pukaare Dheere Se Tujhe' under the baton of music director Mohd Shafi. 'Mangu' had four other songs which were composed by OP Nayyar. She gained recognition in the film world with her characteristically sweet voice and good classical abilities. But she was unfortunate that people found her voice very close to that of Lata’s, and it was even said that she copied her. Soon, senior film makers started shying away from her.
She got a chance to sing with Geeta for the first time in the year 1954, in the movie ‘Aar Paar’ for OP Nayyar (her only song for him) where she sang only a few lines for the second heroine Noor while Geeta sang for the lead. This was a wonderful, rather playful song with the hero speaking against love saying it can't be relied on and the heroine saying one should still go for it. Unfortunately Suman never got a credit for this song and this song is always wrongly credited as a Geeta Dutt-Mohd Rafi duet.
Their next jaunt together was seen in 1959 where they sang for two movies. The first was the lovely and the evergreen ‘Phulwa band mehke’ in ‘Hum Bhi Insaan Hain’ under Hemant Kumar's direction. Though Geeta had much more popular duets with Asha and Shamshad before this one, this one with Suman was a refresher. Both voices had dew fresh delicacy in their voices; arguably, their best duet. The second was the song ‘Sabko bhagwaan dekh raha tu’ from the movie ‘Ghar Ghar Ki Baat’ under Kalyanji-Anandji's baton. This song had nice orchestration, alternating between traditional and a bit of western.
Later in 1960 they sang together in ‘Gangu Dada’ for the song ‘Mahfil hai aaj rang mein yeh mehki raatein’ under Kalyanji-Anandji again. There was a four year long hiatus after this. Geeta’s troubled married life made it impossible for her to sufficiently practice her art, thereby losing out on a lot of opportunities.
We got to hear them again in 1964's ‘Chandi Ki Deewar’ in yet another wonderful song 'Mahfil hai aaj la de chunariya laal mohe la de chunariya laal ki aise nahi roop khilta'. Both performed brilliantly under the music direction of N Dutta.
They recorded their last song in 1968, their only song for Shankar-Jaikishen for a movie called 'Sajan Ki Galiyan' starring Dev Anand and Sadhna. However the movie got shelved and the song was used much later in the 1983 movie ‘Film hi Film’.
Even though they have sung just six songs together, their collaboration brought forth some of the finest songs of HFM. Suman’s throaty sumptuous tone combined with Geeta’s raw sensuality worked together brilliantly. No wonder some of the most excellent female-female duets came from their repertory.