Plastic surgeon by profession, singer by choice

The sixty-two-year-old surgeon wears many hats with music being close to his heart. He got involved in competitive Bridge in 1992 and in 1999, became a national champion. For the last five years, he has been one of the top five scorers in the online national crossword competition.

Plastic surgeon by profession, singer by choice

Dr Mukund Jagannathan (Photo: SNS/Pranav Chaudhary)

Dr Mukund Jagannathan needs no introduction. Hailing from Tamil Nadu, Dr Jagannathan is one of the top practising plastic surgeons in the country based in Mumbai with an experience of more than three decades. The sixty-two-year-old surgeon wears many hats with music being close to his heart. He got involved in competitive Bridge in 1992 and in 1999, became a national champion. For the last five years, he has been one of the top five scorers in the online national crossword competition. In January 2009, he started rendering Hindi film songs of yesteryear, from the 1960s to the 80s to be precise. Besides singing songs of celebrated playback singers like Talat Mahmood, Mohd Rafi, Kishore Kumar, and RD Burman, he narrates the stories behind the writing and composition of each of the songs.

A couple of days ago, the Bihar government’s Department of Art, Culture, and Sports, Bhartiya Nritya Kala Mandir, and Bihar Museum jointly organised a musical programme called “Pancham Kaa Jaadu” (late RD Burman is fondly called Pancham Da) with Dr Mukund Jagannathan. The next day, he organised a musical quiz contest for the local audience. Bihar’s senior IAS officer, who is also development commissioner, Vivek Kumar Singh, an ardent music lover himself, was instrumental in organising a musical concert which became an instant hit with the music lovers.

Dr Mukund Jagannathan took time off his busy schedule to share his experience with Pranav Chaudhary. Following are the excerpts from the interview:


Q: Tell us about your early interest in Hindi music?

A: I have been listening to Vividh Bharti and All India Radio (AIR) Urdu service from 1978 to 1993, almost every day from 10 pm to 11.30 pm. Here, I got a lot of information about the songs, singers, music, music directors, etc. which got stored in my memory bank. The knowledge about music kept accumulating in the absence of an outlet. Nevertheless, I was happy to store them all.

I was looking for an opportunity to indulge in my hobby in 2005 when the municipal corporation allowed senior staff members’ private practice. With this, suddenly my evenings were not free as I got busy with my professional obligations. I had to even give up on the Bridge. For four years there was a vacuum in my life. It was in the year 2009 when I was in the organising team for a conference of Maharashtra Associations of Plastic Surgeons Conference at Mahabaleshwar. I had just returned from the US with a bunch of minus one (karaoke) tracks. I offered to perform for an hour though I had never sung on a mic in my life. But listening to the tracks, I realised many are very close to the original. So, I performed for the first time in my life in January 2009 utilising the gap of an hour to showcase my talent.

Q: Tell us something about your knowledge of film folklore?

A: My knowledge of film folklore has been an asset that helps me engage the audience between songs. I took up keyboard classes to improve my knowledge of “sur” and “tal”. I also discovered a unique skill to modulate voice based on the singer since I never received any formal training in singing.

Q: How did you get time to improve your Hindi diction since you come from a non Hindi background, Tamil Nadu?

A: Though a Tamilian by birth, I never spent time in Tamil Nadu. I listened keenly and observed the pronunciation and enunciation of various singers and automatically adapted to them.

Q: Tell us something about your medical profession, your interest in plastic surgery.

A: Medical education has been entirely obtained in Mumbai in government/municipal institutions purely by merit. I knew I was going to take up surgery. I opted for plastic surgery as it is relatively less demanding in comparison to life and death situations in other medical disciplines.

Q: Did you meet any of these singers or yesteryear actors personally?

A: Alas no, my bad luck. I wish I could… Some actors… Yes, more because of common party friends… A couple of them, since I operated on them/their relatives. But it’s confidential.

Q: How did you develop interest in narrating stories behind each song of the 60s and 80s?

A: Frankly, the journey through the music of yesteryear was so vast that I cannot accomplish it in this lifetime. There are so many nuances and gems that sometimes I discover even after having listened to the song several times. Music of the golden era was a combined effort of the lyricists, music directors, singers and even actors. There was a sense of belonging among all the people involved. They spent hours of brainstorming to get the best out of the song.

Q: Why didn’t you develop interest in post-1980s songs or singers, any specific reasons?

A: Not that they are bad. There are some phenomenal singers in the post golden era, but somehow I feel no attraction for them. Most of the current hits remain in circulation only for a short period of time, three years or so at the most. There is no sense of ownership of the song. These are made up of multiple parts, never a whole. The golden oldies are hits after 60 years! And will remain in demand after another 40.

Q: Do you have any future plans for doing something new for Hindi songs or films?

A: No, for several reasons. I am 62 now. Frankly, technically I am nowhere near several contemporary singers. It’s my passion that allows me to bring out the essence of the song which comes out when you listen in a live programme. Unfortunately, no one else has this dedication to continue the legacy in my family.