A yesteryears popular music director of Punjabi films Sardul Singh Kwatra once, who is no more us, once painfully remarked that the Bombay film industry can swing in extremes, at times it can be very generous and at others very cruel. It bows its head before you, if you have a big nametag or a big name God-father is solidly behind you and more often it denies respect your genius. Perhaps Sardul also meant that even he was not given his due by the Bombayfilm World. According to Sardul, the Bombay film industry certainly did not give what was due to some brilliant music directors like Shyam Sunder, Vinod, Sajjad Hussain, Alla Rakha, Khursheed Anwar, Hans Raj Behl and Sardar Malik to name a few.
According to Sardul, the Bombayfilm industry deserted Husan Lal and Bhagat Ram, when they were at their creative best. Even the acclaimed greats like Anil Biswas and Madan Mahan did not get their rightful due, compared to some much pampered mediocres. Sardul would have been a very happy man, had he been alive when film “Veer Zara” became a box office and musical success and Madan Mahan got a lot of public support and several top awards for his 1972 musical compositions in 2005. About music director Vinod, whom Sardul knew since his childhood, Sardul believed that he was very creative, who produced some of the most soul stirring tunes, but he never got what he deserved in life and in death.
Music Director Vinod’s real name was Eric Roberts, but for film industry he chose a more familiar and shorter name “Vinod”. This was revealed to me by one of his sons-in-law Kelly Mistry, who is married to his daughter Veera Roberts. His other daughter’s name is Veena Roberts (after marriage Veena Solomon).
Sardul was feeling very dejected about the plight of music director Vinod, who died at a young age and in poverty
on the Christmas day in 1959. Sardul Kwatra knew Vinod since his days in Lahoreand from a time when Sardul himself was a child, quite ignorant about his destiny. Vinod hailed from a Christian family of Lahore, who were converted from Hindus. Vinod had his family tree connected to Gurdaspur and Amritsar. As a child Vinod was fascinated by the band music which was prominently played during Lahore’s colorful Hindu weddings. Vinod also listened carefully for hours to the Rababi musicians performing “Shabad Kirtan” at Gurdwara Dehra Sabib Lahore and other shrines. Sardul said Vinod became a student of Lahore’s famous music director Pandit Amar Nath and learnt the fundamentals of ragas and tune making with the help of a harmonium from the great maestro. He started making tunes while being in Lahoreprior to 1947 and after the death of Pandit Amar Nath, he got the contract of composing the music for a number of films including Punjabi film “Chaman”. But the film could not be taken up due to tense communal atmosphere in Lahore. It was made much later on in Indiaafter 1947. Pushpa Hans and Shamshad Begum lent their voices to the songs in this film. Lata Mangeshkar was a new find, looking for work and Vinod gave her three songs to sing. Incidentally Lata’s all three numbers became landmark songs not only for this film, but for other Punjabi films to follow. Those were the days of extreme communal tension on both sides of the Radcliffe line in Punjab , as a consequence after its release the film did not do well in Pakistani Punjab. But the selling of its music even in Pakistandid quite a decent business.
According to some historians Vinod’s mentor Pandit Amar Nath died in 1946. Some other historians say that Pandit Amar Nath died in February of 1947. But by 1944 most of the Lahore based music directors like Khurshid Anwar (in 1941), Shyam Sunder (in 1943), Hans Raj Behl (in 1944) , Rashid Atre, Feroze Nizami, Ghulam Haider, Pandit Husna Lal Bhagat Ram shifted their base to Bombay. Pandit Amar Nath and Pandit Gobind Ram were the only ones left in Lahore. After Pandit Amar Nath’s health deteriorated in 1946, Vinod inherited some of his contracts. “Khamosh Nigahein”, “Paraye Bas Main” and “Kamini” were some of the movies which fell into Vinod’s kitty. None of these 1946 movies did well at the box office and Vinod did not get any milage either.
Vinod got the best break in life in 1949, when he got the contract to compose the music for Hindi film “Ek Thi Ladki”. The film became a hit and its Lata song “Lara lappa lara lappa layi rakhda, addi tappa addi tappa layi rakhda” became a nation-wide hit. The tune of this song was based on an old Pahadi Punjabi folk tune of Kangra district. While listening to his other songs for this film, a similarity with the tunes of film “Mirza Sahiban” composed by his mentor Pandit Amar Nath could be clearly established. This goes to prove that Vinod, in letter and spirit, learnt the art of tune making from his teacher. This earned him contract for another Punjabi film “Bhaiya Ji” made in 1950. Lata sang several memorable songs for this movie. One of its sad songs “Ajj mera mahi nall tutt gayapyar ve akhiyan na maar ve” was acclaimed to be a landmark song. Even Sardul Kwatra had a great admiration for this song. This song later on inspired the tunes of several Hindi songs. In 1949 Vinod composed music for another Hindi film “Taara”, which did not create any waves.
Talat Mahmood and Mohammad Rafi were the favourite male singers of Vinod, who always did full justice to his tunes. According to Sardul Kwatra Vinod had no God-father like Shanker and Jaikishan had in producer actor Raj Kapoor and producer Amiya Chakravarty and Naushad had in a very popular producer Mehboob Khan. Roop K. Shori, who gave Vinod music composition contracts for his films, somehow did not belong to the big league of Bombaybased film producers like Sohrab Modi, K.A. Abbas, V. Shantaram, Mehboob Khan, Raj Kapoor etc.
Roop K. Shori of course was a very famous film producer in Lahore , who while moving to Bombay, took his entire
team with him. Music director Vinod and lyricist Aziz Kashmiri were members of his group. Vinod composed the music for most of Roop K. Shori films. In all Vinod composed music for 27 Hindi films, out of which he shared music with other music directors for at least six films. Some of his films were not completed and some were not released even after completion. Among some of Vinod’s best known creations were the musical compositions of films “Anmol Rattan” (1950), “Wafaa” (1950) “Sabaz Bagh” (1951) “Aag ka Dariya” (1953), “Laadla” (1954) and “Makhi Choos” (1956). For a while Roop K. Shori got Vinod a salaried job as a music director in “Filmistan Studios”. One characteristic of Vinod was that in Punjabi films he inserted Hindi songs and in Hindi film songs he inserted some Punjabi wording. This trend was discontinued later on, but since the nineties once again Punjabi songs are becoming a part of most Hindi films and these songs are proving big hits.
According to Vonod’s son-in-law Kelly Mistry, Vinod was born on May 28, 1922. On the average Vinod was doing one or two successful films a year from 1948 to 1957, but one or two hit films in a year are not enough to ensure a decent standard of living in a city like Bombay. Husan Lal Bhagat Ram gave the music for 19 films in 1949 and 1950 and Shanker Jaikishan were composing the music for on the average 3 to 4 hit films every year during the fifties and sixties. Such busy schedules made both duos financially quite well off. O.P. Nayyar was also doing 3 to 4 successful films a year during the fifties, but somehow he did not manage his finances well. On the other hand Naushad was professionally quite creative and he always managed his finances well and lived in style.
Both Shyam Sunder and Vinod, in spite of being thoroughly professional, were never financially well off. They both died during the fifties. After Vinod’s untimely death at a young age of thirty seven on December 25, 1959, his wife Sheela had great difficulty in bringing up his children. Vinod loved his childhood city of Lahore and did not want to leave that great cultural centre, but the unfortunate partition of Punjab and the resultant bloodshed and its trauma left no option of going back to Lahore. Vinod was every inch a Punjabi and he longed to compose music for the Punjabi films, but after 1951 mostly two music directors ended up getting all the music direction contracts. They were Master Hans Raj Behl and Sardul Kwatra. Vinod composed music for only five Punjabi movies. These are “Chaman” (1948), “Bhaiya Jee” (1950), “Mitiar” (1950), “Ashtalli” (1954) and “Nikki” (1958). Vinod died a frustrated man, who’s professional genius was always shortchanged.
Although Vinod composed music for thirty two films, but most of these films were under small banners and the music of many was let down by the film’s poor showing at the box office. The following is the complete list of his films:
1.KHAMOSH NIGAHEIN 1946
2.PARAYE BUS MAIN1946(with Niaz Husain)
5.EK THI LADKI1949
8.BHAIYA JI (PUNJABI)1950
9.WAFFA1950(with Bulo C. Rani)
11.FOR LADIES ONLY1951
13.SABZ BAGH1951 (with Gulshan Sufi)
14.AAG KA DARYA1953
15.EK DO TEEN1953
19.HAA HAA HII HII HOO HOO1954
22.SHRI NAQAD NARAIN1955
24.AMAR SHAHEED (with Vasant Desai) YEAR UN-KNOWN
30.DEKHI TERI BUMBAI1961
31.EK LADKI SAAT LADKE (with S. Mohinder )1961
32.RANG RALIYAN (with Lachhi Ram and Mukherjee)1962
Note:Last three films were released after his death at the age of thirty seven in 1959.
Had Vinod remained busy under big banner movie makers, he may not have died at the prime of his youth. One of Vinod’s masterpiece creations is the music for the Punjabi film “Mutiar” (1951). One of its Urdu Ghazals “Aye dil mujhe jaane de, jis raah pe jaata hoon” recorded in the silken voice of Talat Mahmood is simply outstanding. Its Punjabi version was never recorded. The lovers of Punjab and Punjabi language, bow their heads before Vinod for all the great musical compositions he has given to his mother-tongue.
1.Dr. Har Mandir Singh Hamraaz of Kanpur U.P., the author of “Hindi Geet Kosh from 1931 to date, for painstakingly digging up and supplying complete list of Vinod’s films.
2.Dr. Surjit Singh of San Diego California USA, for enabling me to access his veb-site for listening to Late Allahdad Khan of Peshawar Pakistan’s great collection of vintage Hindi and Punjabi film music.
3.Shri Harish Raghuvanshi, a film music historian of Surat Gujarat, the compiler of “Mukesh Geet Kosh”, “Gujarati Film Geet Kosh” and the writer of “Inhe Na Bhulana” for digging up information about music director Vinod’s forgotten Hindi and Punjabi film songs.
4.Late Sardar Sardul Singh Kwatra, Music Director of yesteryears for sharing his Vinod related precious memories with me.
5.Music Director S. Mohinder (Mohinder Singh Sarna) for sharing his memories of Vinod with me.
6.Vinod’s son-in-law Kelly Mistry for sharing thoughts and photos with me.
South Asia Post: Issue 30 Vol II, December 31, 2006
IT was the year 1956, a soulful melody in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar, “Guzra Hua Zamana Ata Nahin Dobara… Hafiz Khuda Tumhara, virtually everyday on the airwaves of All India Radio, Radio Pakistan and Radio Ceylon. It was a song of the sub continent, soulful and haunting. It was a song from a Madhubala film “Shireen Farhad”. Its composer was the memorable S. Mohinder. Born and brought up in Pakistani Punjab, this budding music director Mohinder Singh Sarna or S.Mohinder or as some called him Mohinder Singh Bakhshi was a young rising star of Hindi films. The lyrics for his music were composed by poet Tanvir Naqvi, an import from Lahore.
1956 was a great year for film music. Several musically hit films were released including “Shama Parvana” and Adl-e-Jehangir” with music score by Husna Lal Bhagat Ram, “Patrani” “Rajhath” and “Chori Chori” with music composed by Shanker Jaikishan and Uran Khatola of Naushad. But the music of “Shireen Farhad” held its own. Earlier S. Mohinder had composed music for several films including Sehra, Jeevan Saathi, Shadi Ki Raat, Neeli, Bahadur, Shahzada and Paapi. But the name and fame he got with his music in “Sheereen Farhad” was consummate.
The prime female Bollywood superstar of those days Madhubala, a leading actress in the film, was so impressed with the music of “Sheereen Farhad” that, while coming home after a hectic shooting session, she herself visited the residence of S. Mohinder, to thank him for the special music he had created. This film had nine songs, all were great hits. Big playback names like Talat Mehmood, Hemant Kumar and Mohammad Rafi gave their voices to the songs.
S. Mohinder had to wait for 14 years to get the Presidential Annual Award for the best music for his musical score for the superhit Punjabi Sikh religion based movie “Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai” in 1970. Studded with great musical compositions and sung in the voices of revered Bhai Samund Singh, Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhonsale, this movie elated the cinema buffs.
Born in 1925 in a small town called Silanwala in Montgomery District of un-divided Punjab.S.Mohinder’s father Sujan Singh Bakhshi was a sub-inspector in police. Soon the family moved to a comparatively larger city Lyallpur, where young Mohinder around 1935 came in contact with an accomplished Sikh religious vocalist Sant Sujan Singh. He honed his skills for several years in classical music in the tutelage of Sant Sujan Singh. Initially he wanted to be a singer. The family moved to Sheikhupura , close to Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak and S. Mohinder got his further training in classical music from legendry Sikh religious musician Bhai Samund Singh. Frequent transfers of his father kept the family on the move. Since S. Mohinder’s education was suffering badly, durIng early forties, he was enrolled in Khalsa High School in village Kairon in Amritsar District.
In 1947, the rest of the family too moved to East Punjab in India. The love for classical music brought S. Mohinder to Benares. After a couple of years of grooming in classical music in Benares, the Mecca of Indian classical music, S. Mohinder, came to Bombay, the leading center of film industry ,.His first successful film was Neeli, which was musically a hit but a mediocre . S. Mohinder took a regular job of music director in “Filmistan Studio”, which was churning out movies like a mint producing coins. S. Mohinder composed music for “Filmistan” for half a decade. It was a great experience.
S. Mohinder believes that just like the USA, which is considered a great melting pot of all the cultural groups in the World, Bombay is the melting pot of all the film making cultural groups of India. Bombay had attracted the best music composers of Bengal including Anil Biswas, Sachin Dev Burman and Hemant Kumar who influenced other music directors. There were great maestros from Maharashtra including C. Ramchandra and Shanker Jaikishan. Central India was represented by Sajjad Hussain and Ghulam Mohammad. Vasant Desai of Gujarat and Khem Chand Prakash represented the best from Rajasthan.
The biggest contingent of music directors was from Punjab. Big names like Jhande Khan, Rafique Ghaznavi B.A., Shyam Sunder, Khurshid Anwar, Ghulam Haider, Firoze Nizami, Pandit Gobind Ram, Pandit Husna Lal Bhagatram, Hans Raj Behl, Vinod, Alla Rakha, Sardar Malik, Roshan, Madan Mohan, Ravi and O.P. Nayyar shined all over. S. Mohinder learnt immensely from his seniors. His original style was Punjabi centric, but Benares groomed him into the classical traditions of Uttar Pradesh and Bombay gave him an all Indian grooming in music.
After a successful relationship as a music director with “Filmistan Studios”, S. Mohinder composed music for Chandu Lal Shah’s (Ranjit Movietone) film “Zamin ke Taare”. It became a hit. After that he composed the music for Wadia Brothers film “Reporter Raju”. S. Mohinder composed the music for producer Roop K. Shori’s film “Saat Ladke Saat Ladkian”. He gave music for film “Do Dost” also.
S. Mohinder says that during the sixties, when only Hans Raj Behl and Sardul Singh Kwatra were left in the field of composing music for Punjabi films, he also tried his hand at Punjab films. The response was good. His music for his first Punjabi film “Pardesi Dhola” was a hit. After that he mainly devoted his attention on composing music for Punjabi films only. His music for “Chambe Di Kali” also became a hit. Inderjit Hassanpuri, a friend of S. Mohinder, made a Punjabi film “Daaj” in which S. Mohinder composed very emotional tunes. Later on during the late seventies S. Mohinder composed music for some non-film Punjabi albums too and the singers included the best in the Punjabi music business, Surinder Kaur and Asa Singh Mastana. These private albums were also instant hits.
Shaminder Singh, a friend of S. Mohinder, was a landlord of Muktsar in Punjab was a gifted singer. His voice was similar to that of Talat Mahmood, a superstar singer of the nineteen fifties and sixties. Shaminder wanted to try his hand at producing Punjabi films and that desire brought him to Bombay. In partnership with music director Sardul Kwatra, he made several movies including “Vanjara”. Shaminder had a desire to sing duets with Lata Mangeshkar. His wish came true in “Vanjara” when he was given an opportunity to sing two duet songs with Lata Mangeshkar.
S. Mohinder’s last Hindi film was “Mehlon Ke Khwaab” produced by Madhubala in 1967. The film did quite well at the box office and its music became a hit. The untimely death of Madhubala, during the prime of her youth deeply saddened S. Mohinder. He came to the conclusion that the field of composing music for Hindi films was getting a lot of new players and the melody was slowly yielding place to noisy heavy metal music. So he decided to go back to his roots and switch to composing music for Punjabi movies.
A very interesting incident happened during early sixties. It was narrated to me by none other than S. Mohinder himself. In order to become an actor, Shaminder Singh shaved off his blonde beard and moustache. Lata Mangeshkar had seen him as a practicing Sikh. One day in the company of S. Mohinder, Shaminder Singh ran into Lata Mangeshkar. Lata could not recognize him. When Lata asked as to who this gentleman was? S. Mohinder said “He is Shaminder Singh”. Lata retorted “You looked so good in your blonde beard, moustache and turban, why did you do this to yourself”. Shaminder had no answer. Shaminder Singh later acted as the hero in film “Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam” and S. Mohinder composed the music for it. This film also did roaring business, so did its music.
In 1966, legendry Sikh religious musician Bhai Santa Singh visited Bombay. Mohammad Rafi attended one of his programmes. Mohammad Rafi, who was Bhai Santa Singh’s fan since their days as casual radio artists in Lahore, liked his voice quality so much that he proposed him to sing in a forthcoming Punjabi religious film, which was being planned. But Bhai Santa Singh flatly refused to sing in a film. This was the same trip at the end of which, while traveling back to Delhi in a train, Bhai Santa Singh had a massive heart attack that took his life.
Mohammad Rafi’s dream got fulfilled in 1969. Ram Maheshwari and Panna Lal Maheshwari, originally from Amritsar, decided to make a movie in Punjabi based on Sikh religious sentiments. The film was titled “Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai”. S. Mohinder got the contract to compose the music. The story of the film required some scenes to be picturized in the Golden Temple. S. Mohinder thought that the music for those scenes was a very sensitive subject and must be performed by the finest exponent of Sikh Religious classical music. So he requested Bhai Samund Singh to sing the Shabads. Bhai Samund Singh was also the mentor of S. Mohinder during his early training in classical music. Initially Bhai Samund Singh also hesitated, but eventually he agreed to sing for the movie. S. Mohinder believes that what Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s singings were to the great movie “Mughal -e- Azam”, the Shabads sung by Bhai Samund Singh are to Punjabi film “Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai”. As we all know film “Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai” has been an all time hit Punjabi movie. Its music was also as big a success.
The runaway success of film “Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai” ushered in an era of for making well meaning movies based on Sikh religious stories.
S. Mohinder composed the music for most of these Sikh religious movies. “Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam” featuring Shaminder Singh as the hero was the next film, it was also quite successful. Then came two more namely “Man Jeete Jug Jeet” and “Paapi Tare Anek”. Both were successful at the box office. All these movies were made during the decade of seventies. S. Mohinder also composed some of his most memorable music for these movies.
During the decade of nineteen seventies, S. Mohinder composed music for some private albums also including some featuring Sikh devotional music and some featuring the folk music of Punjab. Legendry Punjabi singer Surinder Kaur was prominently featured on some of these albums.
S. Mohinder left India for the USA in 1982, when he was at the peak of his career as a music composer. The last film featuring his music was named “Maula Jatt”, with Dara Singh in the male lead role.
While in America, S. Mohinder composed music for some private devotional and romantic albums, including one featuring Ghazals of Roshan Pukhraj on behalf of Iqbal Mahal of Canada, another in the voice of Mrs Kavelle Bajaj of Northern Virginia. One album of Shabads in the voice of Asha Bhonsle is a musical masterpiece. S. Mohinder is also interested in producing a CD or more of Shabads in the ethereal voice of Bibi Amarjit Kaur of Northern Virginia. But travel by air to Bombay is becoming difficult for him. Every year he keeps postponing this highly creative project. Hopefully some day he may pick up enough courage to complete this recording in Bombay.
S. Mohinder considers himself is married to a charming woman Davinder Kaur Sarna, of Gujarat District in Pakistan’s Punjab. He has two daughters and two sons, all are married. His eldest daughter is Nareen Kaur Chopra, his second child is Kanwarpal Singh Sarna based in Bombay but he keeps travelling throughout the World. His third child is Risham Kaur Sethi who lives in California. The fourth child is a son Satinder Pal Singh Sarna, who lives close to S. Mohinder in Northern Virginia.
Iqbal Singh Mahal of Toronto (Ontario) in his critically acclaimed Punjabi book “Suran De Saudagar” describes S. Mohinder as the tall handsome doyen whom once the famed actresses Madhubala had proposed though she knew it well that he was a happily married man. But she also knew that strange things do happen in Bollywood and since the proposal had come from a stunning beauty and the leading most actress, no one including S. Mohinder could reject it. S. Mohinder kept pondering over this for several days. Madhubala also proposed to provide a hefty amount of financial aid every month to S. Mohinder’s wife for her own subsistence and the education of her kids. In the most crucial decision in his life, S. Mohinder finally picked up the courage to say no. To this day S. Mohinder has been living happily with his wife for a period that exceeds half a century. Bombay where, at least in the business of acting and music a lot of fairy tale marriages do take place to break up eventually, but S. Mohinder’s marriage has withstood all such temptations and tribulations.
Sometimes I feel that there are several important aspects of the history of Punjab, which have gone unrecorded. Although Punjabi pop music is currently dominating the musical scene of India, yet no one has taken pains to discover the pioneering times of its mother, the folk and light Punjabi music. I have hardly seen any material on the history of Punjabi cinema. This article is an attempt to record whatever I know about the history of Punjabi film music.
History of Punjabi films is almost as old as that of Hindi cinema. The first talkie in Hindi Alam Ara was made in 1931 and the first Punjabi film was made in 1934, its print is unfortunately lost to our callous indifference towards our heritage. It is never too late to start preservation, I think it is time we should establish an archive of our old films and their music.
Based on my research, I shall divide Punjabi music directors into three distinct generations. The first being the generation of pioneering music directors, who had no role models to follow? The second generation being that of the trendsetters and the third is the post 1980 period of pop music and innovations in folk. I shall not attempt to write about the contemporary music directors, who are currently composing the Punjabi music and making big bucks. I think it will be more appropriate to write about the strugglers of 1934 to 1979 period, who’s memories are already fading and very soon the people will start forgetting them.
The first Punjabi music director was Ustad Jhande Khan. The second was Rafique Ghaznavi B.A. The third fourth and fifth music directors were Ghulam Haider, Pandit Amarnath and Pandit Gobind Ram. They all attained their peaks prior to 1950. Two more music directors Dalip Chander Vedi and Harish Chander Bali also fall into this category, but they did very little work.
The second generation consists of among others Khurshid Anwar, Feroze Nizami, Rashid Atre, Master Inayat Hussain, Shyam Sunder, Pandit Husna Lal, Bhagat Ram, Hans Raj Behl, Vinod, Alla Rakha Qureishi, Shiv Dayal Batish, Madan Mohan, Sardul Kwatra, S. Mohinder, Roshan, Ravi, Khayyam, K. Panna Lal, Pandit Amarnath Second, O.P. Nayyar and Usha Khanna. Some of them did not compose music for Punjabi films, but by origin all of them were Punjabis.
Out of all these, the ones I know intimately are S. Mohinder and Late Sardul Singh Kwatra. This article is about the life and works of Sardul Kwatra (1928 – 2005). Sardul Singh Kwatra was born and brought up in Punjab’s capital Lahore. Since childhood Sardul was fond of music. Lahore was a place where Punjab’s finest maestros attained name and fame. Sardul while studying in school got the initial training in classical music from Sardar Avtar Singh. Sardar Avtar Singh possessed good knowledge of most of the Ragas mentioned in Sri Guru Granth Sahib as well as those Ragas, upon which the folk tunes of Punjab are based. Among the male voices Sardul was a great admirer of Agha Faiz of Amritsar and among the females he was especially fond of the silken voice of Zeenat Begum.
Sardul thought that Zeenat’s voice was culturally very well marinated into music. He was also a great admirer of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and his brother Barqat Ali Khan. Since his childhood Sardul Kwatra had a fairly good knowledge of the basic tunes of Central Punjab’s folk songs like “Heer”, “Mirza”, “Tappe”, “Bolian”, “Jugni”, “Dhola”, “Mahiya”, “Multani Kafi” and “Saiful Malook”. Such knowledge came in handy when later on Sardul became a film music director.
I had my first exposure to his film music, when I saw the first “Kwatra Production” a Punjabi film “Posti” in 1950 in New Delhi. Being a child I could not understand the story, but I certainly enjoyed the music and still remember its songs and tunes. In person, I saw him in 1957 in Amritsar, when he came there to accompany Mohammad Rafi in a mixed Hindi Punjabi film song concert. He was playing piano accordion and serving as the master of ceremony.
The second opportunity came my way when I met Sardul Kwatra in the Madhya Marg shopping center in Sector 7, Chandigarh. It was a surprise meeting. I saw someone resembling Sardul Kwatra that I had seen in 1957. On asking he said that he indeed is Sardul Kwatra and has shifted from Bombay to Chandigarh. He said he is rediscovering his roots and wants to open a film institute in this city, where he will impart training in acting, direction, singing, dancing and tune making. I was thrilled to hear all that. From that chance meeting on we used to meet often in his “Chandigarh Film Institute” located in a sprawling Sector 5 house only a stone’s throw away from Sukhna Lake. There were chatting sessions in this building, the adjoining lake and at my house in Sector 11 that gave me a peep into his achievements and failures.
I was fascinated by Sardul Kwatra’s brilliance as a music director of Punjabi films. His tunes reflected the real folk music of Punjab, the music of Lahore and Central Punjab of pre-partition era. His musical score for some Hindi films is also at par with that composed by some of the stalwarts of Hindi film music. Sardul disclosed that he has always been a highly romantic person and his best tunes were composed during various episodes of romancing.
The first production of the Kwatra family was film “Posti”. The idea took shape while the family was still in Lahore, but the partition of Punjab left the family high and dry. After a short duration in Amritsar, the family moved to Bombay virtually penniless. Most of the cast of the film had also arrived in Bombay. Majnu, a Christian stage and film artist of Lahore performed the leading male’s role as Posti. Bhag Singh performed his father’s role. The heroine’s father was a very popular actor Ramesh Thakur. The lady for the role of the heroine was still being searched. Sardul Kwatra took it upon himself to choose a heroine.
In Shyama, a seventeen year old budding actress Sardul found the heroine of the movie. Shyama, an athletically built charming girl hails from a Punjabi family. She was conversing in chaste Punjabi. Sardul’s choice received the final nod from the senior member of the family the elder brother of Sardul Singh and the producer of the film Harcharan Singh Kwatra. After initial hiccups financing was also arranged. The film was completed in 1949. It was an instant hit. The music was brilliant. Shamshad Begum and Mohammed Rafi were the leading female and male singers. A famous Hindi playback singer Rajkumari sang for the first time for a Punjabi film. Asha Bhonsle made her debut in film “Posti”.
Sardul Kwatra said that he was a great admirer of the femininity and beauty of “Shyama” and Shyama was a natural dancer, who will instantly start dancing to the tune composed. Sardul never touched Shyama, but being a silent admirer, he created some of the most everlasting Punjabi tunes.
The Kwatra family was so much impressed with Shyama’s fluent Lahori Punjabi and her natural gift of dancing and acting that it engaged her as the heroine for their second Punjabi film “Kaude Shah” made in 1952. Sardul Singh composed the music of this film too. Like “Posti”, “Kaude Shah” also became a hit movie. Its music reached newer heights in popularity. Shamshad Begum excelled as the female Punjabi film singer. Hindi cinema’s most romantic male singer Talat Mahmood also sang a Punjabi duet with Rajkumari for this movie. This soulful song “Zulfan Ne Khul Gaiyan, Akhian Ne Rul Gaiyan, Ki Khattia e Dil Laa Ke” is one of the evergreen Punjabi film songs.
The Kwatra family shortly there after made a Hindi film “Mirza Sahiban” also in 1953. The hero was Shammi Kapoor, but the heroine once again was Shyama. This film did not do too much business, but it launched Sardul Kwatra as a music director for the mainstream Hindi cinema. Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi sang most of its songs. The music became more popular than the movie. One Punjabi song in Rafi’s voice “Nahin Rees Punjab Di, Kehndi e Lehar Charab Di” became very popular all over Punjab.
During the mid fifties, Shaminder Singh, a landlord from Muktsar in Ferozepore District reached Bombay with a hope to produce a Punjabi film and desire to have an opportunity to sing a song or two with Lata Mangeshkar. Shaminder with the collaboration of Kwatra Brothers produced a Punjabi film “Vanjara”. Lata was the leading female singer. Shaminder did sing a couple of duets with Lata. Sardul Kwatra scored the music. The film was not a big success, but Sardul Kwatra’s music attained new heights in excellence.
Sardul Kwatra scored the music for a Hindi film “Pilpli Sahib”. Its songs are great pieces of art. Sardul did not hide his admiration for actress singer Suraiya. He always longed to compose tunes for her. Suraiya was a real star. She was rich and classy. She used to travel in a shoffer driven long black Cadillac Sedan. It was a treat to watch this VIP. In 1957, Suraiya accepted Sardul Kwatra’s request.
The Kwatra family made a Hindi film “Goonj” in 1957. Sardul Kwatra himself composed the music. Suraiya became the lead singer and heroine. Sardul composed all the tunes by sitting in front of Suraiya. To Sardul, Suraiya was such a celebrity that out of reverence he will start sweating in front of her. Suraiya was fond of the finest perfumes, but French cosmetics were her first love. Sardul was aspiring to compose tunes that could match the scents radiating from Suraiya. This is how, according to Sardul’s own admission, he composed the memorable tunes of film “Goonj”. Some of the songs of “Goonj” are featured on the four cassette set of Suraiya’s songs as well as a two CD set released recently. Sardul used to admit that he did not have the courage to even formally shake hands with Suraiya. His romanticism revolved around secret admiration of Suraiya and that was enough to induce him into composing soulful tunes to be sung by Suraiya. On the day of the demise of Suraiya, Sardul was in uncontrollable tears. He was recollecting the precious moments he spent in her company in Bombay.
Sardul and Mohammad Rafi used to be good friends. Rafi suspected that Sardul had cheated him of a sizable amount of money. Sardul denied it, but the industry had more faith in Rafi. That was one of the reasons of Sardul Kwatra leaving Bombay and initially settling in Punjab and later on moving to the United States. He had a wife and children, they were all nice folks. Somehow Sardul’s excessive romanticism became a bone of contention. He left his family behind in India and moved to the United States, in the company of a much younger girl, who aspired to be an actress and a dancer. There were two sons from this relationship, but some irreconcilable differences led to a divorce.
While in the U.S. Sardul tried to stay in the profession of composing music, but California was no Bombay. In Bombay he could get the finest instrument players without much efforts, in California Indian style musicians were hard to find. Thus his film career came to an abrupt end. While in India Sardul Kwatra composed music for about two dozen movies, mostly Punjabi movies. “Billow” was another great musical, but it failed at the box office. He composed music for the first Punjabi version of “Shaheed Udham Singh”; this film was also called “Sarfrosh”. This movie was not a bad failure. Sardul’s last movie was “Anthelia Métier” made in 1979. He had composed several tunes in America, but there were no takers.
In America Sardul was a frustrated man. Several times, when he was in a pensive mood, he called me from California, we used to have long talks and from those conversations, I could extract a lot of material for this article. There are stories or rumours that Sardul wanted to romantically involve with some women in America too, but things here are not as easy as those could be in India. Plus age was not on his side. This led to, at times, heavy drinking on his part. He was diabetic and developed hypertension too. He died in 2005 as a financially uncomfortable and professionally frustrated man. I am firmly of the opinion that Sardul Kwatra was a genius, but his brilliance was at best under used. Staying in Bombay, during the years of his creative best, would have been best for music.
Master Ghulam Haider was one of the all time greats amongst the pioneering music directors of India. His life story is extremely fascinating. His meteoric rise can be compared to that of a foot soldier, rising to the rank of a general. I was perplexed to know that every write up about him starts from the age of 25 or even later and ends up at his demise.
No one has cared to research about his roots, his illustrious parentage and his initial grooming that blossomed into a genius. Even there are two stories about his date and place of birth. I think we the Punjabis need to do thorough research on his impressionist childhood that laid the foundation of a trend setting maestro.
There are two conflicting accounts about Ghulam Haider’s date and place of birth. The so far recorded history shows his birth in Sind. Another document says that he was born in Hyderabad Sind. But there is also a story, narrated to me by none other than Bhai Partap Singh of Amritsar. Bhai Partap Singh’s elders knew Ghulam Haider’s family intimately. He told me that Ghulam Haider was born in the walled city of Amritsar near the Golden Temple and all his upbringing took place in Amritsar. I think, in the interest of fair play, more research is needed to clear this confusion about a great genius. I was also told by S. Mohinder Music Director that Ghulam Haider’s father was a Muslim by faith but was held in high esteem by the Sikh community, because he used to perform Sikh religious classical and semi-classical music in Sikh places of worship and the homes of Guru Nanak’s followers. In Sikh circles Ghulam Haider’s father was called Bhai Mehar. He hailed from a respected Gharana of Rababi musicians dating back to the times of Guru Nanak’s fifteenth century disciple, a musician, Bhai Mardana.
According to Bhai Partap Singh, Bhai Mehar was bestowed with a melodious voice. He had a good knowledge of most of the thirty one Ragas mentioned in holy Guru Granth Sahib as well as most of the “Taals” used by Sikh classical musicians. Bhai Mehar and his ancestors had a mastery over ancient string musical instruments like “Saranda”, “Taus” and “Rabab” in addition to the popular contemporary instrument “Harmonium” he could play “Tabla”, “Dholak”, “Ghara”, and “Pakhawaj” quite proficiently. All this knowledge was passed on by Bhai Mehar to his son Ghulam Haider. Bhai Mehar’s desire was to see his son as an important part of his own group of musicians called “”Jatha”. But young Ghulam Haider perhaps had other intentions and he succeeded in what ever he did.
My (writer’s) father was born on December 22, 1905, and he did his B.A. and M.A. from Government College Lahore during mid nineteen twenties. He said that Ghulam Haider was of his age. That means Ghulam Haider could have been born in 1926 or 1927 also. The exact date of birth of such a great person needs to be confirmed through proper research.
Both Amritsar and neighbouring Lahore had decent dental colleges, but there is hardly any authentic information about Ghulam Haider’s enrolment into a dental college. This also requires more research, because by age twenty, there are conclusive proofs that he was already composing music for live performances in Lahore. He was the first music composer in Punjab, who’s innovations introduced Western instruments in North Indian music.
Ghulam Haider might have visited Calcutta, because that great Eastern Indian Metropolis, during the nineteen thirties and forties, used to be the fountainhead of musical talent in the Indian Sub-continent. Being an expensive city, it was difficult to make both ends meet in Calcutta without engaging in some kind of profession. Another music director Shiv Dayal Batish agreed that Ghulam Haider might have served for brief periods in “Alfred Theatre Company Calcutta” and “Alexandra Theatrical Company Calcutta”. But must have returned to base soon afterwards.
I think the inspiration for becoming the music director in a theatre in Lahore came from his experience of such musical theatre companies that were mushrooming in Calcutta. All the big and small music composers need to go back to the basics in order to refresh their knowledge of the finer points of classical music. Since for quite sometime he was out of the shadow of his father, he perhaps thought it appropriate to straighten the kinks under the expert guidance of Pandit Babu Ganesh Lal in Lahore. Dalip Chandra Vedi was another great teacher in Lahore.
During his pre-talkie years in Lahore, he came in contact with some of the theatre companies of the city. There were two types of theatre companies in that city. The first category included the Norah Richards inspired drama companies. Parsis owned some of such theatres. The second, less serious and more entertaining category, consisted of musical theatres, which featured dance and song events and just “Geet” and “Ghazal” mehfils. Ghulam Haider got in touch with the song and dance theatres, The concept of dance and music theatres came from the nineteenth century London, which was the role model for early twentieth century Calcutta, Bombay and Lahore. The music and dance theatres of Lahore were the work stations where Ghulam Haider thought his talents could be best utilized. He took upon himself the responsibility of composing the tunes from his vast treasure of inherited “Ragas” and “Taals”. The people of Lahore fell in love with his newly coined tunes, ever changing “Taals” and his wizardry with harmonium.
The years from 1930 to 1934 were the years of evolution of what we know about Ghulam Haider. Some of the female singers, who used to sing in the theatres and Mehfils of Lahore, included Amir Bano, Nawab Bai, Zohra Bai of Kapurthala and Mukhtar Begum. Zohra used to commute from Kapurthala to Lahore to perform. Umra-o-Zia Begum was the youngest to enter this field in 1933. As the films crossed over from silent to talkies, a new breed of talent was needed. Script writing, elocution and speech making skills were in demand. My late father saw Ghulam Haider in person in Lahore. My father used to tell me that Ghulam Haider as a music composer introduced the concept of “Prelude” and “Interlude” in instrumentation even during the pre-talkie era. This capability made his style unique. After hearing his compositions, his preludes and interludes, you can not make a mistake in identifying his special style. There were two other Punjabi music directors, who preceded him. They were Ustad Jhande Khan and Rafique Ghaznavi B.A., but they both flourished in Bombay, while Ghulam Haider held the fort in Lahore for a long time before making it big in Bombay in 1944.
My father told me that Ghulam Haider was a highly romantic person in nature. He found one captivating beauty in actress singer Umra-o-Zia Begum (some people spell her as Umrazia Begum). Ghulam Haider instantly got romantically involved with this talented character. After a brief period of courtship, mostly during tune making opportunities, rehearsals and recording sessions, they decided to tie the knot and from the day of “Nikkah” they never looked back until death put them apart in 1953. Their romantic association gave several soulful “Ghazals” and “Geets” to the World of music. Some of them have survived to date.
Ghulam Haider was a great discoverer of latent musical abilities. Umra-o-Zia Begum was his first such find. But after marriage she bade farewell to acting and soon thereafter she stopped singing also and settled down into performing the daily chores of an Indian household lady.
Ghulam Haider’s innings as a film music director started in 1934 and ended in 1953. Sometimes it appears that the nature is acting very cruelly. Ghulam Haider died when he was needed most as an elder statesman of music and a guide to the budding music directors in the newly born nation of Pakistan.
PRIOR to his first film job, Ghulam Haider was a freelance music director for live music concerts for a few years. Janki Nath Kumar and brothers were a music oriented business family in Lahore. They opened the first electrical music recording studio in the city and a records selling store in historic Anarkali Bazaar. In the company of my father, I have seen this store, when it was renamed His Master’s Voice Shop by its new Muslim owners after migration of the founding family to India. Janki Nath Kumar and brothers were recording music on three minute a side 78 RPM discs under the brand name “Jenophone”.
They employed Ghulam Haider as their music director. This company produced a lot of Punjabi and Urdu music, both film and non film. The records of film “Swarag Ki Seerhi” (1935) and “Majnu” (1935) under the music direction of Ghulam Haider were produced and sold as “Jenophone Records”. Umra-o-Zia Begum was the female singer of Swarag Ki Seerhi”. This film did not do too well at the box office and Ghulam Haider’s effort went by and large unnoticed. This was the time when Calcutta’s “New Theatres” was churning out hit movies and Rai Chandra Boral was the most famous music director. Legendry singer K. L. Saigal was the most celebrated male singer. Others included Pankaj Mullick and K.C. Dey. Pankaj Mullick was a big tag music director too, who composed tunes for K.L. Saigal too.
Lahore was not a big film production center and the next three years went without any film music contract for Ghulam Haider. But he did cut some hotly selling private discs in both Punjabi and Urdu. Although the first ever Punjabi film was made in 1934, but somehow even its print is not available.
All India Radio started its fifth radio station in Lahore in 1936. The studios were built in 1937, when broadcasts of live music started. Shamshad Begum started as a casual singer at the new radio station in 1939, but most of her tunes were composed by Master Inayat Hussain and Budh Singh Taan. Ghulam Haider heard Shamshad Begum’s voice over the radio and liked it for Punjabi music.
Ghulam Haider’s first big break came in 1939. The famous Pancholi family headed by Roshan Lal Shori made a Punjabi film. This family at that time owned a film studio also in Lahore. The film was “Gul – e - Bakavli”. It was a low budget film and could be released only in Punjab. But this film recovered all its costs from Lahore and Amritsar only. It was in this film that famous actress singer Noorjehan was discovered by Master Ghulam Haider as Baby Noorjehan. It had a couple of very popular songs. One of them was “Shava Jawanian Maaane, Akha Na Morhin Peele, Shala Jawannian Maane” sung in the voice of Noorjehan. The other song was “Pinjre de vich quaid Jawaji”. Connoisseurs of good musical voices all over India took notice of these songs and the singer’s voice. Around that very time Ghulam Haider decided to give chance to Shamshad Begum for playback singing. Some people attribute the discovery of versatile Punjabi singer Zeenat Begum to Ghulam Haider, but music director S. Mohinder firmly believes that Zeenat Begum was discovered by Pandit Amar Nath, the elder brother of the famous duo of music directors Pandit Husna Lal Bhagat Ram. Zeenat’s earliest records bear testimony to S. Mohinder’s contension.
During the thirties and forties, the big name music directors kept their exclusive orchestras on their payrolls. Ghulam Haider won’t share his orchestra with Pandit Amarnath and Pandit Amarnath will not share his orchestra with Pandit Gobind Ram. As a result identification of music directors became possible from the sound of the orchestra. In addition to the ancient Indian string instruments, Ghulam Haider introduced Piano, clarionet and Violin into his orchestra.
From 1039 to 1944, Ghulam Haider composed music for five Punjabi films including Gul – e – Bakawali (1939), Yamla Jatt (1940), Sassi Punnoon (1940), Chaudhry (1941), Sehti Murad (1042) and Gul Baloch with partial music (1943). All these Punjabi films made good money. Yamla Jatt was the most successful film. Its hero was Kapurthala born famous villain of Bollywood Pran (full name Pran Nath Sikand). Noorjehan was one of the lady actresses. Its two songs a solo “Kankan diyan faslan pakkiyan ne” and a duet “Aa dukhre phol laiye” based on famous folk Punjabi tune “Mahiya” were very popular. Film “Chaudhry” was also a great musical. Its songs “Bus bus veh dholna, ki tere naal bolna”, “Chhum chhum ohdi kaisi sohni chaal”, “Ik duniya navin vasa laiye” and “Sajna tere bina jee nahiyon lagda” were all musical masterpieces. By this time Ghulam Haider had established himself as the master of prelude and interlude in music. If you listen carefully to the prelude of film “Yamla Jatt” song “Aa Dukhre Fol Laye”, the orchestration appears very vibrant with the domination of piano. Without a good mastery over classical music, it is not possible to keep all the instruments of the orchestra in perfect “Sur”. Ghulam Haider’s orchestra was perfectly in “Sur”.
During the first half of the twentieth century, Bhai Santa Singh of Amritsar was the leading musician at the Golden Temple. He and Ghulam Haider were buddies from childhood. Bhai Santa Singh was famous for singing at very high notes and in very slow beat a unique combination , he used to sing Sikh religious music at All India Radio Lahore. Ghulam Haider persuaded Bhai Santa Singh to get some of his favourite Sikh Musicals numbers recorded for posterity. Bhai Santa Singh was initially opposed to this, but eventually he agreed to record. The tunes were Bhai Santa Singh’s own, or traditional handed down from generation to generation. Ghulam Haider did not make any alteration, but only provided orchestration, which included preludes and interludes. The recordings came out so good that, even after more than six decades of recordings, the eight numbers featured on four 78 rpm records are to date considered the top musicians choice in Sikh circles. The Sikhs will always be indebted to Bhai Santa Singh and Ghulam Haider for giving them this invaluable gift of divine music in finest form.
Late Master Madan was a musician par excellence and the pride of Punjab. He died an untimely death at the tender age of twelve. But before his death, he gave the gift of eight recordings, which included two evergreen “Ghazals”, two “Thumris”, two “Sikh Religious Numbers” and two “Punjabi Songs”. If you listen to his Punjabi folk numbers, you will notice that the accompanying orchestra bears the distinct stamp of Ghulam Haider’s music. The same can be said about the religious numbers too. All this happened while Ghulam Haider was in Lahore.
While in Lahore, Ghulam Haider composed the music for a few more Hindi/Urdu films. These included “Khazanchi” (1941), “Zameendar” (1942), “Khandaan” (1942”) and “Poonji” (1943). That was the era of the domination of the Indian film scene by the music directors from Bengal. The Bengali big wigs included Rai Chandra Boral, Timir Baran and Anil Biswas. The Bengali music was considered highly melodious. The “Taal” identifying drum instruments like “Tabla” and “Dholak” were not accorded prominence, such instruments used to be kept in the background. India was exposed to this kind of music only. But when Ghulam Haider’s “Khandaan” was released all over india, it featured drums far more prominently and the people all over the nation fell in love with the “Taal” or the beat. Ghulam Haider’s instrumentation was also, in accordance with the Punjabi character, very vibrant and vigorous. His next two films in a row ”Zameendar” and “Poonji” went on to prove that prominence of “Taal” is the latest craze amongst the music buffs of not only the Punjab but also of the rest of India.
Most of the contemporary crops of music directors in India and Pakistan for their music compositions normally prefer mostly two common “Taals” i.e. “Dadra” and “Kehrwa” or at the most “Teentaal”, but Ghulam Haider introduced a number of uncommon “Talls” also. This would not have been possible without a thorough knowledge of the classical music of India and the exotic “Talls” used by the tradition bound Sikh religious musicians. The revolutionary step of giving prominence to a variety of uncommon “Taals” gave Ghulam Haider’s name a household recognition in India.
K. L Saigal, during those days, was the leading most male film singer in India. He hailed from Jullundur in Punjab, but it is a pity that Ghulam Haider could not have the opportunity to compose tunes for him. A second generation music director from Punjab Khurshid Anwar, was however luckier, he composed the music for a Saigal –Suraiya starrer “Parvana”, which became a very popular hit.
Rather than insistence on heavy classical compositions attempted by most of the other music directors, Ghulam Haider’s lighter style of applied classical music was better received by the cinema going public. This got him fame and a spate of invitations from Bombay, which by mid forties had replaced Calcutta as the leading film city of India.
Another brilliant Punjabi music director Shyam Sunder, with his unique style of compositions, arrived in Bombay in 1943. One of his earliest movies “Gaon Ki Gori” featuring Noorjehan’s voice became a musical hit. In 1944, Ghulam Haider also moved to Bombay lock stock and barrel, leaving behind all the glorious memories of his youth in Lahore and childhood in Amritsar.
Before settling down to the rough and tumble of film music in Bombay, he invited a fellow Lahori actress - singer Suraiya, who was racing fast towards the top, to record a couple of “Naats” in Punjabi. I (the writer) am in proud possession of this music. These perhaps are the only Punjabi numbers ever sung by Suraiya.
Ghulam Haider did music for two films in 1944. These were “Chal Chal Re Naujawan”, a big ticket film and “Phool”. “Bhai” was the next venture. Then came Mehboob Khan’s famous film “Humayun” in 1945. “Shama” (1946) was a great musical. Just like the USA, where all diverse nationalities get into the grand melting pot and become Americans, Bombay creates a unique amalgam of film and music makers that make it Bollywood. If Ghulam Haider gave a new style to Bombay, he in turn gained a lot from the grand melting pot experience of the city. As music director S. Mohinder puts it, “Every music director hailing from any part of India and arriving in Bombay, gains immensely from the music directors representing other cultures and participates in the creation of a new amalgam called the composite music of India”. Ghulam Haider’s style also underwent a see change, it happened especially after most of the members of his orchestra went back to Lahore after an explosion in Bombay.
In 1947, Ghulam Haider did the music for “Mehndi” and composed some music for film “Majboor”. Pakistan came into being on August 14, 1947. Surinder Kaur and her elder sister Parkash Kaur had to leave Lahore virtually penniless. Parkash Kaur quickly moved from Amritsar to New Delhi, but Surinder Kaur stayed put in Ferozepore. Ghulam Haider had heard both sisters, while they were still in Lahore. From Bombay he sent a message to Surinder Kaur to come to the film city. By early 1948, Surinder Kaur arrived in Bombay.
Ghulam Haider had the intention to make Surinder Kaur a playback singer for film “Shaheed”. Surinder Kaur did sing a few very popular songs for “Shaheed”, but before that Husna Lal Bhagat Ram got her voice recorded for a Suraiya starrer film “Pyaar Ki Jeet”. Surinder Kaur’s first song became a hit. Soon music director Showqat Dehlavi used Surinder Kaur’s voice for a solo and a duet with Mukesh. Surinder Kaur sang five songs for Khurshid Anwar too in Madhubala starrer film “Shingaar”. But the credit for unearthing the singing stars and making playback singers out of Noorjehan, Shamshad Begum, Mohammad Rafi, Surinder Kaur and Lata Mangeshkar goes legitimately to Ghulam Haider only.
India’s independence in 1947 came with the painful partition of the country. The most disturbing communal rioting was witnessed by Ghulam Haider’s own province Punjab. Other worst hit areas included North West Frontier Province, Balochistan, the Presidency of Bengal and Delhi. Surprisingly the Presidency of Bombay, where Ghulam Haider lived experienced complete communal harmony. Some of the Hindu and Sikh instrument players, who left Bombay for Lahore in 1945, rejoined Ghulam Haider’s Orchestra in late 1947 and early 1948. Once again it was a happy family and Ghulam Haider got his soul back.
A very ominous incident happened on a local electric train in Bombay in 1947. Just like most Bombayites, Ghulam Haider was also traveling from one recording studio to another in a local train. The trains were not crowded during those days. Ghulam Haider noticed an anaemic looking small framed girl in her teens singing something. Her voice appeared very shrill and sweet. Ghulam Haider asked her to come close to his seat. He asked “Would you sing if I make a tune right now”. He used a plate and a stick to create the “”Taal” and improvised a tune. Ghulam Haider sang the song and the girl followed him. Ghulam Haider was impressed. He asked her to come on a certain date to a studio for audition in front of a mike and orchestra. The girl agreed and reached the studio well before the appointed time. Ghulam Haider conducted the audition. Her voice was feeble, but closer to the mike it sounded very impressive. She passed the audition. The girl was none other than today’s superstar Lata Mangeshkar, Ghulam Haider’s latest find.
Ghulam Haider at that time was composing the music for film “Majboor”. The song “Dil Mera Torha, Ho Mujhe Kisika Na Chhorha, Tere Pyar Ne, Haye Tere Pyaar Ne” became Lata Mangeshkar’s first ever solo. It was recorded in 1947, but the film was released in 1948. After that Ghulam Haider recorded Lata Mangeshkar’s voice in film “Aabshaar” also in 1948. Her “Aabshaar” numbers became very popular and Lata became an established singer. About that very time Noorjehan left for Lahore and later on became “Malika-e-Tarannum of Pakistan”. Lata, however, kept copying the style of Noorjehan for a long time.
Ghulam Haider was so much excited about his new find Lata Mangeshkar that he boasted about it to the other contemporary biggies like Anil Biswas and Khem Chand Prakash. But it was Shyam Sunder, another Punjabi music director, who recorded Lata’s earliest super hits in film “Bazaar” (1948). Shyam Sunder used Raga Pahari to compose Lata’s first ever super hit song “Sawan Ki Galiyan Chhod Chale, Dil Roya Ansoo Beh Na Sake”. Lata herself admits that her one song “Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi, Maghar Hum Tum Juda Honge” recorded for film “Lahore” in 1949, in the music direction of Shyam Sunder is one of her life’s finest songs. Lata takes pride in giving full credit to Ghulam Haider for making her a film playback singer. She says Ghulam Haider taught her as to which word deserved more stress and which one needed a soft touch for optimum impact. Lata regrets that she could not sing for another great Punjabi music director Khushid Anwar, who left for Lahore soon after composing music of “Shingaar”.
One day in a recording studio Lata was rehearsing a Ghulam Haider tune. Being raw she was making one crucial mistake again and again. The perfectionist in Ghulam Haider got so much infuriated that he planted a slap on her face. Every member of the orchestra was stunned. One of Ghulam Haider’s most trusted harmonium players was Kartar Singh. Ghulam Haider used to make the tunes using a piano and Kartar Singh used to replicate those tunes on harmonium. Kartar Singh remarked ”Khan Sahib, why did you slap this frail little girl?, look at her face, she can’t even cry, she is totally dumb folded”. Ghulam Haider retorted back “Look Kartar Singh, I used to slap Noorjehan and see how high a pedestal she has reached, she is on top in her profession. This slap is going to catapult Lata Mangeshkar into a great singer, who will rule the World of music”. Ghulam Haider’s prophecy proved right and today Lata Mangeshkar is World’s most celebrated female playback singer and her name is encrypted in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the most recorded female voice in the World.
Between 1947 and 1949, Ghulam Haider composed music for films “Majboor”, “Padmini”, “Barsaat Ki Ek Raat”, “Aabshaar”, “Patjhar”, “Shaheed” and “Kaneez”. Film “Kaneez” had songs sung by inimitable Zeenat Begum too and Ghulam Haider gave a chance to O.P. Nayyar to compose its background music.
Ghulam Haider left Bombay for good and arrived back in Lahore towards the end of 1949. Although staying in Bombay could have been professionally a lot more satisfying, but out of sheer patriotism for the newly created nation of Pakistan, he left a very promising career as a music director in India’s leading film production center. Others who returned to Lahore included music directors Firoze Nizami, Khurshid Anwar and Rashid Atre. But Ghulam Haider had the satisfaction of leaving Bombay’s film land’s music direction in the hands of a brilliant duo of fellow Punjabi music directors Pandit Husna lal Bhagat Ram, who had ten film contracts in 1949 and nine in 1950. Even the field of lyric writing was dominated by Punjabi poets including Rajinder Krishan, Naqsh Lyallpuri, Qamar Jalalabadi, Balraj Madhok and Sahir Ludhianvi to name a few. After the death of the doyen among male film singers K.L. Saigal in 1947, the crown of being the number one male playback singer was inherited by another Punjabi singer Mohammad Rafi. Prior to Rafi’s meteoric rise another Punjabi G.M. Durrani was briefly on top, but he was seriously challenged by Mukesh of Delhi and Talat Mahmood of Lucknow.
On arrival in Lahore, Ghulam Haider in association with director S. Nazeer Ajmeri founded “Filmsaz”, a music dominated company. While in Lahore, Ghulam Haider composed the music for films “Beqarar”, “Akeli”, “Bheegi Palkein”, “Ghulam” and “Gulnar”. Somehow the music of these films, with the exception of “Gulnar” did not do too well and the market in Pakistan was too small. The Noorjehan number for Film “Gulnar”, with starting lyrics “Lo Chal Diye Voh Hamko Tassalli Diye Baghair, Ik Chand Chhup Gaya Hai Ujala Kiye Baghair” became a hit. This song was played again and again by different stations of Radio Pakistan as an “Obituary on the death of Master Ghulam Haider”.
Ghulam Haider’s life long inspiration was his beautiful, talented and intelligent wife Umro-O-Zia Begum. It is a pity that Ghulam Haider left this World for his heavenly abode in November 1953, a few months before his youngest child, another great classical, semi-classical and Sufiana singer Abida Praveen came into this World. As long as the music of the Indian Sub-continent is alive in this World, Ghulam Haider’s name will stay alive. Among other things that he did, he will be remembered for discovering a number of playback singing sensations including Umra-O-Zia Begum, Noorjehan, Shamshad Begum, Ali Bakhash Zahoor, Mohammad Rafi, Surinder Kaur and Lata Mangeshkar.
In his life time Ghulam Haider composed the music for about two dozen movies, a quarter of them being Punjabi films. Many others have composed music for a lot more movies. But it is not sheer numbers that matter in this World, it is the quality of work that matters the most. In terms of quality of music Ghulam Haider never made any shortcuts or compromises. That is why he went to the extent of slapping Noorjehan and Lata Mangeshkar when they were both debutant singers. For an example master composer Sajjad Hussain created music for only a dozen movies, but all his music became hit and top notch musicians like Lata Mangeshkar, Talat Mahmood and Suraiya acclaimed his tunes as some of the finest ever made in the twentieth century.
Music directors, like other competing professionals, are generally quite jealous of each other. But contrary to that, on hearing about the demise of Master Ghulam Haider, one of his contemporaries and a highly acclaimed music director C. Ramchandra started crying. When asked about the reason C. Ramchandra said “Ghulam Haider used to compose the tunes, I used to steal those and after making minor alterations and after changing the “Taal”, I used to create hit music under my own banner. Now that fountainhead of tunes has gone dry. I have been deprived of my source of ideas. I am the person who has been hit the hardest”. Such honest admissions from a fellow music director can be the finest tribute to the departed genius. This fact was narrated to me by another music director Sardul Singh Kwatra, who admitted that Ghulam Haider and Hans Raj Behl were his (Sardul’s) sources of inspiration too.
[ The author Harjap Singh Aujla lives at 16 Junction Pond Lane, Monmouth Junction, New Jersey 08852 USA ]
‘Khayalon mein kisi ke is tarah aya nahin karte’ sung by Mukesh and Geeta Roy for film- ‘Bawre Nain’- starring Raj Kapoor and Geeta Bali- in the year 1950 is still alive in the head and heart of millions of nostalgic music lovers world over. As and when the unforgettable melody is played, the listener derives a different kind of soul throbbing experience, which somehow cannot be put to words.
The reason- singing at ease, simple lyrics and above all captivating and charming instrumentation of its music by an almost unheard of melody maker called- Roshan Lal Nagrath- more popularly known as Roshan.
After serving All India Radio, Delhi for ten years as a class dilruba player besides a love affair and second marriage with his disciple- Ira Moitra (a Bengali), Roshan reached Bombay in search of some assignment as a music composer. The place to stay was a garage of Husnalal (of Husnalal Bhagatram- duo). It was in this garage, where his fist son Rakesh was born.
A coincidence ! At Dadar station, he came across Kidar Sharma, the doyen of Indian cinema and the renowned producer-director, who was planning his next film- ‘Neki Aur Badi’ (1949). He somehow reposed his trust in Roshan as composer for the film by replacing Snehal Bhatkar.
The film proved a failure and the dejected and a highly sensitive Roshan, one day came to his mentor- Kidar Sharma fully charged with emotions, sobbing and in tears. He said- “Sharmaji mein khudkushi karna chahta hoon” (Sharmaji, I want to commit suicide).
Later while narrating this incident, Kidar Sharma revealed that after patiently listening to Roshan, he told him that as regard his intention of committing suicide, he had no objection. At the same time, he asked him whether he would like to be drowned in Haji Ali or should he take him to Varsova, where the water was deeper. However, he assured him that if he defer his decision he could give another chance in his next film- ‘Bawre Nain’.
Thus, the suicide attempt of Roshan was averted; but the fact remained that during such period of mental distress, the composer in Roshan created a soul stirring- ‘Teri dunian mein dil lagta nahin, wapas bula le, main sazde mei’ -later on sung by Mukesh for film ‘Bawre Nain’.
Before commenting on the grand success of ‘Bawre Nain’, I would like to narrate another incident, which occurred during the course of its making. Kidar Sharma in his interview to the brilliant Radio broadcaster Ameen Sayani once told- “One day Mr Dondh, a film distributer from Indore came to my office, when Roshan was already there. He put a bundle of fifty thousand rupees on my table and told me that he would also give me another fifty thousand for an additional territory of East Punjab for his forthcoming film ‘Bawre Nain’ on the condition, if I replace Roshan and instead engage- Husnalal Bhagatram for its music”.
“Roshan, who was sitting in the same room, on hearing these words, immediately left”- added Kidar Sharma- “I too left the room, leaving behind Mr Dondh and went to the adjacent room, where I saw Roshan sobbing with tears. He (Roshan) told me- ‘Sharmji aap Husnalal Bhagatram ko le lijiye, jis-se aapka pachhees hazar bhi bach jayenge’”. (Sharmaji, you please engage Husnalal Bhagatram in my place, thus you will save twenty five thousand rupees).
“I came back to my room, where Mr. Dondh was sitting. Though in my life, at one given moment, I had never seen such big amount of money; I gave him back the bundle containing fifty thousand and told him that his conditions were not acceptable to me and further said that it was like inducing me to change my wife for a lucrative consideration”.
Inspite of his maiden failure in ‘Neki Aur Badi’ , as a visionary he could visualize a lot of hidden talent in Roshan. The episode of confidence imposed by Kidar Sharma inspite of all odds deserves to be written in golden letters.
This is how the journey of music of Roshan commenced.
In ‘Bawre Nain’, in addition to ‘Teri duniyan mein dil lagta nahin’ & ‘Khayalon mein kisi ke is tarah aya nahin karte’ he composed some bewitching melodies. ‘Muhabbat ke maron ka’- sung by Rafi; Ghir ghir ke aasman par’, Kyoun mere dil mein’ & ‘Sun bairi balam mat bol’ –sung by Rajkumari and ‘Mujhe sach sach batado, kya’-sung by Mukesh & Rajkumari.
During the decade (1951-60) Indian film industry had a galaxy of music composers and each one of them wanted to give something better than the other. Amongst the front liners were- Anil Biswas, Naushad, Husnalal Bhagatram, Shanker Jaikishan, Hemant Kumar, S.D. Burman, C.Ramchandra, Vasant Desai, Ghulam Mohammad. O.P. Nayyar and Khaiyyam- just to name a few. The music of those days was one of the prime factors for the success of a film. As such, for a new composer, it was extremely difficult to survive in the industry, if the songs composed for the film were not to the expectations of its viewers. In view of such grand music of the said decade, the phase was named as the ‘Golden Era’ of Indian cinema. Distinctively, Roshan was not lacking, as he fairly proved his worth.
Back to Roshan’s early days at Gujranwala (Punjab) where he was born on 14 July, 1917. He had little interest in his studies, but could play harmonium at ease. He quit his schooling at an early stage and went to Shahjahanpur (near Lucknow) where his father was in service. It was at this stage that he had an opportunity of learning from the legend- Ustad Allaudin Khan, the doyen of Maihar gharana and father of renowned sarod maestro- Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi. Such training though for a short while proved to be of an immense value and a blessing for his future course of music career.
Thereafter he studied at Marris College, Lucknow (later on known as Bhatkhande College of Music) and had an opportunity of learning music from Pt S.N. Ratanjankar. Subsequently Roshan came to Delhi, where he met the grand singer in offing- Mukesh. They became very close friends and the amity resulted in creation of some of the finest songs ever sung by Mukesh.
In the film- ‘Malhar’ (1952) Roshan composed some alluring melodies- ‘Bade armanon se rakha hei sanam teri kasam’, ‘Ik baar agar tu keh de’ & ‘Kahan ho tum’- duets by Lata and Mukesh; ‘Hota rahaa yun hi agar’, ‘Tara toote duniyan dekhe’ & ‘Dil tujhe diya tha rakhne ko’ –three memorable solos of Mukesh; ‘Koyee to sune mere dil ka fasana’ & ‘Mohabbat ki kismet banane se pahle, diniyan ke maalik tu roya to hoga’ –solos of Lata. Added, there was a captivating classical title song of Lata- ‘Garjat barest bheejat’.
Equally well, here were some fascinating compositions for film ‘Humlog’ (1952)- ‘Chhun chhun chhun baaje payal mori’ & ‘Chalee ja chalee ja chhod ke duniyan’ –solos by Lata, ‘Apni nazar se unki nazr tak’ & ‘Dil ki pareshanian ishq ki veeraniyan’ –sung by Mukesh and ‘Gaaye chalaa ja gaaye chalaa ja’ –duet by Lata and Durrani.
In film- ‘Naubahaar’ (1952), there were four everlasting melodies of Lata- ‘Aree mein to prem diwani mora dard na jaane koye’, ‘Dekho ji mora jiya churaye liye jaye’, ‘Wo paas nahin majboor hei dil’ & ‘Unke bhulane pe bole mera dil’. These songs are still fresh in the head and heart of ardent music lovers. The charm of the throat of Rajkumari was very much visible in her number- ‘Kajrari matwari madbhari akhiyan’. Added, a ghazal of Talat Mehmood, in his silken voice- ‘Kisi soorat lagi dil ki’ made the film, a mile stone in career memoirs of the maestro. In ‘Raag Rang’ (1952) Roshan composed yet another classic ‘Aye ree aalee piya bin’ –sung by Lata.
Kidar Sharma produced and directed a film ‘Rangeen Ratein’ (1956) starring Shammi Kapoor and his charming wife Geeta Bali and Roshan provided its music. A duet of Mohd Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar –‘Bahut assaan hei chilman se laga kar muskura dena’ became an instant hit. In film ‘Aji Bas Shukriya’ (1958), Lata sang –‘Saari saari raat teri yaad sataye’ which, of course, is one of her finest numbers.
In the career of Roshan, 1960 was perhaps the most successful year. It was certainly in view of his all time great- ‘Barsaat Ki Raat’. The cine goers went to cinema halls time and again not merely to see the film, but to enjoy and listen to its all time great qawwallies. How can one forget these charismatic qawwallies- ‘Naa to karwan ki talash hei__ye ishq ishq hei ishq’- sung by Manna Dey, Asha, Sudha Malhotra, Shiv Dayal Batish and others which was recorded in on both sides of two 78 rpm records. The composition proved to be the most popular qawwally in the history of Indian cine music- in view of its captivating rhythm, lyrics, instrumentation and above all the total effect. Besides this number, there were other two- ‘Nigahein naaz ke’ -sung by Shanker Shambhu, Asha, Sudha Malhotra & others and ‘Jee chataa hei jee’ –sung by Balbir, Asha, Sudha Malhotra & Bande Hasan. In addition to these qawwallies, there were few other fascinating melodies, which made the film a perfect musical hit for all the times to come. The music lover just cannot forget- ‘Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi wo barsaar ki raat’ –sung by Lata and Rafi; and ‘Maine shaayad tumhein, pelhe bhee kahin dekha hei’ – Rafi. Above all, there was classical classic title music- ‘Garjat barsat saawan ayo re, laayo na humre’ – sung by Kamal Barot and Suman Kalyanpur. The orchestrisation for this number was simply superb. Experience the enjoyment of listening to the captivating jaltarang, sarangi and all other instruments deployed. Undoubtedly, in this immortal number, Roshan was at his best.
The musical journey continued and in the film ‘Aartee’ (1962), there was a appealing solo of Lata- ‘Aapne yaad dilaya to hamein’ and ‘Ab kya misaal doon’ - of Rafi and a duet -‘Baar baar tohey kya samjhay’.
‘Dil Hi To Hai’ (1963) was another splendid attempt. Manna Dey sang one of his apex classical favorites- ‘Lagaa chunri mein daag, chhupaaun kaise’ and Lata sang- ‘Dil jo hi kahega maneige, Mukesh- ‘Tum agar mujhko na chaho to koi baat nahin’ & ‘Bhoole se muhabbat kar baithe nadan tha bechara’. Besides there was a qawwalli sung by Asha and others- ‘Nigahein milanein ko jee chahta hai’ and another by Manna Dey, Asha and others- ‘Parda uthe salaam ho jaye’.
The film ‘Tajmahal’ (1963) was another landmark in the professional career graph of Roshan. We just cannot forget, the most popular duet of Lata and Rafi- ‘Jo wadaa kiya wo nibhana padega’ ? It was rated as the year’s top song for Bianca Geetmala in its annual programme. Also, there were two solo numbers of Lata and Rafi- ‘Julmein ulfat pe hamein log’ & ‘Jo baat tujhmein hai teri tasveer mein nahin’ and a qawwalli – ‘Chandi ka badan sone ki nazar’- sung by Lata, Rafi, Manna Dey and Mahender Kappor. The maestro was conferred the prestigious ‘Filmfare’ award for the music of this film.
The passion of Kidar Sharma for portraying mental conflict motivated him to produce yet another version of the film ‘Chitralekha’ based on the novel of Hindi laureate- Bhagwati Charan Verma. The earlier ‘Chitrlekha’ was produced by him in the year 1941 and music was composed by Jhande Khan. One of its successful songs- ‘Tum jao jao’ is invariably placed in the list of songs of ‘Sentimental Era’.
This time the composer was Roshan. Though an established composer, it was a challenge for Roshan; as he was working for his mentor’s paramount conviction and his utmost trust imposed on him.
The music once again was enthralling. The deep rooted lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi- matching with the mental conflict was remarkably captivating. Two solo songs of Lata and Rafi- ‘Sansaar se bhage phirtey ho’ and ‘Man re tu kahey na dheer dahrey’ respectively proved somewhat unique. And a classic- ‘Kahe tarsaye jihra’ sung by Usha Mangeshkar and Asha and another of Lata- ‘Aali ree roko na koi’. Thus making the music for the film- a magnum opus!
Manna Day’s characteristic style of singing was once agian visible in ‘Dooj Ka Chaand’ (1964) when he sang- ‘Phul gendwa na maaro, lagat karejwa pe chot’. In ‘Bheegi Raat’ (1965) as well, Lata and Rafi individually sang an instant hit - ‘Dil jo na keh sakaa, wohi raze dil kehne ki’.
The stage-poet Neeraj offered some of his trendy lyrics for the film- ‘Nai Umar Nai Fasal’ (1965) and Roshan provided the music. Rafi sang.-‘Karwaaan gujar gaya’ & ‘Aaj ki raat badi natkhat hei’. Mukesh sang- ‘Dekhtee hi na raho aaj darpan na tum’. For film Dadi Maa (1966) Manna Dey and Mahender Kapoor sang –‘Usko nahin dekha hamnein magar’ which, as well proved some successful numbers.
Mamta (1966) was another signpost in the musical journey of Roshan. In this film; he provided some of his well acclaimed melodies. Lata once again sang some of the stirring classics-‘Rahein na rahein hum’, ‘’Rehte the kabhi unke dil mein’, ‘Sakal ban magan pawan chalat’ & ‘Vikal mora manwa un bin haye’. Also there was a poignant duet of Hemant and Lata –‘Chhupa lo yun dil mein pyar mera, jaise mandir mein lau diye ki’ which made somewhat emotive impact on the listeners.
In film ‘Bahu Begum’ (1967) the composer provided some popular melodies- ‘Parh gaye jhoole sawan rut aayee re’ – sung by Lata and Asha. Whereas Rafi sang- ‘Ham Intzaar karenge kayamat tak’ and in ‘Noorjehan’ (1967) Suman Kalyanpur sang –‘Sharabee sharabee’ which were well admired.
A heart patient for almost twenty years and a hypersensitive, the maestro died in Bombay on 16 November, 1967 leaving behind his first name-‘Roshan’, as surname for his sons- Rakesh and Rajesh and thereafter for his grandson- Hrithik.
This was perhaps in extension to the tradition of gaining recognition at the initial stage by using their father’s first name- as being adopted by Amitabh Bachchan, who as well adopted his father’s pen-name ‘Bachchan’ as his surname.
Mukesh Chand Mathur’s son and grandson -Nitin Mukesh and Neel Nitan Mukesh respectively, also adopted ‘Mukesh’ as their surname.
What an irony!
This was the same Roshan Lal Nagrath, who had determined to commit suicide after his maiden failure of the film ‘Neki Aur Badi’ in the year 1949.
When he died, his last released film ‘Anokhi Raat’ starring Sanjeev Kumar was in making, wherein Mukesh sang the philosophy of life- ‘Oh re taal mile nadee ke jal mein, nadi mile sagar mein, sagar mile kaun se jal mein koi janey na’.