Monday, September 28, 2009


A Humble Tribute to the Greatest Playback Singer of all times – by Nasir.

The year 1947 was a very eventful year. Politically, India got independence from the British Raj and a new country of East and West Pakistan also came into existence.

Millions of people were dislocated on either side. At least a million died in the beastly and brutal communal riots that followed. Saadat Manto has graphically chronicled the holocaust of the Partition but from a humanitarian view. Amrita Pritam in her Ode to Waris Ali Shah, the Sufi Saint and Poet known for his legendary Poem, Heer Ranjha, has lamented the division and burning of Punjab. The historical account has been rendered in Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. Deepa Mehta’s movie, 1947 Earth (based on Ice Candy Man) and Gaddar a Prem Katha are depicted against the background of the horrendous consequences of the Partition.

The why’s and wherefore’s of the Partition have never been openly discussed, or if discussed they, just as some other historical facts, have been glossed over or distorted in various books. The latest exposure comes from Jaswant Singh’s book, Jinnah: India- Partition, Independence which was initially banned in the Indian state of Gujarat, and for which Jaswant Singh has been thrown out by his own party, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) like a fly in the ointment for glorification of Jinnah and holding Pandit Nehru and Sardar Vallabh Patel responsible for the Partition of India. According to journalist Khushwant Singh, the leaders were not to blame, but the circumstances that had evolved over the centuries. Let’s leave this matter to the political analysts, intellectuals and historians, and come back to our subject and see what the film industry lost and gained as the result of the partition.

A.R. Kardar’s Shah Jahan, V.Shantaram’s Dr. Kotnis ki Amar Kahani, and Vijay Bhatt’s Ram Rajya were shown at Canadian National Exhibition at Toronto. Unfortunately, the hero of Shah Jahan was no more. It was Naushad Saab who had convinced Saigal Saab that he could sing very well even without his “Kaali Paanch”. “Kaali Paanch” was the code name for whiskey pegs that K.L. Saigal used to imbibe during recordings. “If I had met you earlier, I would have been a different Kundan altogether,” the singer told Naushad. Alas! It was too late then.

The legendary singer died of cirrhosis of the liver on 18th January 1947. The band played JAB DIL HEE TOOT GAYAA at his funeral as per his dying wish. Just 250 soulful songs and 28 films had made K.L. Saigal immortal in the Musical Hall of Fame. There was no one who commanded rapt attention as Saigal Saab used to command during that time. With his untimely death a void had been created in the world of Hindustani filmy music.

(This "void" can be explained better with an example: After Rafi Sahaab’s premature death in 1980, many aspiring singers jumped on the bandwagon of his style of singing and successfully carved a niche for themselves for a decade, managing with just an individual shade out of the many shades of Rafi Sahaab’s powerehouse of a talent. These singers were Anwar, Shabbir Kumar, Mohammed Aziz, and others. Sonu Nigam was a just a child then, but when he took to singing it was his idol, Mohammed Rafi, whose songs he began to sing before coming into his own. The same thing happened after the demise of K.L. Saigal.)

With most of the actors having given up singing too about the mid-Forties, playback singing was a new industry and those who came in at that stage. Most of them were heavily influenced by the Saigal style of singing. Mukesh and Kishore Kumar too were smitten by K.L. Saigal for that matter, and in fact earlier in 1945 Mukesh sang DIL JALTA TOH JALNE DE in a typical K.L. Saigal style in Pehli Nazar. Kishore Kumar, initially sang in the traditional style of Saigal Saab. C.H. Atma too carried this tradition all his life. Surendra in Bombay remained a poor man’s Saigal. Even Bulo C. Rani who later stuck to musical direction had initially commenced singing in the style of K.L. Saigal. Naushad, who had teamed up with Saigal in Kedar’s masterpiece Shahjehan gave the last of great musical hits that kept the memory K.L. Saigal alive.
The contemporaries and the gen-next were crazy after K.L. Saigal. A classic example is that of Lata Mangeshkar who in her early years had a crush on him and wanted to marry him but was advised to the contrary by her father, Dinanath Mangeshkar. Shamshad Begum watched Saigal’s Devdas over and over again. Suraiya, too, was thrilled by K.L. Saigal when he directed the director of movie, where Suraiya was singing, to cast her opposite him in Tadbir (1945) after which they did two more movies. Talat Mehmood was an ardent fan of Saigal, and used to croon his songs in family gatherings in early stages of his life.

Mohammed Rafi, too, in his early years wanted to sing along with K.L. Saigal even if it meant singing in a chorus and he did sing in the chorus of the famous Ruhee song as we have already noted. After more than a decade later, Rafi Sahaab would be singing: MARR KE AMAR HAI SAIGAL JISKA HAR KOEE DEEWAANA HAI in the TEEN-KANASTAR song from a 1958 film, Love Marriage. It is no wonder, therefore, that for many years after Saigal’s demise, Radio Ceylon used to play a 78 rpm record of his songs every day at 7:57 a.m. It is against this background that emergence of Mohammad Rafi has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

India suffered a loss of many film artistes who permanently shifted to Pakistan. Noor Jahan did not at once migrate to Pakistan in 1947. She did so after finishing her assignments here one of which was Mirza Sahiban that again had her unforgettable numbers such as KYA YEHI TERAA PYAAR THAAH and AAJAA TUJHE AFSAANA JUDAAI KA SUNAAYEN. By 1949 Noor Jahan and Shaukat Hussain were spotted in Karachi and thereafter in Lahore. Though Shaukat Hussain was a hit director with Khandan, Zeenath and Jugnu in India, he proved to be a flop director in Pakistan. His Jan-e-Bahar crashed at the box-office. A fan of Noor Jahan informs us that she had already sung about 127 songs in about 69 Indian films during the period 1932-47. Some 55 movies were made in Bombay, 5 in Lahore, 1 in Rangoon (Burma), and 8 in Calcutta. She also did 12 Silent Movies. Noor Jahan had been Lata Mangeshkar’s inspiration in the early years of the latter’s musical life.

The others who migrated were Actress Swaran Lata and her actor-director husband Nazir, producer-director W.Z. Ahmad, and Khwaja Khursheed Anwar who had last composed the music for K.L. Saigal-Suraiya starrer, Parwana.  Of course, he came back to India later in 1949 and composed music for more films before finally leaving for Pakistan for good.  Khursheed Bano of Tansen fame migrated later. Composer Master Ghulam Haider went to Pakistan in 1950 after doing some more films, including Kaneez (1949), in India. Film star Rehana who had the best phase of her career in India from 1948-51, migrated later in 1956 after completing her last films here.

Meena Shorey, the Lara Lappa girl, migrated to Pakistan in 1956 for good and died in penury. Tanvir Naqvi also went back to his original place, Lahore, after a few years of partition. Shaikh Mukhtar migrated to Pakistan in the Sixties saddened by the fact that his magnum opus, Noor Jahan, flopped miserably after its premier at the Naaz Cinema, Bombay. This movie, however, did roaring business in Pakistan. There is a very mellifluous number of Rafi Sahaab in Noor Jahan: VOH MUHABBAT VOH WAFAAYEN... Composer Nisar Bazmi (Khoj fame) too migrated in June 1962, since his talent was not duly recognised despite his struggle for 15 long years in Bombay. Khoj has been rendered immortal by Rafi Sahaab’s moving song: CHANDAA KA DIL TOOT GAYAA HAI. Some other names are Nashad and Faiyaz Hashimi (Bara Dari fame) Iqbal Bano, and Fateh Ali Khan. There were a host of classical singers and musicians who went to Pakistan. But as Akhtar Mirza says, those who came to Pakistan from the glittering Bombay film industry ended up in failures. Included in this list is Zia Sarhady who worked with every actor and scripted or directed movies from 1936 to 1956 and made Footpath, Aawaaz, and Hamlog; and M. Sadiq who directed Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), Taj Mahal (1963) Noor Jahan (1967) and other earlier movies such as Rattan and Nazneen. The promising child-star, Ratan Kumar,  who had acted in such films as Footpath (Dilip Kumar starrer), Bahot Din Huwe (Madhubala starrer) and Boot Polish with Baby Naaz, too remained generally unsung after he migrated in mid-Fifties. How can we forget the Rafi-Asha duet: NANNEH MUNNE BACHCHE TEREE MUTTHEE ME.N KYAA HAI...that was picturised on David singing to children that included Ratan Kumar and Baby Naaz!  Lastly, Saadat Hasan Manto who had actually shifted to Bombay in 1937 and found himself at home in the film industry here, shifted to Pakistan in early 1948.  But this D.H. Lawrence of  Asia  could never forget Bombay "that was the city I love.  That is the city that I still love."

If Bombay lost lots of filmy talents to Lahore, it gained many in return. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan also went to his native place Kasur in Pakistan, but he came back to India and acquired the Indian citizenship in 1957. He had said: “If in every home one child was taught the Hindustani Classical Music, this country would never have been parititioned.“  Others who returned to India  included Nasir Khan, the brother of legendary Indian Matinee Idol, Dilip Kumar, and Suresh on whom the ever-popular Rafi Sahaab's song  in Dulari (1949) SUHAANI RAAT DHAL CHUKI was picturised. The former was the hero of  the first-ever Pakistani movie, Teri Yaad; and of the second movie, Shahida.  Both were made in 1948.  Suresh too worked in two Pakistani movies, "Do Kinare" (1950)  and "Eid" (1951).  Others who had migrated earlier and settled down in Pakistan were Sadiq Ali and Masood who acted as the film heroes of the many Nineteen Forties movies.   Dev Anand and Balraj Sahni had graduated from Government College, Lahore, where Amitabh Bachchan’s mother, Tajasavi Bachchan, was the lecturer before their earlier migration. Also, Kamini Kaushal’s father was a Professor of Botany there, while she herself did her B.A. at the Lahore’s Kinnaird College. Others were Ramanand Sagar, Om Prakash, Pran, Chetan Anand, film tycoon Dalsukh Pancholi (remember the famous Pancholi Theatres?), and others including Jayant. B.R. Chopra, (who used to publish English film magazines then) Yash Chopra, Shekhar Kapoor, Anupam Kher, too were Lahorites. Others who migrated from Lahore were composers O.P. Nayyar, Roshan (Gujranwala), Pandit Gobind Ram, (Pandit Amarnath had already died in Feb.1947) Shyam Sunder, Lachhi Ram and Dhanni Ram. Khayyam had started his career in Lahore. So also Sahir Ludhianvi. Prithviraj Kapoor and his sons were from Peshwar. Dilip Kumar aka Yusuf Khan was also from Peshwar. Raj Kumar and Veena were born in Baluchistan. Rajendra Kumar had come from Sialkot, Gulzar and Sunil Dutt from Jhelum, and Anand Bakshi from Rawalpindi.

At the same time more and more film personalities permanently shifted from Lahore and elsewhere in Pakistan to Bombay. Many chose to make India their home. Rafi Sahaab and Shamshad Begum, who were originally from what came to be called as the East Punjab, had gone to Lahore in mid-Thirties. They finally left Lahore for good in 1944 to seek singing career in the Bombay film industry. As for Suraiya many sources trace her roots to Lahore and a few to Gujranwala, but she had already settled in India long before, completing her high school studies in Bombay.  During the pre-partition years, Veena was a huge successful actress. Even Nargis and Suraiya played a second fiddle to her. However, she married the much married and divorced actor, Al-Nasir, and went to Pakistan with him. Ultimately, owing to lack of work, both had to come back to India in 1949 but on a visa. But she had lost her position. She finally decided to remain in India until her death in 2004.



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