A tribute to Naushad Ali, the composer of timeless Hindi film tunes

When Naushad’s father asked him to choose between family or music, he chose the latter. A tribute to the legendary Hindi music composer, who breathed his last on May 5, 2006.

Photo courtesy: PTI
Photo courtesy: PTI

Iqbal Rizvi

The preparations for ‘Nikah’ were almost done. As a wedding was taking place in the house, it was all but natural that there was noise and music.

In that Lucknow house, the super hit song from the movie Ratan was playing on the loud speaker - “ankhiyan mila ke jia bharma ke, chale nahi jaana..

The groom’s father-in-law, however, got peeved at the song. He said, “Such songs are ruining this society. The person who has made this song should be beaten with shoes.” At this, the sehra-clad groom became wary. He was afraid if the father-in-law came to know the secret, all hell will break loose. Because the fact remained, he was the brains behind the tune. The marriage, however, did take place and the person who nobody wanted to marry their daughter was finally hitched.

The groom’s name was Naushad, who later came to be known as one of the greatest of the Hindi music industry. Musicians, even if they worked in feature films, weren’t respected much in the India of the forties. When Naushad’s father was seeking a suitable girl to marry his son, he would often be told off as father of a mirasi (a demeaning word for musician). He eventually had to start telling people that his son worked as a tailor in Mumbai, and not a musician. Fortunately for Naushad, when his in-laws finally came to know about his real profession, he was already quite famous by then.

He had won many awards for his excellent music.

It is necessary to mention some of his compositions for understanding his greatness as a music director.

‘jab dil hi toot gaya…’ ‘Awaaz de khaan hai..’ Aa jaa meri barbaad mohabbat ke sahaare…’ ‘Man tadpat hari darshan ko aaj..’ ‘gaaye jaa geet milan ke…’ ‘Ye zindagi ke mele, duniya me kam naa honge..’ All these songs and many more became integral part of the immortal heritage of Hindi film music.

Naushad’s life was full of struggles and hardships. Born on December 25,1919, he had a passion for music, which was abhorred by his father. Just for his love for music, Naushad took up a part-time job at a musical instruments shop during his school days. Away from the eyes of the shop-owner, Naushad would often try his hand on harmonium and sitar.

One day, his boss saw Naushad playing an instrument melodiously. He was pleased at seeing the boy’s talent and gifted him a harmonium. On reaching home, Naushad faced the wrath of his father for bringing home a musical instrument. He warned Naushad that he would have to make a choice between family and music. Naushad chose the latter.

He arrived in Mumbai in 1937. He had already learnt playing harmonium and sitar under the tutelage of some reputed musicians of Lucknow. Of course, his family did not know about it. He learnt the finer details of Hindi film music under Ustad Jhande Khan’s guidance and joined Ustad Mushtaq Hussain’s orchestra as a piano player.

Hussain was associated with the New Theatre Company. Later he started working as an assistant to Khemchand Prakash. Naushad’s first film as an independent music director was Prem Nagar (1940).

He had to wait a little for greater success. After composing music for nine films until Ratan got released in 1944, Naushad became extremely popular. With Anmol Ghadi (1944), the films started selling on his name only, with the directors, actors and film banners not mattering much. He gave music in about 65 films, and three among them ran for more than 100 weeks on the box office.

After the seventies, the music scenario started changing rapidly and the music directors of Naushad’s generation had to gradually withdraw. But, by then, Naushad had given some memorable music tunes to the film industry. In 1982, he was awarded the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award.

For years, he did not make any music but when producer actor Sanjay Khan requested him, he made a comeback in the serial The Great Maratha. Again, after a long gap, in 2005, he composed for Akbar Khan’s Tajmahal. This was his last film.

On May 5, 2006, the legend breathed his last.

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