indian cinema heritage foundation

"Aathwaan Sur" – Naushad

10 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Naushad. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

After the invasion of the Mughals, a new culture emerged from the soils of Hindustan. A culture, where on one hand there was the sound of temple bells and on the other hand was the Azaan. It had Raskhans devout devotion of Krishna, qawwalis sung in Mazars and Dargahas, Soofi music, Kathak, Hindustani Classical Music adorned with ragas, fragrant Urdu language and so much more that gave it the name of Ganga-Jamuni Culture. The seat of this culture was Awadh whose last ruler was Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, whose patronage of music and dance is still recalled with utmost reverence. It was in center Lucknow of this very Awadh that on 25 December 1919 was born the great composer Naushad Ali, who in due course of time changed the face of Hindi film music.
Naushad with sound recordist Robin Chatterjee. Image Courtesy: Filmfare, 1955 September 2

Naushad's father Wahid Ali was a munshi in a court and was a very religious and traditional man. And Naushad was inclined towards music since his childhood. This was the era of silent films. According to Naushad, “Seth Girdharilal had two cinema halls in Lucknow where he had employed singers and instrumentalists. Every movie that would come in, would be shown to these singers and instrumentalists first so that they could set music according to the mood of the Movie. Laddan Miyaan would play the harmonium, Babulal Ji would play clarinet and Kallan Miyaan - tabla. Guhar was responsible for singing the Ghazals. Renowned shayars like Jigar Sahib, Faani Badayuni, Behzad Lucknowi, and Maulana Asi had to be coaxed and persuaded into writing ghazals according to the theme of the film. The film would be publicized, posters would be printed, handbills would be distributed. And then the singers and instrumentalists would sit in front of the screen and would play and sing throughout the screening of the film. My cousin (aunt's son) and I would buy tickets that would cost four annas, I would see one half of the film and he, the other half and then later we would sit and tell each other the story of the parts that we missed. The film's live music would draw me towards it. There is no doubt that Seth Girdharilal was the one who sowed the seeds of film background music in Lucknow. Girdharilals Royal Cinema of that era situated in Aminabad is now called Mehra Talkies”. 

(In contradiction to what Naushad says, Mumbai based well-known film historian and film-posters & booklets collector Mr.S.M.M.Ausaja who is originally from Lucknow says that the two cinema halls of Seth Girdharilal were Basant and Mayfair and they used to be located in Hazratganj but now only their memories remain there with us.) 
Station Master (1942) from Cinemaazi archive

Naushad's father was very upset with Naushad's passion for music. Despite his father's strictness and restrictions, Naushad's desire to learn the harmonium drew him to a musical instruments shop where he started working and was put in charge of keeping the instruments neat and clean. Seeing Naushad's hard work and devotion towards music, one day the shop owner gifted him a harmonium. His father did not like this at all and told Naushad to choose one between music and home. Naushad said, “….and I, very happily, chose music”
Sharda (1942) from Cinemaazi archive

Having received initial training in Lucknow from Ustad Baban Khan in harmonium and from Ustad Yusuf Ali in Sitar, after leaving home, Naushad joined a theatre company as an instrumentalist. According to Naushad, “for shows of our plays, we used to go from city to city in west Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. But suddenly one day the company was shut down due to financial constraints. At that time we were camped in Viramgam, Gujarat. All roads leading home were closed. And hence to find employment I had to go to Mumbai. This was during 1937 and I was just 18 years old.” Naushad found shelter at a distant relative Professor Abdul Alim Nami's home in Mumbai who hailed from Sandila-Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh and was teaching in Mumbai's St. Xavier College. He used to live in Colaba, Mumbai. In those days, Dadar used to be the epicenter of filmic ongoings and would house many small and big studios. As per Naushad, “My pockets would be empty, hence I had to look for work, I had to commute from Colaba to Dadar by foot and that too on an empty stomach. After some time I left Professor Sahib's house and camped on a footpath opposite Dadar's Broadway Cinema.”
Kanoon (1943) from Cinemaazi archive

Naushad succeeded in his efforts and the then renowned composer Ustad Jhande Khan Sahib hired him as a pianist at a salary of 40 rupees per month. Composer Ghulam Mohammad, who later became Naushad's assistant, used to be employed with Ustad Jhande Khan at that time as a dholak player at a salary of 80 rupees per month. Naushad said, “New Theatres introduced playback with its films but the trend had not caught on with everyone. Actors would sing in front of the camera and the instrumentalists would hide here and there in different places and play their instruments. I also played instruments for many films, sometimes hiding behind the bushes or sitting on top of a tree.” Seeing Naushad's hard work and diligence, very soon Jhande Khan made him his assistant. Naushad also assisted composers like Manohar Kapoor, Mushtaq Hussain, and Khemchand Prakash during that time. Along with this, Naushad used to also work as an instrumentalist with Young India Gramophone Company at 100 Rupees per month. As Mushtaq Hussain's assistant, he did films like director Mohan Sinha's Nirala Hindustan (aka Industrial India(1938), A R Kardar's Baaghbaan (1938) and Gunjal's Pati Patni (1939) which were made under the banner of General Films. Right then he got an opportunity to compose a song for producer C.M.Gwalani's Chitra Productions's film Kanchan (1941), and that song was Bata do koi kaun gali more shyam. Written by D.N.Madhok, this song was sung by Leela Chitnis. The rest of the ten songs of Manibhai Vyas directed film Kanchan was composed by Gyandutt. But Naushad's debut film as an independent composer, Premnagar, had already released in 1940, a year prior to the film Kanchan. Made under the banner Bhavnani Productions of producer-director Mohan Bhavnani, the main leads of the film Premnagar were Professor Ramanand, Husn Bano, and Bimla Kumari. The singers Sharma Bandhu of the famous Ram bhajan Jaise sooraj ki garmi se jalte hue tan ko mil jaaye taruvar ki chhaya are Professor Ramanand's sons, whereas Husn Bano was 1960s well-known actress Nazima's paternal aunt. 
Rattan (1944) from Cinemaazi archive

After Premnagar and Kanchan, Naushad's films Darshan (1941), Mala (1941) and Nai Duniya (1942), Station Master (1942), and Sharda (1942) were released. Suraiya had given playback for actress Mehtab in the film Sharda (1942) and that famous song written by D.N.Madhok was Panchhi ja, peechhe raha hai bachpan mera ussko ja ke la. After film Nai Duniya and Sharda, Naushad and producer-director A R Kardar bonded so well that henceforth all of Kardar Productions films Kanoon (1943), Namaste (1943), Sanjog (1943) and Geet (1944), Jeevan (1944) and Pehle Aap (1944) were given to Naushad. Although all songs of these films were cherished, the extensive popularity of songs from the movie Rattan, released in 1944, shot Naushad into the league of the topmost music directors of that era. Karan Dewan's elder brother producer Jemini Dewan's film Rattan was made in 75,000 rupees but with just the sale of records,  Jemini Dewan got a royalty of 3,50,000 rupees. Seven decades later and all 10 songs of film Rattan are just as popular even today. Mohd. Rafi got the opportunity to sing for Naushad for the very first time for the movie Pehle Aap (1944). Rafi sang 3 songs for the same movie of which 2 were duets with Shyam Kumar, Tum dilli mai agre, mere dil se nikle haay and Ek baar unhe mila de phir meri tauba maula and the other was a group song Hindustan ke hum hain Hindustan hamara, where Rafi was accompanied with Shyam Kumar and Alauddin.
Image Courtesy: Filmfare, 1955 September 2​​​​​​

In the year 1945, Naushad gave music for Kardar's Sanyasi (1945) and in 1946 for Keemat and Shahjehan. Shahjehan (1946) was the only film in which  K.L.Saigal  sang under Naushad's music. Rafi too saw his dream of singing with Saigal come true through this movie. The only song that Rafi sang with Saigal was Roohi roohi roohi mere sapnon ki rani where Rafi got to sing only the last two lines. Lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri also began his career with Shahjehan. With Mehboob Productions's Anmol Ghadi made in 1946, Naushad's relations were created with a big name of that era, producer-director Mehboob Khan. Anmol Ghadi was duo music director Naushad and singer Noorjehan's first and last film as, after the partition, Noorjehan migrated to Pakistan. In 1947, Naushad not only gave break to lyricist Shakeel Badayuni through Kardar's Dard (1947), he also introduced the audience to a new singer Umadevi. Umadevi sang 3 solos Afsana likh rahi hoon dile beqarar ka, Aaj machi hai dhoom, Ye kaun chala and a duet with Suraiya, Betab hai dil for this movie. Afsana likh rahi hoon was the first film song sung by Umadevi. Later on Umadevi came to be known as the famous comedian Tuntun. It was Naushad who introduced her in the film Babul (1950) as an actress with her new name. In 1947, Naushad gave music for Mehboob Khan's  Elaan and for Kardar's Natak. Two of his films, Mehboob Khan's Anokhi Ada (1948) and Wadia Movietone's Mela, released in 1948. Naushad made Lata sing for him for the first time in 1949 in Tajmahal Pictures' Chandni Raat. A duet sung with G.M.Durrani, this song of Lata's was Haye chhore ki jaat badi bewafa. In the same year, while Naushad gave Lata a chance to sing for the heroine for the first time in Mehboob Khan's Andaz (1949), Geeta Dutt sang a song composed by him for the first time in Dillagi (1949) called Tu mera chand mai teri chandni. Another version of this song is sung as a duet by Suraiya and Shyam Kumar. That was the golden period of Naushad's career. All of his films, Dulari (1949), Babul (1950), Dastaan (1950), Deedar (1951), Jadoo (1951), Aan (1952), Baiju Bawra (1952), Deewana (1952), were proving to be a successful one after the other. Naushad used western music for the first time in film Jadoo's  song Jub nain mile naino se. In the same film, Zohrabai Ambalawali sang his last song Le lo le lo do phool jaani le lo under Naushad's music and was accompanied in the song by Shamshad Beghum and Mohammad Rafi.

Uran Khatola (1955) from Cinemaazi archive

Filmfare Awards were established in 1953 and the first award under the category of the best music was awarded to Naushad for Baiju Bawra (1952). Naushad had said, “Baiju Bawra's premiere was held at Broadway Talkies in Dadar, the same place opposite where I once used to camp on the footpath.” For the next two decades, Naushad's music was at the heights of its success.  Music of films like Amar (1954), Shabaab (1954), Uran Khatola (1955), Mother India (1957), Sohni Mahiwal (1958), Kohinoor (1960), Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Ganga Jamuna (1961), Son of India (1962), Mere Mehboob (1963), Leader (1964), Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966), Saaz Aur Awaaz (1966), Paalki (1967), Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Aadmi (1968), Saathi (1968), Sungharsh (1968) and Ganwaar (1970) was not only liked but most of these films were also a hit. While for the film Mughal-E-Azam (1960), renowned classical singer Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Sahib broke his rules of keeping a distance from film music and sang two bandish Shubh din aayo and Prem jogan ban ke, the film also proved to be Shamshad Beghum's last collaboration with Naushad. She had sung the famous qawwali Teri mehfil me kismet aazma kar hum bhi dekhenge with Lata for this film. Another song of Shamshad's, Husn ki baraat chali sung for the same film with Mubarak Beghum and Lata's voice was finally not used in the film.  
Love and God (1986) from Cinemaazi archive

The latter half of the 1960s ushered in an era of a complete change in the Hindi Cinema. Cinema had now become colored. Along with music, the taste of the listeners was changing as well. With such change, Naushad tried to reinvent the garb of his music in a film like Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Saathi (1968) and Ganwaar (1970) and succeeded. Kamal Amrohi's film Pakeezah released in 1971 and its music broke all previous records. But all the credit for that was given to its other music director Ghulam Mohammad. As the 1970s came in, the face of film music had changed completely. It wasn't easy for Naushad to conciliate with the prevalent times. That was the reason that Naushad's films like Tangewala (1972), Aaina (1974), My Friend (1974), Sunehra Sansar (1975) and Chambal ki Rani (1979) were soon forgotten. Kishore Kumar got the opportunity to sing for Naushad in Sunehra Sansar for the first and the last time. It was a duet penned by Anand Bakshi, which Kishore Kumar sang with Asha Bhonsle, Hello kya haal hai but later on, it was removed from the film. Released in 1982, with producer-director Sultan Ahmed's Dharamkanta, he once again proved himself. But despite this, Naushad's packed and busy days did not come back to him.  A few and in between films like Love and God (1986), Awaaz De Kahan Hai (1990), Teri Payal Mere Geet (1992) and Guddu (1995) did release but could not create much magic. Initially, Guru Dutt was the lead for Love and God. But after Guru Dutt's and then producer-director K. Asif's demise, the film had remained incomplete. Later on, Sanjeev Kumar replaced Guru Dutt in Love and God, and only after a struggle of almost two decades by K. Asif's wife Akhtar Asif, the film was finally released. It proved to be actress Nimmi's last film. 

Manaswi Sharma (editor of Beete Hue Din videos & an IT professional) with Naushad
during a music program in the late 90s
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

After the release of the film Guddu, Naushad stayed away from the cinematic world for about 10 years. And in 2005 listeners were stunned when songs from Akbar Khan's film Taj Mahal were heard nationwide. Naushad may have made a comeback with new technology, but all the songs of Taj Mahal sung by Hariharan, Priti Uttam, and Kavita Krishnamoorti encompassed the sweetness that from film music's golden era. 

Not only was Naushad one of the topmost composers, but he was also an excellent writer and producer. While people saw his collection of Shayari Aathwaan Sur released in the form of a book, the banner, Wadia Movietone, made a film on a story written by him called Mela. Under the banner of Sunny Art Productions, Naushad made hit films like Babul (1950), Uran Khatola (1955), and Maalik (1958).  He had entrusted his assistant Ghulam Mohammad with the music for film Maalik (1958).  

Naushad was honored with awards such as Madhya Pradesh Governments Lata Mangeshkar Award, Maharashtra Governments Maharashtra Gaurav, Uttar Pradesh Government's Awadh Gaurav and Sangeet Ratna Puraskar, Government of India's Sangeet Natak Academy Puraskar, Padma Bhooshan, Dadasaheb Phalke Award along with countless others. A career spanning 65 years, Naushad did a total of 65 Hindi films, 2 non-Hindi films (Paan Khaye Saiyaan Hamaar - Bhojpuri,1986 and Dhvani-Malayalam,1989), 4 television serials (The Sword Of Tipu Sultan, Akbar The Great, Sargam, Aarohi) and also gave music for one Bangla Album (Prem Ke Amaar Pronam Diye Jaaiye).  Three of his Hindi films Aan (1952), Uran Khatola (1955) and Mughal-E-Azam (1960) were dubbed in Tamil as well. He recorded one or two songs for five of his films, Chanakya Aur Chandragupt, Habba Khatoon, Phir Baje Shehnai, Pukaar and Karu which ultimately remained incomplete.

Father to 6 daughters and 3 sons, Naushad passed away on the morning of 5 May 2006 at the age of 87 years after battling a long illness. He spent a large part of his life in his bungalow, Aashiana on Carter Road, Bandra (West). On his 2nd death anniversary i.e. on 5 May 2008, as a symbol of respect, Maharashtra Government and Mumbai Mahanagar Palika renamed Carter Road as Sangeetkar Naushad Ali Marg.


[part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series]

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