indian cinema heritage foundation

"Guzra Hua Zamana Aata Nahin Dobara” – S Mohinder

08 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Guzra hua zamana aata nahin dobara, hafiz khuda tumhara...! this song from the 1956 release Shirin Farhad has always fascinated the listeners. Heart touching composition, beautiful lyrics, Lata's sweet and divine voice, no doubt this is one of the best of Hindi film songs. Hindi film music of the bygone era fascinated me too. I was also curious to know about the whereabouts of long-forgotten artistes of Hindi cinema. After I shifted to Mumbai, I came in contact with well-known writer & journalist Dhirendra Asthanaji and soon we turned friends. He encouraged me to write and as soon as he took over as the bureau chief of the Weekly Sahara Samay, he gave me the responsibility of 2 columns Kya bhooloon kya yaad karoon & Baakalmkhud along with the Film Paheli in the paper. 

When I tried searching for the composer S. Mohinder of my favourite song Guzra hua zamana aata nahin dobara.. for the column Kya bhooloon kya yaad karoon - which was based on one to one conversation with the long-forgotten artistes -I came to know that he not only bid adieu to the films but also to India decades back and is now settled in the USA. This was a disappointment to me but I had no option. Constrained, I had to joggle away the name of S.Mohinderji from my mind. With the passage of time publication of Weekly Sahara Samay ceased. I being associated with a couple of papers like Rashtriya Sahara, Dainik Bhaskar, Rajasthan Patrika & National Duniya and Bangalore based friend GajendraKhannas website, I launched my own blog Beete Hue Din in the month of April 2012 which gained huge readership globally very soon.  

Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din 

I had almost forgotten S.Mohinderji's name but suddenly a miracle took place. I got a call from one of the readers of Beete Hue Din and an old Hindi films & film music lover, elderly Shri Bakshish Singh Ji in the afternoon of 11 August 2015. Delhi based Shri Bakshish Singh Ji was in Mumbai and as per our plan I had to meet with him that evening. But the information which Bakshish Singh Ji gave was enough to make me jump with joy. He said that composer S.Mohinderji was currently in Mumbai and Bakshish Singh ji was to meet with him in the evening. Bakshish Singh Ji invited me to accompany him for the said meeting. And the opportunity, which I had lost all the hopes for long back, had come my way at its own. 

It was a formal meeting with S.Mohinderji that evening. The interview happened a week later on 18th August and I would like to give all the credit to Shri Bakshish Singh Ji for providing to me such a precious opportunity. In this interview, S.Mohinderji had a long conversation with the blog Beete Hue Din which included many of the untouched and unheard aspects of his personal and professional life.    
So, here we present S.Mohinderjis story in her own words:-  

“We are from Rawalpindi originally but I was born on 24 February 1925 at the village Silwala situated in Tehseel Pakpatan of district Montgomeri, where my police officer father Bakshi Sujan Singh Sarna was posted as SHO. 

(According to S.Mohinderji, in the records of US government and Voice of America, his date of birth is wrongly mentioned as 8 September 1926.)

Pakpatan is known as the place of famous Sufi saint Baba Farid of 12th century. Since my father's job was transferable, we lived in different cities and towns. After Montgomeri we stayed in Shahdara town in Shekhupura district for some time. The tombs of King Jehangir and Queen Noorjehan are situated in the same Shahdara town. From Shahdara, my father got transferred to Nankana Sahib. Father was an excellent flute player and before going to bed he practised the flute every evening. This inspired me to learn music. Bhai Samund Singh, the Raagi at Nankana SahibGurudwara was an excellent singer. I visited Gurudwara every day to listen to him sing and then repeated what he sang. One day, Bhai Samund Singh listened to me singing and made me his disciple. I started taking lessons in singing from him regularly. We stayed in Nankana Sahib for 4 years. I completed my matric in the year 1942 from Guru Nanak Khalsa High School at Nankana Sahib followed by my fathers transfer to Lyallpur. 

I was a superfine hockey player. While at Nankana Sahib, I played from my school team in the right full-back position. All the school hockey teams in Punjab were well aware of me. That's why after we reachedLyallpur, the people from Guru Nanak Khalsa College - Lyallpur approached me and asked to take admission at theirs and also to play hockey from the college team. I did my 11th to B.A. from Guru Nanak KhalsaCollege, Lyallpur. Simultaneously I also played from the college and Punjab University teams. I played from the University team for 3 consecutive years which got me Tricolour in the year 1945. But my association with music remained intact. At Lyallpur, I started learning from music schools Sant Sujan Singh Ji. Simultaneously, I kept on taking music lessons from other music schools Pandit Shruti Ratan Sharma Ji. I took lessons from both these Gurus for about 2 years. On the other hand, during my vacations, I also visited Benaras to learn music from Bade Ramdassji. Meanwhile, I started getting the chance to sing on the radio. I presented my first radio program from Lahore Radio on 30 September 1945 at the age of 20. 
"Since I knew only singing, I tried to be a singer in films. I struggled a lot, met lots of people but failed. Then I felt that a composer keeps more importance than a singer so I started trying my luck to be a composer."

After his retirement in the year 1946, leaving us all in Lyallpur my father shifted to Delhi as he had got a job with Delhi Cloth Mills. We were 5 brothers and 5 sisters thus total 10 siblings. I was number two. My brother, eldest among us was also serving with the police department and he was married. During summers in 1947, I came to Lahore from Lyallpur for a radio program. My elder brother and his wife were in Lyallpur whereas my mother, along with all 8 of my younger siblings had gone to Delhi to meet with my father. While in Lahore, I always hired the Tonga of one Deena Tongewala for the to and fro journey to the radio station. After the broadcast of my program, on the way back to railway station he said that probably the country was going to be divided, the things were going out of hand and the carnage had started taking place at many places. 

I reached Lahore station and bought a ticket for Lyallpur for the 4 P.M. train but the train didn't arrive. When asked, the coolie said that the train which recently left towards Shahdaraside was full of dead bodies and soaked in blood. He also asked me to board the train which was standing in front of us immediately and leave. When checked, I found it to be the Frontier Mail for Mumbai. It was really funny as my destination was Lyallpur whereas the coolie was asking me to board a train for the opposite direction. When he saw me under dilemma he shouted at me, board the train and run away from here if you want to live. Constrainedly I had to board the train. We halted at Delhi Railway Station but I remained seated as I didn't have my fathers Delhi address. Thus on 10 May 1947, I reached Mumbai. My parents and siblings failed to return to Lyallpur due to riots. Meanwhile trying to save their lives, my elder brother and his wife also reached Delhi during the partition. On the other hand, I started living in navy barracks at Kakori camp at Mumbai's Versova area as a paying guest. 

Since I knew only singing, I tried to be a singer in films. I struggled a lot, met lots of people but failed. Then I felt that a composer keeps more importance than a singer so I started trying my luck to be a composer. Actor Govinda's mother Nirmala Devi knew me from Benaras. One day, when I came to know that Nirmala Devi and her husband Arun Ahuja were going to produce a film, I met them at their home and asked to give the film to me to compose. I sang a couple of my compositions for them which they liked. Thus I debuted as a composer with Arun Productions movie Sehra which released in the year 1948. I got a remuneration of Rs.2,000/- for this movie. I also sang a solo Aye dil udake le chal makhmoor fizaon me in Sehra. But this film flopped miserably. 

Prakash Picture's Shankarbhai Bhatt and Vijay Bhatt watched the trial of the film Sehra and they liked the songs very much. They asked Arun Ahuja to send me to meet with them. I reached their studio the very next day but the Pathan gatekeeper stopped me at the gate itself. He said, both the Seths (Bhatt brothers) are standing there and I can't send you inside without their permission. He went to them; Bhatt brothers looked at me from a distance and asked that Pathan to tell me that there was no vacancy for a carpenter in their studio. In fact, most of the artisans in the set department used to be Sikhs in those days, therefore Bhatt brothers thought that I was some carpenter who had come there in search of a job. However, I pushed the Pathan aside and straightway went to Bhatt brothers and told them, “you have called me here, Arun Ahuja asked me to meet with you.” 
Poster of Alladin Ka Beta. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Even after I told them all about myself, Bhatt Brothers suspicion towards me didn't vanish completely. They took me to the music room, heard a couple of my compositions, liked 3 of them and chose them for the film Shadi Ki Raat (1950). In fact, Pandit Gobindram, the originally signed composer had midway left the film due to some dispute with Bhatt Brothers. The very first song I recorded for Shadi Ki Raat was Lata's solo Hum dil ki kahani kya kehte. Rest 2 were, Surinder Kaur and Talat Mehmood's duet Poochh rahe the yaar ki biwi kaisi ho and Amirbai Karnataki in Shaher anokha shaher rangila dehli. Bhatt Brothers asked Lata, "How is he as a composer? She said, Good. But makes tough tunes. In this 1950 release movie Shadi Ki Raat, only Pandit Gobindram's name was given in the credits on screen due to the contract clauses. My name was there on records of the film but not on screen. Meanwhile, I also composed for another film Jeewan Sathi which released in the year 1949. 

Ranjit Studios owner Sardar Chandulal Shah liked Shadi Ki Raat songs very much. He asked Vijay Bhatt about me and called me to meet with. He wanted to sign me for his upcoming film Nili (1950) but under the condition that my composition must get approval from the heroine of the film Suraiya. He asked me to come next morning to let Suraiya hear the compositions. But I reached Suraiya's home the same evening. 

I had already met with Suraiya twice. Our first meeting happened in the year 1946 in Lahore when she came to Lahore Radio immediately after the release of her film Anmol Ghadi (1946). She was very much impressed to hear me sing on the radio and she invited me to Mumbai. Her maternal uncle M. Zahoor was also there with her at that time. The second time I met with her at her home immediately after I reached Mumbai. M.Zahoor saw me standing at the door, and he told Suraiya, who was present in the house, that Sardarji of Lahore Radio is there. Suraiya welcomed me very respectfully and asked me not to hesitate whenever I'm in some need or for any recommendation etc., that's why I was again at her door today. 

I recited to Suraiya the compositions of 2 songs, Phool khile hain gulshan me and Chori chori aanaho raja more dil ke which she appreciated. She instructed me not to look into her eyes at the time of my recitation of the compositions next day as Seth Chandulal Shah should not know that we had already met before. Next morning, she heard both the compositions from me during a sitting at Seth Chandulal Shah office. I also carefully followed Suraiya's instruction. Sethji asked her if she liked the songs. She said, how do I say in front of him? Sethji asked me to wait outside. Later I came to know that Suraiya asked him to get the songs recorded at his earliest as, according to her, these 2 songs were enough to make the film hit. 

I got a remuneration of Rs. 7 thousand for the film Nili which was a very handsome amount at that time. I was paid an extra Rs. 3 thousand for my assistants. Suriya's hero in this 1950 release was Dev Anand. There was a weekly film magazine in Urdu - Chitra which used to be published from Lahore before partition and was owned by one Mr Puri. After the partition, it started being published from Delhi. Chitra's Mumbai bureau chief was one Mr Bakshi. On the other hand, my ancestors were conferred with the title Bakshi during Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji's regime whereas our surname is Sarna. Thus my complete name became Bakshi Mohinder Singh Sarna. Mr.Bakshi from Chitra told me, so long name? Make it shorter, either write Sarna Mohinder or just S. Mohinder. Thus from the film Nili onwards, I became S.Mohinder. 

With its 1952 release Shrimatiji, I joined Filmistan Company on monthly salary. Out of total 10 of Shrimatiji songs, 7 were composed by Jimmi, 2 by Basant Prakash and 1 by me which was sung by Hemant Kumar and Geeta Dutt. This song do Naina tumhare pyare pyare gagan ke taare was a big hit. In the year 1953, Filmistan's Sashadhar Mukerjee gave me the responsibility of their next movie Anarkali's (1952) music. But he rejected the very first composition which I made saying, " What rubbish is this?…bring something new." Meanwhile, Sardar Chandulal Shah called me for his next film Paapi (1953). I recited to him the composition made for Anarkali. Paapi's hero Raj Kapoor was also present there at that time who liked the tune very much. They asked Hasrat Jaipuri to write the lyrics and soon the song was recorded. That song was Aye jazba-e-mohabbat, itna asar dikha de. Released in the year 1953, Paapi was Raj Kapoor's only movie in a double role. Though the film was a flop, films music was well appreciated by the masses. 

A couple of days later Sashadhar Mukerjee called me and asked to get the song recorded on the same composition. I.S. Johar was also present there at that time. When I told him "Since you didn't like the tune, I gave it to Seth Chandulal Shah." Johar burst into laughter. He said, what an inept person you are? Don't you know, when Mukerjee sahib likes something, he calls that thing rubbish? But Mukherjee snapped at me. He said, go and bring that tune or don't ever come here. Thus, not only Anarkali but I lost my job with Filmistan too.
"I said to him, being your fan I won't let you go back and you'll work with me now onwards."

In the same year i.e. 1953, apart from Paapi, I composed music for one more Ranjit Movietone film Bahadur (1953). I had 2 assistants with me, Inderjit Singh and Pandit Kishan. Inderjit Singh was a maternal uncle (mother's brother) of today's well-known singer Daler Mehndi whereas Pandit Kishan was the nephew (sister's son) of composer duo Husnlal-Bhagatram. They both worked with me till my 1969 release film Nanak Naam Jahaaz Hai.  Unfortunately, they both died young after that. 

In some of my earlier films, I worked with lyricists like Surjit Sethi, Sarshar Sailani, Nazim Panipati, Feroze Jalandhari, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Rajinder Krishan, Hasrat Jaipuri and Pandit Indra. In the 1955 release Naata, lyricist Tanveer Naqvi wrote for me for the first time. In 1940s decade Tanveer Naqvi had already written lyrics for the composers Naushad, Feroze Nizami, Gulshan Sufi and Ghulam Mohammad in the films Nai Duniya (1942), Aaina (1944), Piya Milan (1945), Durban (1946), Sharbati Ankhen (1945), Anmol Ghadi (1946) and Parai Aag (1948). Later he migrated to Pakistan during partition. In early 1950s Tanveer Naqvi was called from Pakistan by K.Asif to write the songs for Mughal-e-Azam. But by that time Naushad's team with Shakeel Badayuni had very well established itself. That's why Naushad refused to entertain K.Asif's request to let Tanveer Naqvi write lyrics for Mughal-e-Azam, despite the fact that his pairing with Tanveer Naqvi had already given a very big musical hit Anmol Ghadi a couple of years back. 

My film Naata was on floor and Shirin Farhad's pre-production preparations were on when Shirin Farhad's writer Hakim Latta introduced Tanveer Naqvi to me. After losing Mughal-e-Azam, he wrote lyrics for a couple of films viz. Barati (1954), Mehbooba (1954), Rukhsana (1955), Khandaan and Yasmin (1955) and was planning to return to Pakistan now. I said to him, being your fan I won't let you go back and you'll work with me now onwards. Though the film Naata failed to put an impact on box office yet its songs were hit. 1955 release Naata was produced by Madhubala who eventually became good friends with me. She produced another film Mehlon Ke Khwaab in 1960 and once again gave the responsibility of (its) music to me. 
Poster of Shirin Farhad. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din 

Next to Naata, Tanveer Naqvi wrote for me in Alladin Ka Beta, Shahzada (both 1955), Karwaan, Shirin Farhad, Sultan-e-Alam (all 1956) and Patal Pari (1957). Among these, all songs of Shirin Farhad's were a big hit. But Tanveer Naqvi went back to Pakistan in 1956-57. He was married to singer Noorjehan's elder sister Idan but he didn't have children from Idan. His son from his second marriage contacted me through phone some time back. He lives in Dubai. 

Sashadhar Mukerjee left Filmistan after its 1957release film Tumsa Nahin Dekha. After his parting ways, Filmistan's owner SethTolaram Jalan once again called me to work with Filmistan. In1958, I did Sun To Le Aye Haseena of this banner and Khoobsoorat Dhokha in 1959. Lyricist Anand Bakshi got associated with me in these 2 films. I composed for one more film Picnic of this banner which released in the year 1966. Meanwhile, I once again got a chance to work with Ranjit Movietone when I was offered film Zameen Ke Taare's music to compose. Songs of this film were also much appreciated by the people. 
In the 1960s decade, I composed the music for Jay Bhawani (1961), Banke Sanwaria (1962), Reporter Raju (1962), Captain Sheroo (1963), Sarfarosh (1964),Bekhabar (1965) and Professor X (1966), and Sunehre Kadam (1966) as co-composer with Bulo C. Rani. In 1962 I did my first Panjabi film Pardesi Dhola which was a hit. Later I composed music for approx. 15 Punjabi films viz. Geet Baharen De (1964), Chambe Di Kali (1965), Nanak Naam Jahaaz Hai (1969), Man Jeete Jag Jeet (1973), Teri Meri Ik Jindri (1975), Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam (1974), Daaj (1976), Laadli (1978) and Maula Jat (1979). I won the National Award-1969 for the music of film Nanak Naam Jahaaz Hai

Apart from Man Jeete Jag Jeet (1973) and Dukh Bhanjan Tero Naam (1974), Hindi film Charandas (1977) was also produced under the banner of my company Bedi-Bakshi Productions. My cousin (son of my mother's sister) and renowned Punjabi poet Kanwar Mahendra Singh Bedi was my partner in this company. 
Tanveer Naqvi wrote for me in Alladin Ka Beta, Shahzada (both1955), Karwaan, Shirin Farhad, Sultan-e-Alam (all 1956) and Patal Pari (1957). Among these, all songs of Shirin Farhad's were a big hit.

I married in the year 1953. My in-laws were originally from Wazirabad-Gujrat of Pakistan. My mother in law already knew our family as she was from Lyallpur. Post partition my in-laws settled in Sarhind-Punjab. All my 4 children are Mumbai born and I stayed in seven bungalows area of Andheri (West) along with my wife and children. On the other hand, all my siblings had one by one shifted to the U.S. They started pressuring me to shift to U.S., At last, I also left India in October 1982 and shifted to America to live with my siblings. I came back to India in 1985 to finish some important works. During my visit, I also completed the music of Punjabi film Maula Jatt which was still incomplete and returned to America. This was the last film of my career which released in the year 1988. 

S Mohinder with his wfe. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din 

In America, I composed for a couple of private albums including Roshan Pukhraj's Ghazals, Surinder Kaur sang Punjabi folksongs and Asha Bhonsle's Shabads. Simultaneously I also did stage shows in America, Canada and England. I also founded a music school in Virginia of America where students learn Indian classical music even today.   

All we 10 siblings and our families live in the same county in Virginia nearby.  My elder daughter NarinKaur Chopra's husband is in the merchant navy. Next to her is my son Kanwar PalSinghSarnawho is also serving with the merchant navy. They both and their families live in Mumbai only. At number 3 is my daughter RishamKaurSethi who lives in California. Her husband has a flourishing business of his own. Youngest, my son Satinder PalSinghSarnais an engineer who lives in the same county in Virginia. My wife DavinderSarnais no more, she passed away in December 2012. I completed the 90 in last February. Though I live in America with my younger son, yet occasionally I keep on visiting my daughter and son in Mumbai as well. Only two of my that time colleagues are there in Mumbai now, one is B.S.Thapa who directed all 3 of my productions viz. Man Jeete Jag Jeet, Dukh Bhanjan Tero Naam and Charandas and second is lyricist Naqsh Lyallpuri who worked with me in a couple of films. Whenever I come to Mumbai, I get in touch with them on phone or meet with them but one thing for sure that Guzra hua zamana waakai dobara  kabhi nahin aata (the bygone time indeed never comes back.)”

(Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series)

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