indian cinema heritage foundation

Ustad Jhande Khan

Music Director
  • Real Name: Ghulam Mustafa Khan
  • Died: 11 October 1952 (Gujranwala, Punjab, Pakistan)
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi

Considered to be one of the significant music directors of the early talkie era, composer Ustad Jhande Khan (also credited as Ustad Jhanday Khan) primarily composed simple and melodious classical music-based compositions for Hindi films in the 1930s and 1940s. Working primarily with Ranjit Studios, he is known for his compositions in films such as Chitralekha (1941), Radha Rani (1932) and Veer Babruwahan (1934). Hailing from Jammu, he moved to Lahore where he trained in music and learnt the harmonium from Parsi theatre music director Syed Mir Qudrat Ali Hyderabadi. Later, he moved to Bombay and studied under the initiators of the Bhendi Bazaar gharana - Nazir Khan, Chajju Khan and Khadim Hussain Khan. Working as a music director for theatre companies before composing for cinema, he established himself as a composer of repute, besides also being an accomplished sarangi player. From time to time, he was been assisted by budding music composers like Naushad, Ghulam Mohammad, Shyam Sundar and Hemant Kumar, who would go on to earn critical acclaim in later years. After Partition, he migrated to Gujranwala in Pakistan. His musical dexterity and contribution to stage plays and films has almost been lost to the obscurity of the early film music industry. 

Born Ghulam Mustafa Khan in Gujranwala, from childhood itself he gained expertise in playing the harmonium and other musical instruments including the sarangi. Under the name Jhande Khan, he achieved fame in the world of theatre music and composed hundreds of songs for the plays of the most popular theatres of the time including Jubilee, New Alfred and Parsi Alfred theatres. Some parts of the music of the play Mahabharata, which he had composed, were reportedly even recorded. He employed various classical and semi-classical music styles in composing the opening songs of the plays. In films, he would also be credited with creating the format of one ‘sthayee’ and two ‘antare’ within three minutes. His musical composition Dil-e nadaan ko hum samjhaye jayenge for the play Dilfarosh became very popular.

With the arrival of sound in films, Khan made his mark in the new medium as well. As Pankaj Raag, scholar of song and music, and author of the research book Dhunon Ki Yatra, notes, Ranjit Movietone studios and its owner Chandulal Shah gave many musicians a break in the studio’s films, but its initial and first composer with the arrival of the talkies was Khan in the film Devi Devyani (1931). A mythological sound hit, the film depicted the cosmic battle between the gods and the demons which reaches a stalemate when the sage Shukracharya instantly restores every fallen demon to life. Khan scored several songs for the Chandulal Shah-directed film including Deen-bandhu tumharo naam jhoot hai kahaani, and Shanka zara aap ji mein na karna

Next, he composed for Radha Rani (1932), creating love and reunion-based songs for the drama film starring Gohar Jan, M Bhagwandas and Keki Adajania. For Ranjit’s Sati Savitri (1932) he composed songs such as Bachhenge agar humse chupenge kidhar, Raj taj sakal saaz, and Rasik bihari batiyaan tihari. For Bhootiya Mahal (1932), he composed melodies like Saki ne mere ghar ko maikhana bana dala, and Lagi hai mohe piya milan ki aas. For Bhola Shikar (1933), he composed Teri kudrat ki balihari and Arre rehne do tum bade bewafa ho. For Bhool Bhulaiyaa (1933), he created Gori tere naina julm kare, and Tujhe mere dil ki bata kya khabar. The film Pardeshi Pritam (1933) saw him compose songs like Jafa na karna daga na karna. He made his mark with popular songs in films like Shailbala (1932), Miss 1933 (1933), and Vishwa Mohini (1933).

After scoring music for the mythological films Veer Vabruvahan (1934), Tara Sundari (1934), Prabhu Ki Duniya (1935) and Prabhu Ka Pyaara (1936), he moved from Ranjit. Films he went on to compose for include Ajanta Cinetone's Dukhtare Hind (1935), Amrit Films' Anjuman Ki Duniya, Eastern Arts' Bharat Ki Beti (1935), Daryani Productions’ Fida-e-Watan , Eastern Arts’ Sher Ka Panja, Golden Eagle’s Prem Bandhan (1936, with Anil Biswas) and Vishnu Cinetone's Payame Haq (1939, with Shyam Babu). 

His most famous film was Chitralekha (1941), directed by Kidar Sharma, based on the famous novel by Bhagwati Charan Verma. Alongside the bathing scene by Mehtab, the other key attraction of the film was its beautiful songs scored by Khan and rendered by singer-actress Ramdulari, which contributed significantly to its popularity. A special feature of the film’s music was that despite the opposition, Khan had based all the songs of the film on raga Bhairavi, using this single raga to highlight various rasas. From Tum jao bade bhagwan bane to Neelkamal muskaay, Bhanwara jhoothi kasam khaaye and Saiyaan saavre bhaye bawre, the songs were very attractive and popular in their time. It is also worth noting that more than two decades later, Sahir would compose Sansar se bhaage phirte ho in Chitralekha (1964), which was remade using the basic core of Khan’s Tum jao bade bhagwan bane.

In his last film Shahenshah Akbar (1943), he composed praise songs like Akbar mahabali ki jai ho. Such songs in praise of royalty have rarely been composed in films and the composition of this song can be compared with such songs from Mughal-e-Azam (1960) or the beautiful coronation song composed by Khayyam from Razia Sultan (1983). In Shahenshah Akbar, he also composed songs like Jaag-jaag man bhaj banwari, Shyam nahi aaye jiya mora jaaye, Piya bin sawan-bhadon nain and Man darshan ka abhilashi pyaase more nain. He had maintained his penchant for composing melodious tunes while maintaining their classical base. 

In Hameed Pictures' unreleased film Jeevan Ka Saaz, Khan made Amirbai sing Bichhra bachpan very beautifully in the traditional theatre style. The orchestration of the song, particularly the use of the sarangi, was excellent. The instrumental composition of the interludes of another song from the film Sajni se sajan mil gaye was also very impressive. The use of changed rhythm and tempo in every stanza of this song also leaves a special impact. 

Sharing insights into his skill and method, in his autobiography, director Kidar Sharma wrote glowingly of Khan. “I chose Ustad Jhande Khan for my film Chitralekha. Khan Saheb was a short bearded man with a turban who was a deeply religious man. I requested him to compose all the songs in raga Bhairavi. Khan Saheb was reluctant and asked me how many rasgullas can one enjoy and that there should be variety. I replied that it depends on the person who makes the rasgullas and since you are a great master and chef, you will do a great job. Khan Saheb left the room and went for his prayers. When he came back, he said, 'I had a word with the Almighty and he has asked me to accept the challenge. Because he will be present at the time while I compose the songs'. Khan Saheb had a great reputation of giving excellent music for Agha Hashr Kashmiri's stage dramas. He composed beautiful compositions for Chitralekha all in raga Bhairavi.”

Similarly, noted film composer Naushad remembered Ustad Jhande Khan in his autobiographical chapter in his book Notes of Naushad. He recalled auditioning as a musician for a New India Pictures’ film, which had music composed by Khan. “There was a long queue and many musicians who were double my age were appearing for the same. I became nervous and was about to leave when the manager called me and asked me to go in for an audition. When I entered the room, I saw Ustad Jhande Khan for the first time. He had a beaming face and turban on his head and he looked more like a Maulavi. I played the piano in his presence. As I finished playing, he told me we will inform you if you have made the final cut later.” Later, after Naushad was selected, he made a musical suggestion to Khan. When it was appreciated by the director, Khan ensured to inform the director that it had been the suggestion of the young musician. 

Khan, who lived in Kader Mansion near Dadar, was diminutive in stature, but was a great musician and composer of his time. In the 1940s, he reportedly grew disillusioned with the music scene. A purist, he opted not to compromise and instead left for Pakistan, choosing to spend the sunset phase of his life in Gujranwala. Being a highly accomplished composer, he was greatly looked up to by many, including writer, poet and broadcaster, Zulfiqar Ali Bukhari. Bukhari, who became the director-general of Pakistan Radio after Partition, had great regard for Khan and used to discuss music with him. Unfortunately, despite being a regular contributor to Pakistan Radio, Khan could not secure a permanent position on the staff. After dedicating his entire life to music, Khan passed away in anonymity in Gujranwala at the age of 86 on 11 October 1952. His legacy endures in the memories of his contemporaries and those touched by the greatness of his work and his demeanour.