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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Bollywood's Superstar Playback Singers

The birth of the Hindi film songs may be traced to the advent of India’s first ‘talkie’, Alam Ara in 1931. However, it was in the 1940s that the playback singing was introduced. Whereas the earlier artistes acted and sang their songs on the screen, movies of this period introduced the custom of having actors who did not sing but had other singers do this for them. Interestingly, one of the earliest playback singers was none other than the legendary singing star Suraiya, who at the age of 13-years sang for Mehtab in Sharda (1943). While Suraiya preferred to remain a singing star, many notable playback singers came to prominence in the 40s and thereafter. The most notable are Amirbai Karnataki, Shamshad Begum. Geeta Dutt, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Manna Dey, Talat Mehmood, Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar. These playback singers, because of their immortal melodies, became legends in their lifetime. Here is a tribute to the superstar playback singers of Hindi cinema.

Amirbai Karnataki: Famous as ‘Kannad Kokila’, Amirbai Karnataki was 15-years old when she came from Karnatka to Mumbai where her sister, Gauhar, was an actress. With the help of her sister, she came in touch with HMV who were impressed by her singing talent and made her sing a qawwali which became very popular. Initially she sang songs in films like Narsi Bhagat, Sardar, Darshan etc., but her big success as playback singer came with the release of Bombay Talkies’ Kismet (1943). Her songs, ‘Ab Tere Siva Kaun Mera’, ‘Dheere Dheere Aa Re Badal’ and “Door Hato Ae Duniawalo’ became a rage. She reached her peak in 1940s through musical hits like Bharathari, Caarwan, Aamarpali, Shikari, Eight Days, Leela, Sindoor and many others. She was very popular with the music lovers and even Lata Mangeshkar admired her talent a lot. Mahatma Gandhi was an ardent fan of her song ‘Vaishnav Janto’, which he made a part of his daily prayer meetings.
Shamshad Begum: The legendary classical and playback singer of yester years, Shamshad was born in Amritsar. Making her debut in AIR Lahore in 1937, the singer captivated the hearts of listeners with the enchanting depth of her voice. Lahore based composer Ghulam Haider used her voice skillfully in some of his earlier hits like Khazanchi (1941) and Khandan (1942). When he shifted to Mumbai in 1944, Shamshad went with him as member of his team. In 1944 Ghulam Haider used her voice in Mehboob’s Humayun. The song ‘Naina Bhar Aaye Neer’ captured the imagination of the audiences. That was the time when Amirbai Karnataki was considered number one playback singer in Mumbai. With the introduction of Shamshad Begum in the Hindi film world, contemporary composers almost fell over each other in booking her for the recording of their songs, leading to an extremely prolific career till the late 50s. Music directors like C. Ramchandra, S. D. Burman and Naushad used her as their prime female vocalist in the early part of their career. Most of her songs were memorable hits – ‘Dunia Mein Ghribon Ko Aaram Nahin Milta’ (Zamindar), Armano Ki Basti Mein Hum Aag Laga Baithe (Shirin Farhad), ‘Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon’ (Patanga), ‘Milte Hi Aankhen’ (Babul), Sayyan Dil Mein Aana Re’ (Bahar), ‘Boojh Mera Kya Naam Re’ (C.I.D.), ‘Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar’ (Aar Paar) and many more all-time hits. The number of remixed songs that are storming the music market can judge the popularity of her songs. 70 per cent of these remixs have the songs of Shamshad Begum.
Geeta Dutt: Geeta Roy came to Mumbai with her parents from East Bengal in 1942 when she was 12-year old. When she was only 15, music director S. D. Burman offered her a solo in Do Bhai. The music of that film clicked in a big way. The biggest hit of the film was ‘Mera Sunder Sapna Beet Gaya’, sung by Geeta Roy. Disc sales of the song rocketed to new heights. This gave Geeta loads of offers and she became the top most playback singer of the Hindi film industry. Her collaboration with composer S. D. Burman proved very fruitful for Geeta Roy, later famous as Geeta Dutt after her marriage to Guru Dutt. The team was a legendary one, dishing out hit after hit. Films like Do Bhai, Baazi, Munimji, Nau Do Gyareh, Kagaz Ke Phool, Sujata are just some examples. The jazzy musical score of Baazi revealed a new facet to Geeta’s singing. The appeal in her voice and the ease with which she went Western was marvelous to behold. Every song in the film was a raging hit. With Aar Paar, both composer O. P. Nayyar and the singer Geeta Dutt scaled new heights. ‘Babuji Dheere Chalna’ and ‘Yeh Lo Mein Hari Piya’ became super hits. Theirs was to be an eventful partnership yielding 18 classical songs. Her sensuousness made her a favorite for rock and role and seductive songs. Though relegated to second position after the rise of Lata Mangeshkar as the greatest playback singer, Geeta managed to hold her own against Lata for more than a decade in the 50s and 60s. After the death of her husband Guru Dutt in 1964, Geeta suffered a nervous break down, which practically finished her career as a singer. She died in 1972 at the age of 41.
Lata Mangeshkar: The most famous name in the history of Hindi film music, Lata Mangeshkar has always been a unique combination of a God-gifted voice and an unbelievable ability to easily pick up and inherit whatever was taught to her by her father, Dinanath Mangeshkar, a reputed classical singer. With established singers like Amirbai Karnataki and Shamshad Begum around, Lata’s thin voice strained. However, leading composer Ghulam Haider reposed faith in Lata and gave her break in Majboor that brought her some attention. But the true efflorescence of Lata’s talent was witnessed in 1949 when she sang super hit songs in back to back three blockbusters: composers Naushad’s Andaz, Shanker-Jaikishan’s Barsaat and Khemchand Prakash’s Mahal. By 1950 the Lata wave had changed the industry. Her high-pitched singing rendered obsolete the heavy base nasal voices of the day. Only Geeta Dutt and to some extent Shamshad survived the Lata onslaught. Her phenomenal success made Lata the most powerful woman in the Indian film industry. Though Lata sang under the baton of all the top composers, special mention must be made of Madan Mohan who exploited her voice as no other music director for rendering some of the most beautiful ghazals. The 60s and 70s saw Lata go from strength to strength. However, in the disco era from mid-80s onwards, Lata drastically cut down on her workload. Since then Lata has attached herself to, and worked largely with quality banners like Rajshree and Yash Chopra.
Asha Bhosle: The most versatile singer of Hindi films, Asha Bhosle can boast of having worked extensively with trend setting composers across three generations, from O. P. Nayyar’s breezy, foot-taping ditties of the 1950s to R. D. Burman’s pop blitzkrieg in the 1970s to A. R. Rahman’s sensational contemporary rhythms. She sang one of Hindi cinema’s first rock and roll numbers, ‘Eina Meen Deeka’ way back in 50s. Asha made her playback debut in 1948 with the film Chunaria, but it took her long time to make it to the top. 1957 was her real breakthrough year when O. P. Nayyar used her voice to sing in Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Naya Daur, both movies turning blockbuster musicals. Same year S. D. Burman chose to groom Asha along with O. P. Nayyar. The following year Asha made it right to the top spot with hit songs in films like Howra Bridge, Chalti Ka Naam Gadhi and Lajwanti. Asha got into personal relatioship with O. P. Nayyar and thereafter remained his premier singer till their break-up in 1970s. The 1970s brought her close with R. D. Burman (whom she later married), who gave her a new hip and happening sound altogether – Caravan, Teesri Manzil, Hare Rama Hare Krishna and many more hit movies. 1980 proved a lucky and prosperous year for Asha as she rocked the show with evergreen ghazals of Umrao Jaan. In 1990s Asha further widened her horizon by producing hit albums in Indipop. Today her vocals are in better, more supple, sensuous and inviting shape than ever before.
Manna Dey: A legendary singer whose singing career spanned over five decades, Manna Dey is a versatile genius. Manna Dey was initially groomed to be a music director under the mesmeric spell of his illustrious uncle K. C. Dey and composer Anil Biswas. But a song that Dey sang for the film Ram Rajya changed everybody’s opinion about his vocation. They all said he was better off as a singer. There was no looking back after that. Although he never quite got the success that contemporaries Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh and later Kishore Kumar achieved, Manna Dey went on to record several unforgettable numbers. Notable among them are: ‘Kaun Aaya Mere Man Ke Dware’, Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hei’, ‘Upar Gagan Vishal’, ‘Yeh Ishq Ishq Hei Ishq’, Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua’, Ae Bhai Zara Dekh Ke chal’, ‘Aaja Sanam’, ‘Ae Meri Zohra Zabin and ‘Aye Mere Pyare Watan’. And who could forget the ‘Ek Chatur Naar’ duet with Kishore Kumar in Padosan? Manna Dey is a flawless singer who could sing any type of song. His mastery over semi-classical numbers is matchless – ‘Laga Chunri Mein Daag’, ‘Tere Naina Talash Karen’ and ‘Poocho Na Kaise’. Manna Dey is one of the earliest playback singers to feel comfortable with fast numbers like ‘Jhoomta Mausam Mast Mahina’. Although respected by one and all in the industry, Manna Dey feels that the reason why he never enjoyed the top slot in singing was due to the fact that he was never a part of any camp or attached to any one composer. He has no regrets and remains happy with his work.
Talat Mehmood: When melody ruled the roost in the Hindi film world, Talat remained the number one singer in the 1950s. He was totally identified with Dilip Kumar (Babul, Daag, Tarana, Footpath, Sangdil, Shikast), sang for Raj Kapoor (Ashiana, Anhonee), Dev Anand (Taxi Driver) and V. Shantaram (Parchain, Subah Ka Tara). Every music director including Shanker-Jaikishan, C. Ramchandra, Roshan, Ghulam Mohammed and Madan Mohan sought him after. This period also produced some of the most wonderful duets, pairing Talat with Lata Mungeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt. Both Naushad and Anil Biswas claimed credit for discovering Talat in the 1950-releases, Babul and Arzoo. The next five to seven years found Talat zooming to the top with an enviable score of hits – ‘Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal’(Arzoo), ‘Mera Jeevan Sathi Bichad Gaya (Babul), ‘Meri Yaad Mein Tum Na Aansoo Bahana’ (Anhonee), ‘Mein Pagal Mera Manua Pagal’ (Ashiana), ‘Ae Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal’ (Daag), ‘Tera Khayal Dil Se’ (Do Raha), ‘Andhe Jahan Ke Andhe Raaste’ (Patita), ‘Jayen To Jayen Kahan’ (Taxi Driver), ‘Jalte Hein Jis Ke Liye’ (Sujata) and several more super hit songs. From the 1960s, the direction of Hindi films music began to change. So did the attitude of successful heroes. Dilip Kumar was no longer the tragic hero whose personality suited the soft melodies of a Talat Mehmood. He switched over to loud roles and Naushad who composed music for most of his fims, opted for Mohammed Rafi. Despite fewer films, Talat Mehmood remained the favorite of those who preferred soft, romantic melodies.
Mukesh: Bitten by the Bombay bug, Mukesh arrived in Bombay with the hope of becoming a movie star. He stayed with his relative, the famous actor Motilal. With Motilal’s help he got a role as an actor. His debut as a singer, however, came in the film Nirdosh with the song, ‘Dil Hei Bujha Hua’. He later went on to sing the song ‘Badariya Baras Gayee Us Paar’ with Khursheed in the film Moorti. Then came an important milestone in his life. The year was 1945 and Anil Biswas asked him to record the song ‘Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De’ for the film Pehli Nazar. That song brought a still relatively unknown Mukesh to the altar of fame. A legend was born and in the coming decades his golden voice would be heard in songs from musical hits like Aag, Andaaz, Barsaat, Mela across the nation. In 1949 came another milestone in his life – his association with Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishan. The chart-bursting success of the music in films like Awaara and Shri 420 spread Mukesh’s popularity all the way to Russia where in the streets of Moscow you could hear people singing ‘Awara Hoon’ and ‘Mera Joota Hei Japani’. Following Awaara’s success, Mukesh almost ruined his singing career to pursue acting. But both of his films, Mashooqa and Anurag sank at the box office. It was with ‘Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai’ from Yahudi (1958) that Mukesh came back with a bang. Other hits that year like Parvarish, Madhumati and Phir Subah Hogi meant there was no turning back. Then followed S. D. Burman-composed two masterpieces – ‘Chal Ri Sajni’ from Bombai Ka Babu (1960) and ‘O Janewale Ho Sake To Laut Ke Aana’ from Bandini (1963). Mukesh thereafter flourished right through the 1960s and mid 1970s with soulful hits like, ‘Main To Ik Khwab Hoon’ (Himalaya Ki God Mein), ‘Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan’ (Mera Naam Joker), ‘Maine Tere Liye Hi Saat Rang Ke Sapne Chune’ (Anand) and many more hits. His last recorded song was ‘Chanchal, Sheetal, Nirmal, Komal’ from Satyam Shivam Sundaram. He died of a massive heart attack in Detroit (USA) in the midst of a concert with Lata Mungeshkar on 27th August 1976.
Mohammed Rafi: Born in Amritsar, Mohammed Rafi moved to Mumbai in 1944 after taking lessons in music from Ustad Wahid Khan in Lahore. Naushad gave him his first break in Pehle Aap (1944). He made his mark with Naushad-composed ‘Tera Khilona Toota Balak’ in Anmol Ghadi (1946). Rafi’s first big hit was in Jugnu (1947) in which he sang the duet ‘Yahan Badla Wafa Ka Bewafai Ke Siva Kya Hai’ with Noorjehan. His career took off with the all-time hit ‘Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki’ (Dulari-1949). There was no looking back after that and Rafi ruled as the undisputed king of playback singing till the early 70s. Though Rafi was a favorite of different music directors but the one who recognized and exploited his immense talent was Naushad. The duo worked together to give several super hits such as Baiju Bawra and Mere Mehboob, to name a few. Rafi’s other fruitful partnership was with S. D. Burman (Kagaz Ke Phool, Guide, Tere Ghar Ke Samne and Pyaasa). Rafi was displaced by Kishore Kumar in the early 70s but Rafi made a grand comeback with the Nasir Hussain musical hit Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin (1977) and Amar Akbar Anthony the same year, even winning the National Award for ‘Kya Hua Tera Vaada’ from the former. His last song was ‘Tu Kahin Aas Paas’ in the film Aas Paas. The legend of the Hindi film industry breathed his last on July 31, 1980. His immortality is vouched by the fact that even about two decades after his death, his popularity remains intact.
Kishore Kumar: The versatile genius, Kishore Kumar nurtured dreams of becoming a singer following the footsteps of his idol, the legendary singer K. L. Saigal. He frequently visited his famous star brother Ashok Kumar in Mumbai from Khandwa, his birthplace, in the hope that he would introduce him to K. L. Saigal. But destiny willed otherwise. He was forced into acting – a hero who was as much a comedian. But Kishore Kumar’s real ambition was to become a playback singer, which became true when music director Khemchand Prakash called him to lend his voice for Dev Anand in Ziddi (1948). However, Kishore gave credit for his popularity to Burmans – father and son. It was S. D. Burman who made Kishore Kumar, the superstar singer of the 70s when he chose him to sing ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ for Rajesh Khanna in Aradhna. Earlier Sachinda had made Kishore the voice of Dev Anand in hit films Baazi, Paying Guest, Munimji, Guide, Teen Devian, and Jewel Theif. Another composer who placed implacable faith in Kishore Kumar was Sachnda’s son, R. D. Burman. Kishore’s ability to modulate his voice to suit the personality of the hero he sang for was what made him a star singer. He was as much the voice of dapper Dev Anand, the adorable Rajesh Khanna as well as the angry youngman Amitabh Bachchan. As he was still on top, singing superhit songs, Kishore’s sudden death on October 12, 1987 shocked the nation.

Paying tribute to superstar playback singers cannot be complete without applauding other melodious voices of the Hindi cinema who at one time or the other sang immortal songs – Hemant Kumar, Bhupinder, Yesudas, C. H. Atma, G. M. Durrani, Bhappi Lehri, Zohrabai, Mubarak Begum, Raj Kumari, Uma Devi, Suman Kalyanpur, Sudha Malhotra and Sandhya Mukherjee. The present generation of playback singers is no less praiseworthy for their continuing contribution to the treasure of beautiful Bollywood melodies: Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sunidhi Chouhan, Shreya Ghosal, Alisha Chenoi, Sadhna Sargam, Sonu Nigam, Udit Narayan, Kumar Shanu, Hariharan, Abhijeet and Balasubramanyam.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Classic Killers

Some 20 years ago, Gulshan Kumar of T-Series pioneered a trend by getting popular songs re-performed by the likes of Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet, Anuradha Podwal and Vandana Bajpai, who were then not established playback singers. The original songs had been pepped up with fast rhythms, though care was taken to keep the original melody intact. But these were essentially version recordings and not the complex procedure of remixing that involves repositioning an old classic song amidst digital drums, synchs, rap sequences and so on. Remix is the blasphemous unorthodox concoction with diverse musical styles that simply murders the melody of the musical masterpiece. The music maestro Naushad Ali rightly called it the daylight robbery of the intellectual property rights as the original creators are not given any credit or royalties for their hard work, talent and goodwill they had earned from the millions of music lovers.

After the astounding success of Bally Sagoo’s remixed version of R. D. Burman’s ‘Chura Liya Hai Tumne’, a spate of remixes appeared on the music charts. Given the rich repertoire of Hindi film music, there have been numerous remixes in India. Classics such as ‘Man Dole’, ‘Dum Maro Dum’, ‘Jhumka Gira Re’, ‘Chura Liya’ have all seen remix versions. Instead of promoting old melodious songs, music companies cashed in on the financial viability of the remix versions. They take hit songs that have succeeded in the past, so the likelihood of them succeeding again is very high. Remix must seem like a perfect formula to earn quick buck. Today the remix industry has become so widespread that any one who may not have any notions about music or the melody remixes almost any old masterpiece. Can one, for instance, imagine ‘Ab Ke Sawan’ with rap sequences for interludes (in Tango)? Doesn’t the electronically manipulated voice of Neha Nagpal get on one’s nerves in her remix version of ‘Man Dole’? Why do we need the music of early icons when all we want to do is to give it a complete makeover that renders it barely recognizable, if not ruins it totally?

One thing good about Indian cinema is that no particular trend, howsoever paying it may be, is allowed to become monotonous. The remixed versions of ‘Kanta Laga’, ‘Meri Beri Ke Ber’, ‘Pardesia’ and ‘Bin Tere Sanam’ may have topped the charts last year, but the sounds of music emanating from music channels and discos now is indicative of a new trend. Originals are back in business with people giving the thumbs down to remix numbers. Albums of individual artistes and original film scores are much in demand. Sales of remixes have hit rock bottom. And original music albums have made a major come back. Singers, are now back to cutting their own albums rather than singing remixes. And they include the remix master Bally Sagoo who is now totally involved with his original music albums. Old classics from the golden decades of 50s-70s are also in demand. Good news for those who have grown up with a reverence for classics - ‘Pirates of the Classics’ are definitely passé.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bollywood's Great Music Maestros

Indian film music lovers have always appreciated and applauded the haunting evergreen pieces of music of the great masters. Some composers with their unique distinguishing features in their styles have left an indelible impression on our minds. Since music has always been an integral part of Indian cinema, particularly Hindi films, composers of the past to the present give it their all as they compose songs to cater to the demands of innumerable listeners across the country or make tailor-made numbers to suit the situational settings in films. From Alam Ara, the first Indian talkie, to Omkara, the current release, Hindi film music has seen many stalwarts sway the popularity charts in their favor. Here is a tribute to the top ten composers of Hindi cinema, who stand out for their distinctive style and instinctive melody.

1. Anil Biswas (1914-2003): One of the pioneers of Hindi film music, he moved to Mumbai from Calcutta in 1934, and is credited for the shift of focus from New Theatres, Calcutta to Sagar Movitone, Bombay, in production of Hindi musicals. He initially assisted composer Ashok Ghosh in Manmohan and Deccan Queen .The famous producer-director Mehboob Khan, mainly to compete with New Theatres’ films with K. L. Saigal, produced these films with his discovery, the singing star Surendra. These were followed by his music compositions for Jagirdar, Hum Tum Aur Who, Alibaba (in Hindi and Punjabi), all great musicals produced by Mehboob, with Surendra as the singing lead player. Inspired by MGM’s The Good Earth, Mehboob produced Aurat (1940), which was remade by him as Mother India. Anil Biswas composed songs of Aurat were much appreciated by audiences. Then followed Asra, Apna Paraya, Roti and Anokha Pyar, all musical hits. Kismet was his biggest hit in the 40s – ‘Door Hato Ai Duniawalo Hindustan Hamara Hai’, ‘Ghar Ghar Mein Diwali Hai’, ‘Dheere Dheere Aa’. Suraiya sang for Anilda in Gajre, Jeet, Do Sitare and Waris. In the 50s he shifted to Delhi for academic work and was appointed Vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal University. He also remained Chief Producer (Sugam Sangeet) at AIR, Delhi from 1963 to 75. He later scored music for Doordarshan’s pioneering TV serial Hum Log (1984) and a number of documentaries for the Films Divisions.

2. Vasant Desai (1914-1974): Vasant Desai was the composer who could easily pivot the various situations of life around his simple and classy tunes. He was a man of great musical insight. Who can forget his composition, ‘Aei Malik Tere Bande Hum’, which is still sung as Morning Prayer in most schools throughout India. After acting in some films he started his training in music when he was refused the lead role in V. Shantaram’s Admi. Ironically, it was Shantaram who gave him break as music director in Shakuntala (1943). The film was a major hit of those times that ran for 104 weeks at a single theatre. After Shakuntala’s overwhelming success, Vasant Desai became a part of V. Shantaram’s Rajkamal Studio. He gave unforgettable music for Shantaram’s Do Aankhen Barah Haath and Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje. He composed music for 14 films in 1940s including the hit movies, Parbat Pe Apna Dera, Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani, Ram Joshi, Jivan Yatra and Udhar. In the 50s, Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje, Toofan Aur Diya, Do Aankhen Barah Haath and Goonj Uthi Shehnai were his most popular films. Desai used pure classical, folk and theatrical music perfectly for these films. JJPB was purely based on dance theme, so he composed classical dance tunes. He used the voice of great vocalist Ustaad Amir Khan for the title song of the film. In 1960s he did comparatively less number of films but he managed to maintain his style and melody of his tunes. The decade saw the release of Pyar Ki Pyas, Rahul, Yaadein, Bharat Milap and Aashirwad. He introduced Vani Jayaram in Guddi (1970) as a playback singer. He also introduced Dilraj Kaur in Rani Aur Lalpari (1975). Vasant Desai believed in quality and not quantity. Therefore, he composed music for only 46 films in his career spanning four decades.

3. Naushad Ali (1919-2006): Regarded as one of the greatest music directors of Hindi cinema, Naushad moved to Mumbai in the late 1930s from Lucknow to try his luck as a musician. He really had to struggle hard before he joined music director Khemchand Prakash as his assistant. Prem Nagar (1940) was his first break as independent composer but he got noticed with Sharda (1942) wherein 13-year old Suraiya did the playback for Mehtab. It was Rattan (1944) that took Naushad right to the top. ‘Sawan Ke Badlo’ became the most popular song of the day. Every film Naushad composed for in the 40s was a great musical hit – Shahjehan, Anmol Ghadi, Dard, Elan, Anokhi Ada, Dillagi and Andaaz. Naushad’s greatest contribution was to bring Indian classical music into the film medium. He went on to score the music for perennial classics – Baiju Bawra, Mother India, Mughl-E-Azam, Ganga Jamuna and Mere Mehboob, besides blockbusters, Mela, Dulari, Dillagi, Babul, Deedar, Aan, Udan Khatola, Ram Aur Shyam etc. A winner of Dada Sahib Phalke award, the last film that Naushad composed music for was Akbar Khan’s Taj Mahal, before he passed away in 2006.

4. Ghulam Haider (1908-1953): An early music composer of great repute, Ghulam Haider had the distinction of working both in India and Pakistan. He started his career as a composer in Lahore with Dalsukh M. Pancholi’s Gul Bakawali (1939) that became an instant hit. Baby Noorjehan’s songs ‘Shala Jawania Mane’ and ‘Pinjare Wich Kaid Jawani’ were on the lips of every Punjabi fan. His biggest hit came with Khazanchi (1941). The music of Khazanchi caused a revolution. Combining popular ragas with the rich verve and rhythm of Punjabi music, Haider ensured the Indian film music would never be the same again. He moved to Mumbai in 1944 where he worked for films like Chal Chal Re Naujawan, Phool, Humayun, Bairam Khan and Shama. His best known compositions are sung by Shamshad Begum, and invoke Punjabi folk song. Haider also composed music for Bombay Talkies’ Majboor featuring Lata’s ‘Dil Mera Toda’. It was Haider who gave Lata Mangeshkar her major break in Hindi films with Majboor (1948). He had earlier taken 16-year old Lata to S. Mukherjee to try and win her the opportunity to sing for Shaheed, but Mukherjee rejected her, saying her voice was too thin. Haider predicted that this “poor little thing” would soon put every other singer to shame, including Noorjehan. Other singers he introduced were Sudha Malhotra and Surinder Kaur in Shaheed, his last big hit in India. Who can forget the patriotic song ‘Watan Ki Rah Par Watan Ke Naujawan Shaheed Ho’? Ghulam Haider later migrated to Pakistan where he died in 1953 at the age of 45.

5. Khayyam (b 1927): Mohammed Zaheer Khayyam Hashmi, popularly known as Khayyam, evolves memories of soothing, lilting melodies. Since the late 40s, the veteran composer has done films at his pace – less than one film a year. But oh, what songs he has given us. Think of Footpath, Kabhi Kabhie, Umrao Jaan and Razia Sultan and Khayyam evokes nostalgic memories in music lovers. Khayyam became a household name with his songs in Footpath, Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain, Lala Rukh, Shagun, Shola Aur Shabnam, Aakhri Khat and Phir Subah Hogi. However, his all time greatest musical is Umrao Jaan, which brought glory not only to him but also to Asha Bhonsley for her beautiful rendering of the songs composed by Khayyam. Currently he is composing for two films – Banares 1918 and Yatra. In Yatra Rekha plays a dancer, which gives a lot of scope for music. Asha Bhosle, the playback voice for Rekha in Umrao Jaan, once again sings for Rekha in the film. The three of them seem to be working hard to recreate the magic of Umrao Jaan music. Khayyam has also recently come up with Shaguftagi, a ghazal album with lyrics penned by long time friend Kaifi Azmi. This album has given Khayyam the opportunity to work with contemporary popular singers like Alka Yagnik, Udit Narain, Roop Kumar Rathod and Kavita Krishnamurthy. Ofcourse, they have all sung in the Khayyam style and enjoyed every note in it. Humble to the core, Khayyam says he owes his success to God, his wife, singer Jagjit Kaur and the blessings of his gurus Pandit Amarnath and Husnlal Bhagatram. Not once do you hear him referring to his talent.

6. S. D. Burman (1901-1975): The greatest all-rounder in Indian film music, S. D. Burman could be equally classy and jazzy. His grip on Indian folklore, his sound classical base, his capacity to absorb from the scene around him made him in high demand right till the end of his life. Initially a music director in Calcutta in the late 30s, he moved to Mumbai in 1944. His first major breakthrough came in Filmistan’s Do Bhai (1947). ‘Mera Sunder Sapna Beet Gaya’ sung by Geeta Dutt is remembered till today. Shabnam (1949) was his biggest hit with Filmistan with the multi-lingual song ‘Yeh Dunia Roop Ki Chor’ becoming the rage of the day. Burmanda composed the music for Dev Anand’s production company, Navketan’s first film Afsar (1950). With the success of their second film Baazi (1951) he made it to the top and a long association with Dev Anand was on its way. Baazi’s jazzy musical score was astounding success for Burmanda and singer Geeta Dutt with every song in the film a raging hit. Ill health caused a slump in his career in the early 60s but his compositions for Bandini, Guide, Jewel Thief and Aradhna showed that S. D. Burman could still dictate trends. Aradhna was responsible for Kishore Kumar’s second coming and went on to make him the top male playback singer of Hindi films. Burmanda was also responsible along with O. P. Nayyar in shaping Asha Bhonsle as a singer of repute. S. D. Burman’s memorable movies include Do Bhai, Shabnam, Baazi, Bahar, Jaal, Taxi Driver, Devdas, Munimji, Nau Do Gyarah, Paying Guest, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadhi, Kala Paani, Lajwanti, Kagaz Ke Phool, Sujata, Bombai Ka Babu, Kala Bazar, Bandini, Guide, Jewel Thief, Aradhna, Sharmilee and Abhiman.

7. Madan Mohan (1923-1975): Son of the Hindi cinema mogul, Rai Bahadur Chunilal, Madan Mohan was a famed music director of the golden era of Hindi film music – 1950s-70s. He is particularly remembered for the ghazals he composed for the film industry, mainly using the voice of India’s melody queen, Lata Mangeshkar. After assisting S. D. Burman for a short time, Madan scored his first big break with the film Aankhen (1950). This film saw the beginning of a long partnership with Lata Mangeshkar. Madan Mohan songs sung by Lata have certain magic and sweetness to them that few music directors, if any, have been able to recreate. ‘Woh Chup Rahen To’ from Jahan Ara and ‘Maine Rang Li Aaj Chunaria’ from Dulhan Ek Raat Ki are just two such examples. Madan also crafted beautiful songs for male singers such as Talat Mehmood – ‘Phir Wahi Sham’, ‘Main Teri Nazar Ka Saroor Hun’ and ‘Teri Aankh Ke Aansoo’ from Jahan Ara and ‘Meri Yaad Main Tum Na’ from Madhosh. In 1957 Madan Mohan came out with a huge musical blockbuster Dekh Kabira Roya in which legendary singer Manna De gave his voice to the very sweet song ‘Kaun Aya Mere Man Ke Dware’. In the same movie he used Talat Mehmood’s voice for the superhit song ‘Hum Se Aya Na Gaya’. One of Madan’s famous films was Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat (1964). In this film he used Mohd. Rafi for the songs ‘Kar Chale Hum Fida’and ‘Main Yeh Soch Kar’, and Lata for the hit song ‘Zara Si Ahat Hoti Hei’, enthralling millions of moviegoers. And the same film saw Rafi, Talat, Manna De and Bhupinder singing ‘Hoke Majboor Mujhe Usne Bulaya Hoga’. When Madan Mohan composed the classic ‘Aap Ki Nazron Ne’ from the movie Anpadh (1962), Naushad Ali is reported to have complimented him saying, “Let me have this ghazal and take all my compositions in return”. In 2004, his son Sanjeev Kohli recreated Madan’s unused tunes for the Yash Chopra blockbuster Veer Zara.

8. O. P. Nayyar (b 1926): Born in Lahore, O. P. Nayyar came to Mumbai after partition. Lady luck smiled on him when Santoshi dropped the then most sought after music director Naushad and signed him instead. Around the same time Guru Dutt too opted for him. Fortunately for him Aar Paar was a major hit and later on they worked together in Mr. And Mrs. 55. Thereafter there was no looking back. His compositions for B. R. Chopra’s Naya Daur created sensation with their distinctive Punjabi influence – ‘Ude Jab Jab Zulfen Teri’. In the late 50s, audiences immensely appreciated his songs from Tumsa Nahin Dekha, C.I.D., Phagun, Howrah Bridge etc., with their strong western influence and yet original melodies. Nayyar’s music for many hit musicals of 50s earned him the epithet ‘Rhythm King’ for his inimitable and exclusive brand of music. However, his glory would perhaps have been incomplete without her favorite playback singer Asha Bhonsle’s lilting rendition of his compositions, though he did compose some of his best works with two of the most naturally gifted singers – Shamshad Begam and Geeta Dutt. Their personal close relationship resulted in a strong professional bonding as well. In Asha’s repertoire there are several songs that have been marked as everlasting and most of her career best have been Nayyar’s compositions – ‘Mang Ke Saath Tumhara’, ‘Aao Hazoor Tumko, ‘Who Haseen Dard Dedo’, ‘Jaiye Aap Kahan Jayenge’ etc. Just like the way he became Asha’s mentor, who can ever forget Rafi’s ‘Banda Parvar’, ‘Aapke Haseen Rukh Pe’, ‘Tareef Karun Kya Uski’, ‘Lakhon Hein Nigahon Mein’, to name a few that have the stamp of Nayyar’s brilliance and Rafi’s incomparable range. O. P. Nayyar’s mode and technique to this date have not been replicated, and for this he remains a legend in the industry.

9. R. D. Burman (1939-1994): It was R. D. Burman who ushered in the era of electronic rock, providing Hindi film music with a whole new happening sound. His hip and energetic youthful compositions proved extremely popular from the late 1960s till the mid-80s providing much of the music that defines the reputation of singers Asha Bhonsle (whom he married) and Kishore Kumar. R.D. entered films assisting his father S. D. Burman, and occasionally composed a tune or two – ‘Sar Jo Tera Chakraye’ from Pyasa (1957). Comedian Mehmood gave R.D. his first film Chote Nawab (1961). However, his big break came with Nasir Hussain’s Teesri Manzil (1966). The songs like ‘O Haseena Zulfon Wali’, ‘Aaja Aaja Mein Hun Pyar Tera’, ‘O Mere Sona Re Sona Re’, ‘Dewana Mujh Sa Nahin, were unlike anything audiences had heard till then. The music of Teesri Manzil was hummed across the nation. R.D. formed a formidable team with Nasir Hussain scoring music in all his movies thereafter. With popular hits like Padosan (1968) and Hussain’s Pyar Ka Mausam (1969) behind him and informally assisting his father in Aradhna (1969), R.D. hit his peak in the early 1970s with Kati Patang and Amar Prem. Even as he stunned his audiences with a classical gem like “Raina Beeti Jaye’ in the latter, that same year also saw his phenomenal rock score in ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’. Even as R.D. became a pop icon with films like Apna Desh, Jawani Dewani, Yadon Ki Baraat, Khel Khel Mein and Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin, he teamed up with writer-director Gulzar to give such evocative masterpieces like ‘Beeti Na Bitayi Raina’ (Parichay), ‘Is Mod Se Jaate Hein’ (Aandhi), ‘O Manjhi Re’ (Khushboo). With Love Story (1981), R.D. became the first choice for teenage love stories like Betaab (1983). His last score to stand out was perhaps 1942-A Love Story (1994), released after his untimely death due to heart attack.

10. A. R. Rahman (b 1966): The new millennium composer, A. R. Rahman’s technical wizardy is well complemented by his artistic innovation. He started his film career in film music with Mani Ratnam’s Roja. The score of Roja was the first step in changing the face of Indian film music. Roja won every conceivable award for music that year. Time Magazine of the US listed Roja album in the top ten music sound tracks of all time. His 1995 sound track for Bombay crossed 5 million units, and Rehman had arrived as the king of Indian pop with sale of 40 million albums over a period of three years. Rahman goes on from strength to strength with the release of each one of his movies – Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, Doli Sajake Rakhna, Hum Se Hei Muqabla, Rangeela, Lagaan, Saathia, Swades, Kisna, Pukar, Taal, Tehzeeb, Yuva, Water, Zubeida, The Rising and Rang De Basanti. After wowing the international audiences with Bombay Dreams, The Lord of the Rings and the Chinese venture Warriors of Heaven and Earth, he is lending music to the sequel of Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth and a musical London Dreams. Back home, Mani Ratnam’s Guru, Shyam Benegal’s Chamki Chameli and the periodical Akbar Jodha are some of the projects that are keeping him busy. Recently Rahman has come with his own rendition of the national anthem Jana Gana Mana. This comes after the popular Vande Matram. On July 16, 2006, Rahman performed to a sell-out crowd at the 26000 plus capacity natural ampitheatre, Hollywood Bowl. Rahman is the only music composer of Indian cinema who has so far won National awards for Best Music Director 4 times (Roja, Minsaara Kanavu in Tamil, Lagaan and Kanathu Muthamulla in Tamil) and Filmfare awards 5 times (Rangeela, Dil Se, Taal, Lagaan and Saathia).

No article on Hindi film music can be complete without applauding other great composers in the industry who have given immortal melodies in their days of glory and made many a movies super hits with their music – Khemchand Prakash (Mahal), Ghulam Mohammed (Pakeeza), Roshan (Barsaat Ki Raat), C. Ramchandra (Anarkali), Ravi (Chowdhavi Ka Chand), Jaidev (Hum Dono), Usha Khanna (Dil Deke Dekho), Salil Chowdhry (Madhumati), Hemant Kumar (Nagin), Bappi Lahiri (Sharabi) and Ravindra Jain (Ram Teri Ganga Maili), and the most creative composer- combos – Shankar-Jaikishan (Barsaat), Laxmikant Pyarelal (Dosti) and Kalyanji-Anandji (Kora Kagaz). Before concluding, I would also like to complement the brilliant composers of the new millennium who are bent upon reviving the glory of the Golden age of Hindi film music with their beautiful creations – Anu Malik (Main Hoon Na), Rajesh Roshan (Kaho Na Pyar Hai), Ismail Darbar (Devdas), Uttam Singh (Dil To Pagal Hai), Pritam (Dhoom), Himesh Rishmmiya (Tere Naam), Vishal Bhardwaj (Omkara), and the combos, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (Bunty aur Babli) and Jatin Lalit (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai).