With Naushad Ali's passing today at 9.15 am at Nanavati Hospital, where he was admitted on April 20 after complaining of uneasiness, this could well be remembered as the day the music died.
Born on December 25, 1919, Naushad moved from Lucknow, where he repaired harmoniums and composed for amateur plays, to Mumbai in the late 1930s to try his luck in films. Initially, Naushad had to struggle and saw days of acute deprivation and even had to spend nights on the footpath.
Prem Nagar (1940) was his first independent film but he got noticed with Sharda (1942), in which 13-year-old Surayya did the playback for heroine Mehtab. "Ahkiyan mila ke" and "Saawan ke baadalon" from Rattan (1944) took Naushad right to the top of Bombay film music world.
Awarded the Dada Saheb Phalke Award in 1981 for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema, he churned out hit after hit in the 1940s in films like Shahjahan, Dard, Dillagi, Dulari, Anokhi Ada, Barsaat and Andaaz. And yet in all those six decades of his career, he composed music only for 67 films. That was how choosy he was, and how seriously he took his music. He was the first to combine the flute and clarinet with the sitar and mandolin, and also one of the first to introduce song mixing and separate recording of voice and music in playback singing.
Among those who mourn him is of course Dilip Kumar who broke down as he hummed the tune "Uthaye ja unke sitam" from Andaz. Recalling the close association between her husband and the composer, Saira Bano explained: "It was such a close relationship that if one heard Naushad's music, one felt only Dilipsaab's face should be seen on the screen." But it was not just Dilip Kumar whose face represented his music on screen. Indeed, to many, ever since Baiju Bawra, he was the true symbol of secular India itself- after all he he composed the immortal bhajan "Man tadpat hari darshan ko aaj", written by Shakil Badayuni and sung by another Mohd Rafi.
Naushad gained more majesty than any other film composer thanks to the ease with which he used classical music in popular cinema. He even got Hindustani maestros to sing a jugalbandi - Amir Khan and D.V. Pulaskar in Baiju Bawra (1952). And then of course there was Mughal-e-Azam (1960), remembered not just for Bade Ghulam Ali Khan singing "Shubh Din Aayo" and "Prem Jogan ke Sundari Pio Chali" but perhaps even more for Lata's "Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya", "Mohabbat ki Jhooti Kahani pe Roye", and Mohd. Rafi's "Ae Mohabbat Zindabad" which had as many as 100 people singing the chorus. Not many remember that he is the one who was entrusted to complete Pakeezah (1972) after Ghulam Mohammed's death.
Naushad reigned in the golden era of film music (1940s-60s) when melodies were bolstered by sublime poetry. Other major hits include the songs of Mother India ("Zindagi mein hum aaye hei to jeena hi padega"), Ganga Jamuna ("Nain lad jai hen") and Kohinoor ("Madhuban mein Radhika nache re"). Khamoshi was another musical hit for him in recent years, and then he did compose for Taj Mahal - who knew that it was to be his swansong.
But till the end music remained an integral part of his life -- doctors who attended on Naushad at Nanavati Hospital recalled how he regaled them with 'shers' and his film songs.
with inputs from PTI
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