(Remembering Ghulam Mohammad on his 51st Death Anniversary)
I’ve been waiting this post for a year. Last year, thanks to my busy schedule, I could not pay tribute to yet another underrated composer of the Golden Era. But now, here I am with the post.
Ghulam Mohammad is best known for his spectacular songs from ‘Pakeezah’, he was also one of the best known assistants to Naushad, and in fact many people know him for that! But of course, Pakeezah is not his only masterpiece. He composed for at least 35 more films and majority of the films had great songs. Let the films be commercially successful or not!
Songs from Pakeezah are a class apart. It was most unfortunate that he didn’t survive till its release and enjoy the success of the songs and the film. It’s still considered as one of the best music scores of Hindi Cinema. And surely it is!
While I was researching for the post, I came across some of his less commonly heard songs. I wasn’t aware of the songs, nor were the songs popular or mentioned frequently with Ghulam Mohammad’s name! But the songs were good and some of the songs were not the ones, one would easily attribute to Ghulam Mohammad. It also showed the lighter side, the comic side of the composer. So I decided to go for the rarely heard and rarely talked about songs of Ghulam Mohammad, who himself is rarely talked about!
Of course, while doing so his popular songs shouldn’t be neglected. I intend to cover those songs later.
Let’s know in brief about the composer’s early days. He was born in 1903 in Naad, a small village in district Bikaner, Rajasthan. His father Nabi Baksh was a renowned Tabla player and little Ghulam learnt from him in childhood along with his brothers. It is said that, he started learning Tabla at very tender age, 4-5 years. He also learnt classical music from Ustad Ghulam Rasul Khan. He started working in J B theatres, and did singing, acting, backstage everything. This experience had a deep impact on young Ghulam and help build his sense of music more strongly.
He came to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1924, where he worked for Ustad Jhande Khan. In 1939, his excellent rendition of tabla, for the movie, Bhartruhari, attracted everyone. That time he was working for Saroj Movietone. He was also associated with Rafiq Ghaznavi & Anil Biswas for some time.
Composer Naushad was a newcomer then, and Ghulam Mohammad introduced him to Ustad Jhande Khan and accomodated him as organ player. They shared deep bonding and remained close friends for life. Later he worked with Naushad as his chief assistant from Sanjog (1943) and was with him till ‘Aan (1952)’. Naushad was more than ten years younger to him, still Ghulam Mohammad never felt inferior to assist him. I think, for him, it was serving music in the every possible way.
He individually composed for the first time for the movie, Mera Khwab in 1943. (Some of the sites mention that his first movie was a 1937 film called, Banke Sipahi. But no information about the film or the songs is available) It means his first Hindi film was released when he was 40. Still he continued to work with Naushad as his assistant for ten more years. He used to add many creative inputs in his songs. Excellent use of Tabla and Dholak was his forte. He incorporated that style in Naushad’s songs as well. So many a times, some of their songs have similar sounds. Meanwhile he continued to work as an independent composer. The songs from Mera Khwab could not create impact, and his next release was in 1947. It was a film called Doli, produced by P N Arora. He later worked with Arora, for nine more films, Pagadi, Paras, Pardes, Nazneen, Gauhar, Laila Majnu (1953), Rail Ka Dibba, Hoor E Arab & Sitara. These low budget films nevertheless helped boost his career to some extent. The songs from Pagadi, Paras, Pardes and Laila Majnu were especially more popular.
Ghulam Mohammad also brought Ghalib’s famous Ghazals to life in Mirza Ghalib (1954) that had one of the best performances by Suraiya, Talat & Ghulam Mohammed himself. He was awarded the First National Award for Best Music in 1955, for Mirza Ghalib and was acclaimed by Pandit Nehru. He again worked with Minerva Movietone (Producer of Mirza Ghalib) in Kundan (1955), which was one of Sunil Dutt’s early films and Do Gunde (1959). After the success of Mirza Ghalib, it was expected that he would suddenly become busy with a number of films. But God knows why it didn’t happen? Perhaps his heart condition was never too healthy to cope up with exertion. But the songs of Mirza Ghalib caught attention of Kamaal Amrohi, who finalized him for the movie, Pakeezah. No-one knew that the film would make Ghulam Mohammad’s name immortal.
His other hits include, Kajal, Grihasthi (1948), Shair, Amber, Ajeeb Ladki, Dil E Nadan, Shama etc. Shama was released in 1961, and after that he suffered heart attack. His weak heart was unable to let him compose for films. The only film he had in hand was Pakeezah. It took a long time in making and nobody was certain about its completion. Ghulam Mohammad started working on the project in early 60s itself. He set to tune six songs (Five solos by Lata Mangeshkar & one duet by Lata-Rafi), he also finalised the orchestration and arrangement. Later, some songs (that were used in the background to crate the atmosphere of Kotha) and the background score was added by Naushad. Ghulam Mohammad ultimately succumbed to death on 17th March 1968. The film, Pakeezah wasn’t anywhere near completion then. It was released in 1972, and Meena Kumari also passed away soon after its release. The songs and the film were a huge success. The music trends had changed tremendously with the start of the 70s decade, but the excellent songs maintaining the flavour of 1960s were hugely popular. Most unfortunate of Ghulam Mohammad not to be able to witness the success of the songs.
Ghulam Mohammad worked with Shakeel Badayuni for a majority of his films. Even for ‘Mirza Ghalib’ Shakeel penned two songs. Other lyricists made an occasional guest appearance in his career. These include Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Majrooh, Khumar Barabankvi etc.
He was an excellent Tabla & Dholak player, and made the most spectacular use of these instruments in his songs. For instance, the captivating rhythm of, Ankhiyan Milake Zara Baat Karo Ji, or the excellent piece of tabla after the opening lines of Thade Rahiyo. He was instrumental in popularising the famous Matka Rhythm in his songs. (Shyamasundar was the other one, who made it popular) Ghulam Mohammed used his skills as a percussionist in many of his own songs and Naushad’s songs. His tunes were always simple but sweet, never too noisy! And the using Matka as a percussion instrument, transforms a simple song to another level, adding a foot tapping rhythm. But my favourite Matka song by Ghulam Mohammad is from Sheesha, ‘Khushi Dil Se Hansi Hothon Se’. A song with deep pathos! Another example of a different or experimental song is ‘Laa De Mohe Balma Aasmani Chudiyan’ from Rail Ka Dibba. Its fast pace and breathless rendition must have awestruck the audience that time. Such songs never used to be a common part of our films. The singers sang the lines in fast pace, but maintaining the rhythm, somewhat like a rap. Shamshad always excels in singing the lines in a single breath, and if we listen this song carefully, she can sing for more time than Rafi in a single breath.
Lata Mangeshkar was his favourite singer, though he also offered songs to Shamshad. In his early days, the latter was his major female playback, but was reduced later to only dance numbers and songs of side characters over the period of time. This transition from lead singer to singer for ‘other songs’ was unfortunately an important part of Shamshad’s career. So Shamshad’s peppy fast paced numbers form a significant part of his songs. Suraiya had her share of songs, in Kaajal, Shair, & Mirza Ghalib. It was the songs from Kaajal that brought fame to the composer in masses. Ironically the movie, Shair, is remembered for Lata’s solos and duet than for Suraiya’s songs. Lata sang for Kamini Kaushal in the film.
He hardly called any other female singers, except a few songs to Geeta Dutt, Hameeda Bano, Uma Devi, Zohrabai Ambalewali, Sitara Kanpuri, Sudha Malhotra. Not to forget Jagjit Kaur, who got fame with the memorable song ‘Khamosh Zindagi Ko’ from Dil E Nadan & Suman Kalyanpur, who got acclaim for songs from ‘Shama’, ‘Ek Jurm Karke Humne’ & ‘Dil Gham Se Jal Raha’. As compared to these singers, Asha Bhosle was offered slightly more share and sang solos and duets for him.
In case of male playback singers, at first, G M Durrani and then Rafi, appear his favourites. And Talat makes appearance in early 50s and disappears later, a story very commonly observed with Talat. But the songs of ‘ Dil E Nadan’, and ‘Malik’ where Talat was the main lead & ‘Mirza Ghalib’ feature some of his best songs ever. So Ghulam Mohammad presented the best of Talat. Other male singers hardly if at all, got chance to sing for him.
It seems, though he was full of talent and dedication, destiny never allowed him to get his due. He always was remembered as Naushad’s assistant & the composer of Pakeezah, who unfortunately could not enjoy its success. He was not business minded, was not very ambitious, it seems! He just went on delivering good songs for the projects that came his way. His devotion & dedication always remained his strength, so was his deep knowledge of classical music and percussion instruments. His brothers and later his sons also achieved fame by their talent in playing Dholak & Tabla. Ghulam Mohammad didn’t even receive Filmfare award for Pakeezah which he surely deserved and would have acted as a tribute to his entire career.
It’s time now for the song list. As I said earlier, it has less commonly heard or lesser known songs of Ghulam Mohammad. I came across majority of the songs for the first time while researching for the post. I hope all the readers will enjoy the songs. A little difference from the usual brings a new wave of freshness, or so I expect! I must also confess that in majority of the songs, the lyrics formed an important part, than the actual tune. But still the importance of a catchy can’t be overemphasized. For me, both the things go hand in hand, for a successful song.
So were we go, in no particular order………………………………….
1. O Motor Wali Chhori – Grahasthi (1948) Shamshad Begum & Hameeda Bano / Lyrics – Waheed Qureshi and Shakeel Badayuni
Oh what a fun this song is! A complete entertainer!
A light hearted fun song, two ladies perhaps driving the car, and a gentleman teasing and commenting on the car. It would have been fun to watch its video, but it’s not available unfortunately. But still we can very well imagine, the rough idea of the picturisation. Typically classical vintage era song. You must have a naughtiness to compose such type of song, and also should be able to explain the same to the singers. We generally don’t attributes such naughty songs to Ghulam ji.
I just loved it! There is an unidentified male voice in the song. Veteran Film enthusiast, late Mr Isaq Mujawar has mentioned a name of an actor, Nirjan Musharraf, as the singer, in one of his Marathi books. I think, Mr Arun Kumar ji Deshmukh would be the best person, to solve this mystery. The song is at the number one position in the following video.
2. Main Banungi Film Star – Ajeeb Ladki (1952) Shamshad Begum / Lyrics – Shakeel Badayuni
Where had been this wonderful song for so many years? It’s so wonderful! It brings a smile on your face instantly. Just listen to the rendition by Shamshad begum. She has sung it with an innocence of a newcomer, with a big bunch of dreams to follow. The lady wants to be an actress, a film star, who’s loved and adored by everyone. She appears enchanted by the glamour. Her day dreaming is so cute and innocent! She is confident, she’ll outshine Suraiya and Nargis one-day. And she will be so popular that even Raj Kapoor will pine for her glance.
Again, the composer is the one who weaves the song in a tune, and teaches the exact expressions to the singer. Have you expected such a song from Ghulam ji? We tend to think of him as a serious composer, who sets to tune soulful ghazals and sad songs.
3. Aao Baitho Baat Suno – Maang (1950) G M Durrani & Lata Mangeshkar / Lyrics – Saghar Usmani
It’s one of the couple of songs on the list, that I already knew. One of the few duets by Lata and Durrani. A usual नौक झोक between the two genders. He’s in love and wants the lady to accept his love. But she’s completely indifferent, wants to avoid love. And warns him to keep away from her.
He sings, “आओ प्यार करे” ,The uninterested lady rebukes “जरा दूर रहो” Ghulam Mohammad keeps the mukhda in conversational tone, and adds a different tone in stanzas.
4. Khel Nahi Hai Gir Gir Kar Sambhalna – Doli (1947) G M Durrani / Lyrics – Majrooh
The song reminded me of ‘Chale Pawan Ki Chal’ for the Tonga rhythm and ‘Udan Khatole Pe Ud Jaoon’ for the tune. Catchy foot tapping rhythm, with a little bit of philosophy are the main attractions of the song. It may not be that popular, but I think, may be known to the enthusiasts of the vintage era.
5. Hua Tera Mera Pyar Fatafat – Pardes (1950) Shamshad Begum & Rafi / Lyrics – Shakeel Badayuni
Pardes is famous for other songs, but this funny song, picturised on Mukri is a bit less commonly mentioned. Rafi giving playback for Mukri is also a rare occurrence.
Mukri is enchanted by the lady’s beauty and takes her acceptance for granted. But she doesn’t give a damn. He is ready to buy a bike on loan for her so that the couple can roam around freely.
6. Duniya Ki Halat Naram Naram – Guzara (1954) Rafi & Chorus / Lyrics – Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
It’s a catchy peppy number, with a foot tapping rhythm. It must have been written according to the economic situation of the period. Not much information is available about the film, so we have to guess about the actor and picturisation. The character singing the song, probably sells pakodas, on the streets. He says, you can enjoy hot pakodas even if your pocket is near empty. It does spread message of being self sufficient, work for your survival (like pulling a rickshaw), but never beg for money. And be honest to yourself, to your country. Never go for easy money, never be dishonest and disloyal. Great message conveyed with a touch of humour.
7. Yeh Duniya Ki Rail Musafir – Sitara (1955) Rafi & Chorus / Lyrics – Shakeel Badayuni
This philosophical song begins with a whistle of a rail and metaphorically describes the routine of this world, as a rail journey. The fortunate passengers get to their destination. We should all live without casteism, that is compared with a train bogie accommodating people of all religions without differentiation. We all travel together, but each one has his own destiny. The song is woven in a catchy and easy to hum melody. Was it picturised as a train song, on a sage’s character? I think, it could be so!
8. O Pardesiya O Rasiya – Dil Ki Basti (1949) Geeta Dutt, Zohrabai Ambalewali & Chorus / Lyrics – Khumar Barabankavi
From philosophy to a female duet depicting heroine’s friends teasing her. It’s really such a cute song, the heroine is desperately waiting for her beloved. Her friends make fun of her, tease her and make her blush. Again this song has a conversational tone. Listen to it completely. This might also be known to some of the readers.
9. Ae Saqi e Mastana – Hoor e Arab (1955) Lata Mangeshkar / Lyrics – Shakeel Badayuni
The song opens with a breathless rap like verses, rendered by unknown singer. Even though such compositions were not in vogue those days, Ghulam Mohammad tried similar style, in at least two songs. I’ve already mentioned the song from Rail ka Dibba in the write-up, this is the second one.
One more thing about the song, it is woven in unmistakable Arabic tune. So far Ghulam Mohammad offered such songs to Shamshad, but Lata also does full justice to it. The tune is very typical, at times sounds more like C Ramchandra. I included the song, mainly for the opening lines in rap fashion.
10. Bhool Ja Woh Pyar Ke Sapne – Parayi Aag (1948) Hameeda Bano / Lyrics – Tanveer Naqvi
Hameeda Bano is quite a forgotten name, so are her songs. While she had a few hits with Ghulam Mohammad, this song attracted my attention. Usually the tunes for the mukhda and the antara are complimentary, but different. But in the song, these appear similar. Ghulam Mohammad has at times composed different verses of a song, in different tunes. Mausam Hai Ashiqana from Pakeezah can be cited as an example.
Hameeda Bano sings this song with deep emotions, portraying someone trying hard to forget her love. She has to forget all the memories, though that’s the most painful and difficult task for her. The agony and despair in her voice complements the soulful tune, set by the composer. She is a perfect choice for the song. The song made me think of “चांदण्या रात्रीतले ते स्वप्न तू विसरून जा” by Manik Verma. Can be translated as, ‘forget all the dreams, that we saw in moonlight’
§§ Kahan Jate Ho Saiyan – Do Gunde (1959) Asha Bhosle / Lyrics – Shakeel Badayuni §§
This may not actually be a lesser known song. This is the second song, from the couple of songs, that I already knew. But it’s surely one of Asha’s best song for Ghulam Mohammad. So I included it. Asha’s expressions are superb, too apt for the situation. It’s decorated with excellent Dholak bits and rhythm of tinkling anklets. The latter is audible only in the video.
It’s picturised on Kumkum and Raj Kumar. She is requesting him to stop, by offering him an array of attractions. At last she threatens him to get tied up with her braid. I didn’t get time to look at Raj Kumar, anyway, why should I look at him? I was as usual fascinated by Kumkum, who’s expressions are mind boggling. For video song click here
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