(Celebrating Asha Tai’s 86th Birthday, by remembering her association with Khayyam)
Great composer of Hindi cinema, Khayyam passed away on the 19th August 2019. He was one of the legendary composers of Hindi cinema, and would always be remembered for his songs throughout the Golden Era and in 70s-80s as well. In fact he was one of those who maintained melody, when others were blindly following the western influence and made the music noisier.
Before we go to the actual topic, let’s have a look at his career. Khayyam was born on 18th February 1927 in a small town near Jalandhar. His father & elder brother were fond of music and Urdu poetry. So he was surrounded by music at home. Naturally little Khayyam had music in his genes. He was inclined to it, although he was not allowed to follow musical aspirations at the expense of studies. But, otherwise, there was a musical atmosphere at home.
His father had a huge collection of books at his home, including a number of books on Urdu literature and poetry. His father and brother used to enjoy discussing various shairs and their poetry with their friends and the discussions helped Khayyam find the Importance of lyrics and the meaning of a song, the poet or shair wants to convey. The meaning may be direct or metaphorical. One has to decipher the shers or the verses accordingly. Khayyam never forgot these lessons and implemented them, when he started composing for Hindi films. He insisted on meaningful songs, and was fortunate to have Sahir, Majrooh, Kaifi Azmi, Jaan Nisar Akhtar, Nashq Lyallpuri and other shairs of the bygone era, Mirza Ghalib, Mir Taki Mir, Makhdum Moinuddin, to name a few. No wonder he presented the core of these songs through his music. The lyrics of the songs were always important to him, he never overloaded his songs with noisy orchestration or loud expressions that might have overshadowed the lyrics.
In his childhood, the spark of patriotism was ignited in his heart. He always had the fire in his belly and in 1947, he did not leave his country. He also believed in God almighty, and never followed any religious bars. He equally believed in Allah, Wahe Guru and Lord Krishna. He credited all his success to the God. He believed, God helped him set a tune. It was as if the God himself spoke through his songs. He was taught to be honest with his work, with his colleagues, and work with full dedication, confidence and faith. He always followed it. He never composed a song that he thought vulgar, he never compromised with the quality of his work. For these reasons, he never had continuous work, and even after a successful film, he wouldn’t be seen for a long time. He followed his heart, he was never in a hurry. After the success of Kabhi Kabhie, many offers came his way. But he was picky and choosy, he did not want to overwork himself. For films like Umrao Jaan, Razia Sultan, he worked very hard to get details of the background of the characters right. He knew the story of Umrao Jaan Ada, who was a singer, dancer and shaira. So he meticulously thought of the projection, the tone and pitch of the voice, the pronunciations and aalaps. These songs were released when the Hindi films were performing average in the music department. Similarly for Bazaar, he chose different poets and shairs, to get exactly what he wanted to portray. The songs from both the films are considered iconic and are still popular.
In all he composed for 50 odd films, in his career of around 50 years. But no one ever dared to underestimate him just by the quantity. The quality spoke for itself and his songs will always be immortal. His wife, Jagjit Kaur helped him compose the songs. He never denied her contribution to his songs. She was an essential part of his music and life. She supported him through out and stood firm by him. He was a huge fan of her unusual voice. Yet, he never insisted for her voice. He offered her songs only when he thought her voice would do full justice.
He was a good human being and among ‘The Last of the Greats’.
He went to Delhi at the tender age of 10 to his uncle, in the hope of a career in music. He had not informed anyone at home. He was again put back to school, but was not happy with it.
One day his uncle took him to Pandit Amarnath, where he was trained in music under Pandit ji and his brothers Husnalal & Bhagatram. After five years of training he went to Lahore, and then Bombay (now Mumbai) to try his luck. But drawn blank. Still he managed to Impress composer, Chishti and started assisting him. After partition, he went back to Mumbai, where his gurus, Husnalal Bhagatram offered him playback . It was a duet with Zohrabai Ambalewali, for the film, Romeo & Juliet. Later, he made a pair with Rehman Verma, who was senior assistant to Chishti Saab. They worked under the name ‘Sharmaji-Vermaji’ for the film Heer Ranjha in 1947. The name Sharmaji was suggested to him by Husnalal Bhagatram.
Rehman Verma soon left for Pakistan.
After composing for a few films, as Sharmaji, finally the film Biwi (1950) brought him a ray of hope, when the song ‘Akele Mein Woh Ghabrate To Honge’, sung by Rafi was a hit.
He joined Ranjit Movietone as a salaried composer. Director Zia Sarhadi and Sardar Chandulal Shah were of the opinion that he should change his name. When he told his full name as ‘Mohammed Zahoor Khayyam Hashmi’, Chandulal Shah asked him for just ‘Khayyam’ so as to make it short and easy. He composed as ‘Khayyam’ for the first time for Footpath (1953).
He couldn’t accept all the projects after Footpath, because of the contract with Ranjit Movie-tone.
When Ramesh Sehgal thought of making a film based on ‘Crime and Punishment’, he was not sure about the composer to be appointed for the film. He wanted someone who knew and understood the novel. Khayyam was the choice. When Raj Kapoor heard his tunes, he at once agreed to choose him as the composer of the movie. During the recording of the songs of ‘Phir Subah Hogi’, Asha Bhosle said to him, ‘Khayyam Saab, Aap ki Subah to Aa Gayi’ meaning your struggle is over now. After composing for a number of movies in the 1960s, he was offered ‘Kabhi Kabhie’ and there started his second innings and he won Filmfare Award for Best Music. His Journey continued in 80s with memorable songs.
Let’s now move to the topic for today, Asha Bhosle’s association with Khayyam. Their first song together was perhaps for the film ‘Parda’ (1949). It was a solo and her only song for the film. Later we find her songs for the film, Biwi (1950).
Of course, Footpath (1953) also has her four solos, that included songs for the main lead, Meena Kumari & other supporting characters. Khayyam always mentioned that, he offered songs of different genres to Asha Bhosle in the early years of her career. But no one credited him for the same. He used to say that, he was the first one to offer a club song to Asha Bhosle, for Footpath (1953).
Throughout, she was offered songs for the main lead, Lala Rukh, Phir Subah Hogi, etc would be good examples.
When Lata Mangeshkar got to sing for the main lead, Asha was offered other songs. In the late 1960s to early 1970s, Asha Bhosle was missing from Khayyam’s films, except for a couple of films. But after Umrao Jaan, she made a successful comeback in his films.
In general, Asha sang very few duets with Rafi under Khayyam’s baton. At least off hand, I don’t remember any! In comparison, she had more duets with Mukesh and Talat. Her duets with Kishore Kumar are more in the ‘post – Kabhi Kabhie’ era.
When Khayyam was called in for ‘Umrao Jaan’, he was of the opinion that, the film would be compared with Pakeezah, and he has to work hard. For the same reason, he finalized Asha Bhosle, as he wanted a different singer. He wanted a particular texture of voice, at a low note than Asha’s usual pitch. He also worked on the style of singing aalaps for the movie. There were also some moments of tension between the two, during the whole recording process. But when Asha heard her first recorded song for the movie, she herself was astonished.
Khayyam is well known for the non film songs with various singers. Talat Mahmood, Rafi, Begum Akhtar would top the list. He also recorded non film songs with Asha Bhosle over the years.
‘Asha Aur Khayyam’ was an album released during 1997-98, that had eight songs, penned by stalwarts. The album is still popular among his fans.
Khayyam won the Filmfare Best Music Director Award twice, for Kabhi Kabhie and Umrao Jaan. The latter also fetched National Award for him.
Let’s go the most awaited list, my favourites composed by Khayyam, sung by Asha Bhosle. The list has solos and other songs. As usual the songs are in no particular order.
1. Mere Pyare Sanam Ki Hai Pyari Gali – Parda (1949) / Lyrics – Swami Ramanand
It’s most likely her debut song with Khayyam. Asha’s sweet voice resembles Lata’s voice, but her style of singing resembles Geeta Dutt’s. Her expressions are perfect. It’s a sweet tune, very sweetly sung.
2. So Ja Mere Pyare So Ja – Footpath (1953) / Lyrics – Majrooh
Khayyam offered her all the songs in Footpath. The film had a romantic song, a lullaby, a club song and a sad song. Such a variety of songs, she was offered! I chose this one, as it is sung with apt expressions. Khayyam mentioned that, the club song was Asha’s first of that genre in Hindi films.
3. Taaron Se Ankhiyaan Milaoon Main – Dhobi Doctor (1954) / Lyrics – Majrooh
It’s melodious, energetic and playful song! It’s so different from his other songs. Usually we connect him with soulful songs.
Dhobi Doctor was again a Ranjit Movietone’s film, starring Kishore Kumar and Usha Kiran, directed by Phani Majumdar. It was a story of a poor dhobi’s son, who succeeds to become a doctor and serve the society. The film had six songs, and Asha sang five solos. Khayyam was under contract with Ranjit and was not allowed to accept outside films.
4. Qafas Mein Dala Mujhe – Tatar Ka Chor (1955) with Talat & Mubarak Begum / Lyrics – Prem Dhawan
I couldn’t collect much about the film, except the starcast, Shyama with Mahipal and Chandrashekhar. It’s an obscure film. The songs are good, and Asha Bhosle is the prominent female voice. It is a sad song, with three characters singing it, don’t know who would be the third angle of the triangle.
5. Pyas Kuchh Aur Bhi Bhadka Di- Lala Rukh (1958) with Talat / Lyrics – Kaifi Azmi
The song has already featured on my Kaifi Azmi list. Such a great romantic song it is, though it may not be that popular. It emphasizes Khayyam’s love for meaningful lyrics. It’s a great Ghazal.
6. Do Boonde Sawan Ki – Phir Subah Hogi (1958) / Lyrics – Sahir
What should I say about it! Though it is not much popular as compared to the other songs from the movie, it’s a great song.
I was really lost in deep thoughts, whom to blame in those circumstances! Asha’s flawless rendition takes it to another level.
7. Mummy Aur Daddy Mein Ladai – Shola Aur Shabnam (1961) / Lyrics – ? Prem Dhawan
I had never heard this song. When I found it, I liked it. The movie, otherwise known for the songs of Lata Mangeshkar and Rafi, also has a fun song for children. No need to say, Asha Bhosle has done a great job. Let me add here the link for the video song too.
8. Hum Se Hoti Muhhobat Jo – Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hai (1965) with Mukesh / Lyrics – Majrooh
Khayyam offered just a couple of songs to Asha Bhosle in the film. This one’s for the main lead, Nanda and the other one’s a Mujra song. When I first heard the song, I felt like I was listening to a Roshan melody. It’s somehow different! In fact, in the mid 1960s, his songs for Shagun and Mohobbat Isko Kehte Hai sound very much different than his other songs.
9. Dekhte Chale Gaye – Mera Bhai Mera Dushman (1967) / Lyrics – Kaifi Azmi
Such a soulful, touching song. I never knew the film, until recently, when I read about it on Dusted off, in her tribute post to Khayyam.
10. Patiyan Likh Likh Haari – Non film song / Lyrics – Madhukar Rajsthani
I couldn’t get the release year of the song. It’s a beautiful song, with excellent use of Sarangi throughout the song. The expressions of complete dedication are superb.
11. Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Dosto – Umrao Jaan (1981) / Lyrics – Shahryar
Though all the songs are wonderful and amazing, this is the one that touches my soul. It’s a masterpiece, created by four stalwarts, including Rekha of course. I don’t have words to describe the beauty of the song, it’s something to experience!
12. Kabhi Kisi Ko Muqammal Jahan – Ahista Ahista (1981) / Lyrics – Nida Fazli
A wonderful Ghazal, popular till date.
13. Pyar Ka Dard Hai – Dard (1981) with Kishore Kumar / Lyrics – Nashq Lyallpuri
A cute romantic song, with Rajesh Khanna in double role.
14. He Ambike Jagadambike – Bawari (1982) / Lyrics – Maya Govind
It’s not a surprise that after composing songs across various genres, including club song, Mujra, Ghazal, lullaby, romantic songs, soulful songs, Khayyam also composed this devotional song. And Asha sang it with dedication and compassion.
15. Chaha Tha Ek Shakhs Ko – Asha Aur Khayyam (1998) / Lyrics – Hasan Kamaal
Out of eight meaningful songs in the album, it was a difficult task to choose one . But still, I liked her expressions in this one, other songs couldn’t create magic for me.
Would you add your favourite?
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