(Part 1) Hansraj Behl – A Forgotten composer

Hansraj Behl
(19th November 1916 to 20th May 1984)

hansraj behl

He was a talented music composer. He was also respected by the singers, they used to call him Masterji. Veteran singer Madhubala Jhaveri always called him by that name. Even after composing a number of melodious songs in the late 1940s and 1950s, he never got opportunities to work for big banners. In the 50s, he was joined by his brother to form a production house of their own. So later his compositions were made mostly limited to his own films. He couldn’t leave a mark of his own and in the 60s he slowly faded away from the memories of the music lovers.
The song, ‘Jahan Daal Daal Par Sone Ki Chidiya’ is played on 15th August for so many years for sure. The song has got an iconic status, but who cares for the composer, right? This song was also composed by Hansraj Behl. Let’s remember him and his songs today, on his death anniversary.

Starting his career in 1946, he went on to compose till the 70s, though popularity left him somewhere in the late 60s. For convenience, I’m dividing the post in two parts. The first half deals with the first ten years of his career, that is around 1955.

Hansraj Behl was born on 19th November 1916, in Ambala. No wonder the Punjab school of Hindi film music predominated in his songs. Interested in music he took music lessons from Pandit Chunnilal. As a young man he opened a music school in Lahore and soon cut his records with HMV. There is no mention whether he composed the songs or sang or both. He never sang for his own films, though I guess he must have sung for the HMV records. He came to Mumbai at the age of 28, in the year 1944 quite late as far as the age is concerned.

He assisted Pandit Govindram for a movie. Later he got his first assignment as a composer in the film, Pujari, endorsed by Prithviraj Kapoor. The film Pujari was released in 1946. It couldn’t create much impact, but it’s remembered for a song, ‘Bhagwan Mere Gyan Ke Deepak Ko’  by Baby Mumtaz. If you are wondering about Baby Mumtaz, she later debuted as Madhubala. Other songs were sung by Amirbai Karnataki and Firoze Dastur. The same year saw the release of the movie, Gwalan. The film is known for the songs by Sushila Rani, who was a well known classical singer of Jaipur Gharana. Isn’t it incredible that two classical singers sang for him for his first couple of films.
During the next couple of years, he composed for a few films including a song for Meena Kumari, who sang it for the film, Duniya Ek Sarai (1947). If we take a look at the songs, Mukesh sang a number of songs, mainly duets for Hansraj Behl.

Let me add a couple of romantic duets from 1946 -47 films.

Lagat Nazar Tori – Gwalan (1946) Sushila Rani & Mukesh / Lyrics – Pandit Indra Chandra
The song can be taken as his first popular Hindi film song. Oh! It has a typical vintage era fragrance. A simple tune and simple orchestration. Harmonium accompanying each and every note sung by the singer. It’s quite romantic.

Moti Chugne Chali Re Hansi – Chheen Le Azadi (1947) Shamshad Begum & Mukesh / Lyrics – Pandit Indra Chandra
It seems Mukesh was his favourite during the early years of the career. What a cute and romantic song! The song has a simple melody, not too complicated.

In 1948 however, he introduced a fresh group of singers to his musical team. He offered songs to Lata Mangeshkar, Rafi, Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt for the first time. The film was Chunaria. It was Asha Bhosle’s first song for a Hindi film. The song, ‘Sawan Aaya Re’ was sung by Asha Bhosle, Zohrabai Ambalewali and Geeta Dutt. Unfortunately it’s not available on the internet. The film, though had some very good songs, couldn’t boost Behl’s career. Here are a couple of songs from Chunaria.

Dil e Nashad Ko Jeene Ki Hasrat – Chunaria (1948) Lata Mangeshkar / Lyrics – Mulkraj Bhakri
It was Lata Mangeshkar’s first Hindi film song for Behl. Lata Mangeshkar herself was a newcomer then, and her tender voice sounds like a teenager, but look at the expressions. Perfect!
Behl composed the Ghazal with much passion and though the song is now considered iconic, it was not until a few more films that Masterji confirmed Lata Mangeshkar as her first choice.

O Motor Wale Babu – Chunaria (1948) Geeta Dutt / Lyrics – Mulkraj Bhakri
Burman da offered Geeta Dutt, a melancholy song and for a few years, her sad songs became popular. But it seems Behl was one of the few composers who appreciated her potential and made her sing a funny song. It was Geeta Dutt’s first film with Behl, but she didn’t become his favourite. He offered her a few more songs, but that’s it. I selected the song to highlight Behl’s versatility, who effortlessly composed a catchy peppy song for a very young Geeta Dutt. The song doesn’t run a conventional course, but experiments with the rhythm and tempo.

But a consistent popularity was still a dream for him. He composed for a few films more, though none could establish him as a mainstream first rung composer. He also completed the film, Kaneez (1949), when Ghulam Haider left it in between. He composed a couple of songs, though there is no clear-cut mention of the songs he composed for the film. But let’s listen to a couple of songs from that period. His destiny was about to change, a pleasant turn was awaiting him.

Jaag Ae Naujawan – Pardesi Mehmaan (1948) Mukesh / Lyrics – Pandit Indra Chandra
Mukesh again, but in a different style than usual. The film was perhaps based on Indian independence, as the song ignites patriotism. I haven’t heard such an impassioned song in Mukesh’s voice. Behl keeps it a fast paced inspirational song.

Deewana Gaya Daman Se Lipat – Karwat (1949) Paro Devi / Lyrics – Saifuddin Saif
Paro Devi didn’t get many chances for singing. I think S D Burman did offer her a few songs. Though her voice was not much impressive, the jolts Behl arranges for the words, लिपट and करवट, makes it rhythmic. Behl later offered her a few songs, but none of those could be popular.

In the same year, 1949, he composed for Chakori and it was a breakthrough in his career. He again chose Lata Mangeshkar with Rafi for the film and fabulous songs made their way. The year also brought the songs from Raat Ki Rani, Zevraat with Lata Mangeshkar and Rafi singing on his tunes, creating some memorable songs. Behl also introduced his friend, Verma Malik with the film, Chakori. Later they worked together for a few films.

Let’s have a look at some of the songs.

Haye Chanda Gaye Pardes – Chakori (1949) Lata Mangeshkar / Lyrics – Mulkraj Bhakri
and
Tu Humse Juda Hai – Chakori (1949) Lata Mangeshkar / Lyrics – Verma Malik
The link has both the songs. I think the film started Lata’s association with Behl. However he didn’t consistently offer her songs in his films. Both the songs are melodious, the latter is counted among Lata’s best songs in the initial years of her career.
The pathos in both the songs is heart touching.

Jin Raaton Mein Neend Ud Jati Hai – Raat Ki Rani (1949) Rafi / Lyrics – Aarzoo Lucknowi
It is quite a popular ghazal among old Hindi film song lovers. Rafi sings it as if he is reciting it in a mushaira. He adds, ‘अर्ज़ किया हैं’ or ‘ग़ौर फर्माइए’ where ever necessary, to attract the attention of the listeners. Behl proposes a slowly playing continuous tabla rhythm that sounds absolutely suitable to the ghazal. It seems with the song, Behl added Rafi to his musical team as a permanent member.

Sajan Ki Ot Leke – Zevraat (1949) Lata Mangeshkar & Rafi / Lyrics – Habib Sarhadi
A cute romantic duet that fits perfectly in the era, when Lata – Rafi duets by Husnalal Bhagatram were popular. It sounds like one of those duets. The lines of mukhda are tuned in a fast pace, the singers (even Lata Mangeshkar) sound a little breathless. We can prominently appreciate the Punjabi style of music in the song. Adding ‘ला ला ल ल ला’ gives it a carefree spirit, something that sounds sweet.

In the year 1950, he composed for Suraiya in Khiladi and Shaan. Later she sang for him in Rajput and Moti Mahal as well. Who can forget Suraiya’s (perhaps) only light hearted, fun song. It tells a tale of a breakdown of a car. It was from Moti Mahal, ‘Kabhi Na Bigade Kisi Ki Motor’, Only Masterji composed such a song for Suraiya, who otherwise had to sing melancholy songs to a major extent.

Yeh Kiski Yaad Aa Gayi – Rajput (1951) / Lyrics – Anjum Jaipuri
It’s a very sweet composition. The aalap Suraiya sings after each verse is the most attractive part of the songs for me. The song portrays longing of a lady for her beloved. His remembrance brought up the memories of their blossoming love, as if the blossom has arrived indeed. There is an interesting mixture of happiness, eagerness and longing, and Suraiya does a fantastic job. Behl keeps it slow paced with minimum orchestration, yet it has a rhythmic melody.

Hansraj Behl was one of those composers, who chose different female singers and was not depending on Lata Mangeshkar wholly. I’m talking about the era which I’m covering in today’s post. Though he offered her songs, only a few could stand the test of time. Let me add a few songs, Lata Mangeshkar sang for him.
Dil Ki Duniya Loot Kar – Pensioner (1954)

Yaad Tumhari Kyun Aaye Balma – Nakhare (1951)

While he was instrumental in introducing Madhubala Jhaveri to Hindi films, he also offered songs to Shamshad Begum, Asha Bhosle, Geeta Dutt and Zohrabai Ambalewali. Even after composing songs for Lata Mangeshkar from 1948 to 1951- 52, he suddenly shifted his focus on other female playback singers, and Geeta Dutt, Madhubala Jhaveri along with Asha Bhosle appeared prominently in his songs. It continued till 1956, when he again offered songs to Lata Mangeshkar. It will be covered in the next part of the post, of course.

Asha Bhosle sang her first solo for Behl in Raat Ki Rani. It would perhaps be her first solo as such for Hindi films.

Hai Mouj Mein Apne Begane – Raat Ki Rani (1949) Asha Bhosle / Lyrics – Aarzoo Lukhnowi
The song has a similar style of composition to the song from Karwat. Asha Bhosle’s voice appears very different. She has perfect pronunciations and expressions, but she was yet to establish her own style. Yet she hasn’t copied anyone in particular. Still her voice resembles Lata’s voice, after all they belonged to the same family. I wonder if it was a Mujra, at least it sounds so! Behl arranges Tabla and harmonium as main instruments.

And,
He also offered a fair share to Shamshad Begum.
Let’s listen to a song by the duo.

Do Aankhen Janani Do Mardani – Nakhare (1951) Shamshad Begum / Lyrics – Bharat Vyas
A typical Shamshad song. Naughty and funny, the one that brings smile and happiness. The song describes a typical love story and its possible fate. It’s a simple tune, no complicated structure. Shamshad fills it with energy with her usual enthusiasm.

I’ll add a song, Samajh Lo Nazar Se Ishara, by Zohrabai Ambalewali, composed by Hansraj Behl, from the movie, Kashmir (1951). She wasn’t a regular singer with Behl.

In addition, he also gave a chance to other female singers, that includes, Mubarak Begum, Surinder Kaur, Hameeda Bano. But neither the films nor the songs could achieve popularity, so the combination didn’t click.

Madhubala Jhaveri had a long association with Behl and he was the one who encouraged her and offered her songs consistently, solos and duets. Madhubala Jhaveri’s first released Hindi film was Rajpoot (1951), where she had four songs including a solo and three duets. Later she sang more than 40 songs for him. But to limit the number of songs, let me present a couple of songs by Madhubala Jhaveri. This year I’ve planned a post on her career too.

Dil Deke Bahut Pachhataye – Dost (1954) Madhubala Jhaveri / Lyrics – Satyarthi
Madhubala Jhaveri could never make it to first rung playback singer, though she had an expressive and sweet voice. Hansraj Behl was the one, who constantly called for her voice. The song appears to be an item song, it has an excellent rhythm with ghungroo and dholak. The fast pace appears a difficult task for the singer.

Jayega Jab Yahan Se – Moti Mahal (1952) with Rafi / Lyrics – Asad Bhopali
The song is counted among the most popular songs by Madhubala Jhaveri. Though she has comparatively little to sing than Rafi, she manages to leave her mark. Moti Mahal was a suspense thriller, and I think the song became a theme song for the movie. The movie is still remembered for the song. Very meaningful lyrics, describing the ultimate truth of life.

A careful look at his career in the early 1950s leads to realization that he didn’t choose Lata Mangeshkar as his main female singer. Instead he experimented with various other female playback singers and still was able to deliver memorable songs. It was the reason why I tried to focus on other female playback singers. Similarly, he was inclined to Mukesh and Rafi in the early years of his career. But later suddenly he seems to have chosen Talat Mahmood, who was offered a number of songs in the years 1954-55.

After having busy years in the early period of the 1950s, he had no films released in the year 1953.
He made a comeback in the year 1954, with a few films. This time he offered the songs to Talat and Mukesh. And Madhubala Jhaveri, Shamshad Begum and Asha Bhosle helping the female playback front.
I’ll present a few songs from 1954-55. We can see that he has composed really good songs, great tunes and melodies. It’s more unfortunate that even if the majority of us are aware of these songs, we hardly ever try to think about their composer. It was the year 1954, that the first film by N C films, Lal Pari, was released. N C films was founded by Behl brothers, Hansraj and Gulshan, in the memory of their father, Nihal Chandra Behl. Unfortunately the majority of the films produced by the banner were B grade films and couldn’t boost Behl’s career. On the other hand it could have hampered his image as a composer. He only composes for his own productions, other producers might have thought.

Let’s listen to some of his memorable songs, from the period 1954 – 55. It’s worth noting that none of the songs are sung by Rafi or Lata Mangeshkar. Also majority of the songs are penned by Asad Bhopali. Behl and Bhopali worked together for a good number of films.

Sab Shikave Mite Dil Ke – Khaibar (1954) Mukesh & Madhubala Jhaveri / Lyrics – Asad Bhopali
It’s such a sweet melody, it should feature among Mukesh’s popular duets. Though it has no great lyrics, or an extraordinary tune, it’s sheer pleasure to listen to it. I think, still it’s the magic of the tune and expert orchestration that has bestowed immortality to the song. Madhubala Jhaveri really had a sweet voice.

Aaye Bhi Akela Jaye Bhi Akela – Dost (1954) Talat / Lyrics – Asad Bhopali
Another philosophical song by Asad Bhopali. Behl’s liking and inclination for Punjabi school of music is apparent. It sounds really sweet to the ears.

Keh Rahi Hai Dhadkane Pukar Kar – Lal Pari (1954) Talat & Geeta Dutt / Lyrics – Asad Bhopali
A soft romantic melody, good tune and impressive orchestration. It seems, with passage of time, Behl slowly mastered all the techniques necessary for a melodious song. He was always good in orchestration, but it was insightful in the mid part of his career.
Lal Pari was the first film produced by N C films. The Mahipal and Shakila starrer movie wasn’t much successful, but the song has made it immortal.

Dil e Nadan Zamane Mein – Mast Qalandar (1955) Talat & Asha Bhosle / Lyrics – Asad Bhopali
The song is like a conversation between a man who allegedly defames ‘love’ and a lady who stands against the allegations. So the depressed man sings in low octave whereas the lady sings in high octave in response. Both are in pain, he accuses her of betrayal, she denies it firmly. Backed with the Matka rhythm, the pathos laden melody slowly captures attention.

Yoonhi Karke Bahana Chali Aaya Karo & Patthar Dil Ho Gaya – Shah Behram (1955) Talat & Asha Bhosle / Lyrics – Asad Bhopali
It was difficult to choose between the two songs. A haux quarrel, depicted in the first song is as touching as the plaint put forth in the second. Look at the wise selection of instruments that creates a perfect aura in both the songs. The second song sounds more special, it has a catchy rhythm and fast pace despite a melancholic mood.
I like both the songs, so I tried finding a link that has both. Fortunately there was one.

Aawaz Hai Yeh Pyar Ki – Mano Na Mano alias Andhakar (1955) Mukesh / Lyrics – Kaif Irfani
I think the song is quite popular and it belongs to the haunting songs category. I was surprised to find the Matka rhythm used in such a type of song. I couldn’t really capture the exact mood in the song. It sounds as if he is cursing his love interest. It sounds spooky, the singer is out of sight of the listener, to whom the verses are addressed. The film was supposed to be India’s first psychological play drama, though I couldn’t find the details. It seems the name of the film was changed, after the songs were released.

That’s the first part. I hope to see you all soon with the second and final part of the series. I would love to listen to your favourite songs. Please add the songs in your comments , keep the timeline in mind.

Disclaimer –
Mehfil Mein Meri, claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. Images on this blog are posted to make the text interesting. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube, only for the listening convenience of music lovers. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

17 Replies to “(Part 1) Hansraj Behl – A Forgotten composer”

  1. It was a great choice (of his songs)! Today Radio Ceylon also dedicated ‘Purani Filmoka Sangeet’ to him.

    Like

  2. A very exhaustive piece, Anup ji. Well researched and nicely written.
    Waiting for the next part.

    Sushila Rani is Sushila Rani Patel ( nee Tambat) , wife of BabuRao Patel ( actually, Patil). She was an expert Vocalist and Instrumentalist. I would like to point out that she was the heroine of GWALAN. If I am not wrong, this and DRAUPADI, 1944, were her only films, in both of which she played the title roles. Both were produced and directed by BabuRao Patel. She later became his third wife and played a major role in successfully running FILMINDIA ( later MOTHER INDIA) magazine. She used to write columns for these. The popular column Bombay Calling, was, perhaps, the work of both of them.
    Hailing from Madras, she had her musical training from renowned musicians including Mogubai Kurdikar. For classical music training and discovery of new talents, the Patels established Shiv Sangeetanjali. Her disciples include Ronu Majumdar, Sadanand Nayampalli and Nityanand Haldipur.
    She had tutored a young Madhubala ( Baby Mumtaz phase) to read, write and speak English.

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    1. Thank you Dr Shetty for the appreciation. And welcome back.
      I knew Sushilarani was Baburao pat(i)el’s wife. But wasn’t aware of the other details. Thanks for the information.
      🙂

      Like

  3. The tribute thru the life story of a gr8 music director … I liked the pattern U used.

    All the info nd songs r excellent .

    Here is one from my side ,
    Apni izzat ( 1952 )
    Madhubala Zaveri , Talat
    ” दिल मेरा तेरा दिवाना
    बस इतना मेरा अफसाना ”

    Waiting for the next part with फर्माईश of चंगेझ खान ( जब रात नहीं कटती )
    राजधानी ( भूल जा , सपने सुहाने भूल जा)
    मिलन (हाए जिया रोए )
    😊

    Like

    1. Thanks for the appreciation and thanks for adding a sweet melodious song. It was there on my list, but the list already had twenty songs and I had to drop it. So especially glad to see it.
      About the songs you mentioned for the next part, let it be a secret!
      🙂

      Like

  4. Interesting. I’d heard of Hansraj Behl, of course, but of all the songs you’ve listed or mentioned, the only one I was familiar with was Jahaan daal-daal pe. 😦

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    1. “the only one I was familiar with was Jahaan daal-daal pe”

      Oh! That’s surprising!
      You must have forgotten some of the songs, I’m sure.
      He has such brilliant songs to his credit. Listen to the songs whenever you get time. I’m sure you will like them.
      And the second part will have more familiar film names and familiar songs.
      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Anup ji,

    Brilliant as usual! One gets the feeling that you deliberately leave gaps so that people like me can get to write a few lines. Very noble of you, if I may say so.

    Behl was hesitant about using Lata’s voice for he found it “leaden” meaning heavy. Lata first sang for him in a Punjabi Film, listen to this duet with Rafi from the Film “LACHHI” (1949).

    After this, she was “Saraswati” for him and was a regular in most of his films.

    I would like to add the following songs. It is obvious you cannot include ALL the songs.


    (सब कुछ लुटाया हमने आकर तेरी गली में ….., from the Film “CHUNARIYA”, 1948)
    [the strains of the Alto-Trombone in the interlude appear to cry along with the singer]


    (सुन तो लो मेरा अफसाना….., from the Film “RAAT KI RANI”, 1949)

    Finally, as for “KANEEZ”, he was called upon to complete the songs and the background music for the Film “BEQASOOR” after Anil Biswas left midway. These two dance numbers composed by Behl ji also contributed to the Film being a Musical Superhit :


    (हँसके न तीर न चलाना……, from the Film “BEQASOOR”, 1950)


    (अँखियाँ गुलाबी जैसे मध् की है प्यालिआं……, from the Film “BEQASOOR”, 1950)

    Eagerly waiting for the next part.

    With warmest regards

    PARTHA CHANDA

    Like

    1. Thank you Partha Chanda ji,
      Welcome back!
      I was actually expecting your comments on Lata’s association with lesser known composers posts.

      Thanks for sharing wonderful songs. I wasn’t aware of the song from Lachhi, though I came across all the other songs. But as you said, I had to limit the number of songs. The songs from Raat Ki Rani and Chunaria have so typical Punjabi touch.
      I particularly liked the Beqasoor songs. They sound so different from the other songs of the movie. When I heard these songs for the first time, I wasn’t aware of Behl’s contribution and was surprised to hear them. So peppy and catchy tunes.
      Who’s the male dancer with Madhubala?
      🙂

      Like

      1. The male dancer is KRISHNA KUMAR, elder brother of SURYA KUMAR. To the best that I know, the two brothers, aka TONY and ROBERT were discovered by well known dancer AZURIE from a Catholic orphanage and it was she who took them under her wings and trained them. Later they went on to become Choreographers in their own right. KRISHNA KUMAR was the male dancer in that famous song from “RATTAN” (1944) – “O jaanewale balamwa, laut ke aa, laut ke aa….”, in which he was paired with his mentor AZURIE.

        Unfortunately, KRISHNA KUMAR was found dead under mysterious circumstances during the shooting of Chetan Anand’s “KINARE KINARE”, and this was one of the main reasons why the Film got delayed.

        After KRISHNA KUMAR’s death, his younger brother SURYA KUMAR stepped into his shoes and he choreographed a number of films. Surya Kumar died in Bombay in September 1987.

        With warm regards

        PARTHA CHANDA

        Like

        1. Oh!
          I have heard of Krishna Kumar & Surya Kumar as a choreographers. And I have seen O Janewale Balamwa. But I couldn’t identify him. As a rule, when Madhubala is present in a song, I tend to ignore other characters. 😉
          But his dancing made me look at him curiously.
          Thanks for sharing the information Partha Ji.
          🙂

          Like

  6. I listened to a program on Hansraj Behl on Vividh Bharti once. This was so informative. Looking forward for the next part. May be I will find songs I know. In this one I didn’t knew any, except “Jahan daal-2 par” of course.

    Like

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