The Ustad of Hindi Film Music

Published on March 16, 2015 14:50:41 PM
When the veteran Pakistani singer, Noorjehan made a visit to Bombay(now Mumbai), her public performance was a rage, when she started with her memorable number "awaz de kahan ho”, the audience gave her a standing ovation. The conductor on stage was Naushad, the original composer of that famous song from the 1946 hit ‘anmol ghadi’; it was a moment of nostalgia and an event to cherish forever.

Naushad Ali has been a pioneer in many aspects in the annals of Hindi film music, as he was the first composer who started new techniques in song recording, like that of mixing the playback with the orchestra, at a time and also in enhancing the mood of a film according to its plot by using elements of western orchestration and clubbing it with Indian classical Musical instruments. He also pioneered what we call today the interlude music in between the antaras.

Trained classically in Lucknow Gharana, Naushad was one the few film music composers who used Indian Ragas in their pristine form without mixing with foreign notes alien to the structure of those particular ragas.His  compositions for films like Baiju Bawra, where he used the vocals of Pandit D.V.Paluskar, Mughal –e-Azam, where he roped in the giant Bade Ghulam Ali khan(for a two minute alaap of Raga Sohini, the Ustad was paid  Rs.25000,a staggering amount on any standard those days. He mesmerized the audience with his number’madhuban me radhika’, in Kohinoor, when he mixed the vocals of Mohammad Rafi with the tans of Ustad Hafiz Khan.

Naushad always cherished the idea of using classical Indian ragas ,which had inbuilt emotions in them for every human situation, to meaningful soul wrenching poetry, created often by his friend ShakeelBadayuni for classics like Mughal- e- Azam and Baiju bawra , Kohinoor to name a few. He produced the best bhajan in Hindi movies ‘Man tadpat Hari darshan ko aaj’ in raga Malkouns and he pioneered the genre of ghazals by using the velvety voice of Talat Mahmood and later his protege, Mohammad Rafi. He was also one of the old school composers who composed a tune after the lyrics were written, as he gave prime place to lyric and mood of a song. He, in his later years, lamented that the art of poetry died in Hindi film music and it as only sound that ruled the screen, not the soul of a film. He was also a critic of ‘fast music’ of the modern composers like A.R.Rahman produced.

As a worshipper of ‘pure music’, he naturally found few takers of his views in his twilight days, He was seen as  an extinct fossil ,who had no use in this world of mediocrity ,which revels in superfluous beauty but not in the beauty of inner self, which finds expression in pure music. It was not surprising that there were no "who’s who” of Bollywood to attend his funeral on May 5th, 2006, when a legend passed into oblivion, as a dejected man as far as music and its use was concerned. But to the discerning, he will always remain ‘the Ustad of Hindi Film Music’