RMIM Archive Article "357".
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
# RMIM Archives..
# Subject: Mughal-e-Music Naushad
# Posted by: ADhareshwar@WorldBank.Org (Ashok)
# Source: Filmfare Jul 97
# Author: Sabir Masani
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
As told to Sabir Masani
Eighty eight years (*) ago, on December 25, I was born in Lucknow.
Music was ingrained in me from childhood. As a kid, I would visit the
annual fair at the Deva Sharif in Barabanki... all the great qawwals
and musicians of those days would perform before the devotees.
There, I met a flute player from Bareilly. His tunes still reverberate
in my memory. From morning till night, I would sit by his feet,
listening to his wondrous melodies.
My interest in music evolved under the guidance of Ustad Baban Khan
and Ustad Yusuf Khan. But my father was extremely orthodox. He felt
that our Muslim community wouldn't appreciate the fact that his son
had taken up music to earn a livelihood. I remember it was the day of
Divali when my abba berated me and said that either I choose music or
the house. Without hesitating for a minute, I said, "Aapko aap ka ghar
mubarak, hume apna sangeet." I turned my back on my father and left
I used to watch silent films at the Royal theatre in Lucknow. Theatre
owners would hire a team of musicians to play the tabla, harmonium,
sitar and violin. The musicians would watch the film first, make
notes, finalise the scales required. When the show began in the
evening, they would sit in front of the screen and play music for the
scenes. This was a great way to be entertained and learn music at the
same time. It made me grasp the nuances required in composing a film's
background music score.
THE BOMBAY EXPERIENCE
I reached Bombay in 1937. Initially, I stayed with an acquaintance
from Lucknow at Colaba. After a while, I shifted to Dadar opposite the
Broadway theatre. I would sleep on the footpath.
This suited me fine. Otherwise I would have had to walk in the hot sun
to Dadar in search of work at the studios. My perseverance paid. I
started assisting music director Ustad Jhande Khan who was at the peak
of his success those days. I was paid a monthly salary of Rs 40. The
producer was a Russian... he had set up a studio at Chembur, which was
an extremely desolate place in those days. It wasn't accessible by bus
or train. As it happened, all our hard work was in vain. The film
didn't see the light of the day.
Again I was unemployed. Every day seemed longer than a year. Finally,
I landed in Ranjit Studio, where I assisted Khemchand for the film
Kanchan. But it was painful working at Ranjit. The musicians were
haughty and indisciplined... they wouldn't take instructions from an
So I left Ranjit, in disgust, swearing to myself that I would never
return. After that I assisted various music directors on the films
made by eminent directors like A.R. Kardar and P.N. Madhok. In 1941,
I became a full-fledged music director with Prem Nagar. The story was
set in Kutch. I did a lot of research into the folk music of the area.
Recordings were done in quiet parks and gardens after midnight.
Because the studios did not have sound-proof recording rooms. In the
gardens, there would be no echo and disturbances, unlike the studios
where the sound reverberated because of the tin roofs.
Incidentally, the echo effect used by me in Ratan was achieved through
a very crude but effective technique. I'd kept a microphone in a
toilet which had ceramic tiles all over. Then I played the music... so
the sound reverberated against those tiles, producing an echo effect.
I used this special technique in films like Uran Khatola and Amar. We
would record the voice of a particular artiste on a scale of 90...
then we would record his voice on 70... then 50... and so on. After
the complete recording, we would play it for the scene and the impact
it created was terrific.
In the early '40s, only a single mike was used for the singers as well
as musicians. The microphone called `Fedler Tone' had to be heated on
the fire before it could start. A violinist would first come to the
mike, play his piece, move out, then the singer would sing his lines,
then the tabla player would play his piece...
All this was very tedious, but it gave us immense pleasure because we
were always trying to be technically innovative.
In 1953, Baiju Bawra was released at the Broadway theatre in Dadar.
It was a big hit.
And to think the proprietors of Prakash Pictures were thinking of
closing shop. They had come to my house... they asked me to come with
them to touch the keys of the studio with my hands since I was also a
member of their company. They said that the studio has to be locked up
since it had suffered a financial loss. I felt very sad. I asked them
if they could make just one more effort to survive.
They had nothing to lose. They agreed, and I gave them the subject of
Baiju Bawra. They wanted to sign Dilip Kumar and Nargis. But I was
adamant. I said the film's highlights would be its story, music and
lyrics. It shouldn't be overshadowed by stars. Fresh faces would be
more appropriate. So Bharat Bhushan was finalised to play the part of
Baiju Bawra. For the heroine, I contacted Ali Baksh (father of Meena
Kumari) who was thrilled. It was Meena Kumari's first big break.
On the day of the premiere at Broadway, the producers asked me how I
felt now that the public had loved the picture. Tears rolled down my
cheeks. I looked on the other side of the footpath where I used to
sleep. I said, "Us footpath se yahan aane tak 16 saal lag gaye."
I created a symphony for Aan on stage with a hundred musicians. I had
a special tent... made of blankets... on the surface, I laid out coir
carpets, so that the sound wouldn't echo.
The final recording was done in London. We worked day in and day out
for three months. We were under enormous pressure when we received
news that the Liberty cinema in Bombay would open with this
film. People slept for days outside the theatre to book tickets in
My symphony was widely appreciated in Britain, it was played on
BBC. Orson Welles who was busy with his Othello also happened to see
the rushes of Aan and loved the music.
I had used a hundred chorus singers for the first time for the song
Mohabbat zindabad, this music composition was one of my best. But
sadly, my music for Mughal-e-Azam wasn't considered worthy of an award
by the Filmfare editor. He told me that it was too refined and
classical. So he gave his casting vote for Taxi Driver (**), because
it had music which, he said, was more filmi.
RELATIONSHIP WITH DILIP KUMAR
I recommended Dilip Kumar for films like Andaz and Mela. I composed
the music for several of his films. Later, some producers preferred to
take on other musicians. I specifically told Dilip Kumar, "Never
recommend my name! Let the music director be signed at the producer's
I feel lost. Film-makers don't work hard on their lyrics or music...
for them music is business. They want quickie stuff with sex appeal.
I sometimes wonder whether they know what sex is. For them, it's just
a piece of flesh. Moreover, today's musicians do not know the s of
sargam and yet they're on top of the charts.
The deterioration started in the early '80s. The Western music has
been aped to such an extent that there is decadence all around us.
Lyrics like, Main to raste se jaa raha tha, bhel puri kha raha tha are
hits, but that doesn't mean they are more valuable than Ghalib's
Perhaps all this is a passing phase. Maybe melody will return some
IMPORTANCE OF RADIO
Radio was a strong force during my time and influenced the masses
considerably. But I always felt that programmes like Binaca Geetmala
had their prejudices and biases. Now the same thing is going on in the
countdown programmes on television. It is very wrong to judge the
merit of a song by its position on the charts.
VICTIMISATION OF MUSLIMS
Because of Partition, several film-makers and artistes migrated to
Pakistan. Some of those who had established themselves remained
here... and weren't victimised as such.
But newcomers were victimised and deprived. Meetings held by some
prominent artists, film-makers and journalists who were anti-Muslims.
This was unfortunate. In a profession which thrives on creativity, the
only religion is art.
SINGERS OF THAT ERA
I worked with K.L. Saigal on his last film Shah Jahan. It was very
painful to see such a remarkable talent fall prey to alcohol. He would
drink peg after peg on the sets, almost as many pegs as the retakes he
gave. If he gave ten takes, he would end up drinking ten pegs... even
though he was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver.
Once the industrialist, Panipat Singhania, visited the studio where
Saigal was recording and offered him a sum of Rs 25,000 to sing at a
get-together. Saigal agreed because the money was tempting.
Soon after, a coolie came up to him and said that he and his family
were great fans of his. If he could grace their daughter's wedding...
it was on the same day as Mr Singhania's party... they would be
delighted. After a moment's thought, Saigal gave them the nod and went
to their house in Bachubhai Ki Wadi. He didn't go to Singhania's
get-together. You don't make singers like him anymore.
(**) There is an error here. In the Filmfare fraud, Mughal-E-Azam
lost out to 'Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai'. It couldn't have been 'Taxi
Driver', which was 5-6 years earlier. The movies cheated out by 'Taxi
Driver' were perhaps 'Shabab' and 'Nastik' Of course, 'DAAPP' barely
rates a mention among the soundtracks of 1960, but my honors for the
year go, not to 'MeA', but to 'Barsaat Ki Raat.'
(*) If Naushad turns 88 this year, his birth year must be 1909. It
makes him Anil Biswas's senior by 5 years and nearly a decade older
than C. Ramchandra. Does that sound right? The BFI Encyclopaedia
gives the year as 1919, making Naushad 5 years younger than AB and the
same cohort as (actually, a year younger than) CR. Sounds more
plausible to me.