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Pyar kiya to darna kya: To Naushad goes the credit for popularising classical music without diluting it

Seven decades after he delivered his first hit film Rattan, Naushad can still sway the listener

Sathya Saran Calcutta Published 21.12.22, 12:07 PM
A still from Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya song.

A still from Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya song. IMDb

Hidden, almost unknown, unsung, in his vast repertoire of songs, is a collection titled Aathwan Sur. Quintessential Naushad tunes, with a twist of whimsy.

It proved a flop. The CDs sat forlorn and unnoticed in music stores across the country, even in his own birthplace, Lucknow, and were returned to Saregama after the stores realised they were not moving any significant numbers at all.


Aathwan Sur had come too late. The world and its tastes had changed. Music had changed with the change in themes and melody suffered as rhythm ruled, drowning out words, tunes and meaning.

Yet, this was the composer who had, even in his early days, given another genius trying to find his foothold in film music, sleepless nights. SD Burman, who had composed for his first set of films, worried that while no one sang his songs, the songs of Naushad followed him like a dog around the house, in the voice of his servant who hummed them incessantly. The servant did not know it perhaps, but the tunes he hummed would be his claim to a nodding acquaintance with the formidable tradition of Hindustani classical music.

That was Naushad’s forte. He could reconstruct and demystify classical Indian ragas, arranging their notes in simpler ways, and letting the intrinsic melody they held rise to the surface to enchant the listener and woo him into singing along. The words, romantic or rousingly patriotic, teasing or rebellious, did the rest.

So he could tune a Mohe panghat pe for Mughal-e-Azam rebuilding on an old bandish, or create music worthy of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan singing Prem jogan ban ke and Shubh din aayo as Tansen, as deftly as he would in the same film present the defiant Pyar kiya to darna kya, the gauntlet that lovers would throw at elders for decades after the song was composed. The country sang his songs, Bhairavi, Darbari, Piloo, Malkaus, even Todi, the tunes flowing easily, adding joy or pathos as the words dictated. Of course, Naushad was not the only one to bring classical music into film tunes, every single music director, even the irrepressible RD Burman, leaned on the rich heritage, but classical was Naushad’s leitmotif. To him goes the credit for popularising classical music without diluting it, or muddying its purity. Much as Jagjit Singh did with the ghazal.

But to come back to Aathwan Sur, which besides the music also brings Naushad the poet to the fore. Though he had published his book of poems with the same title, Naushad must have hoped setting some to music would give the poems wider exposure, and him a second wind. Listening to some of the lyrics, one wonders if Naushad was referring not to the imaginary lover of the singer, but to his own thwarted love affair with his audience.

‘Kabhi meri yaad unko aati to hogi,’ he writes and one can imagine him in his house in the tree-lined lane in Bandra, Mumbai, now named after him, watching the world go by without taking him along. ‘Guzroge sheher se toh mera ghar bhi ayega,’ he writes in another number, adding, ‘Sheesha agar banoge, toh patthar bhi aayega’. Again it is his loneliness that echoes in the words ‘Tanha khud se baat karoon’, a song which also has the poignant opening lines, ‘na shamme hain, na mehfil hain, na koi sunne wala hai’ adding later, ‘kitni kathin hai raah teri, phir bhi main tere saath chaloon.’

Life had come full circle. From the days he had spent on the footpath in Dadar, composing his songs in an airless room in a chawl where he was allowed on sufferance, because the inhabitants also included a Pyarelal teaching students the mandolin, and a violinist who would later be a vital part of Shankar Jaikishen’s orchestra, he had seen the heights of glory with films like Mother India, Ganga Jamuna, and later Mere Mehboob, Leader and Ram Aur Shyam. Though he had changed with the times, adding the colours to match the colours of films like Ram Aur Shyam and Aadmi, not letting go of his signature style yet tweaking it just enough to make the tunes fit the scene, his music fought a losing battle against the dhishum-dhishum that had audiences roaring approval in their seats.

But even as the country returns to theatres to watch larger-than-life, gravity-defying heroes fill the silver screen, there are times in our lives when the stirring rhythms of Apni azadi ko hum hargiz mita sakte nahin could remind one of the need for timely revolt against oppression, or the soul-stirring Man tarpat Hari darshan ko aaj evoke spiritual yearnings. And of course even today’s young lovers could well choose Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam over Ooo Sahiba.

Classical music endures, because despite the virtuosity of supersonic speed taans and the mathematics of keeping the rhythm, the melody of the raag captures the heart. And Naushad, seven decades after he delivered his first hit film Rattan, can still sway the listener, if we would care to tune in.

So, here are my favourite Naushad songs.

Do sitaron ka milan (Film: Kohinoor; lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni)

A blend of romance and melody. For those who believe anticipating joy is part of the joy itself, this is the song!

Bachpan ke din bhula na dena (Film: Deedar; lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni)

Racy, innocent, the contrast between Shamshad and Lata Mangeshkar working perfectly, to include tenderness and the romance of dreams.

Mere mehboob tujhe (Film: Mere Mehboob; lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni)

The Mohammed Rafi version has a pathos and yearning that holds the heart captive. The tune rises and falls with the lyrics, moving from hope to despair to hope.

Aye husn zara jaag tujhe ishq (Film: Mere Mehboob; lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni)

Another anticipation song, ripe with promise. Raif’s voice cocoons the tune, makes the words sparkle. An enchanting love song.

Khuda nigehbaan ho tumhara (Film: Mughal-e-Azam; lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni)

A song of selfless love in the face of despair. The softness Lata Mangeshkar brings to her voice even as the notes rise adds poignancy. A tune that creates visuals, even as the lyrics sketch the scenes out of Anarkali’s destruction.

Jab dil hi toot gaya (Film: Shahjahan; lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri)

KL Saigal singing, Shahjahan’s emotions, Naushad sets the mood, the orchestra loads the heart with emotion. Says it all.

Man tarpat Hari darshan ko aaj (Film: Baiju Bawra; lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni)

A searing song of spiritual yearning. Music has no religion, here’s proof of that.

Suhani raat dhal chuki (Film: Dulari; lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni)

Rafi at his romantic best.


Sathya Saran is a veteran writer and editor who has acclaimed biographies to her credit

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