Remembering Husnlal-Bhagatram’s contribution in shaping Hindi film music.

“Chup chup kharey ho zaroor koi baat hai, pehli mulaqaat hai ji pehli mulaqaat hai” sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Premlata for film “Bari Behen” in the year 1949 was certainly one of the most popular melodies of its time.

I still remember, during my childhood days, open air evening theatre and Ramlila were the most popular media of entertainment for practically all sections and classes of society. Before the start of the show musicians kept the waiting audience occupied with some popular melodies from films or otherwise. And, invariably every day there used to be one song, “Chup chup kharey ho.”

Many years have passed. Lata Mangeshkar sang thousands of songs and made a number of records. The name of co-singer Premlata can merely be found in a few gramophone records, which cannot be played.But, the fact remains the melody has withstood the test of time. A large number of early music composers shaped the destiny of Lata Mangeshkar, but among the foremost was the duo – Husnlal-Bhagatram. The musical duo had created the everlasting melody “Chup chup kharey ho.” They had commenced their music journey with film “Chand” in the year 1944 starring Begum Para and Prem Adib.

Its song “Do dilon ko ye duniya, milne nahin deti” (sung by little knownManju) became an instant success. Soon to follow was “Pyar Ki Jeet” (1948) starring Suraiya and Rehman. It too became a musical super-hit. Some of its songs in the voice of singing-star Suraiya, “Tere nainon ne chori kiya, mera chhota sa jiya, o pardesia”, “O door jaane waley” and “Koi duniya mein hamaari tarah” are still considered hot favourites. The beauty of the virgin tonal quality of voice explored by the composers in these melodies is indeed superb. Then there was an all-time popular song of Mohammad Rafi in this film, “Ik dil key tukre hazaar hue koi yahan gira”. Also, there were some fascinating duets sung by Surinder Kaur, the melody queen of Punjab, Meena Kapoor and Ram Kamlani.

The film “Bari Behen” released in the year 1949 was a class apart in the history of Indian film music. Not only “Chup chup kharey ho”, the other seven numbers also made an impact. The heart throbbing Lata numbers are just great. In “Chaley janaa nahin” and “Jo dil mein khushi ban kar aaye”, Lata was perhaps at her best as the melody came straight from the singer’s heart. It virtually makes the listener cry, as an outcome of eternal pleasure. The quality of a diamond-cutter in master violinist Husnlal, in particular, can be visualised through these two everlasting melodies. The Punjabi style dholak played by the musician Shankar (of the Shankar Jaikishan duo) was again a notable feature.

Afterthe grand success of the music of “Bari Behen”, Shankar Jaikishan formed the team for Raj Kapoor’s all-time great film “Barsaat”, replacing Ram Ganguly, who composed for Kapoor’s “Aag”. Thus, a new music chapter in Indian cinema’s history was launched, but the fact remains that Husnlal and Bhagatram were the first to introduce the trend of music composer duos in the Hindi film industry.

They were the younger bothers of Pandit Amarnath, who himself was a musician of eminence but died young. He is still remembered for the music of film “Mirza Saheban” (1947) starring Noorjehan and Trilok Kapoor. Pandit Amar Nath is also credited with training child prodigy Master Madan.

Zest for violin

Both bothers had their initial music training under their elder brother and thereafter under Pandit Dilip Chand Vedi, a highly respected personality in the field of classical music.

Husnlal’s zest for the violin took him to Ustad Bashir Khan. His command over the violin can be seen in different compositions. His first passion was playing it in the classical tradition. More than a composer, he was known as a devoted and committed violinist. In giving shape to Lata’s tonal chord for a song, Husnlal used to play the tune on the instrument. Years after his demise, I was made to understand by Nirmalaji, his beloved wife that before retiring at night he would invariably play the violin, whatever be the time. His favourite raga was Malkauns.

The duo had joined elder brother Amarnath in the creation of some of the admirable melodies for Noorjehan for the film “Mirza Saheban”. “Kya ye tera pyar tha”, “Aa jaa tujhe afsana judai ka sunayein”, “Haath seeney pe jo rakh do, to karaar aa jayey”, “Tum aankhon se door huye neend aakhon se door” (with G.M. Durrani). The list of memorable songs of Noorjehan whether sung in undivided India or later in Pakistan is certainly incomplete without these numbers of “Mirza Saheban”.

If a collection of immortal film duets were to be prepared, it would be incomplete without the incredible “Sun merey sajnaa, dekhoji mujhey bhool na janaa” based on raga Pahari and sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi for “Aansoo” (1952). Due to the length of the song, it was recorded on both sides of the 78 rpm record. The duo also composed for B.R. Chopra’s maiden film “Afsana” (1950). In this film Lata’s song “Abhi to main jawan hoon” is considered by some, abetter version of the same song sung by Mallika Pukhraj.

An account of Husnlal-Bhagatram will be incomplete without “Suno suno ai duniyan walo, Bapu ki ye amar kahani”. The singer-in-making, 24-year-old Mohammad Rafi, became a celebrity overnight with this recording. The lyrics were by Rajinder Krishan and composed by the duo within a record 24 hours soon after the sad demise of Mahatma Gandhi. More than a million copies of a set of two 78 rpm discs of this recording were sold within a month.

What better popularity in the annals of music history — film or otherwise — one can expect? However, destiny unfolded another event. The complexities of relationships and subsequent rejection by the industry compelled Husnlal to leave Bombay and reside in a dilapidated building in the congested commercial area of New Delhi’s Paharganj for the remaining short span of life. He taught music to his disciples at times offering them meals and tea instead of charging any fee.

One of his renowned disciples was Neelam Sahni.On a chilly morning of 28th December, 1968 when he went out for his routine morning walk he had a cardiac arrest on the way. He fell down near Gole Market. Some passer-by took him to the then Willingdon Hospital (presently RML) where he was declared as “an unknown body found brought dead.”

The fate of his elder brother Bhagatram was no better. For his survival, he worked as an accompanist with different composers. He too died unsung in 1973.