The books on Naushad and S.D. Burman focus on their lives, struggles and salute their genius.
A lot has been written about Indian cinema in the past hundred years. Capturing its success through the stars, stories, dialogue or songs in syrupy and spicy books.But very little has been said about the music directors, who score the music and give soul to the songs that turn out to be hits.
Credit should go to Raju Bharatan, who presents the composer as king in his recent literary offering ‘Naushadnama.’ A music historian, he brings out the hitherto unknown facts in the life of legend Naushad.
Coincidentally, at the same time came the English version, ‘SD Burman: The World of his Music,’ authored by Khagesh Dev Burman. The work was translated from Bengali by S.K. Ray Chaudhuri. The musician’s memoir, ‘Sargamer Nikhad,’ is the platform on which Khagesh bases the biography. He delves deep into Sachin Dev Burman’s (SDB) childhood, early struggle and all that which shaped his talent. In 1930, SDB failed an audition test for His Master’s Voice and according to the book, “SDB was informed that his nasal voice was not fit for recording and the market would not accept it”.
Ironically, he went on to win the National award for his song in ‘Aradhana’ (‘Safal hogi teri aradhana’).
Naushad and SDB were good friends and quality composers. And were victims of ruthless film politics. “Their friendship stemmed from the fact that each admired the other for his commitment to music per se. Like Naushad, SDB was in eternal quest of the ultimate tune. Their joy lay in the quest and here, there was a meeting of minds. Naushad found SDB to be different. Like Naushad, SDB created music ‘away from it all.’ Naushad and SDB were never into the cheap tricks of the film trade,” says Raju Bharatan, who gives an overview of Naushad in his anecdotal book with an omniscient point of view.
Naushad never forgot his days of struggle — wandering footloose from studio to studio for work and never assured of a steady income. This very likely shaped his approach in the matter of wanting his sons to find their feet outside films.
Born and brought up in Lucknow, Naushad used Urdu poetry to great effect to render unalloyed classical music in Hindi films with the right sur (tune) and perfect raga. He got the best out of lyricist Shakeel Badayuni and playback singer Mohammed Rafi with whom he had a long association.
Having been born in a conservative Muslim family, his passion for music forced him to run away to Mumbai as an 18-year-old. Self-made and self taught, Naushad scored the music for ‘Prem Nagar’ independently in 1940. But he got his first credit as a music director only in ‘Nai Duniya’ (1942), which witnessed a silver jubilee. His first diamond jubilee was ‘Rattan’ (1944) — a pathbreaking movie. Between 1940 and 2005, he also gave 12 golden jubilee films.
Naushad’s main competitor those days was C. Ramchandra, who matched every silver jubilee of Naushad with his own.
Naushad started off as a pianist, though he also played the sitar. The piano was his forte, as seen in his Mukesh-rendered tunes for Dilip Kumar in Mehboob’s ‘Andaz.’
That Naushad did pioneering work in sound mixing and became the first to separately record voice and music tracks in playback singing is well known. Needless to say, huge credit goes to him for introducing background music to capture the mood.
He was a colossus, until rock and roll and disco music crept into Hindi cinema. He received the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1982 and 10 years later got the Padma Bhushan. “This style of listing is arbitrary at best — untenable in my view”, says Raju Bharatan when asked to pick Naushad’s top ten numbers. “Each song named by me is a mood number. Each is rendered by a singer whose name just cannot be kept out of the Naushad oeuvres. I therefore pick, in the case of Naushad, 10 film classics rendered by 10 captivating voices. The idea is to demonstrate that the Best Ten represents a concept that really knows no musical validity.”
S.D. Burman produced many everlasting tunes. Beginning with ‘Shikari’ in 1946, the art of making his tunes popular was something he picked up from Naushad. While the younger Naushad was far ahead of his time, ‘Aradhana’ (1969) gave SDB the big break. A scion of the North East Royal family, S. D. Burman was known as a ‘cranky genius’. SDB was well educated, armed with a MA degree and a formal training in music.
From a radio singer, he went on to become a music director through hard work and a passion for folk and traditional music. SDB reluctantly brought his son, Rahul Dev Burman, into films only after seeing his marks deteriorate. Though RDB was a by-product of his father’s music, it was said that SDB was upset on hearing the recording of ‘Dum Maro Dum’ for ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna,’ for which RDB scored the music. SDB was perhaps the only one to have used the vocals of both Rafi and Kishore Kumar equally. He maintained an endearing relationship with the latter. It is learnt that when Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar refused to sing together due to a dispute over sharing royalty, it was SDB who brought them together.
If SDB walked out during the recording of ‘Dum Maro Dum,’ what would have been Naushad’s reaction to songs such as ‘Lungi Dance’ (‘Chennai Express’)?
“Do you expect someone of Naushad’s generation to set ‘lungi-dance’ to tune? Minus poetry what is music,” says Bharatan. “But change is the name of the film game. Though it looks unlikely our music could return to its roots in the foreseeable future. It happened with Naushad’s ‘Baiju Bawra’ in 1952 when hybrid music in films was at its height, it could happen again, unlikely as it sounds”, concludes Bharatan.
Naushad wanted to share his wealth of experience and started a music school. He needed to live a few more years to shape it into a real institution. Alas, it was not to be as he breathed his last on May 5, 2006.