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May 8, 2006   

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Naushad: Composer of the century

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as a Cathedral and John Connon School (in Mumbai's Fort area) student, was on the Mughal-e-Azam sets as K Asif picturised this Mohe panghat pe Lata classic on Madhubala. "He couldn't take his eyes off Madhubala!" recalled Naushad.

To think that Anil Biswas was first scoring Mughal-e-Azam when it was titled by K Asif as Anarkali. To imagine that first Nargis (left, seen in Mother India, another Naushad classic), then Nutan, was to play Anarkali in the K Asif epic. Naushad came into the picture only with Madhubala. There is a destiny that shapes the final score of music composers. So that the one time Naushad felt defeated was when Shanker-Jaikishan's Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960) stole the Filmfare Best Music Award from under the nose of Mughal-e-Azam.

Naushad spoke up, addressing J C Jain as the influential general manager of the Times of India group. "Jainsaab," regretted Naushad, "It's okay, you have voted against my Mughal-e-Azam when this epic happens to be carrying my richest score in 20 years. I have only one point to make. After this, never let it be written, in any of your publications, why the standard of Hindi film music is going down."

Naushad's only Filmfare Award was, not strictly for the entire score of Baiju Bawra, but for the Lata-Rafi Tu Ganga kii mauj Bhairavi duet in that trend-setting movie. The Padma Bhushan came to him a full 25 years after Lata Mangeshkar was decorated with this honour, after her 1967 silver jubilee.

"In honouring her, they have honoured me!" Naushad rationalised. "After all, I had some role to play in moulding her voice to Urdu perfection, didn't I?" When the Dadasaheb Phalke Award came to be bestowed upon Naushad, at last, for Lifetime Achievement in 1982, Khayyam, on the same New Delhi stage for the score of Umrao Jaan, felt somewhat diminished.

Khayyam had given Asha's voice a totally new hue on Umrao Jaan's Rekha. Whereas, with Naushad, Lata remained first choice. Though, in his later years, Naushad felt he had not been altogether fair to Asha.

But then, Naushad felt he had been unfair to Shamshad Begum too. When a Lata Mangeshkar happens, it happens. The final rounding to Naushad's quality music was given by Lata, on the one hand, and Rafi on the other.

When Malka-e-Tarannum Noorjehan returned to India after 33 years, it was under the baton of Naushad that she sang, solo, on the Shamukhananda Hall stage, the Awaaz de kahaan hai Pahadi duet from Anmol Ghadi. As Naushad orchestrated Noorjehan anew, the Jawaan hai mohabbat - Mere bachpan ke saathee Malka-e-Tarannum Anmol Ghadi effect was to be felt all over again.

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