Jamal Sen: protagonist of a tragic tale
His enchanting fusion music across various dialects lent life and permanence to many films those would have otherwise lost in the darkness of box office failure — his music was both lifeblood and soul of his films
I had been an ardent admirer of veteran director, producer, lyricist, screenplay and dialogue writer Kidar Sharma and had developed a good rapport with him. I remember meeting him at his house in Bombay (Mumbai) whenever I had been to the city. A treasure trove of anecdotes, Kidar Ji would make recollections during our conversation. He was owner of a sharp memory and had a great sense of humour. The credit of introducing actors like Raj Kapoor, Madhubala, Geeta Bali, Mala Sinha and Bharat Bhushan rests on his shoulders.
He is also known to have given break to composers like Snehal Bhatkar (his favourite composer) and Roshan. One day he narrated an anecdote about a new composer. In Kidar Ji's own words "I was about to leave my office for an urgent meeting when a man entered my office, dressed in Rajasthani attire, a turban on his head and had an impressive moustache. He politely said 'Sharma Ji main maafi chahta hun ki bagair prior appointment ke aa gaya'. As I was in hurry I asked what had brought him to me? He said 'I am a musician and can play several instruments and I'm also a trained Kathak Dancer. I have composed some tunes which I want you to listen'. I told him to sit down as I would cancel my meeting. When I listened to his compositions, I was amazed and impressed. I asked what did he want from me? He replied 'aap talented logon ko encourage karte hain mujhe bhi ek mauka dijye'. I was planning a big-budget film with Suraiya and Premnath in lead roles. I didn't think twice and signed him for the film. The composer was Jamal sen and film was 'Shokhian' (1951).Jamal Sen composed eight songs for the film which were penned by me except the song 'Payaam-e-ishq' which was written by my younger brother Himmat Rai Sharma. I must confess his music was extraordinary. Though the film didn't fare well but is remembered for its timeless music and unforgettable melodies."
Born in Sujangarh in Churu district of Rajasthan on January 29, 1904, Sen belonged to a traditionally musical family. One of his forefathers Kesar Sen was a disciple of the legendary singer Tan Sen in the court of Mughal emperor Akbar. Sen's father was also an established singer and sang in Royal courts. Jamal Sen was a versatile and talented artist. He used to sing for All India Radio, Calcutta where he first sang the "Vande Matram". Besides singing, Sen was an ace Tabla, Dholak and Pakhawaj player.
Jamal Sen came to Bombay as he wanted to try his luck in films and assisted Master Ghulam Haider and and Ustad Jhande Khan. Ghulam Haider is said to have pioneered the use of Dholak in his songs which became hallmark of his music in films from 'Khajanchi' to 'Majboor'. After moving to Pakistan, Jamal Sen worked as an instrumentalist in the industry. But being confident of his talent, he met Kidar Sharma in his office and got the film 'Shokhian', as mentioned above. It is surprising that despite being impressed by the composer, Kidar Sharma never took him in his future films and rather resorted to Snehal Bhatkar.
Let's talk about the music in 'Shokhian'. The film had some unforgettable melodies. "Sapna ban saajan aaye" (Lata) was set in raag Yaman. The opening music of this song started with Pakhawaj. "Neend raton ki chheen li" (Suriya) was in ghazal style with a dominant melody. "Aayi barkha bahaar" (Lata/Pramodini/Chorus) had the richness of Rajasthani folk. Another duet "Door desh se aaja re" (Suriya/Lata) was mix of classical and folk. Sen mingled both styles to create a melodious pattern. The song "Beeta hua ek sawan yaad tumhari" was recorded but not used in the film. It was later used by Kidar Sharma in his film 'Pahla Kadam' (1980) after 30 years.
After 'Shokhian', Jamal Sen signed his next film 'Daera' (1953), which was directed by the legendary producer-director Kamal Amrohi of Mahal fame. Meena Kumari and Nasir Khan (Younger brother of thespian Dilip Kumar) were in lead roles in Daera. It turned out to be another flop film with iconic music. The film had the all-time great unforgettable Bhajan "Devta tum ho mera sahara, maine thama hai daman tumhara" (Mubarak Bhegum, Rafi/chorus) set in the unusual Raag Bhoop. Other popular numbers were "Aa bhi jaa meri duniya mein koi nahi", "Chand sitaron khamosh nazaron" and "Aansu to nahin hain aankhon mein" (Talat Mehmood), "Deep ke sang jalun main aag mein" (Mubarak Begum) and the lone solo of Asha "Kaho dola utaare kahar".
The year 1953 proved out to be a bumper phase for Jamal Sen. He gave music for the film 'Dharm Patni' starring Nirupa Roy and Mahipal. The film was decorated with popular gems like "Raat kaise kati batana sake" (Mubarak Begum), "Jia lahar lahar lahraiye", "Nirmohi saajan aaja aaja", the ghazal "Pyaar ki nazron ne chheda hai jise wo saaj hun" (Madhubala Jhaveri), the intoxicating number "Lagi tumse lagan mere bhole sajan" (Asha Bhonsle) and "Mera dil kya apse mil gaya hai" (Sulochana Kadam).
Producer-director Master Bhagwan came up with Rangila in which he also played the lead role. This film got noticed for its four duets, "Matwale nain kahe hum par jadu dale", "Diya jale chamke tara nyara", "Dil mein basa le apna bana le", "Dhere dhere sang mere aao babu ji", "Dil aaj mera gane laga geet pyaar ke" (Asha/Rafi).
In 1954, came the film Kasturi, in which Jamal Sen shared credit with Pankaj Mullick. Sen recorded three songs for the film "Murli wale se lage nain", "Mujhe apna banaya door door se" (Asha Bhonsle) and "Main to haar gai man, ja re ja phagan" (Binota Mukharjee). The film was directed by Brajendra Gaur who also wrote the lyrics. Jamal Sen's next film was Patit Pawan (1955). His unique compositions in the film were marked in "Jis poonam ke chand ka panth rahi thi nihar" (Lata Mangeskar); "Jhalak teri chha gayi nazar mein sama gayi" (Geeta Dutt); two duets "Jeevan ka tu ujiyara hai rakhwara bansi wara hai" (Mubarak Beghum/Sudha Malhotra) and "Aag lagi mere ghar mein mere jiski lagi lagan" (Lata/Rafi); and two solos of Rafi "Hum to chale apne gaon sabko mera ram ram" and "Jago jago re gopal" (Rafi). Patit Pawan was based on religious theme and its music got noticed due to its flavour of religious numbers.
In between, Jamal Sen composed music in pure classical style for the film 'Ritu Vihar'. Unfortunately, the film could not be completed but those who listened to the recordings said Jamal Sen was at his best.
'Amar Saheed' (1960) was dubbed from a Tamil film produced by Padmini. The cast of the historical costume drama included Shivaji Ganeshan, Padmini, Gemini Ganeshan and Ragini. Its most popular number was "Jhume mori beliya preet re" (Lata/Manna Dey). "Mat ja mat ja re sajanwa" (Lata) and "Raat zulm ki kat jayegi bhagega andhera" (Rafi/Chorus) were also appreciated. His other dubbed film in Tamil was Bagdad (1961), a fantasy starring Vyjayanthimala and MG Ramchandran. The film flopped despite its starcast and its music sunk.
Another dubbed film from Telugu was Manchali (1962) which had NT Rama Rao and Anjali Devi in lead roles. The film became popular with its starcast and its most popular song was "Pahla pahla pyaar hua ye" (Rafi). Same year, he signed the film 'Aalha Udal' starring Nirupa Roy and Jairaj, which was close to his heart because of its Rajasthani background. The film flopped and his composition in Rajasthani folk style was lost in oblivion.
Jamal Sen gave music in Bhojpuri and Chhatisgarhi films also. 'Naag Panchmi' (1964) became popular after its release locally. Its song "Pati ke sangwa" (Suman Kalyanpur) was in folk tune and Shankar's astute "Aadi dev ho mahadev" was one of his best classical songs in Suman Kalyanpur's voice. 'Ghar Dwar' (1971) in Chhatisgarhi dialect was not released. Jamal Sen was lost in time and got totally neglected. He took to alcohol. In his last days, composer Ghulam Mohammad remained his only friend in the Industry. Jamal Sen died in Borivali on April 12, 1979.
Though he may have been forgotten but legacy of his music continues. His sons and grandsons are active in film as independent musicians.
Views expressed are personal