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A well-versed artist - Feroz Nizami

The 1940s composer's singular contribution to melodies in South Asian film music cannot be forgotten. Feroz first took the Bombay film world by storm and then replicated the same in Lahore after 1947

There were very few composers who were extremely popular and most revered in undivided India. Master Ghulam Haider was one of them and Masterji left for Pakistan when his popularity was at the peak in the Bombay Film world. But there was another composer who had his unique style in music and was equally popular. He too left for Pakistan a little later and created a stir in film music there. He remained as popular even 20 years after Ghulam Haider. His name was Feroz Nizami.

Before we get into the discussion about his melodious compositions, it is pertinent that we talk about his multi-faceted personality that influenced his music.

Feroz Nizami was born in Lahore on November 10, 1910. He came from a family well-versed in music. It was natural that Feroz had to inherit music. He took formal training of classical singing from the doyen of Kirana Gharana, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, who was in Lahore those days. After his graduation, he researched music extensively and while on the one hand he was a scholar of music; on the other he studied Sufism and Metaphysics. His book Asrar-e-Mausiqi was prescribed in Punjab University one of his other works - Sarchashma-e-Hayat – was a best seller at that time. His articles featured regularly in Pakistan Times and he taught at Islamia College Lahore for a while as well.

Feroz joined Lahore Radio Station and used to sing there. He was later transferred to Delhi in All India Radio and worked with the likes of Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander and Khursheed Anwar (Another composer in music department with him), all of who introduced him to the Bombay Film World. Feroz also worked at All India Radio in Lucknow for a short stint.

Feroz joined Lahore Radio Station and used to sing there. He was later transferred to Delhi in All India Radio and worked with the likes of Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander and Khursheed Anwar (Another composer in music department with him), all of whom introduced him to the Bombay Film World.

However, Feroz eventually resigned from All India Radio and packed his bags for Bombay – to try his luck in movies. But by now Nizami had already earned a good name as a singer-composer and soon got to work in Vishwas (1943), a film produced by JBH Wadia of Wadia Movietone, armed with a star cast of singer/actor Surendra, Mehtab, Trilok Kapoor, Gulab and Sulochana Chatterjee. Feroz had then shared credit as 'Feroz Nizami B.A with Master Chhaila'. His compositions, sung by Surendra and Mehtab became extremely popular. Sawan ki ritu Bhaye Sajanwa, Duniya nayi basai Sajani, Hai Suhani ajeeb aaj ki raat, Musafi hasi khushi ho paar, Bhool ja jo dekhta hai (Surendra). In 1944, he composed for Mazhar Arts Movie - Badi Baat (1944) starring Swarn Lata, Ulhas Yaqub and Mazhar Khan (Actor and Director). Once again, Feroz came up with unforgettable melodies including ones like Iqrar ke parde mein mujhko na saja dete (Ameer Bai Karnataki - considered as one of her best songs), Kyun dekh rahi ho mujhe Shokh Nazar se (Ameer Bai/GM Daurani). In the same film, Nizami recorded popular numbers in the voice of Rajkumari Mera balam bada harjai re and Jaun kaise mein beech bazar. Nizami enhanced the song with small sitar pieces and another popular duet was Baghiya kare singhar (Ameer Bai/Khan Mastana).

In the same year, Umang (1944) was released, starring Moti Lal and Chandra Prabha. Its Popular numbers were Gaate gaate jeevan beeta, Madhur Suro mein suno kahani ek the raja ek thi rani, Dil mein Hazaar Dard ho ankhon mein muskrayenge, Khil Utha Sara Chaman kyun. Nizami also did a film Us Paar, starring Swarn Lata, Chandra Mohan and directed by CM Luhar. Its popular songs were Zara Bolo ri ho (Kusum/Mukesh) which had brilliant interludes of violin and flute.

Nizami did another film for Wadia Movietone Piya Milan (1945). Moti Lal, Nirmala and Najma were in the lead, it was directed by S M Yusuf. The music of Piya Milan needs special mention. He scored 11 numbers in the voices of Nirmala Devi, Rajkumari and Zohra Bai.

He composed soulful numbers in the sonorous voice of Nirmala Devi Kisne diya hai humko sahara, Ro raha hai aaj koi muskarane k liye, Suna do mohabat k nagme suna do and Ga ga re manva ga. Zohra Bai sang Aaye din piya milan k aaye and Jaag utho nariyo desh ki dulariyon. Rajkumari sang the heart rendering number Lo doob gaya khurshid.

Nizami was a unique composer in that his music was a mix of classical, light classical and folk. JBH Wadia had immense faith in him and had entrusted the music for his next film Amar Raaz (1946) to him. According to vintage music lovers, his music in this film was as good as in Jugnu (1947). Mohammed Rafi sang Todo Todo Todo dil ke taar and another number of Rafi was Praan tyag kar tune diwani. Hameeda Bano and Krishna Ganguly sang a beautifully composed duet Dhundle sajni sajan apna. Nizami had composed these numbers in a classical style.

Feroz did another film with S M Yusuf Nek Parvin, starring Ragini, Ulhas, Yakub and Yashodara. Nizami composed beautiful Naats Teri Jaat Pak hai ae Khuda (Hameeda Bano/Chorus), Duniya mein bhi nazar kar o aasman wale and Sun tu meri iltaja (Zeenat Begum).

And he also sang a duet with Nasim Akhtar: Haye zalim tune pi hi ni. Rangeen Kahani (1947) was another hit of Nizami, with Surekha and S Irshad in the lead.

He composed one Bhajan and two duets with Ameer Bai Aa gyi, aa gyi, aa gyi mere man ki rani aa gyi and Man haule haule gaye. Two numbers which became extremely popular were Bujh gaye aashayon k deepak and Mera rutha pritam man gya.

His super hit film Jogan (1947) was Nizami's last film in India, directed by Noor Jahan's husband Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. Jugnu was the only film in which Dilip Kumar appeared with Noor Jahan and this time around, Feroz Nizami broke all his earlier records.

The entire nation was stormed by his music. Noor Jahan sang her iconic numbers Aaj ki raat saaze- dil-e- purdard na chhed, Tum bhi bhula do mein bhi bhula doon, Umange dil ke machli muskarayi zindagi apni and Haemin to sham-e ghum mein katni hai zindgi apni.

Mohammed Rafi sang his only evergreen duet with Noor Jahan Yahan Badla wafa ka bewafai ke siva kya hai. Rafi tasted fame for the first time in his life after this song became popular. Most songs in the film were sung by Noor Jahan and went on to become runaway hits. Rafi also sang a solo Wo apni yaad dilano ko along with appearing in a cameo role in the film.

In fact, Rafi's father was known to be averse to letting his son sing for films and after a training session, it was his uncle who introduced the soon-to-be vocal sensation to Nizami, who then gave him his first break. The story goes that when Nizami brought Rafi on board for Jugnu, Noor Jahan was not entirely comfortable with the new talent. But with persuasion from Nizami, Rafi was allowed to display his talents, following which nobody had any doubts about wanting to work with him.

After Jugnu's grand success, Feroz left for Lahore where the combination of him and Noor Jahan won the hearts of millions in Punjabi film Chann Ve, which has hit numbers Chan de toteya and Tere mukhde da kala kala til ve oh Mundeya Sialkotiya. It is said that Faiz Ahmed Faiz was released from prison and that this song was Noor Jahan's tribute to him. Nizami's another super hit film with Noor Jahan was Dupatta, with popular numbers like Chandni raatein and Sanwariya tohe koi pukare. He had a long list of hit films in Pakistan and to name few were Kismat, Raaz, Intkhab, Manzil, Ghulam, Soolah Aanne, Mangol, Anaye and Zanzeer.

Many continue to say that Nizami and Noor Jahan's combination was uniquely pleasing to the ear. The basic compliment was that Feroz's music accompanied with Noor Jahan's vocals blended together in such a fashion that made that entire song one big melody that flowed like waves in a river. In a way, Noor Jahan's return from her four-year break had also brought Nizami's career to life. Noor Jahan was reunited with Nizami in Chann Ve since then both of them had belted out a string of extremely popular super-hit songs that have survived for decades now.

Over his entire career, spanning two countries and several film industries, celebrated personalities from the film world, both in Pakistan and India have repeatedly appreciated and gladly honoured his contributions to their respective industries . In fact, Nizami's widow had publicly stated that there was a reason her husband had gained prominence. She said that his unique style was the reason he stood out in an industry as teeming with talent as the one in Bombay at the time. She also said that by the time they had to leave for Pakistan, playback singers like Lata Mangeshkar would already call him 'Ustad'.

Feroz Nizami passed away on November 15, 1975, five days after celebrating his 65th birthday and yet he remains as popular as he was during his lifetime.

His death anniversary is celebrated every year in Lahore and Noor Jahan was known to always sing his masterpieces Chandni Raatein and Sawariyan tohe koi pukare.

His singular contribution to melodies in South Asian film music cannot be ever forgotten.

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