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Lost in anonymity:Iqbal Qureshi

Lesser known, Iqbal Qureshi, was a true maestro in every sense – though he composed music only for a handful of Hindi movies, his musical gems are relished even today

Many composers were either forgotten or lost in time. Despite being active in the industry for nearly three decades, the same happened with one such composer who is also known as the forgotten composer of unforgettable melodies – he was Iqbal Qureshi.

Born and brought up at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, he was inclined to music since childhood. During schooling, he learned classical musical music from several prominent ustads. Very soon, he started performing as a child artist for All India Radio, Aurangabad. The then station director was impressed with his voice and decided to recruit him as a singer. Later, Iqbal was transferred to the Hyderabad station where he also joined the Fine Arts Academy. Upon being transferred to Bombay, he took a keen interest in the activities of the Indian People Theatre's Association (IPTA).

His passion for singing continued. Once producer-director, Lekhraj Bhakri, happened to have listened to ghazals of poet Makhdoom Moinuddin Qureshi, sung by Iqbal. Highly impressed by the young singer, Bhakri asked him to join the film industry. By then, Iqbal Qureshi had already composed for a few unreleased films as well as B grade films. He got his major break with Bhakri's film Panchayat (1958) starring Shyama, Raj Kumar, Jabeen and Manoj Kumar. Iqbal Qureshi drew the limelight towards him with this film. He composed one of the best duets in Lata and Geeta's voices: Ta thaiya karke aana o jaadugar more saiyan. He blended the folk and classical tunes in an exquisite style. Energetics beats made the duet much more appealing.

Another highlight of the song is that it had superb use of Indian folk instruments in Been and Khadtaal. Other songs of the film were: Aaye aaye bahar aaj re karke solah sringar (Lata) and Haal ye kah kar diya zalim, tere tadpane ne (Geeta/Rafi). Iqbal Qureshi also used one of Kaifi Azami's composition, Main ye sochkar uske dar se utha tha (Rafi). The song was used later by Madan Mohan for Haqeeqat.

Panchyat did help Iqbal Qureshi to take his place in Bollywood. His next film was AVM's big banner, Bindiya (1960) – starring Balraj Shahini and Padmini. the music of this movie fared even better than Panchayat. For this movie, he was more inclined towards western instruments for his compositions. Rafi/Lata and Mukesh sang a few of their unforgettable iconic numbers for the film. The prominent songs were: Barkha bahaar aaiye bundo ke haar layee (Lata), Tardpaoge tadpa lo (Lata), Pyaar kiya nahi jata (Rafi) and a sad song, Main apne aap se ghabra gaya hoon, mujhe aye zindagi deewana kar de (Rafi). The lyrics were written by AVM's most favourite, Rajendra Krishna.

Bindiya helped Iqbal Qureshi establish himself in the industry. With Love in Simla (1960), Iqbal completed a hattrick of musical hits. The super hit film also marked the debut of Sadhna Joy Mukharjee and director RK Nayyar. Iqbal Qureshi also composed light tunes to help a swift narration of the story. Some of its hit numbers were: Ae baby idhar aao, aa gaya (Asha/Rafi), Dar pe aayein hain kasam le (Mukesh), Love ka matlab hai pyaar (Rafi/Asha). He also composed a light-hearted number based on the Urdu Alphabet 'Alif zabra', Gaal gulabi kiske hain. Hasinon ki sawari hai (Rafi) and Kiya hai dilruba pyaar kabhi (Asha/Rafi) were other notable numbers. In the climax song, Yun zindgi ke raste sanwaarte chale gaye (Rafi), Qureshi used the effects of rain and thunderstorm to match the composition and the visuals.

In 1961, his film Oomar Qaid was released. The film bombed at the box office but the unforgettable melodies of the film are cherished even today. Mukesh sang one of his all-time greats, Mujhe raat din ye khyyal hai, o nazar se mujhko gira na de; Asha and Mahendra Kapoor combined to sing Dil ka fasana koi na jana.

After Bindiya and Love in Simla, Iqbal Qureshi never got a big banner film. He settled with B grade films and worked with lesser-known stars. But he was undoubtedly committed to his quality of music and ensured rich compositions. Zamana Badal Gaya didn't have much impact as a movie but its number, Socho socho ji zamana kya kahta hai (Asha/Rafi), Mere shyam mere girdhar (a bhajan) and Angaro per chalna hoga (Asha) were noticed.

Next year he came back with his magic touch in Banarsi Thug (1962) starring Manoj Kumar, Vijaya Choudhary. Its numbers, Ek baat puchta hoon, gar tum bura na mano, Khuli khuli zulfon ko baandh bhi lo (Usha Mangeshkar/Mukesh), Yaad suhani teri bani zindgani meri (Lata) and Ab mohabbat mein jo pehli thi wo taasir nahi (Rafi) gained immense popularity.

In 1963, Shashi Kapoor's debut as a hero in Ye Dil Kis Ko Dun was another successful hit of Iqbal Qureshi. He composed ten songs boasting distinct characteristics. The chartbusters of the film were: Phir aane laga yaad wahi pyaar ka alam (Rafi/Usha Khanna), Kitni haseen ho tum and its title track Ye dil kis ko dun (Rafi). Iqbal Qureshi also composed a typical mujra song entitled Ham-e-dum daike sautan ghar jana (Asha/Mubarak Begum).

Cha Cha Cha (1963) was a dance-based film. The film was directed by veteran actor Chandrashekhar who was himself the hero opposite Helen. Qureshi did full justice with the lyrics written for this film. Rafi's Wo hum na the wo tum na the and Subah na aayee sham na aayee, jis din teri yaad satayee were the prominent hits. Iqbal Qureshi also used his favourite poet, Makhdoom Moinuddin's compositions, Ek chameli ke madwe tale (Rafi/Asha) which became a hit too.

The next year, he tried his hand on qawwalis in the film, Qawwali Ki Raat (1964), starring Kumkum, Kawaljeet and Mumtaz. The film had three qawwalis: Qawwali ki raat hai qawwali ki raat hai (Asha/S.Balbir/Manna Dey/Rafi/Chorus), Husn wale husn ka anjaam dekh (Asha/Rafi/Chorus) and Jate jate ek nazar bhar dekh lun (Shamshad/Rafi/Chorus). He also composed a naat: Meri bhi laaj rakh le sarkar-e-madina (Asha). Other popular numbers were: Dil gaya dil ka aitbar gaya (Suman/Rafi), Dekh kar meri taraf khamosh ho jana (Mubarak Beghum/Rafi), Wo chand sa chehra liye chhat per tera aana (Rafi) and Pyaar ki hasretain khaak mein mil gayee (Asha/Rafi). Qawwali Ki Raat was the last film that had the composer's signature. He didn't get any film for the next two years. He did some stunt films in Sarhadi Lootera (1966), Mohabbat Aur Aag (1967) and Do Thug (1970). In the meantime, he also did a Bhojpuri film, Kab Hoi He Gawanba Hamaar. He kept on getting B grade films and did the period films.

He also composed music for remake of India's first talkies, Alam Ara (1973), in which his compositions were noticed. Some of his compositions from the movie are: Parvar digaara parvar digaara (Suman Kalyanpur) and a naat, Hazrat-e-gesu daraz aap hain banda Nawaz. He also composed a qawwali, Suno fariyaad tum meri moinuddin Azmeri (Shankar Shambhu and party).

The music scene had changed in the 70s. Iqbal Qureshi kept on doing B and C grade films but couldn't create the same magic of his earlier films. According to connoisseurs, the golden era of film music was in the 50s and mid-60s. Opinions may differ. But certainly, Iqbal Qureshi belonged to that era.

In an interview on Mumbai Doordarshan about his music of yesteryears and about his future plans, he said, "I'm the busiest music composer. I had composed a number of melodies. I have never gone to any producer for work and won't go even today. If anybody approaches me, he won't be disappointed".

He was a modest and thorough gentleman which was rare in Mumbai. Whenever he boarded a taxi or auto, drivers would never ask his address – what popularity!

He expired on March 21, 1998.

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