The Emeritus Composer: SN Tripathi
Many creative artistes have achieved greatness and immortality in the Indian film industry but only a few have displayed the range of versatility that SN Tripathi did with such consummate ease
Shri Nart Tripathi popularly known as SN Tripathi was so much popular in the 50s and 60s that he was called composer Emeritus by music lovers. Very few composers have attained this status which Tripathi enjoyed in his heydays.
SN Tripathi had few parallels in the film industry. He spent half a century in the industry like maestro Naushad. Like Pankaj Mullick, he was three in one composer, singer and actor. Last but not the least, like maveric Kishore Kumar, he was writer and director too. Yet, sadly, he was forgotten soon after his death.
SN Tripathi was born on December 14, 1912, in Banaras. Banaras had rich tradition of music. Shri Nath was interested in music since his childhood. Young Shri Nath used to help veteran actor and composer, Badri Prasad, in composing music for his plays.
Badri Prasad moved to Calcutta and later to Bombay to try his luck in acting an as composer. Young Tripathi after doing his matriculation from Banaras went to Allahabad and did his BSc. Later he moved to Lucknow and joined Marris College of music. Sarswati Devi (Khorshed Homji) was his teacher. She was impressed by young Tripathi's dedication towards music. When she joined Bombay Talkies, she requested Tripathi to join him as her assistant. SN Tripathi was an excellent violinist. He used to play violin in her Orchestra. Tripathi was happy to join her at the salary of rupees one hundred per month in 1935.
Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani were the most popular pair of Bombay Talkies. Himanshu Roy and his wife Devika Rani started Bombay Talkies in 1934, after they returned from Europe. Himanshu Roy produced four internationally acclaimed films with German collaborations. The first film he produced was The Light of Asia based on a Edwin Arnold's classic poem. It was on the life of Buddha. The screen play was written by his friend Niranjan Pal (son of great freedom fighter Bipin Chandra Pal of Bengal). Himanshu Roy played the lead role of Buddha. It was followed by Shiraz and A Throw of Dice. These films were directed by German Director Franz Osten. Himanshu Roy also produced Karma starring Himanshu Roy and his wife Devika Rani.
Roy brought some German technicians along with Franz Osten and cameraman Joseph Wershing. Bombay Talkie's first production was Jawani Ki Aag. Vetren Actor Ashok Kumar told me in an interview for Doordarshan that Saraswati Devi used to compose music for Bombay Talkies Films. The famous song "Main ban ki chidiya banker ban ban bolu re" (Picturised on Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar), was composed by Saraswati Devi after rehearsing for a month with her assistant SN Tripathi.
SN Tripathi assisted Sarswati Devi in ten films (1935-1938). He made his debut as singer actor in Ashor Kumar Devika Rani starrer, Jeewan Naiya (1936). When WWII broke out in 1939, Franz Osten was detained by the British Government and was sent to Deolali. The reins of direction came in the hands of NR Acharya, Amiya Chakarverti and Gyan Mukharjee. It was NR Acharya who recommended SN Tripathi to Dhiru Bhai Desai to take him as independent composer in his film Chandan (1939). The first song Tripathi recorded as a composer was "Nanha sa dil deti hun pardesi preet nibhana" a duet sung by himself and Raj Kumari.
SN Tripathi's next film was Churiyan (1942). The film was based on nautanki style of Banaras. Tripathi composed catchy tunes i.e "Churi hun main ek kahani hun main, Churi laya nahi manihaar" (Ameerbai Karnataki) and "Churiyan lo koi churiyan lo" (GM Durrani).
It is worth mentioning that it was SN Tripathi who recorded legendary tragedy queen Meena Kumari in film Bachpan (1945). Tripathi composed few melodious tunes number in Jeen Haan and Ramayani (1945) and Mansarover (1946).
Sarvottam Badami had known Tripathi since Bombay Talkies days. He signed him for his mythological film Uttra Abhimanyun. Starring Shanta Apte and Sahu Modak, SN Tripathi created some splendid songs in Rabindra sangeet's style, "Laaj bhare in naino mein sakhi" , "Mere man jag utha anurag, Door desh ka sandesh preet ka, and Mere man mandir me mere devta aao" (Shanta Apte).
SN Tripathi had strong bond with Wadia brothers (JBH and Homi). He gave music for them in a dozen films. Homi Wadia directed Shri Ram Bhakt Hanuman. In the film SN Tripathi played the title role of Hanuman (Tripathi played the same role of Hanuman in several films later). Mukesh sang for the first time in this film. "Hey khag mrig hey madhukar shreni" and "Beet chali barkha ritu sote sudh na mili timhari". After Ram Bhakt Hanuman Tripathi started getting more mythological films such as Ganesh Mahima (Shri Krishna also titled Shri Krishna Viwah) Naag Durga, Naag Panchmi, Ram Hanuman Yudha, Vishnu Puran, Naag Mere Saathi and Khuda Ka Banda.
By the 50s, mythological films were replaced by historical and period films. SN Tripathi was in great demand. He gave soulful music in several films. One such film was Homi Wadia's Hatimtai (1956). There is an interesting story related to Tripathi's music in this film. Starring Jairaj and Shakeela. Nizam of Hyderabad went to see Hatimtai in a theatre along with his family members when a song "Parwar digaar alam" (Rafi) appeared on the screen. The Nizam was overwhelmed. He requested to the manager to play this song once again. The film was stopped and same very song was played twelve times. Another evergreen duet was "Jhoomti hai nazar, Jhumta hai pyaar" (Rafi/Asha).
His film Janam Janam Ke Phere (1957) needs special mention. The film had Nirupa Roy and Manhar Desai in the lead. Like Hatimtai it was a smashing musical hit of that year. The everlasting song of the film was "Zara samne to aao chaliye" (Rafi/Lata) was number one in Binaca Geet Mala. Other hits were "Tan ke tambure mein" (Manna Dey) "Tu hai ya nahi bhagwan" (Rafi/Lata/Manna Dey) and "Ayi mohan Milan ki bela" (Shamshad/Rafi) in Garba style and title track "Janam janam ke phere saanjh savere" (Rafi).
SN Tripathi had complete knowledge of Indian classical music. During his university days, Tripathi simultaneously did Sangeet Praveen and Sangeet Visharad from Prayag Sangeet Samiti. Which he deftly utilised in compositions "Binti karat mori payal run jhun" (Lata) in Ram Hanuman Yudh. "Baat chalet mori chunri rang daari, hai aisa bedard Banwari" (Rafi/classical singer Krishna Rao Chonkar) in Rani Roopmati. "Megha aayo re ghir ghir ke chhao re" (Manna Dey/Rafi) "Main to janam janam ki pyaasi" (Lata) in Kavi Kalidas and "Mohammad shah rangeele sajna" (Lata/Rafi) in Nadir Shah.
SN Tripathi in his long career of 50 years (1938-1985) gave music in 111 films. One of his careers best musicals was Rani Roopmati (1959). It had number of super hit compositions. Mukesh sang his all time great "Aa laut ke aaja mere meet, tujhe mere geet bulate hain" and the dulcet duet "Jhanan jhanan jhanan baje payaliya" (Rafi/Lata).
Kavi Kalidas (1959) had Bharat Bhushan and Anita Guha in the lead. SN Tripathi gave a befitting musical tribute to greatest Sanskrit poet, Kalidas. Its unforgettable composition were "O ashad ke pahle badal" and "Door dekh alka puri" (Manna Dey). Lata also sang her sonorous classical number "Shayam aye ghanshyam na aaye". Tripathi did full justice to Kalidas' poetry.
Another musical triumph of SN Tripathi was Jairaj, Nirupa Roy starrer Lal Qila (1960) with the back drop of the First War of
Independence in 1857. Rafi sang his two immortal ghazals – "Na kisi ki aankh ka noor hun na kisi ke dil ka qarar hun" and "Lagta nahi hi dil mera ujde dayar mein". SN Tripathi didn't use any Orchestra in these ghazals.
After the success of these movies SN Tripathi gave another musical hit Sangeet Samrat Tansen in (1963). It was based on the life of legendary singer Tansen in the court of Akbar. It had Raag based compositions "Jhoomti chali hawa" (Mukesh) in Raag Sohni. Rafi and Manna Dey sang Shiv Stuti number "Hey Natraj Gangadhar Shambo" in Raag Jogia. Unfortunately the film got a luke warm response at the box office.
Like his erstwhile assistant Chitragupt, he too gave music in Bhojpuri film Bidesiya (1963). In all, he gave music in ten Bhojpuri films. In the 60s and 70s, the music scenario had gone a sea change. New composers had captured the music scene. SN Tripathi kept on giving music even towards the late 70s and early 80s. He recorded his last song in Mahasati Tulsi (1985).
SN Tripathi died on March 28, 1988 at the age of 66 – leaving behind huge treasure of immortal music.