The overlooked composer: Sardar Malik
Apart from 600 compositions to his credit, Sardar Malik was a trained choreographer in Kathakali, Manipuri and Bharatnatyam – including ballet and yoga at Uday Shankar’s institute
In the 60s, there was a composer was known as the Saranga man. Today he is remembered as composer Anu Malik's father. This Saranga man belonged to the golden era of film music. He may not have given music in hundreds of films like his contemporaries, but whatever he composed had a distinct style of his own.
Born in Kapurthala on January 13, 1930, Sardar Malik was interested in singing and dancing since a child. He applied to Uday Shankar's India Cultural Centre in Almora. He learned music from Ustad Allauddin Khan who was working at the centre in Almora. Very soon, he became the favourite student of Uday Shankar. He topped in Kathakkalli style. He also learned Bharatnatyam and Manipuri dance.
During his days at Almora, he shared the room with Guru Dutt, who too was learning dance there. Uday Shankar predicted that Guru Dutt would join films and attain heights in his own field at a young age and Sardar Malik would be known at his later days. How prophetic was Uday Shankar about his two disciples!
Sardar Malik acquainted with another dancer, Mohan Sahgal. They decided to work as choreographers in films. After passing from Uday Shankar's academy, Guru Dutt joined Prabhat Film Company at Puna (now Pune) as a choreographer and later turned director and acted in his own classics.
Sardar Malik and Mohan Sahgal also got a film as choreographers and were paid a handsome prize of Rs 3,000. But things didn't turn out well for them and unwittingly they became the victims of a controversy. Both decided not to be choreographers in the future. Mohan Sahgal took to film direction and Sardar Malik took to singing and music direction.
Sardar Malik got his first break in 1947 as a composer in Jayant Desai's production Renuka. He composed two songs, sang two solos and one duet with Zohra. He also gave break to Raj Khoshla who had come to Bombay from Ludhiana to become a singer.
Sardar Malik was a meritorious composer. His next film was Raaz (1949) in which Mohan Sahgal also acted. Malik composed several soulful compositions. He was good at appreciating poetry. Malik also came in contact with famous Hindi poet Sumitranandan Pant who used to visit Uday Shankar's Cultural Centre once a week and teach poetry appreciation. Malik was lucky to compose the poems of the progressive poet, Meera ji. Nahi bhaye beech ki baat sajanwa (Amirbai Karnataki), Samay ka chakkar sau bal khaye (Rafi), Kahe kuch kare kuch aur (Shamshad Begum) were the few songs of Meera ji he recorded in Raaz. Malik also sang a solo, So ja so ja Amrika se pariyan aaiye and three duets with Veenapani Mukharjee: Aaj anand anand kamal khile, woh kahte hai ab koi hamko sataye nahi and Aaja kya sendesha laya. The music of Raaz was received well.
Sardar Malik was noticed in Laila Majnu (1953) starring Nutan and Shammi Kapoor. The chart-topper of the film was Chal diya carvan (Talat Mehmood) which was jointly composed by Sardar Malik and Ghulam Mohammad. But his individual compositions were – Baharo ki duniya pukare tu aa ja (Talat Mehmood/Asha) and Dekh li ishq teri meharbani dekh li (Talat). Malik used the Arabic style of music in this song.
Thokar (1953) was the film that brought Sardar Malik on the national scene. His number Ae ghame dil kya karun in separate voices of Talat and Asha gained immense popularity. Asha sang all the songs in Thokar. In Hawa gun gunaye fiza muskuraye the main attraction was the usage of tabla in the background by Malik.
In 1954, Sardar Malik composed for Chor Bazar. Malik was known for the soft usage of the orchestra. Its soft numbers were Chalta rahe ye carvan (Lata), Huyee ye hamse nadani (Lata), Dar dar ki thokrein (Lata) and Tere dar pe aaya hun faryad laker (Talat Mahmood).
The same year he gave music in his friend Mohan Sahgal's film Aulad. Two numbers of this film which became extremely popular were Duniya tasveer hai rote hue insanon ki and the Bhairvi number, Tum salamat raho man tinak tinak naache (Asha). Another popular song was Teri duniya mein har neki ka badla (Talat).
Malik's composition in Chamak Chandni (1957), Ek pardesi mere man me samaya haule haule and Pritam jo main janti (Sudha Malhotra) and in Taxi 555 (1958), Bhor bhai aur panchhi jage (Rafi/S Balbir) and Koi chand koi tara (Rafi/Asha) became very popular.
Maa Ke Aanshoo (1959) too boasted a popular list of songs: Ja ja re sanam main to nachu cham cham and In aankhon ne unko nahi dekha kai din se (Geeta Dutt), Khudi ko buland kar itna (Rafi), Kisi se aankh ladi badi muskil padi (Asha/Suman Kalyanpur) and Kya parwah agar loot liya chal chal musafir (Rafi/Mubarak Begum/chorus).
Between 1955 to 1959, Sardar Malik did one film a year. But he came back with a bang in 1960. He gave the biggest musical hit of that year, Saranga, starring Sudesh Kumar and Jayshree Gadkar. Malik recorded 23 songs for the film but fifteen were used. The chartbusters of this film were: Saranga teri yaad mein, nain hue bechain,
Haan deewana hun main ghum ka mara hua (Mukesh), Lagi tumse lagan saathi chhute naa (Lata/Mukesh), Piya kaise milun tumse mere paun padi zanjeer (Lata/Rafi), Likh de piya ka naam sakhi re (Suman Kalyanpur) and Saath jiyange saath marange (Rafi/chorus).
The same year he did a big banner film with Sohrab Modi: Mera Ghar Mere Bachche. Its popular songs were: Baharon se puchho nazaron se puchho (Mukesh/Suman Kalyanpur), Chanda ke desh mein rehti ek rani (Mukesh) and Peena haram hai to nighaen milakar pee (Asha).
In the 60s he did B grad films but few songs of these films became popular – Ud ud jaye anchal (Superman), Hum apne ghum ko saja kar bahar kar lenge (Madan Manjari) and Sun chand meri dastan (Naag Jyoti).
Bachahpan (1963) too had Sardar Malik's gems. Rafi sang his favourite number, Mujhe tumse mohabbat hai magar main kah nahi sakta. Another popular number was Mere naina mad ke payale (Suman Kalyanpur).
Few other films that comprises of Sardar Malik's work are: Maharani Padmini (1959) – Naina re dekh unke nain, Chain kahan aaram kahan (Suman Kalyanpur) and More ruthe balam ghar aa (Usha Mangeshkar/chorus); Roop Sundari (1964) – Main tumhari raagini tum geet ho (Lata), Aaj ki raat to hoton ko chhup rehne do (Suman Kapyanpur); and Jantar Mantar (1964) – Yun na hame dekhiye hum baar baar kahte (Rafi/Suman Kalyanpur) . Paanch Ratan (1965) was his last film.
Sardar Malik became recluse as he had no work. He threw all his records in the sea out of frustration. Despite having friends like Sahir and Hashrat Jaipuri, and also having worked with Rafi, Lata and Geeta, he never went to anyone for help.
In 1977, actor Preamnath approached him for his film GianiJi. Sardar Malik did the music halfheartedly. The film nor its music has had much impact. And since then, nobody saw Sardar Malik in any film event or public gathering. He was seen last in
Delhi when his son Anu Malik received the National Award for his film Refugee. He passed away in Bombay on January 27, 2006 – leaving behind a heritage of his own.