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A vintage affair with Shyam Sundar

Shyam Sundar will not only be remembered for his perfect planning of instruments, wonderful orchestration for composing songs but also for his choice of singers

The film Industry ushered a new era after the release of Ardeshar Irani's first talkies Alam Ara on March 14, 1931. Songs were introduced in films with six to eight being compulsory in every film.

Music composers were in existence even in the silent era. While talkies lyricist and playback singers were also introduced. This trio gave unforgettable melodies. The process is still on till date.

Some composers attained the iconic status. R.C.Boral, Pankaj Mullick, Anil Biswas, Khemchand Prakash and Master Ghulam Haider to mention few. Some like Naushad, S.D.Burman, C,Ramchandra, Shankar Jaikishan and O.P.Nayyar became extremely popular. Some but unfortunately were extremely talented remained unsung. They were no less than the composers mentioned above. They were Shyam Sunder, S.N.Tripathi, Hansraj Behal, Chitragupt and Bulo C Irani who are still the hot favourites of vintage film music lovers. It is high time to rediscover their contributions.


Shyam Sunder was an accomplish violinest and was a lead violin player Orchestra of Ustad Jhande Khan (he composed the music for Kidar Sharma's classic Chitralekha 1940). Master Ghulam Haider was impressed by Shyam Sunder and appointed him as his assistant. Master ji was the busiest composer in those days. Once he was approached by a film company of Calcutta asked him to give music for their Punjabi film. Master ji due to his commitments he suggested to them to take Shyam Sunder, as he was fully confident of his assistant's capabilities. The film was Heer Syali (based on love tale of Heer Ranjha) the film became hit and Shyam Sunder was established as an independent composer.

During his stay in Calcutta, Shyam Sunder came in touch with legendary actor singer K.L.Saigal and accompanied him to Lahore in 1938. In one of the shows there was a power failure and Saigal had to stop the show. To pacify the audience organisers brought a young boy in his teens to sing without microphone. The young singer mesmerised the audience with his songs till the electricity was restored. This young singer was none other than Mohammed Rafi who became the voice of the nation in coming years.

Shyam Sunder was so much impressed and gave Rafi a chance in his Punjabi film Gul Bloch. Rafi's first song "Soniyeni heerneyini teri yaad bahoot sataye" became a super hit. In later years, Rafi sang his best unforgettable songs for Shyam Syunder. After composing several music in Punjabi film's Shyam Sunder got a break in Hindi film Prabhat Film Company's Nai Kahani (1943) starring Rose and Jairaj. Its number "Nind hamari khwaab tumhare"(G.M.Durrani) became a chart buster, another number "Aayi Aayi udan khotele pe" (Raj Kumari) also became extremely popular. He shared the credit with his mentor Ghulam Haider in film Bhai (1944).

In 1945, Bhai Jaan was released starring Noor Jahan and Karan Diwam. It was the first time Shyam Syunder was recording Noor Jahan. He composed four sweet melodies "Aaja bedardi aaja, Ae Bad –e- saba kuch tune suna, Chupke se dil mein aa base" and "Apne na ho sake jo" became the hightlight of the film. Due to contractual implications, gramaphone records were released in Zeenat Begum's voice (The original songs in Noor Jahan's voice can be seen on Youtube). These Noor Jahan numbers became the smashing hits and boosted the career of Shyam Sunder.

Seeing the success of Bhai Jaan producer Ramnik Dawe signed Shyam Sunder for his next venture Village Girl (Gaon Ki Gori). Shyam Sunder composed twelve songs for this film. All the songs of Noor Jahan took the entire nation by storm. All time great of Noorjahan was "Baithi hoon teri yaad ka laker sahara". Shyam Sunder used brilliant pieces of violin with the murqis of Mallika- e- Tarranum. Noor Jahan did full justice to the composers creation "Kis tarah bhulaga dil, Ye kaun hansa" and "Sajan perdesi balam perdesi".

He showed his knowledge of classical music in film Dev Kanya starring Lila Chitnis and Ulhas. Shyam Sunder used voices of Shamshad Begum, Ameerbai Karnatki, Sarswati Rane and Khan Mastana. Shamshad's "Ek nazar ne mere man ko churaya" and "Kismat me likha ho jo" but the hightlight of the film was "Piya Milan ko jane wale sambhal sambhal ke chal" where the composer used Ragas including Yaman Kalyan, Shiv Ranjani, Bahar and Asavari in Pooravi Ang.

Same year with the success of Bhai Jaan and Village Girl, Shyam Sunder started drinking which affected his music. He signed Urvarshi in 1946 and Arsi 1947. He left both the film half way and they were completed by Ramchandra Pal and Paigankar and Lacchiram respectively.

In 1947, Ek Roj starring Nasreen and Al Nasir was released. It had splendid music score by Shyam Sunder. His compositions "Loota hua dil leke chale" and "Ek bewaffa ne sheesha–e-dil choor kar diya" (G.M.Durrani), "Nacho nacho mere dil" (Dilsha Bugam), "Masti ka sama" sung by top actress Munnawar Sultana and "Bhool ke kabhi yaad kar ae bhoolne wale" (Naseem Akhtar).

Next year Shyam Sunder was signed for Actress(1948) starring Rehana and Prem Adeeb was a great success at box office. Mohammed Rafi sang his evergreen hits "Hum apne dil ka fasana unhe suna na sake" and "Ae dil meri ahhon mein itan to asar aye" and a peppy number "Hello hello gentleman milate kyun nahi hamse nain" (Samshad/Lata/Chorus) became super hit.

Shyam Sunder became the most sought composer after Actress. In 1949 , he got a chance to work with Lyricist Shakeel Badayuni in M.Sadiq's Chaar Din. Suriya sang her greatest number "Ek bewafa ki yaad ne tadpake maar dala, Anjame mohabbat kuch bhi nahi, "Ghum de diya…koi jane wale se kah de" and "Kismat ki baat hai".

After the super hit Rattan producer Jamini Diwan signed Shyam Sunder in place of Naushad for Lahore starring Nargis and Karan Diwan (Brother of Jamini Diwan and hero of Rattan). Shyam Sunder was at his best in Orchestration of haunted melodious duet "Duniya hamare pyaar ki uhin jawan rahe".

Bazaar starring Nigar Sultana and Dabonair Shyam, was directed by K.Amarnath. It had sixteen songs and most of these created history. "Saajan ki galiyan chood chale" set in Raag Pahari is one of Lata's iconic numbers. Other melodious number of Lata were "Basa lo apni nazron mein pyaar thoda sa" and "Ae dil unko yaad na karna". Another racy number was "Chhalla de jaa nisani" (Rafi/Shamshad/Satish Batra). The film also had a qawwali number "Zara sun lo hum apne pyaar ka afsana kahtein hai" (Lata/RajKumari/Chorus). Bazaar was a musical hit.

After grand success of Lahore and Bazaar Shyam Sunder's drinking habit increased. He started misbehaving with the director's and musicians. Due to this, musicians stopped cooperating with him and even Lata had to walk out. Some how Shyam Sunder managed to get her to sing for film Alif Laila.

Due to excessive drinking, his health started deteriorating and affected his creativity. Yet he gave some of his unforgettable numbers in Kamal Ke Phool. Talat sang for the first time for Shyam Sunder "Jalti hai duniya" and iconic number of Suriya "Saza mili hai kisi se dil lagane ki" in Bhai Bahen. Talat sang "Ban than ke chali" and Shamshad's "Thandhi hawa ke jhoke" became popular. In Nirdosh, Lata sang a unique Punjabi tune, "Ye meri chalti phirti laash". All these films were released in 1950.

In absence of Lata, Shyam Sunder used voices of Sulochana Kadam, Shamshad and Pushpa Hans (Actor/singer) in Kale Badal (1951). It's number "Ulfat jise kahte hain jine ka sahara hai" (Sulochana Kadam) "Pahle unke samne jate hi khanjar rakh diya" (Shamshad Begum) and "Tu mane ya na mane" (Pushpa Hans).

Dholak had a pure Punjabi style of music. "Chori chori aag se dil mein laga kar chal diye" and "Chalak raha hai nigahon se pyaar itna sa" (Suchona Kadam) and "Mausam hain rangeen baji hai kahi surili been" (Sulochana Kadam/Satish Batra/Chorus).

Alif Laila was a fantasy film starring Nimmi, Asha Mathur and Vijay Kumar and lyrics were by Sahir Ludhanvi. Alif Laila proved to be Shyam Sunder's swan song. It had iconic duets "Khamosh kyun ho taron" and "Kya raat suhani hai" (Lata/Rafi). "After Shyam Sunder was hospitalised, Madan Mohan recorded rest of the songs.

Shyam Sunder scummed to jaundice and died in 1953 at the age of 47.

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