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GHULAM MOHAMMED: The Percussionist Composer

With some of the greatest compositions of all time, Ghulam Mohammed carved an irreplaceable niche for himself in the world of commercial cinema that few will ever replicate

A composer of substance, senior to Naushad by 15 years in age and experience, he got his first assignment as an independent music director in Baanke Sipahiya (1937). In fact, he introduced Naushad to Ustad Jhande Khan, who accommodated the struggling Naushad from Lucknow as an organ player. And yet, ironically, he was known as Naushad's Man Friday. He was Ghulam Mohammed – the composer who immortalised the iconic film Pakeezah. Born in Naal village in Bikaner, in 1905, Ghulam's father Nabi Baksh, a noted tabla player, gave him the initial training in music to become an accomplished player of dholak, tabla and pakhawaj. He worked for the Jodhpur-Bikaner Theatrical Company and also for the New Alford Theatre Company of Lahore. He received advanced training from Ustad Rasool Khan of Hyderabad to hone his percussion skills in matka, duff, khanjira and chimta.

Ghulam moved to Bombay in 1924 and got his maiden break playing tabla in Saroj Movietone's film Raja Bhartrihari. Soon, he gained reputation as a percussionist, and in his later years, got an opportunity to work with Anil Biswas. When Naushad joined Ustad Jhande Khan, Ghulam bonded with him and their friendship lasted a lifetime. Later, when Naushad became an independent music director, he took Ghulam as an assistant. They worked together in films right from Sanjog (1943) to Aan (1952) and contributed to the evolution of rhythm in songs.

Ghulam tasted his first success with the release of Mera Khwab (1943). In 1947, Ghulam composed music for P N Arora's Doli and Shamshad Begum's number, Angna mein bole kaaga re, became very popular. Arora and Ghulam were to work together in 10 films in the years to come. But the film which launched Ghulam's musical journey as a commendable composer was Kajal – where he composed a very popular Suraiya number – Din pe din beete jaaye.

His music in films Grahasthi and Pagdi took the entire nation by storm. In Grahasthi, the Shamshad-Mukesh duet – Tere naaz uthane ko – had the signature dholak theka of Ghulam. Another extremely popular number was Shamshad's Wah re duniya wah re zamane. And Pagdi had a fast foot-tapping score as its number, Ek teer chalane wale ne (Mukesh-Sitara), which became extremely popular.

1949 witnessed two musical hits – Andaz (Naushad) and Barsat (Shankar Jaikishan). In the same year, Ghulam came with Paras. Its numbers – Is dard ki maari duniya, Barbaad ye duniya and Dil ka sahara chhute na in Lata's voice; Mohammed Rafi's two solos, Dil ki lagi ne humko and Dil le ke chupne wale – became extremely popular. Ghulam used his trademark matka rhythm in these songs and Paras also became a musical hit of the year along with Andaz and Barsat.

Ghulam gave yet another musical hit, Pardes, directed by P N Arora starring Madhubala, Rehman and Karan Diwan. The signature songs of Ghulam were the Rafi-Lata duet, Ankhiya mila ke zara baat karo ji; lilting number of Shamshad, Mere ghughar wale baal o raja, and Ek rut aaye; Lata's solo, O ji dhire dhire chale ranj de kar and Raat hai taaron bhari were equally popular.

Ghulam's music was also noticed in Sheesha, wherein Lata sang memorable melodies – Khushi dil se hansi hothon se and Jawani ke raaste mein aaj mera dil hai. In Gauhar (1953), Ghulam composed two ghazals for Sudha Malhotra – Awaz de raha hai koi asman se and Chale gaye tum sooni bahar kar ke. She rendered these ghazals with utmost feeling. Asha Bhosle sang for the first time with this composer in a duet with Rafi – Dheere dheere mera dil le ke chale. Jayant Desai's Hazaar Raatein had some sonorous numbers too – Thandi hawa mein jiya dole, Matwali nazar and Aaye hain raat khili chandani in Shamshad's voice, and duets, Mere dil ke musafirkhane mein and Tum meri kahani kya jaano were noticed by music lovers.

Ghulam composed music for five films in 1953 – including two Shammi Kapoor starrers. Rail Ka Dabba had a popular duet, Le de mohe balma, Aasmani chudiyan, and a solo in Asha's voice, Bhagwan teri duniya mein insaan nahin hai. He composed two immortal numbers for Laila Majnu – Aasman wale teri duniya se dil bhar gaya by Talat-Lata and a solo in Talat's voice, Chal diya carvaan lut gaye hum yahan. The other popular numbers were Ae sanam ye zindagi (Shamshad) and Yaad teri zindagi ke saath (Asha).

Singer Talat was offered a lead role in Dil-e-Nadaan (1953) by A R Kardar. Lata and Rafi were Ghulam's favourite, but both were absent in this film. He opted for Sudha Malhotra and Jagjit Kaur for actors Shyama and Peace Kanwal. The music of the film created history as Talat sang his best solos – Ye raat suhani raat nahin, Jo khushi se chot khaaye and Zindagi denewale sun. Talat came together with Sudha and Jagjit for a captivating number – Mohabbat ki dhun beqraron se poochho, and the film also had a lilting solo – Aye dil na sata mujhko by Shamshad.

In a way, it was Mirza Ghalib's music, which paved the path for Ghulam to compose for Kamal Amrohi's dream project – Pakeezah. After seeing Mirza Ghalib, Kamal Amrohi decided on Ghulam though earlier he had C Ramchandra in mind, who was on cloud nine after the success of Anarkali.

In-between, Ghulam composed music in Sitara, which had lovely numbers of Lata – Jamuna ke paar koi bansi bajaye and Chanda dhere se aa. The superhit number of Lata was Taqdeer ki gardish kya kam thi, but unfortunately, this film too sank at the box office.

Irrespective of the film's performance, Ghulam gave another classic number in Maalik (1958), a Talat-Suriya starrer in which they sang Man dhere dhere gaaye re – an all-time great number. The last film of Suraiya was Shama (1961), which had a super hit musical score of Ghulam. Nimmi was also in the lead against a newly introduced hero Vijay Dutt.

As for his swan song for Pakeezah, Ghulam composed 15 gems, but in the released film only six were used. All the songs were so good that HMV brought out the audio disc, Pakeezah Rang Ba Rang, which had the remaining songs. Ghulam had put his heart and soul into Pakeezah. In fact, he gave all he had for this film. His favourite sarangi wizard Pt Ram Narayan gave 21 takes to get the desired effect in Lata's song – Saare raah chalte chalte. He used his classical background in songs – Mausam hai ashiqana in Raga Kalyan and Chalo dil daar chalo in Raga Pahadi. He gave new interpretation to the traditional song Inhi logon ne le leena dupatta mera (which was earlier used by composer Gobind Ram in two of his films in the 1940s).

Like Khemchand Prakash, who couldn't see the success of his composition, Aayega aanewala, in the film Mahal, Pakeezah took a decade to be completed. Ghulam recorded all the songs except two, which he had already rehearsed. These two songs were recorded by Naushad, who also scored the background music of Pakeezah after the demise of Ghulam, as he passed away on March 17, 1968, after a prolonged battle with illness.

Sharad Dutt

Sharad Dutt

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