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Khemchand Prakash: Khemchand Prakash: Creator of Haunting Melodies

Khemchand Prakash – well known for the song ‘Aayega aanewala’ among many others – the man who contributed so much to Rajasthani folk music has himself become folklore, and now, a forgotten genius, writes Sharad Dutt.

 Sharad Dutt |  2017-12-09 15:26:24.0

A while ago, judging an inter-college music quiz, I was amazed that there was not a single correct answer to this question – the relationship between A&B, ie Khemchand Prakash and the song 'Aayega aanewala'. Most of the boys and the girls were familiar with the song and sounded informed but drew a blank on 'A'.

Khemchand Prakash was the legendary composer, who had created this haunting melody, 'Ayega aanewala,' sung by Lata Mangeskar in film Mahal (1950). The film was produced by Bombay Talkies and directed by Kamal Amrohi of Pakeeza and Razia Sultan fame.
A hot favourite of vintage film music lovers, Khemchand was born on December 12, 1907, in a family of musicians in Bikaner's Sujangarh in Rajasthan. His father Goverdhan Prasad was a renowned Dhrupad singer who received royal patronage and sang in the Jaipur Durbar. Khemchand was not only a trained classical singer but also mastered the Rajasthani folk music and trained as a Kathak dancer.
Once in a grand concert at the Jubilee Celebrations of Jaipur, Maharaja of Nepal was the guest of honour. He was so overwhelmed by the Kathak performance and vocal rendition of the young Khemchand that he invited him to visit Nepal. That's how he spent five years in the Himalayan kingdom given the benevolence of the Maharaja.
Filmmaking was emerging as a new medium of entertainment in India that fascinated Khemchand. This magnetic pull brought him to Calcutta and he wanted to join New Theatres. Just as he found it difficult to survive in the cultural capital of India, he got an opportunity to sing on All India Radio. His latent desire bore fruition as Timir Baran was mightily impressed by his singing and asked him to assist him in New Theatres. It is said that he played a key role in classic songs of Devdas sung by KL Saigal: 'Balam aayo baso morey man mein' and 'Dukh ke din ab beetat nahin'. He also did cameo roles in New Theatres' films, and this song, 'Madam lo kha lo khana,' in Street Singer, was picturised on him and Kanan Devi. He was also seen in Debki Bose's Sapera.
While working in New Theatres, he had a chance encounter with Prithviraj Kapoor, and they became lifelong friends. At his suggestion, Khemchand moved to Bombay along with Kidar Sharma, KN Singh, and last but not the least, the much celebrated KL Saigal.
Soon in Bombay, Prithviraj Kapoor got him an assignment to compose the music of Ghazi Salahuddin as an independent music director though assisted by young Naushad. In this film, Khemchand used Arabic style of orchestration to synchronise the ambience of the subject. He also composed Mirza Ghalib's famed ghazal, 'Kabhi neki bhi uske jee mein gar,' in Kalyani's voice. He got another offer for Dwarka Khosla's Meri Aankhein, wherein singer-actor Khursheed got her maiden break and sang 'Aisa geet suna jao' and 'Sach ke khel khilaye aasha,' 'Doodh piyo sab doodh'. These two films established Khemchand and in times to come, he gave classical gems to music lovers.
Now chased by films producers to compose for them, he became a musical force to reckon with. And Khemchand tasted real success when he joined Ranjit Movietone and accomplished nineteen films during his five-year stint. His films, Pardesi and Shaadi became hits. Pardesi had a ghazal, 'Pahle jo mohabbat se inkar kiya hota' (Khursheed), which became an instant rage. It is said that Khursheed rehearsed this ghazal for fifteen days before recording it. Khemchand was truly inspired by that immortal ghazal, 'Deewana banana hai to deewana bana de,' penned by Behzad Lakhnavi and rendered by the inimitable Begum Akhtar. The other hit song was 'Toot gayi daali' and went a long way in building Khursheed's singing career.
Khemchand's music in films Diwali and Holi were equally captivating but his film Dukh-Sukh warrants a special mention. Mukesh was just one song old and he sang duets with Sitara of Kanpur, 'Ab der na kar sajan' and 'Mori atariya pe aa ja'. And Raj Kumari of 'Bawre nain se bairi balam sach bole' fame sang her first solo, 'Hai aaj tujhko fikar hi kya'. His other films, Fariad, Iqrar, Khilouna and Mehman, were also lauded for soulful music. Though he was on the staff of Ranjit Movietone, he was working for other banners, too, and composed music for films Chirag and Kurbaani produced by Murli Movietone.
In 1943, Khemchand scored music for Ranjit Movietone's film Gauri, 'Majboor hain is dil se' (Shamim), and in 'Vishkanya', 'Naiya ko khevaiya ke' (Surendra), were great hits. Ranjit's Bhakt Surdas (1942), starring KL Saigal had music by Gyan Dutt, which broke all previous records in sale. But in 1943 Khemchand surpassed even these records with his film Tansen (Composer Bulo C Rani was his assistant), which had Saigal and Khursheed in the lead. Directed by Jayant Desai, the film music connoisseurs affirm that this was the best musical ever made. Khemchand had ample opportunity to prove his versatility in classical music. Saigal's solo, 'Bagh laga doon sajani' (Raga Bahar), 'Runjhun runjhun chaal tihari' (Raga Shankra), 'Sapt suran teen gram' (in Dhrupad style), and 'Diya jalao' based on the rare Raga Deepak. Khursheed's solo, 'Dukhiya jiyara' and 'Barso re, 'ghata ghanghor' in Raga Meghmalhar. The music played a vital role in the grand success of Tansen.
Ranjit Movietone had signed Saigal for three years and produced two films with only a month left for the expiry of this contract. Kedar Sharma told the owner Chandu Lal Shah, "I can make a film with Saigal in a month's time," and getting a green signal he completed the film in record time. The film was Bhanwra starring Saigal and Kamla Chatterjee (Kedar Sharma's first wife). Now that the trend of music was changing, Khemchand kept pace and offered a totally different type of music in Bhanwara, as evident in its compositions: 'Thukra rahi hai duniya,' 'Muskratey huey aankh churaya na karo,' 'Hum apna unhey bana na sakey,' 'Diya jisney dil' (Saigal), and a duet with Ameerbai Karnataki, 'Kya humne bigara hai,' became super hits.
Another classic of Khemchand was Bhartihari starring Surendra and Mumtaz Shanti. His compositions were once again in classical mode: 'Chanda des piya ke jaa' (Ameerbai Karnataki), and a duet in a dialogue form, 'Bhiksha de de maa pingla' (Surendra-Ameerbai Karnataki), became a classicist's delight.
In Mumtaz Mahal and Shahenshah Babar of Ranjit Movietone, his music was as appreciated. Dhanna Bhagat directed by Kedar Sharma had 'Panchhi pinjara hua purana' (Khan Mastana), that also became quite popular. Prabhu ka Ghar was the last film Khemchand did for Ranjit Movietone given his differences with the owner on the issue of using a new voice in a film. As his favourite Khursheed had migrated to Pakistan, Chandu Lal Shah didn't agree and outright rejected the new voice. The new voice was that of Lata Mangeshkar. Thereafter, Khemchand started freelancing.
His other significant film was Kishore Sahu's silver jubilee Sindoor with such unforgettable numbers: 'Kissi ke madhur pyaar mein' (Nasim Akthar-Sushil Sahu), and Ameerbai's solo, 'O roothey huey bhagwan.'
Lata sang for the first time in film Aasha, but her biggest triumph had yet to come in film Ziddi of Bombay Talkies, starring Dev Anand and Kamini Kaushal, and directed by Shahid Latif. Khemchand gave Kishore Kumar his first break, 'Marne ki duayein kya maangoo,' in Saigal's style. Lata's countrywide popular number was 'Chanda re ja re ja re' in Raga Chhayanat and a Lata- Kishore first duet, 'Ye kaun aya re'. And Ziddi also had a popular number in Shamshad Begum's voice, 'Chali pee ke Milan ban than ke'.
Kishore Sahu had Khemchand in his own home production Rimjhim. He composed a rare gem for Kishore, 'Jagmag jagmag karta nikla chaand poonam ka pyaara' in Raga Yaman Kalyan. This film also had a super hit number in Shamshad's voice, 'Na tum aaye na neend aayi'. Kishore Sahu and Khemchand again came together in Sawan Aya Re, which had all-time greats of Rafi-Shamshad, 'Aye dil na mujhe yaad dila baatein purani.'
Music lovers say that Khemchand created the finest music in a short career of fifteen years, but he immortalised himself by just one song – 'Aayega aane wala.' It is very strange that Ashok Kumar and Savak Wacha of Bombay Talkies were not in favour of Khemchand for the film Mahal, but the director who had also written the story of the film also put his foot down that only Khemchand would score the music for his debut direction. There is another story behind this song that when it was being recorded Svak Vacha dismissed the composition saying it won't gel with the audience. The opening line of the song in Lata's voice, 'Khamosh hai zamana chup chaap hain nighein,' was penned by Kamal Amrohi himself, and the rest was written by Naqshab. The song starts with mystery music and Lata starts singing, 'Aayega aayega aayega aanewala.' To create the effect of a distance Lata starts coming towards the microphone. After the recording was over even Naqshab was disappointed but Kamal Amrohi and Khemchand didn't budge and the song created magic on celluloid.
At that time composers were using forty pieces of an orchestra or even more but 'Aayega aanewala' was recorded only with twelve instruments. Two other songs in Raga Pahadi in Lata's voice, 'Mushkil hai bahut mushkil chahat ka bhula dena' and 'Dil ne phir yaad kiya,' and another solo in Raj Kumari's voice, 'Ghabra ke jo hum sar ko takrayein to acchha ho,' a sensuous mujra in Raga Maru Bihag, 'Ye raat phir na aayegi jawani beet jaayegi' (Rajkumari-Zohrabai Ambalewali) became popular nationwide and 'Aayega aanewala' became the prime number in Lata's live concerts in years to come. Her career soared with this song.
But destiny had other plans for Khemchand, and unfortunately, he didn't live long enough to savour the adulation and success of his timeless creations. The composer passed away on August 10, 1950, barely two months before Mahal was released to packed houses across the country. His last film Tamasha for Bombay Talkies was also released posthumously and the incomplete compositions were taken up by his one-time assistant Manna Dey and composer SK Pal.
On Khemchand's 40th death anniversary I visited Sujangarh for a television feature. He would often retreat to Sujangarh, where he had built a huge haveli, Pawan Mahal, to seek tranquility from the mad rush of tinsel town of Bombay. Since many a musical soiree was held in this mansion, one was able to locate and record some of his childhood pals now in their late seventies. We were amazed to see enormous affection and regard for this composer even after forty years of his demise. The man who contributed so much to Rajasthani folk music has himself become folklore, and now, a forgotten genius. That's how the world moves!

Sharad Dutt

Sharad Dutt

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