The first composer duo Husnlal Bhagatram
Husnlal Bhagatram occupy a prestigious place in the history of Indian film music as a bridge between the vintage and the golden era – between the theatre-style singing of Zohra Ambalewali, Zeenat Begum and Amirbai Karnataki, and the melodious Suraiya and Lata Mangeshkar
During the formative years of talkies, studios played a vital role in the film industry. The main centers of film production were Calcutta, Bombay, Poona and Madras. But very less information is available about the studios of Lahore which was a major center before partition.
Pandit Amarnath was the most revered name in Lahore in the 1940s. Apart from creating unforgettable melodies, he also gave us the country's first musical duo – Husnlal Bhagatram. They were the younger brothers of Pandit ji.
Husnlal Bhagatram learned the rudiments and intricacies from Pandit Dilip Chandra Vedi and their elder brother. Besides being a trained classical singer, Husnlal learned Violin from Ustad Bashir Khan of Patiala. On the other hand, Bhagatram was an excellent harmonium player.
After the release of film Daasi (1944), Pandit ji started getting offers various parts of the country. Prabhat Film Company of Poona was also impressed by Pandit ji's music and offered him to compose music for their films. Pandit ji recommended the names of his younger brothers. By now, Bhagatram had already given music in more than half a dozen films within 1939-1940.
Husnlal Bhagatram made their debut as a duo with Prabhat's low budget film Chand (1944) starring Beugum Para and Prem Adib. Lyricist Qamar Jalalabadi also joined the duo. Their maiden film was a success. For their next film, Hum Ek Hain (1946), Husnlal Bhagatram made a few enchanting tunes - "Ho nadiya kinare mora gaon re" (Manik Verma) "Sapno mein aane wale, Toot gaya meri mata ka sapna" (Zohrabai).
With director D.D.Kashyap, Husnlal Bhagatram did six films. Nargis, Aaj Ki Raat and Aan Ban didn't fare well but Badi Bahen and Shama Parwana were musical hits.
Pandit Amarnath died while he was composing the music for K.Amarnath Mirza Sahiba (1947). Later the film was completed by his younger brothers. The immortal gems of the film were "Aaja tujhe afsana judai ka sunayein and Kya yahi tera pyaar tha" (Noor Jahan) and soulful duets "Haath seene pe jo rakh do to qaraar aajaye" (G.M.Durrani/Noorjahan) but the real tribute to their father figure elder brother was in G.M.Durrani's voice "Khayagye thokre ye jawani kahan kahan". Three more films of Husnlal Bhagatram were released the same year - Heera, Romeo & Juliet and Mohan.
After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, they composed a private number "Suno suno ae duniya walo bapu ki ye amar kahani" in Rafi's voice which became the national song overnight. The duo received a pat from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for the song.
Two films of Husnlal Bhagatram need a special mention Pyar Ki Jeet and Badi Bahen. The super hits of Pyar Ki Jeet were "Tere naino ne chori kiya mera chhota sa jia" and "O door janewale wada na bhool jana" (Suriya). Rafi's solo number "Is dil ke tukde hazar hue". Badi Bahen had several hits "Chup chup khade ho zaroor koi baat hai" (Prem lata/Lata) "Wo paas rahein ye door rahein, Jo dil mein khushi banker aayein" and "Bigdi banana wale bigdi bana de" (Suraiya) "Chale jana nahi nain milake, Jo dil mein khushi ban kar aaye" (Lata) and Rafi's heart rendering number "Mohabbat ke dhokhe mein koi na aayein".
After the success of Pyar Ki Jeet and Badi Bahen, the duo was flooded with offers. They gave music in 18 films in 1949 to 50. Some of the evergreen hits of these films were in Amar Kahani, "Diwali ki raat Piya ghar aanewale hain and Yaad aa raha hai" (Suraiya). Amar Kahani was re released with the new name Kanchan in 1955. In Balam (1949) Husanlal Bhagatram composed enchanting melodies - "Aata hai zindgi mein bhala pyaar kis tarah, (Suraiya/Rafi), "O pardesi musafir kaise karta hai ishare" (Suraiya/Lata), "Dekh li o duniya wale Teri duniya dekh li (Suraiya) and two solos "Thukra ke hame chal diye and Tum hame bhool gaye hum na tumhe bhool sake" (Rafi). Bansaria, which was a box office failure, had some popular melodies "Jo karke gaya barbad hame, Dil tod kar janewale" (Lata) and "Teri yaad sataye ghadi ghadi" (Rafi). In Hamari Manzil the duo yet again created popular numbers – "Naino se nain mila ke, Tere aane per dil dhadke" (Geeta/Rafi) "Baithi hun main nain bichaye" (Geeta Roy) "Tute hue dil koulfat ka" (Rafi). Jaltarang had evocating hits "Jara tumne dekha aour pyaar ho gaya" (Rafi/Lata), "Lut gaye ummidon ki duniya" (Lata) had enchanting Hawain Guitar/Violin expression of sorrow and enticing charming number "Naino ke mast ishare". In Naach they gave top hits i.e duets "Ae ishq hame barbad na kar, Chhaya sama suhana" (Suriya/ Rafi).
Husnlal Bhagatram were the harbinger of Punjabi folk in Hindi films. They had brilliant use of violin, harmonium and Hawain guitar. In the 1950s, music was undergoing a sea of change. Western music started dominating the film music. Shankar Jaikishan, S.D.Burman, C.Ramchandran and O.P.Nayyar were ruling the roost. Yet, Husnlal Bhagatram were in great demand.
In 1951, Afsana, directed by B.R.Chopra starring Ashok Kumar, Veena, Kuldeep Kaur and Pran, was released. The duo scored Lata's soulful solos – "Kahan hai tu mere sapno ke raja, Wo aayein baharein layein" and "Aaj kuchh aisi chot lagi, Wo paas bhi rahkar door nahi" gainedpopularity nationwide. Mukesh evocating numbers was "Kismat bigdi duniya bidli" Rafi also sang "Duniya ek kahani re bhaiya" and mischievous numbers with Shamshad "Chapati pe aaj jo mera nain matakka ho gaya". The highlight of the film was a haunting melodious composition "Abhi to mein jawan hoon" sung by Lata was inspired by Mallika Pukhraj voice originally written by Hafiz Jalandhary which was a rage in those days. Afsana was a box office hit mainly due to its music.
Husnlal Bhagatram gave music in six films starring Dev Anand. Starting from his debut film Hum Ek Hain, Mohan, Birha Ki Raat, Sanam, Stage and Dushman. Birha Ki Raat had some evergreen popular songs. It was again Rafi who sang an enticing duet with Lata "Chota sa fasana hai tere mere pyaar ka" touched all the heights of popularity. Rafi and Lata's solo "Bahut purdard hai sunane wala, and Tahar o jane waqle" were also popular. Gauna also had few hit numbers including "Dil kishi ne chhen liya pahli mulaqut mein" (Lata) had enchanting flute and Duff interludes. Chhoti Bahen also had melodious number "Lut gaye ho" sung by Rafi/Lata separately. Another evoking number "Duniya walon and Darde-e-Jadui hai" (Lata) and dulset duets "Khushi ka zamana gaya and Maine kaha babuji" (Lata/Rafi). Another film of duo was Sanam (1951) starring Suraiya, Dev Anand and Meena Kumari. The film had sensational number "Mein tujhe pukaru sanam sanam" and had duets i.e. "Dil le gaya koi le gaya" (Shamshad/Suriya) "Bedard shikari o bedard" (Suraiya/Lata) and Suraiya's solo "Mera dil todkar janewale" also became popular.
Mohammed Rafi was the favorite singer of Husnlal Bhagatram. He sang the maximum numbers of songs for them. Yet they gave two all-time great numbers to Kishore Kumar in film Kaafila (1952). A duet "Lehron se pooch lo ya kinaro se pooch lo" with Lata and a solo "Wo meri taraf yun chale aa rahein hain". Besides social films, they also did a mythological film Raja Harichandra.
The only release in 1954 of Husnlal Bhagatram was Shama Parwana starring Suraiya Shammi Kapoor was director by their favorite director DD Kashyap. The film had a magical touch of the duo. In spite of the melodies, the movie bombed at the box office. They tried to make a comeback in Adl-e-Jahangir but they failed to make a comeback again.
Husnlal Bhagatram also gave music in some obscure films. And finally, Husnlal Bhagatram came back to Delhi and started a music school in Paharganj. He also gave regular programs on All India Radio as a violinist and a ghazal singer.
On December 9, 1968 he went for his routine morning walk and suddenly collapsed near Gol Dakkhana. By that time he was only 48. Bhagatram stayed back in Bombay and he became accompanist with different composers. He died in Bombay on November 29, 1973, at the age of 53.