Beyond Bygone

An illustrious music composer Khurshid Anwar

A musical stalwart surrounded by traditional scions of musical lineage, Khawaja gained tremendous popularity both in India and Pakistan, gaining undying fame as a classical composer

It is a common belief that people in the film industry are not well educated but exceptions always exist. Many directors, actors, cameramen, film editors and sound recordists were highly educated. Debki Kumar Bose, Kidar Sharma, BR Chopra, Anand brothers, Balraj Sahani, cameramen turned directors Nitin Bose and Bimal Roy, film editor Hrishkesh Mukharjee and sound recordist Mukul Bose are a few such names. Khurshid Anwar was one too.

Khurshid Anwar was a popular composer of the 40s. He was equally loved in Pakistan where he migrated in 1952. Khurshid Anwar was born in Miawali (now in Pakistan) on March 12, 1912. His father was fond of listening to classical music and used to organise musical baithaks in his house. The top classical singers of that time, Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Tawaqqal Hussain Khan, Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan, Rafiq Ghaznavi and Firoz Nizami were regulars in such mehfils. Khursheed was initiated by these mehfils. Later he was trained by Ustad Tawaqqal Hussain Khan and acquired great musical skills and knowledge. He was closely related to the poet Allama Iqbal.

Khurshid Anwar was a brilliant student. During his college days in the Government College of Lahore, he started taking interest in student politics. He was influenced by Bhagat Singh. During his studies, he was arrested and sent to jail due to his anti-British sentiments. He appeared his BA exam from the jail and passed out with a first-class degree. After finishing his graduation, Khursheed Anwar applied to get a Masters in Philosophy. He topped the University and won the Nanak Gold Medal.

He appeared for the elite Indian Civil Services exam in 1936 and toped the test yet again. He was rejected in the interview by the British board for his political leanings. This proved to ultimately be a boon for the film music industry. He joined All India Radio Delhi in 1939 as a programme officer where his close friend, Meem Rashid, the famous poet of blank verse and Saadat Hassan Manto were also working in the drama department. In a chance meeting, the producer-director AR Kardar, who visited All India Radio, was impressed by Anwar's music. He offered his next production, a Punjabi film titled Kurmai. The film was directed by noted director JK Nanda. Its cast included Wasti, Radha Rani, Jagdish Sethi and Jeevan. It was the first Punjabi film on the evil practices of dowry. It was released at Regent Cinema Lahore on August 29, 1941.

Khursheed Anwar had composed the scintillating tunes which became extremely popular: Suraj ne layee bahar mitti banai sona, Dil injh injh karda, Gote da haar we main and Maaye ni buhaa khadake. But unfortunately, the movie didn't do well at the box office as expected by AR Kardar and Khurshid Anwar. The only person who was happy and impressed by Khursheed's music was its director, JK Nanda. Both worked together again in 1943 with a hit film Ishara. All the nine compositions became hits for their distinct flavours. It had the all-time great number, Panghat pe muraliya baje and the duet, Baghon mein koyal boli, meri dil ki duniya doli with Satish Batra. Khurshid Anwar's talent was recognised and he became the most sought after composer.

Khurshid Anwar shared the credit with Saraswati Devi in Parakh (1944). The cast included Mehtab, Balwant Singh and Kaushalaya. Saraswati Devi composed only two songs in the film. Khurshid Anwar gave break to Ira Nigam on the recommendation of AIR composer, Roshan. Ira used to sing in All India Delhi. Ira Nigam's, Koi kya jane ise dard hamara kya hai and Duniya hai ae pyaar ki dunkiya were two popular numbers from the film.

In 1947, Khursheed Anwar gave music in the films Aaj Aur Kal and Pagdandi (he got this film after the death of Pandit Amarnath). But the music scores did not leave much impact. His music in KL Saigal's last film proved a musical hit. Suraiya was opposite Saigal. The film was directed by his favourite director JK Nanda. The melodies of this film are even popular today. Saigal and Suraiya did full justice with maestro compositions. The melodies in Suraiya's voice were evergreen hits: Papi papihaa re pi pi na bol and Mere mundere na bole ja kaga, kaga ja. Saigal sang one of his best songs, Toot gaye sab sapne mere, ye do naina sawan bhado barse saanjh savere during this period as well. Khurshid composed another number in Rajkumari's voice, Saiyan ne ungli marodi re. The highlight of the orchestration of Khurshid in Parwana was the beautiful interludes on Sitar, Flute and Violin.

Khurshid Anwar gave another hit film Singaar (1949) starring Suriya, Jairaj and Madhubala. The composer gave a folk touch to several numbers in Suraiya, Shamshad, Rajkumari and Surendra Kaur. Its hit numbers were: Dharak dharak tere bin mera jiyara, Ae bhulne wale tujhe ye kaun bataye and Wo din kidhar gaye kaho. Khurshid Anwar was awarded for his music in this film. He was assisted by composer Roshan. His next film was Nishana (1950) starring Ashok Kumar, Madhubala and Geeta Bali. Khurshid composed catchy tunes, Kateele tore naina raseele and Koi kisi se dil na lagana and Geeta's number were Kaisi murli bajaiyee shyam ne and Wo rooth gaye dil toot gaya.

His last film in India was Neelam Pari (1951) as he migrated to Pakistan in 1952 with his entire family. Khurshid Anwar was responsible for Noor Jahan's grand comeback as her career was at its low point at that time. They were back with the smashing hit Intzaar (1956).

Khurshid Anwar always believes in quality than quantity. He produced 26 films in his career in India and Pakistan. He also directed five films in Pakistan.

Khurshid Anwar was the finest composer, he included Indian and western instruments in his orchestra. His music was based on classical and folk tradition. He was deeply influenced by Haryanvi folk music – a place where he had spent most of his childhood. His contribution to film music and classical music was enormous.

His contribution to the classical music was a set-off ten long-playing records of Ragas called Ahange-e-Khusravi. He was conferred with several honours and awards including the best composer of music by film music director association in 1980 on the silver jubilee of talkies along with Noor Jahan. He was also conferred with Pakistan's prestigious award, Nishan-E-Imtiaz in 1982.

He was called Khawaja by his fans. Khawaja Khurshid Anwar passed away on October 30, 1984, at the age of 72. In his memory, Pakistan Radio and Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation do special programmes on his death anniversary every year.

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