Beyond Bygone

Beyond boundaries Rafiq Ghaznavi

Dominant in the early days of the ‘Talkies’ in the Indian film industry, Ghaznavi was a performer without equal, juggling careers as an actor, singer and composer, all rolled into a larger than life persona, both on and off screen

Rafiq Ghaznavi was born as Mohammad Rafiq in 1907 in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) to an aristocratic family. Originally, his family held from Ghazni in Afghanistan but later migrated to Lahore. Rafiq Ghaznavi did his matriculation and joined Islamia College for his intermediate. Later he joined the Punjab University for his graduation. Though he was a fluent speaker of many languages including Urdu and Persian, he preferred to communicate in Punjabi. During his college days, he took a keen interest in cultural activities and used to sing during cultural events. Rafiq learned classical music from Ashiq Ali, Asif Ali and Allah Baksh of Patiala Gharana. Soon he became popular as a singer in Lahore.

In 1930, Director AR Kardar was looking for new faces for his silent film Sher Dil. Impressed with Rafiq's music, he signed him for the film. Kardar then offered Rafiq to play the role of Ranjha opposite Anwari Begum who played the role of Heer in Hoor Punjab. The director later changed the name to Heer Ranjha (1932). By the time Heer Ranjha was released, they both fell in love. Kardar was a disciplined person and Rafiq's relation with Anwari affected him. In some time, Rafiq eloped with Anwari and left for Bombay. In 1932, he composed the music for JK Nanda's film Pavitra Ganga. His next film was Bharat Movies' Roshan Ara, directed by GR Sethi. The music was composed by Master Mohammad. Besides playing the lead, Rafiq also lent his voice to its music.

In 1933, Rafiq Ghaznavi gave music for the historical movie, Prithviraj Sanyogita. Rafiq played the role of court poet, Chand Bardai. Rafiq composed a persuasive song in Rajasthan's Bhatt style: Prithviraj jidhar tegh udha lete hain shoorveer udhar sheesh nawa dete hain. The early days of talkies were dominated by Parsi drama style and Kothas of courtesans. Rafiq was a hot favourite of courtesans and they used to sing his compositions. In Jawani Deewani (1934), Rafiq sang a few songs: Husn ne seekhi gareeb ajarian, Dil ko behkaun kahan tak ki bahalta hi nahi and Kavan ban aayie momanat bhai.

Rafiq did two films in 1935 – Behan Ka Prem and Prem Pujari. He also played the lead and wrote the story, screen dialogue and also sang his compositions in the film. The popular songs included: Zakhm mere dil-e-sojan ke siye jate hain, Mujh se chhip kar mere armano ko barbad na kar and Tere naazon ne mara sanam. His next release was Kaun Kisi Ka (1939). His compositions were: Badariya hole hole dol (Sobhna Samarth), Le lo albele bele ke haar, Phool le lo Phool and a duet, Main bagh ki sunder titli.

Rafiq Ghaznavi did another multi-starrer film Sitaara directed by Ezrameer. The cast included Ratan Bai, Khursheed, Nazeer and Mubarak. Rafiq sang the traditional wedding song, Ab banega hamar banna. His other popular compositions were: Main sad ke tere, Arman bhade dil, Aaja aaja aaja pritam aaja, Nahi batati nahi batai, Mere prem ka panchi and Saajan gaiye kis ore. Rafiq and Khursheed's duet, Tasveer banana wale taqdeer bana de meri, also captured the attention of music lovers.

In 1940s Rafiq's yet another notable film was Apni Nagariya (based on Manto's short story Keechad) starring Shobhna Samarth, Nazeer, Jayant and KN Singh. Rafiq changed his style and composed the tunes according to the demand of the film. Its numbers, Majdoor majdoor jevan hai tera pyaara, Mori bagiya mein aaiy maal, Dhool sekho tasa dekho London ka tamasa dekho, Ae mitti ki maya teri sone ki kaya, Pardesh musafir chood chale, Main wo ream hoon jo kuchal gaya, Duniya na hui kisi ki, Door maya se ho door bawre and Mitti ko sish chadhayange, gained immense popularity. Bahurani was another release that boasted Rafiq's music. He was lucky that he got a chance

to work in Sohrab Modi's magnum opus Sikandar (1941). Rafiq Ghaznavi composed a marching song of Sikandar's army: Zindgi hai pyaar se bitaye jaa.

AR Kardar and Rafiq worked once again in Swami (1941). Rafiq composed romantic tunes in Society and Kalyug (1942). In 1943, he did Duhai, along with composers Panna Lal Ghosh and Shanti Kumar. Rafiq's popular compositions in Noorjehan's voice were: Ab mast jawani aaiye and Bade bewafa hain mard.

After departing from National studios, Mahboob Khan formed his own banner, Mahboob Productions. Looking for a new composer, he approached Rafiq Ghaznavi to compose music for Nazma (1943). He was so impressed by Rafiq that he asked to recite a couplet for his banner – Muddai laakh bura chaye to kya hota hai, hota hai wahi jo manjoor-e-khuda hota hai from Syed Ghulam Muhammad's poetry. Mahboob was so happy with Rafiq's work that he signed him for his next film Taqudeer (1943).

In 1945, Rafiq Ghaznavi did two films. For Ek Din Ka Sultan, Rafiq did only one song: Hum bahisht ke malik, hum jahan ke naukar (Chorus) and in S Nazeer's Laila Majnu, Rafiq's popular compositions were: Fariyaad kyun meri jawani per tujhe rahem na aaya and Kya sitam hai jurm hai (Zohra Bai Ambalawai). Rafiq moved to Pakistan in 1947. Suddenly he decided to quit the films and joined Radio Pakistan. He devoted himself totally to music and made a significant contribution. Ghaznavi breathed his last in Karachi on March 4, 1974, at the age of 67.

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