Beginning his film career even before India became independent, he is the only one to have composed for both K.L. Saigal and Shah Rukh Khan, work with Noor Jehan, Suraiyya and Lata Mangeshkar as well as persuade classical music legends Ustad Amir Khan, D.V. Paluskar and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan to sing for films. Credited with many unforgettable melodies from Bollywood’s most iconic films, Naushad also possessed a secret talent – but then, he hailed from a city of poets!
In his nearly seven-decade-long film career, Naushad Ali (1919-2006) could draw on the services of some outstanding lyricists – Asrar Hussain Khan ‘Majrooh Sultanpuri’, D.N.Madhok, Fazle Qadir Sethi ‘Zia Sarhadi’ and Mohammad Haidar Khan ‘Khumar Barabankvi’ – though his enduring partnership was with Shakeel Ahmad ‘Shakeel Badayuni’ (especially when Mohammad Rafi sang the song). What was ironical was that he himself was quite a gifted poet across all forms from ghazals to nazms and geets, and verses for special occasions as well.
And this was not the extent of Naushad’s literary forays – he also penned stories for two films (including his old dream project which became “Palki” starring Rajendra Kumar and Waheeda Rehman), and an “Aap-beeti” or autobiographical account. This – in chaste, courtly Urdu and with chapter headings like “Sur ki kathin rahe”, “Is rahguzar par kaun kaun mila” and “Jahan ki rut badal chuki” – is a rich kaleidoscope of his early life in hometown Lucknow, his musical development (inspired by childhood visits to the ‘urs’ of Haji Waaris Ali Shah at Dewa in neighbouring Barabanki), his film career and experiences with the doyens of Bollywood.
But it is poetry that was Naushad’s forte – and like his music, which figures in less than 100 films but include “Anmol Ghadi”, “Shahjehan”, “Andaz”, “Baiju Bawra”, “Mother India”, “Mughal-e-Azam” and even “Pakeezah” – he went in for quality, not quantity. His collection of poetry, “Athvan Sur”, barely comprises 100 pages of poetry but what figures is pure gold.
Most of it comprises ghazals and proves him to be a “Lakhnavi” to the core. “Abaadiyon mein dasht ka manzar bhi aayega/Guzroge shahr se to mera ghar bhi aayega” and “Achchi nahi nazakat-e-ehsaas is qadr/Sheesha agar banoge to pathar bhi aayega” and ends “Jis din ki muddaton se hai ‘Naushad’ justju?/Kya jaane din hamen voh mayassar bhi aayega?”
He can’t shake off his actual calling: “Abhi saaz-e-dil mein taraane bahut hai/Abhi zindagi ke bahaane bahut hai” and – in probable reference to his compositions imbued with classical and traditional Indian music – says “Dar-e-ghair par bheekh maango na fann ki/Jab apne hi ghar mein khazaane bahut hai”, ending: “Hain din badmazaaqi ke ‘Naushad’ lekin/Abhi tere fann ke diwaane bahut hai”.
Then the typical ‘Dabistan-e-Lakhnau’ approach: “Tabassum hai bijli, qayamat nazar hai/Ada jo bhi zaalim ki hai fitnaa gar hai”, and then in a complex construction (also a beloved trademark of the school): “Husn parde mein ho aur nazara bhi ho, rukh se pardah uthana zaroori nahi/Aaj parde mein raz-e-mohabbat rahe, saamne sab ke aana zaroori nahi”.
He also dealt with philosophical thought – with a ‘Ganga-Jamuni’ sensibility: “Na mandir mein sanam hote na masjid mein khuda hota/Hami se yeh tamasha hai na ham hote to kya hota”.
He has a handful of nazms – most of which are related to his profession like “Modern Music” (ending “Sangeet hai ya koi kabadi ki dukaan hai/Saazon ka faqt shor hai sangeet kahan hai/’Naushad’ dua karta hai bas haath uthaye/Sangeet ki kashti ko khuda par lagaye”) “Lata Mangeshkar ki gayki ki silver jubilee jashn mein” but also “Operation Theatre ki taraf ravangi”, “Lakhnau ke Shia-Sunni fasaad se mutaasir hokar” (beginning “Koi mujha bata de voh Lakhnau kahan hai/Tahzeeb aur adab ka manzar kahan hai….”) and on the 1984 Bhiwandi riots.
Then his heartfelt tributes: “‘Naushad’ mere dil ko yaqeen hai yeh mukammal/Naghmon ki qasm aaj bhi zindah hai voh Saigal”, “Voh Bade Ghulam Ali Khan jo the apne fan mein yekta/The sabhi ghulam inke voh khayal ho ke ‘tappa'”, “Sangeet ke jahan mein voh mir-i-karvan the/Kya be-misaal gayak apne Amir Khan the”, “Allah Allah, Rafi ki awaaz/Rooh-e-Mahmud o jaan-e-bazm-Ayaz/Is ki har taan is ki har le par/Bajne lagte the khud dilon mein saaz”, “Jab tak is duniya ki mehfil mein raha tu ae Mukesh/Zindagi ke saaz par tu geet kite ga gaya” and to Madan Mohan: “Apni mauseeqi pe sab ko fakhr hai/Tujh ke mauseeqi ko lekin naaz hai”.
Naushad the composer can rest on his laurels, but I hope this brief introduction helps Naushad the poet get his due too.
(19.07.2015 – Vikas Datta is an Associate Editor at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)