Naushadnama: The Life and Music of Naushad
Hay House Publishers
Rs. 599, PP356
For an entire generation, Naushad was the master composer. While Baiju Bawra and Mughal-e-Azam are considered among the best ever, he had a string of hits in Rattan, Anmol Ghadi, Mela, Deedar, Amar, Uran Khatola, Mother India, Kohinoor, Gunga Jumna, Mere Mehboob, Leader, Dil Diya Dard Liya and Ram Aur Shyam, among other films. Naushad’s life story would obviously make interesting reading. In Naushadnama: The Life and Music of Naushad, song historian Raju Bharatan covers practically every aspect of his glorious career. Having been associated with the maestro for over five decades, he keeps you engrossed through loads of anecdotes and personal memories.
This isn’t a conventional biography which looks at Naushad’s life chronologically. In fact, details of his early life and his break in films are mentioned only in the appendix, and his death on May 5 2006 is described in just three paragraphs.
What Bharatan does instead is analyse various features of Naushad’s work, often going back and forth in time to provide relevant examples. Specific attention is given to his forte of basing compositions on classical ragas, and a chapter is devoted to the talented instrumentalists who played with him. Lyricist Shakeel Badayuni and singers Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar were closely associated with Naushad’s music, and they get adequate space.
On the poetic quality of Naushad’s songs, Bharatan writes: “With Naushad the poetry always came first, the music after. The magic of his music lay in the fact that you never discovered where the poetry merged with the music, where the music merged with the poetry. Shakeel’s poetry and Naushad’s music just intertwined.”
Interestingly, in the opening chapter, Bharatan talks about how the composer’s face fell when presented with a book with Lata on the cover. He then asked: “Why, instead of the composer as the creator, his mere interpreter on the cover?” before talking about how he meticulously perfected her Urdu diction, enunciation and intonation.
Many other anecdotes are charmingly narrated. While Naushad’s rivalry with composer C Ramchandra occupies much space, Bharatan also talks about the challenge posed by Shanker-Jaikishan in the later part of the 1950s. The author mentions how Naushad’s earlier favourite Shamshad Begum was ignored after Lata’s sudden rise, apparently at the suggestion of his wife Ahliya, and talks of how he was strongly against the Suraiya-Dev Anand affair.
Two more incidents are worth mentioning. While it is commonly believed Naushad stopped working with Talat Mahmood because he was upset the singer once smoked in front of him, the composer has his own version. He said: “I could compose only within a certain ambit if I opted to stay with either Mukesh or Talat. By contrast, Rafi offered me a wider vocal spread.”
The other incident is on how Naushad accompanied Lata to the recording of the Kabhi Kabhie title track, while Khayyam was scoring the music. He found fault in the way the tabla was being used, much to the displeasure of Khayyam, who eventually ignored the suggestion.
Tales like these make Naushadnama a must for fans of old music. Though the excessive detail may get taxing for those less familiar with his work, the hardcore fan will find plenty to pick up. Bharatan’s analysis and depth, and the trivia, make this an extremely readable book.
Narendra Kusnur is a music critic who lives in Mumbai