Composer without peer

Updated on Dec 25, 2007 03:57 PM IST

What an occasionit was when Malka-e-Tarannum Noorjehan returned to India, after 33 years, to enslave the audience with Naushad's raag pahadi notes of Aawaaz de kahaan hai.

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Hindustan Times | ByRaju Bharatan, Mumbai

He was the last of our vintage composers for whom both KL Saigal and Noorjehan sang. What an Anmol Ghadi it was when Malka-e-Tarannum Noorjehan returned to India, after 33 years, to enslave the Shanmukhnanda Hall audience with Naushad's raag pahadi notes of Aawaaz de kahaan hai.

On February 11, 1982, Noorjehan singing this 1946 duet solo - under Naushad's 'pre-Partition' baton - is a happening I mistily recall this Christmas Day marking the mausiqaar's 88th birth anniversary. Dilip Kumar to her right, Naushad to her left, Noorjehan mesmerising viewers that ‘nite without end'.

Lata Mangeshkar, too, was there to render - before Noorjehan, her vocal ideal Shyam Sundar's Bazaar classic, Saajan kee galiyaan, in quintessential pahadi. As our diva materialised on stage, it was a hark back to those Andaz days when Lata almost sounded like Noorjehan in Tod diyaa dil.

"When Lata first came to me," Naushad reminisced, "I just made her read Uthaye jaa unke sitam, from Mehboob'sAndaz, 10 times, 20 times. After that, if Lata's Uthaye jaa, in Raag Kedara, still sounded Noorjehanish, it's a tribute to the spell the Malka-e-Tarannum cast on her."

At least Naushad being identified Uthaaye jaa and Tod diyaa as from Andaz. There was the shock hour in which, as we played Lata's Mar gaye hum and Jo main jaantee, this composer named those two classics as being from Deedar!

"How on earth, Naushadsaab," I asked, "when it's picturised on Nutan in Shabab, some three years later, that Lata explores your raag maand notes of Mar gaye and Jo main jaantee?"

"On Nutan in Shabab, of course! My job is to compose, you impose restraints by expecting me to remember the film's name!"

"From the same Shabab, Naushadsaab," I go on, "recall your super Lata-Rafi duet, filmed on Nutan and Bharat Bhooshan as Man kee been matwaaree baaje?"

"You mean the raag basant duet?" As I look perplexed, Naushad swiftly concedes, "Okay, Man keebeen is more raag bahaar than raag basant!"

"Wasn't it a blend of raag basant and raag piloo, your Baiju Bawra duet, so beautifully picturised on Meena Kumari and Bharat Bhooshan as Jhoole mein pawan ke? Then Gaaye hum-tum malhar, how do we get to hear that contra-raag sentiment in it?" Adding songs "It's a lyrical slip-up, how I wish I had been able to correct it!" regrets Naushad.

"You added two Lata solos to K Asif's Mughal-e-Azam when the epic's were celebrating its diamond jubilee at Maratha Mandir," I point out.

"Solos unfolding as Ae ishq yeh sab duniyaa waale - in raag bihag on Sheila Dalaya, as Suraiya, beguiling Ajit. Plus Humein kaash tum se mohabbat naa hotee - in raag yaman on Madhubala. Are the raags right?"

"Absolutely! If my music's got listeners interested in raag-raaginis, it's fulfilled both its function and my mission."

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