Tribute to music composer Roshan | Musical milestone: A qawwali to remember | punjab | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Tribute to music composer Roshan | Musical milestone: A qawwali to remember

A centenary tribute to music composer Roshan (1917-1967) who breathed his soul into ‘Na toh karvan ki talash hai…’

punjab Updated: Jul 23, 2017 11:42 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Nirupama Dutt
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
(from left) Bharat Bhushan performing in the qawwali ‘Na to karvan ki talaash hai’; Madhubala hears the qawwali on radio and decides to defy her father and seek her lover; and music composer Roshan.
(from left) Bharat Bhushan performing in the qawwali ‘Na to karvan ki talaash hai’; Madhubala hears the qawwali on radio and decides to defy her father and seek her lover; and music composer Roshan.

The genre of qawwali came to the Indian cinema from the 700-year-old Sufi mystic tradition, very popular in the north. One of the early memorable film qawwalis, incidentally by an all-woman team, was ‘Aahein na bhari, shikave na kiye’ in the 1945 film ‘Zeenat’.

Through the 1970s before film music reinvented itself, many fine examples of this genre were found, more so in films broadly labelled as Muslim socials. But the one qawwali that was a milestone and still sends music lovers into raptures was ‘Na toh karvan ki talash hai…’ in the 1960 Madhubala-Bharat Bhushan starrer love story ‘Barsat ki Raat’.

The 12-minute musical marvel celebrates love with the crescendo rising so high at the climax that the listener is transported from the worldly realm to the spiritual or from ‘Ishq-Majazi’ to ‘Ishq-Haqiqi’, as the Sufis would say.

Not just old timers but even younger music lovers are swept away by the sheer magic of this particular qawwali written by Sahir Ludhianvi, set to music by Roshan and sung by Mohammad Rafi, Manna Dey, Asha Bhonsle, Sudha Malhotra and even SD Batish lending his voice for a line or two. As the legend goes, the qawwali took 24 hours to record and is till date a musical milestone.

Ask the city musicians and music lovers as to what makes this particular number stand above others, including even the famed ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ (incidentally, a 1960 film too) qawwalis that were composed by maestro Naushad. The first person to turn to is none other than singer-actor Kamal Tewari who could sing the entire qawwali, in his younger days, with its varied ragas, taal, interventions and all in his sonorous voice. “First of all, it is great poetry by Sahir Ludhianvi in the best of secular and sufi traditions, the music by Roshan is captivating and the singers have put in their best.”

Indeed it’s Roshan at his creative best and holding his own among the very talented breed of Punjabi musicians of his times, including Khhayam, Madan Mohan, Jaidev and Ravi.

Gujranwala-born Roshan had to his credit the brilliant score for films like ‘Banware Nain’, ‘Aarti’, ‘Chitralekha’, ‘Mamta’ and ‘Taj Mahal’, the last having won him the Filmfare award for the best music.

However, it was ‘Barsat ki Raat’ which was to take him to the pinnacle of fame and more so this particularly composition. Interestingly, Khhayam was asked to do the music for the film but he walked out because the director wanted him to base the tune on that of a qawwali sung by Pakistani artistes. Roshan agreed taking the ground of that composition and then working wonders with his own genius.

Music composer Atul Sharma says, “A set of lyrics has its ideal tune and if the composer can find it then the magic is cast and this is what Roshan was able to do in this composition. The other factors were the singers and the director who shot the sequence so intensely with every small actor, even the extras, showing great involvement.”

The climax, of course, is the coming together of the lovers, Aman and Shabnam, after a long and painful separation. The tragic element is the qawwali singer Shamma, played by Shyama, accepting the defeat of her unsaid love for the hero.

Roshan, who suffered from chronic heart disease, was ill when this qawwali was to be shot, so he handed the job to the trusted Batish who rehearsed with the singers and directed their parts. It was a case of the best elements coming together in an inspired team work.

Talking of the tradition of qawwali, a music lover who never tires of hearing the qawwali, says “Between the early renderings of Amir Khusro and the crescendo that Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali was to take the qawwali to, ‘Na toh Karvan ki Talash hai..’ is a sole example of sheer creativity.”

In short, it is a grand celebration of love in which the finite touches the infinite with its refrain of ‘Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai Ishq Ishq.’