Naushad Ali: India’s foremost music director

Naushad Ali: India’s foremost music director

WHEN Naushad Ali, India’s most prominent music composer and director, came to Jeddah on his way back to India from Haj he looked old and haggard. Born in 1919 in the city of Lucknow, Naushad is acknowledged as the foremost music director in the country whose songs dominated the Indian film scene for decades. He was one of most successful music directors of India. The man was a passionate musician and a master of Urdu language besides Hindi, now India’s official language, and this was of great assistance as he was famous for popularizing the use of classical music in film.
I first met him in Jeddah in my office for an interview. But when I went to Mumbai I requested the Oberoi hotel management to send him a car to bring him to Marine Drive where the hotel was located and also take him back.
We had a fantastic four-hour meeting with him and other Indians who knew Urdu much better than me. Naushad Ali was an ace musician and a master of Urdu poetry. Hindi was of great assistance to him since both languages are not very far apart. Those present were enthralled by the man and his music played in numerous songs ranging from films Rattan, Darshan, Mela, Sharda, Station Master, Kanoon, Aan, Shahjehan and Keemat. As he was a master of Urdu, he spoke every word of every song with love and sincere appreciation. One of those present placed his tape recorder in front of Naushad and kept it going by feeding tapes to continue the bonanza.
His first film as an independent music director was Prem Nagar in l940. His first musical success was in film Rattan — meaning gems, and then came 35 silver jubilee and three diamond mega successes and all the way up to the 1960s and 1970s.
His own zeal and poetic sense as well as his knowledge of poetry, mastery of the harmonium and the sitar lent passion to his words and his distinctive style enraptured India and Indian expatriates in the world.
He was the first to use a hundred piece orchestra, and the first composer to have developed the Western notation in India so much so that the notation for the film Aan was published in book form in London. For the film called Uran Khatola he recorded an entire song without the use of an orchestra having replaced the sound of musical instruments with the sound of humming. For Mughal-e-Azam song in l960, he used hundred people. He asked Lata Mangeshkar to render a part of the song, the most famous in the film, “Pyaar Kya to Darna Kya” in a room that had glazed tiles and then recorded the music to get echo effect.
As the Indian cinema fell victim to rock and roll and other such innovations he stayed aloof and refused to bend to the trend. But many of my generation in college remained enamored of Naushad’s music until the very end. Rock and roll has come and gone so has the twist and similar music but most of Naushad’s songs will remain part of India’s heritage. And when I attended a family lunch in the Gulf three years ago I was asked to join everyone else in singing the everlasting "Pyaar Kya to Darna Kya" (You have fallen in love so why are you scared). But the man has already passed away.

— Farouk Luqman is an eminent journalist based in Jeddah.
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