There are some people whose reputation precedes their arrival. Jamal Sen has come in for some great praise on at least three occasions on this blog. In Subodh’s piece on Yaman, Jamal Sen’s composition Sapna ban sajan aye was mentioned in comments as one of the best examples of Yaman, and several readers mentioned him as a befitting candidate for this series. Earlier, while researching for Suraiya’s songs, I came across an unheard gem Raton ki need chheen li ankhon ke intezar ne from Shokhiyan (1951), which I had to include over some other well known songs. And later, while writing on Mubarak Begum, Jamal Sen’s contribution in giving her some of the most memorable songs, especially the duet with Mohammad Rafi, Devta tum ho mera sahara in Dayera (1953), was recognised.
With music of such high quality, it is one of the vagaries of the film world that Jamal Sen remained on the fringes and virtually unknown. I myself do not recall being aware of him and his songs before the internet era. I am fulfilling a long pending request of the readers to write on him as a tribute to one of the very talented, but forgotten composers of the Golden Era of our film music (1950s and 60s).
Jamal Sen’s profile
Originally from Sujangarh in Churu district (Rajasthan), Jamal Sen imbibed music from his family tradition. One of his ancestors, Kesari Sen, was said to be a disciple of Tansen. His father Jeevan Sen was a court musician in some princely states. Jeevan Sen also gave music in some Parsi Theatre. Jamal Sen was an adept Kahak dancer. He was also a singer with the All India Radio, Calcutta. He became an assistant to Ghulam Haider in Lahore, and in many musical programmes as well as films like Khazanchi he played the tabla and dholak. Recognising his talents, Kedar Sharma gave him a break in Shokhiyan (1951) over his traditional composers, Roshan and Snehal Bhatkar. Jamal Sen fully met the confidence reposed in him. The next film was Dayera (1953), which was also remarkable for its music. This was the film which made Mubarak Begum famous.
Unfortunately, he could not repeat the success of Shokhiyan and Dayera, even when some of the songs in his later films were reasonably good. Later he also gave music in a Chhatisgarhi film Ghar Dwar (1971) and Bhojpuri film Nag Panchami (1964). Some of his films could not see the light of the day. Interestingly, one of his songs Beeta hua ek sawan ek yaad tumhari was recorded for his first film, Shokhiyan. This song could not find a place in the movie, but was used by Kedar Sharma in his telefilm Pahla Kadam, released in 1980. Dejected by the state of his career, Jamal Sen reportedly took to alcohol. He lived in anonymity and died unsung on April 12, 1979 at Borivili (Mumbai). However, he would be happy in the heaven to know that his grandson Sameer Sen (part of Sameer Sen and his uncle Daleep Sen duo) has achieved commercial success, though he may not be too much enamoured of their music.
Jamal Sen’s select filmography
Kasturi (1954), with Pankaj Mullick
Ritu Vihar (1954)
Patit Paawan (1955)
Amar Shaheed (1960)
Alha Udal (1962)
(Acknowledgment: The above information is based on Pankaj Raag’s Dhuno Ki Yatra, a magnum opus on the music directors, and Cineplot.com.)
Now let us enjoy some of his best songs. But before we get to his songs, let us have Kedar Sharma’s short video clip talking about Jamal Sen
(It is mentioned on the YT that it is a part of a short film made by Sharad Dutt for Doordarshan. Readers would recall Doordarshan had dozens of short films on music personalities such as Naushad, Anil Biswas, Pankaj Mullick etc. You name them and they had it – all made by Sharad Dutt. Thank you Sharadji for creating such everlasting legacy.)
And his grandson Sameer Sen being part of some initiative to honour his grandfather.
1. Sapna ban sajan aye by Lata Mangeshkar from Shokhiyan (1951), lyrics Kedar Sharma
This Prem Nath- Suraiya starer film had absolutely outstanding music as you associate with a Kedar Sharma film. We have discussed this song earlier, but it bears repetition. If we call this the definitive Yaman in Hindi films, it would not be too much of an exaggeration. Atul’s site has some useful information about this movie and Jamal Sen.
2. Ayee barkha bahar by Lata Mangeshkar and Pramodini Deasi from Shokhiyan (1951)
From classical, let us go to the other end of folk. Can you think of a sweeter song than this? The picturisation of beautiful damsels frolicking in water is subtly erotic.
3. Tu to aa ja re by Suraiya from Shokhiyan (1951)
Another folk beauty.
4. Aa bhi ja meri duniya mein koi nahi, bin tere kab talak by Talat Mahmood from Dayera (1953), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
Talat Mahmood was at the peak of his popularity in the early 50s. Jamal Sen draws all the famed silky softness of Talat’s voice in this ghazal.
5. Aansoo to nahi hain ankhon mein pahlu mein magar dil jalta hai by Talat Mahmood from Dayera, lyric Majrooh Sultanpuri
This one again has everything that you expect from the best of Talat.
6. Deep ke sang jalun main by Mubarak Begum from Dayera, lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
Mubarak Begum was the lead singer in Meena Kumari-Nasir Khan starrer Dayera. Video clips are also available of all the songs of this movie on the YT. But their quality is not so good. Therefore, I am giving the audio link. You hear this song and exclaim, Kya baat hai. And then, you rue why was the music world so unfair to Mubarak Begum , or for that matter to Jamal Sen. From the video link it appears as a background song as Meena Kumari tends to her ailing husband.
7. Bachpan ke sathi tujhko mera bachpan pukarata by Lata Mangeshkar from Patit Pawan (1955)
When was Lata Mangeshkar at her peak? To my mind early fifties. And this rare gem from a completely obscure movie – one does not even know if it was released. But God bless the uploader of this song – for such rare melody of Lata Mangeshkar composed by Jamal Sen. The blurb mentions that it was a Lalita Pawar Bipin Gupta-Jeevan-Sulochana starrer movie.
8. Raat zulm ki kat jayegi by Md Rafi from Amar Shaheed (1960), lyrics Arjun
This is as good a patriotic song by Rafi as it gets. In a sad irony, the uploader has given the picture of Naushad with Rafi. Jamal Sen could have been spared this disrespect. Shivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, Padmini and Ragini were the lead players in this film. It appears from the Hindi Film Geet Kosh that this film was dubbed from the Tamil film Veerapandiya Kattabomman made in 1959.
9. Tum pe hum kurban kismat ban jaye by Md Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur from Baghdad (1961), lyrics Pt Indra Chandra
This typical romantic duet sung by Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur is pleasant enough, but I find it special because it is picturised on MG Ramchandran and Vyjayanthimala.
10. Beeta hua ek sawan ek yaad tumhari by Lata Mangeshkar from Pahla Kadam (1980)
Finally the song which I have mentioned in my write-up which Jamal Sen created in 1951 for Shokhiyan, but could not be included in that film. Kedar Sharma included it thirty years later, but Lata Mangeshkar’s voice is clearly vintage early 50s. A beautiful song.