Who is not aware of Tu shokh kali main mast pawan, tu shamm-e-wafa main parwana or Dhalti jaye raat kah de dil ki baat? The songs are among all time greats of Rafi. But many lovers of old film music may not be aware or might have forgotten the name of Lachhiram. A very awkward and unfamiliar name, and not among the mainstream composers, he is a perfect candidate for my series on the Forgotten Composers: Unforgettable Melodies.
In my active radio listening days, the above songs were a regular feature on various programmes. It was precisely because it was such an odd name that Lachhiram stuck in my mind. There is some sociology behind such names. In the days of high infant mortality, when in a family children died successively, it was believed that giving an embarrassingly odd name would ward off the evil curse and the child may survive long. In some cases these were used as pet names, and at the right time the person was given a more respectable proper name. However, in many cases these were the only names that were retained in order to make the protection more effective. Most sites mention only his first name, some mention his surname ‘Tamar’, though my recollection is that radio programmes mentioned his surname as ‘Tomar’.
Lachhiram was born in Kuthar princely state of Himachal. His father was an employee in the court of Rana Saheb Jagjit Chandra. Lachhiram lost his father at a very young age, and was brought up and trained by the music lover Rana Saheb. He subsequently received training under the court musician Noore Khan. At the age of 20-21 he came to Delhi and got a job with HMV for whom he also sang many songs. He was discovered by Aziz Kashmiri, who had come to Delhi as an emissary of Shourie Pictures to look for a music director. Thus, his career in films started with Champa (1945), and continued in fits and starts till 1964, when it ended with the most successful film of his career, Main Suhagan Hun. Even though his songs of only a couple of films are well known, it appears he gave music for about twenty films as follows:
1. Champa (1945) with Anupam Ghatak
2. Badnami (1946) with Anupam Ghatak
3. Kahan Gaye (1946)
4. Khushnaseeb (1946) with Anupam Ghatak
5. Shalimar (1946) with Anupa Ghatak and Pt Amarnath
6. Arsi (1947) with Shyam Sundar
7. Director (1947)
8. Mohini (1947) with Bhai Lal
9. Birhan (1948)
10. Guru Dakshina (1950)
11. Madhubala (1950)
12. Maharani Jhansi (1952)
13. Ameer (1954)
14. Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh (1954)
15. Do Shahzade (1956)
16. Guru Ghantal (1956)
17. Hazar Pariyan (1959) with K Narayan Rao
18. Razia Sultana (1961)
19. Main Suhagan Hun (1964)
His early films are not very well known, even Ranjit Movietone’s Dev Anand-Madhubala starrer Madhubala (1950) not doing much to his career. Therefore, let me start with his last film which had the most well known songs, and which make him unforgettable.
1. Tu shokh kali main mast pawan by Rafi/ Rafi and Asha Bhosle from Main Suhagan Hun (1964), lyrics Kaifi Azmi
This fabulous song has a Rafi solo version picturised on Kewal Kumar and a Rafi-Asha Bhosle duet version picturised on Ajit Kumar and Mala Sinha. Obviously it is a love triangle; Kewal Kumar’s singing makes Mala Sinha restless. My impression is that the duet came first in the film as a happy duet between the lovers, until the third angle came later to sing the solo in a different tune.
2. Sab jawan sab haseen koi tumsa nahin by Rafi from Main Suhagan Hun
Another immortal Rafi song, performed by the handsome musician in the mehfil. The romantic poetry and the rendering leaves Mala Sinha in no doubt that it is meant for her, and she is not left untouched.
3. Gori tore nain kajar bin kaare by Rafi and Asha Bhosle from Main Suhagan Hun
Now we can piece the story. Kewal Kumar is a music teacher. This beautiful duet composed in Raga Des shows the student (Nishi?) following her teacher. The song ends with a beautiful tabla piece, played probably by a professional player, the lady now dancing to the beats. (So, it is no longer a triangle, but a quadrangle?)
4. Ae dil machal machal ke kyun rota hai zaar zaar kya from Main Suhagan Hun, lyrics Butaram Sharma
Now this superb pathos-filled song by Lata Mangeshkar would compare with the best by any top composer.
5. Dhalti jaye raat by Rafi and Asha Bhosle from Razia Sultana (1961), lyrics Anand Bakhshi
Being the only woman ruler of the Sultanat and the Mughal period, Razia Sultan’s love affair with one of her advisors, an Abyssinian slave Yakut, has attracted film makers over the years. Whether the films were hit or flop, the romantic tale inspired superb music. We have seen Khayyam’s music in the 1983 version starring Dharmendra and Hema Malini. In the 1961 version starring Jairaj and Nirupa Roy, Lachhiram’s music is equally ethereal. (This one uses ‘Sultana’ in the title rather than the gender-neutral ‘Sultan’.)
6. Jao ji jao badi shaan ke dikhanewale by Asha Bholse, Sudha Malhotra, Mahendra Kapoor and Balbir from Razia Sultana, lyrics Asad Bhopali
This is a beautiful qawwali muqabala between males (Agha and another?) and females (Madhumati, Jeevankala?). With the ladies being terrific dancers too, and accompanied by a few more dancers, the men have no chance.
7. Chali jaati chhabiliya matakati..bhes badal kar gori nikli by Geeta Dutt from Razia Sultana, lyrics Kaifi Azmi
Those days when the leading lady’s love affair became known, her gang of sakhis teased her. This unknown gem by Geet Dutt has excellent picturisation.
8. Aansoo na baha kar yaad use jo is sansaar ka data hai by Rafi from Guru Ghantal (1956), lyrics Gafil
A completely unknown song until I started researching for this post, but it has grown on me. I find no reason why it should not rank with Rafi’s most melodious gems.
9. Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai by Rafi from Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh (1954), lyrics Ram Prasad ‘Bismil’
This is one of the most iconic songs of our freedom movement, written by a revolutionary himself. Among numerous versions – a comment on YT mentions Rafi himself had sung four versions – this one is special because of its somewhat different tune than the one we are familiar with.
10. Ye duniya bewafai ki wafa ka raaz kya jane by GM Durrani from Madhubala (1950), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
This Ranjit Movietone’s Dev Anand and Madhubala starrer must be Lachhiram’s most prestigious project. The film might have bombed. As for the music, though melodious, without Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh and Rafi (this movie had GM Durrani and Asha Bhsole as the main singers) it would have been impossible to make a mark in the face of titans Naushad, C Ramchandra and Shankar Jaikishan. However, this song by GM Durrani, Rafi’s idol in yesteryears, which must have been lip-synched by Dev Anand, is outstanding. I have earlier written on different singers for Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor – it would be interesting to compile for Dev Anand too, and see who had the most voices.
11. Are O denewale tune kaisi zindagi di hai by Asha Bhosle from Madhubala (1950)
Early Asha Bhosle makes a very interesting study. When the elder sister defined the female voice, and other leading singers were Geeta Dutt and Suraiya (I am putting Shamshad Begum in a class by herself), what could Asha Bhosle do? In several songs I have noticed clear Lata style; the impact of Geeta Dutt on her is well known. This song reminds me of Husnlal Bhagatram-Suraiya.
12. Sajan ki yaad suhani hai by Prem Pal from Guru Dakshina (1950)
No information is available about this film or about the singer except that some good soul has uploaded the song on YT. Very curiously, Prem Pal is clearly a lady, but the song is outstanding. The song starts with a slow recital ‘Dil jab se diya hai sajan ko’ and flows into a very fast song. It must have been picturised as a group dance. Lacchiram has used slow recital as a prelude to great effect in some other songs also mentioned above.
13. Kisi ke dard ko seene mein hum chhupa ke chale by Ira Nigam from Guru Dakshina
Now you have this excellent ghazal from the same film by Ira Nigam who was a talented singer of the late 40s to early 50s. Belonging to a Delhi based family, she was born in October 1930 at her nanihal in Madhya Pradesh. From a very young age she started singing in conferences and on the radio. On Roshan’s recommendation, who was a musician in AIR Delhi, she got a break under Khursheed Anwar in Parakh (1944). She also sang in Rakhi (1949), Chaar Din (1949) and a few other films. But sadly, family circumstances prevented her from achieving her true potential as a singer or as a composer.
I doubt if Lachhiram’s pre-1950 songs would be available. But we should count our blessings. It is clear, he was much more than Main Suhagan Hun and Razia Sultana. I am very happy to present this forgotten composer who has been my favourite from my college days.
Acknowledgement: I have taken some information from Pankaj Raag’s Dhunon Ki Yatra and Anil Bhargav’s Swaron Ki Yatra.