The first duo Husnlal-Bhagatram (1): Their songs for Suraiya, Lata Mangeshkar and Rafi

July 11, 2017

Husnlal-BhagatramI have signed off the series on Shankar-Jaikishan recently. Before that I had done series on Anil Biswas, Naushad, C Ramchandra and SD Burman. As the readers now expect the next famous music directors in line, there are some yesteryears stalwarts who shone like meteor for a short while, or who gave great music consistently over a long period, but who were not lucky to get sustained commercial success. Though not counted among the G-5 or G-7, they are very dear to the lovers of songs of yore. I was always conscious while doing the series on the superstars that I have to take care that we don’t miss the lesser, but no less talented stars. Husnlal-Bhagatram occupy a very important place in the history of film music as a bridge between the vintage and the golden era, between the theatre-style singing of Zohra Ambalewali, Zeenat Begum and Amirbai Karnataki, and the smooth, melodious singing of Suraiya and Lata Mangeshkar, between GM Durrani and Rafi.

The brothers Bhagatram (1914-1973) and Husnlal (1920-1968) were born in Kahma village in Jalandhar district in Punjab. They were initiated into music by their father Devi Chand. They later learnt music from their elder brother Pt. Amarnath. Husnlal had a passion for violin, and was also a good vocalist; he got further raining from Ustad Bashir Khan of Patiala. He also learnt music from the doyen of classical music, Pt. Dilip Chnadra Vedi. Bhagatram was an ace harmonium player.

Bhagatram initially gave music solo in Bahadur Ramesh, Bhedi Kumar, Chashmawali, Midnight Mail (1939); Deepk Mahal and Tatar Ka Chor (with Ramgopal Pandey), Hamara Desh, Hatimtai Ki Beti (with Madhulal Damodar Master) and Sandesha (1940). In some of these films he used his full name Bhagatram Batish. These films and, with them, their music went unnoticed.

Its is only when the brothers formed the duo Husnlal-Bhagatram that they hit gold with their debut movie Chaand (1944) which had a superlative song in Manju’s voice – Do dilon ko ye duniya milne bhi nahi deti. They shone among the brightest stars in 1948-51 with immortal songs for Suraiya, Lata Mangeshkar and Rafi. This places them in the tradition of Naushad and C Ramchandra, but Husnlal-Bhagatram’s decline thereafter was very sharp. Their protégé Shankar, teaming with Jaikishan, was lucky to get a break with Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat (1949). SJ became the duo to reckon. Naushad with Kardar and Mehboob Khan, C Ramchandra with Flmistan, and SD Burman with Navketan sewed up the big banners among them. The one distinctive feature of HB’s music – Punjabi style – stood no chance before OP Nayyar whose music screamed Punjab from miles. Shama Parwana (1954) and Adal-e-Jahagir (1955) were their last noteworthy films. They continued giving music to some nondescript films, their last film being Sher Afghan (1966). Khayyam also trained under them.

Frustrated with the situation, Husnlal bid adieu to the film world and set himself up at Choonamandi in Delhi’s Paharganj area where he started teaching classical music and giving concerts. While taking morning walk on December 28, 1968, he died of cardiac arrest. His son Dinesh Kumar Prabhakar is also a violinist. After working for many years with the AIR, he is now based in the US, teaching music there.

Bhagatram stayed on in Mumbai, but for survival he had to work as a musician in the orchestra of other music directors, including that of Laxmikant-Pyarelal. He died in 1973. His son Ashok Bhagatram Sharma is an ace sitar player. He is married to the eminent sarod player Zarine Daruwala.

From the very early days of talkies, more than one music director have often joined together to compose music for a film. But generally the songs were separately credited to them, or they didn’t work as a duo on long-term basis. Thus, the mantle of the first duo of Hindi films came to be bestowed on Husnlal-Bhagatram. Their unhappy last days are a reflection of the fickleness of showbiz. But they were among the brightest stars once upon a time.

They occupy the most important place in the career of Suraiya along with Naushad, having composed the most songs for her, several of which have become immortal. They are among the few music directors who gave major break to Rafi in his early career. Their professional and personal relationship with Lata Mangeshkar – especially Husnlal’s – is a part of the filmdom folklore.  They are credited along with Naushad and Anil Biswas to have played the most important part in mentoring her.

I pay my tribute to the first duo of the Hindi film music with their songs for their three most important singers – Suraiya, Lata Mangeshkar and Rafi – in this first part of the two-part article. In the second part, I propose to cover the other singers. Some of the songs have appeared earlier on this blog, but I am sure the readers would not mind it. These songs, while being all-time great hits, also illustrate the limitation of HB’s style. Several of these songs appear to have similar stock melody and instrumentation which became the signature style of Husnlal-Bhagatram. Besides other factors mentioned above, this repetitiveness is also attributed as one of the reasons for their sharp decline.


Their association with Suraiya (in 1948) started six years later than Naushad (in 1942), but they not only outnumber him, but also stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in quality. Even if I had not done the review of the best songs of 1948 and 1949, Suraiya’s songs Tere nainon ne chori kiya mera chhota sa jiya pardesia and O door janewale wada na bhool jana from Pyar Ki Jeet (1948), and Wo paas rahein ya door rahein nazron mein samaye rahte hain, Tum mujhko bhool jaao, Likhanewale ne likh di meri taqdeer mein barbadi and Bigadi bananewale bigdi bana de from Badi Bahen (1949) would have been familiar to the readers of the SoY.

1. Na tadapane ki ijazat hai…Koi duniya mein hamari tarah barbaad na ho from Pyar Ki Jeet (1948), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi

I start with a less known song from Pyar Ki Jeet. Suraiya is nevertheless supremely melodious.  Many music directors of the period were fond of using a recital prelude before the main melody. HB have innovated it further by having slow recitals in all the antaras which is followed by the main melody as refrain. They repeated this style in Likhanewale ne likh di meri taqdeer mein barbadi.

2. Pyar mein do dil mile aur door hokar rah gaye from Baalam (1949), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi

In spite of some all-time great songs in the year, Baalam remained in the shadows. But here is a superb Suraiya song.

3. Aise mein agar tum aa jate kuchh tum kahte kuchh hum kahte from Baalam (1949), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi

A very nice ‘Kuchh to log kahenge’ song.

4. Ae dil kise sunaun ye dukh bhara afsana from Naach (1949), lyrics Kaif Irfani

Suraiya’s voice was especially suited for poignant songs.

5. Baat takun main teri kothe chadh ke from Naach (1949), lyrics Mulkraj Bhakri

But in the same film, HB have Suraiya sing a Punjabi-style naughty song in which the lady declares she would go up the roof to wait for her beau.  She asks him to come by on any pretext.

6. Teri kudrat teri taqdeer mujhe kya maloom…mera dildar na milaya from Shama Parwana (1954), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri

This song also has a twin version in Rafi’s voice. But the pathos in Suraiya’s voice is sure to touch your heartstrings.


HB’s association with Rafi started in 1948 with a bang with the immensely popular non-film song Suno suno ae duniyawalo Bapu ki ye amar kahani as a tribute to Gandhiji after his assassination, and Ik dil ke tukade hazar huye koi yahan gira koi wahan gira from the film Pyar Ki Jeet. Surendra and GM Durrani were still around. Mukesh had already arrived in a big way with Anil Biswas, and Naushad would use him as the lead singer in some of the most prestigious films. HB used Rafi prominently at a stage when he was playing a catching-up game with his peers. He figured regularly in HB’s films thereafter, becoming their most important male playback singer.

7. Mohabbat ke dhokhe mein koi na aye from Badi Bahen (1949), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi

8. Na thamte hain aansoo na rukte nain naale from Meena Bazar (1950), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi

9. Tune mera yaar na milaya main kya janu teri ye khudai from Shama Parwana (1954), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri

Its twin in Suraiya’s voice was better known. But this one showcases Shammi Kapoor before his transformation as a rebel youth icon.

Lata Mangeshkar

HB had a spectacular debut with Lata Mangeshkar with Chale jana nahi nain mila ke haye sainya bedardi, Jo dil mein khushi ban ke aye and Chup chup khade ho zaroor koi baat hai (which, Hans rightly points out, is almost a solo with Premlata singing only the short second line of the mukhda ‘Pehli mulaqat hai’) from Badi Bahen (1949). Lata Mangeshkar was very close to Husnlal of the HB pair before C Ramchandra came into her life. Though HB’s 100 odd songs for her are outnumbered by about 15 music directors, they contain some of the sweetest songs she sang for anyone.

10. Khushiyon ke din manaye ja…Abhi to main jawan hun from Afsana (1951), lyrics Gafil Harnalavi

Generations of listeners of Radio Ceylon have been pulled by Manohar Mahajan to his weekly programme Bhoole Bisre Geet with this signature song. For many of us Abhi to main jawan hun means Lata mangeshkar and not Malika Pukhraj. HB turn the traditional structure of a film song – mukhada and two or three antaras, interspersed by instrumental interludes – over its head. The song starts with an antara kind of composition which segues into the mukhada ‘Abhi to main jawan hun’.

11. Wo paas bhi rahkar paas nahi, hum door bhi rahkar door nahi from Afsana (1951), lyrics Asad Bhopali

12. Dil ki duniya ko….Haye taqdeer meri ban ke bigadati kyun hai from Jal Tarang (1949), lyrics Lekhraj Bhakri

13. Dil hi to hai tadap gaya dard se bhar na aye kyon from Aadhi Raat (1950), lyrics Asad Bhopali

14. Agar dil kisi par lutaya nahi hota from Gauna (1950), lyrics Qamar Jalalbadi

15. Jagmagati diwali ki raat aa gayi from Stage (1951), lyrics Sarshar Sailani


Rafi-Lata Mangeshkar

I would not count HB among the Big Five for the best Rafi solos. But their Rafi-Lata Mangeshkar duets are a class apart, and easily among the best by any music director.

16. Sun mere saajana ho dekhoji mujhko bhool na jana by Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar from Aansoo (1953), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi

This ultimate Pahadi literally transports you to some ethereal hills where lovers are beckoning each other with a haunting melody. This song has a beautiful flute piece running all through. This HB masterpiece occupies the top position among Rafi-Lata duets. This film also had another outstanding Rafi-Lata duet Din pyar ke aye re.

17. Zara tumne dekha to pyar aa gaya by Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar from Jaltarang (1949), lyrics Kaif Irfani

18. Chhota sa fasana hai tere mere pyar ka by Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar from Birha Ki Raat (1950), lyrics Sarshar Sdailani

19. Mahi O mahi O dupatta mera de de by Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar from Meena Bazar (1950), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi

HB’s musc has been described as ‘bright’ by scholars. Even their sad songs had a pleasant lilt and orchestration. Here is a fast-paced delightful Punjabi folk-based song.

20. Tu chanda main chaandni ho teri meri preet hai by Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar from Raja Harischandra (1952)

This little heard song from an equally obscure film is delightful.

Rafi-Suraiya duets

HB surpassed themselves in duets. They were also able to compose with greater variety and less repetitiveness.

21. Seene mein aa bhadakati hai…Ae ishq humein barbaad na kar by Rafi and Suraiya from Naach (1949), lyrics Sarshar Sailani

22. Chhaya saman suhana ho chhaya saman sumana by Rafi and Suraiya from Naach (1949)

23. Main tujhe pukarun sanam sanam by Rafi and Suraiya from Sanam (1951), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi

24. Beqaraar hai koi ai mere dildar aa by Rafi and Suraiya from Shama Parwana (1954), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri

This haunting melody shows they were capable of breaking free from their standard mould.

25. Sar-e-mehfil jo jala parwana by Rafi and Suraiya from Shama Parwana (1954), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri

Here is an interesting shayari muqabala between a commoner poet and the princess who is also fond of poetry and who often orgainises mushairas. She is separated by a thin veil, but we all know the cupid will strike his dart through the veil. We can also guess there would be many obstacles in the lovers’ path.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 N Venkataraman July 11, 2017 at 5:17 am

Back to familiar field. This write-up and the tribute to Husnlal-Bhagatram was long overdue and HB fans will be delighted. I will take sometime to listen to the 25 songs, some of them may be familiar.
Looking forward to lots of contribution from Bhatiaji, Hansji, Mumbaikarji and others.
Thanks for another good post.

2 Dr Dhanwantari G.Pancholi July 11, 2017 at 5:54 am

Wow for the first time I saw the pictures of the stalwarts. Thanks Sir .

3 N.S.Rajan July 11, 2017 at 6:36 am

I am sure most aficionados of Bollywood music, especially seniors, will agree that the songs heard in one’s very young age stay permanently etched in one’s memory. My own experience has been that the tune and words of many songs, which I may not have heard at all for several decades, come easily to mind, playing like a constant tape, with the least effort.
These songs of the ‘first’ duo HB, are ones I heard as a 12 year old. I am overwhelmed with nostalgia whenever I hear them, recalling the exact time when I first heard them, and the location. I grew up with these songs and cherish their memory.
Very happy that you spent your time and effort to dig up these gems and putting them together with an interesting narration on the composer duo ( with their picture too !). It is sad though that such musically talented and accomplished brothers had to struggle so hard and met untimely deaths. The later part of the 1940s suddenly threw up a clutch of prodigiously talented composers, resulting in a few falling by the wayside. Unfortunate for followers of music but, c’est la vie.
Thank you for an absorbing retro.

4 Ashok M Vaishnav July 11, 2017 at 7:17 am

Husnlal-Bhagatram did deserve a full series on SoY.
Apart from that, as always, AKji would ensure that we get to dust off our memories and get a fresh look at some of the gems.

As is our typical Oliverin (Twist) wont, Please sir, we (still) want more.

5 Ravindra Kelkar July 11, 2017 at 8:01 am

Nice post. Good to see that HB is given their due respect. It’s astonishing as well as baffling that they faded from the scene so fast. The Shama Parwana(1954) music score was excellent. But still they had very few takers after that. May be the requisite PR touch was missing. As is well-known Jaikishan from SJ, Laxmikant from LP had legendary PR skills, which helped them dominate the film music industry for huge number of years.

6 AK July 11, 2017 at 9:43 am

Thanks a lot for your appreciation and your ‘interim’ comments. I am sure most of these songs would be familiar to you. Looking forward to your substantive comments with songs.

Dr Pancholi,
You are welcome. Theit pictures and a good deal of material on them is available on the net.

Mr NS Rajan,
Thanks a lot for your appreciation. Yes, HB flowered during a period when a number of stalwarts were at their peak.

Thanks a lot for your appreciation.

Mr Kelkar,
Thanks a lot for your appreciation.

7 Mahesh July 11, 2017 at 10:45 am

A long awaited post indeed. Many Thanks.
Many complain, that all the duos tunes were more or less the same. But there is no denial of the fact that the sweetness was always present in all their songs.
Easily, one of my favorite composers.

8 AK July 11, 2017 at 11:03 am

Thanks a lot for your appreciation.

9 SSW July 11, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Nice article AK, I will go through it with more attention when I have time. Incidentally Zarine Sharma nee Daruwala passed away a few years ago , December 2014 to be precise. I used to hear her often on AIR as a child and was struck by the surname, it’s not often you hear a Parsi name in Hindustani classical music. She played the sarod in the Roshan composition “Man re to kahe” from Chitralekha. She was just 18 at that time. I have heard her husband Ashok Sharma play too, I think I last heard him play at a Manohar Iyer concert “Old is gold” in Bombay some years ago. They played “Bekarar hai koyi” from “Shama Parwana” at that time a song which is not very easy to sing. The rhythm is a standard triple metre but the notes are all over the place often off the beat. See where Rafi joins, in he comes almost at the fag end of the second beat of the measure.

10 AK July 11, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Thanks a lot for your appreciation. I was familiar with Zarine Daruwala as an eminent sarod player, in the next rung below Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. I didn’t know she had passed away. I should have checked up. Thanks for the additional info on her.

Beqaraar hai koi is indeed a complex tune very well done by HB.

11 Shalan Lal July 12, 2017 at 9:34 am

The post revived many old memories of the songs of the Trio Suraiya , Rafi and Lata in their youthful and uncultivated but sweet voices.

HB certainly was the hinges on the closing of the door of the forties and beginning of the fifties

The constructions of melodies were useful for Lata and Rafi for their career but sadly Suraiya could not use her success for furthering her career and we missed her golden voice which should have been there in the fifties as her rightful place.

Nicely brought all these in one post that has very limitation as HB did not survive the onslaught of SJ, OP C.Ramchandra etc.

I heard the Husnalal became alcoholic in his last days. Poor man was emotionally involved in both singers Suraiya and Lata and they both did not know their future.

Very lovely photographs of Suraiya.


12 Gaddeswarup July 12, 2017 at 10:06 am

AKJi, The duet ‘ Chup Chup Khade Ho Jarur Koyi Bat Hai’ was very popular during my school days and copied in South Indian films.

13 AK July 12, 2017 at 5:54 pm

Thanks a lot for your appreciation. Suraiya voluntarily withdrew herself from the film world for reasond that are well-known.

14 ksbhatia July 12, 2017 at 6:27 pm

AK ji ;

Your beautiful article is my childhood travelogue …….best spent. I am lucky to have seen the duo in person in our school , some time around 1956 ,57 . They were generous to hum and some time play their songs on our Principal’s request , in front of school children in the morning assemblies , usually after the prayers .

Both Dinesh Bhatnagar and Ashok Sharma [ sons of HB respectively] did their Higher Secondary from Harcourt Butler Higher Secondary School , Mandir Marg , New Delhi .; and so to say that they were my school mates . My younger brother was class mate of Dinesh Bhatnagar and we all are connected thru facebook as well. Dinesh and Ashok used to play violin in school cultural prog s. ” chup chup khharre ho ” was the most sought after song . While Dinesh stick to violin , Ashok later switched over to playing Sitar .

To me Husanlal Bhagatram music is just like ”Prelude ” of Shankar Jaikishan style of orchestration . ….which Shankar Jaikishan continued with their Interlude and Postludes [ polishing it with improved versions creating a wide canvas for other duos to follow ] as mark of respect to their mentors . In SJ’s very first movie Barsaat , they used HB ‘s interlude from the famous Suraiya song ….” Tere naino ne chhori kiya “….in their song…” Jiya bekarrar hai chhai bahar hai”. I will not dare to call it a copy as Shankar was assistant to HB during those time .

Tere naino ne chhori kiya……is one of Suraiya’s most lively song and is one among my fav. as well.….Pyar Ki Jeet

…..will come back with some wider range.

15 Ashwin Bhandarkar July 12, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Gaddeswarupji @ 12:

Here is the Tamil version of ‘Chup chup khade ho’ from the movie ‘Vaazhkai’ (1949), Vyjayanthimala’s debut movie. The movie was later remade as ‘Bahar’ in Hindi.

16 Gaddeswarup July 12, 2017 at 10:37 pm

Ashwin Ji, Yesterday I cameacross this article which describes some of the influence of the song

17 AK July 13, 2017 at 12:09 am

KS Bhatiaji,
Thanks for taking us on a nostalgia trip. Very sharp observation that Jiya beqaraar hai is so much Tere nainon ne chori kiya. It is one of the interesting turns in our film music that SJ walked away with HB’s baton.

18 Subodh Agrawal July 13, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Thanks AK, for the this wonderful post. I became familiar with HB thanks to ‘Sun mere saajna, dekho ji mujhko…’ – a song that completely charmed me when I was getting into my teens. Later, I associated their names with ‘Chale jaana nahin’ and some other songs. You have, however, presented a veritable treasure trove of their known and forgotten songs.

Pity that the rise of SJ meant the decline of HB, but that’s the way it happens. MS Dhoni was the junior wicket keeper on a tour of England when Dinesh Karthik was the senior one. We all know what happened after that. Thanks to KS Bhatia ji for pointing out that the proteges acknowledged their debt to the mentors through their music.

19 AK July 13, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Thanks a lot for your appreciation. I don’t know whether they were acknowledging their debt to HB or running away with their mantle.

20 ksbhatia July 13, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Gaddeswarup ji , @16;

Thanks for the informative article . HB surely lived their life in a very simple way ….far away from the glamorous world . Their tune speaks of their simplicity and their heart touching melodies lingers for long long time.

Their superb creation….Suno Suno Aye Duniya Walo Bapu ki Yeh Amar Kahani…..will live within us for ever .

21 Ashwin Bhandarkar July 13, 2017 at 6:00 pm


Thanks for sharing the article from ‘The Hindu’. What an irony that the paper chose to feature a pic of Shankar rather than one of Husnlal-Bhagatram!

22 D P Rangan July 14, 2017 at 10:19 am

You have come out tops with the resurrection of this pioneer music director duo with all the details. You have the rare attribute of je ne sais quoi which makes any post of yours distinct and absorbing. The songs are delectable and will stand the test of time. But after 1950s their style would not probably fit the bill and their oblivion was on the cards. True to character, people at that time never thought of providing for their retirement and had to lead impoverished life at their fag end. With this post you have resurrected their memory among current generations. I eagerly look forward to the second part as hinted.

23 AK July 14, 2017 at 11:22 am

DP Rangan,
Thanks a lot for your appreciation.

24 RSR July 14, 2017 at 4:28 pm

@16-> swaroopji, thank you for the link in the Hindu. “An account of Husnlal-Bhagatram will be incomplete without “Suno suno ai duniyan walo, Bapu ki ye amar kahani”. The singer-in-making, 24-year-old Mohammad Rafi, became a celebrity overnight with this recording. The lyrics were by Rajinder Krishan and composed by the duo within a record 24 hours soon after the sad demise of Mahatma Gandhi. More than a million copies of a set of two 78 rpm discs of this recording were sold within a month.”…

25 Arunkumar Deshmukh July 14, 2017 at 4:47 pm

AK ji,
Thanks for writing on Husnlal – Bhagatram.
They are my favourites. Melody came into being,in force,to film music, after Naushad and Husnlal-Bhagatram.
In my opinion, Badi Behen-49 was the Best film ever from them in terms of melodious songs.
By the way, the title of your article is ” The first duo….”. I think its only partly true.
In the 30’s decade there was a pair of composers operating as Music Directors. They gave music to 8 films together and several films separately.
The pair was Banne Khan and Rewa Shankar Marwadi, who gave music as a pair to the following films-
Barrister’s wife-35
College Girl-35
Qeemati Aansoo-35
Chalak Chor-36
Dil ka daaku-36
Matlabi Duniya-36 and
Raaj Ramani-36
It is still an unsolved mystery why the Duo’s name was Husnlal-Bhagatram, because Bhagatram was the elder brother and also the senior partner since he had given music independently also earlier to making a pair. Logically it should have been Bhagatram-Husnlal.
Thanks for giving us this treat here.

26 AK July 14, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Thank you Arunji for your compliments. Possibly none of the songs of the ‘real first’ duo is available nor their name is known.

I hope to throw some light on why they bacame HB and not the other way round.

27 AK July 15, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Rafi’s duets by HB are the real gems, and I have included a good number of them.

28 chellamani July 15, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Only 3 solos of Rafi under HB covered in this article ??

No justice to Rafi for what he had contributed to the HB pair !!

29 ksbhatia July 25, 2017 at 12:34 am

Chellamani , AK ji[s];

Well here are some cross section of HB songs which missed the listings . Though the popular have already been covered the readers , rather listeners, may find some of the following songs equally good.

Starting with Lata song which is my fav.

1. Teri yaad mein ro ro jali…. Lata……Kafila [1952]

2. Chhaya sama suhana……Rafi, Suraiya…..Naach[1949]

3. Yeh raat yeh nazare……Rafi, suraiya…..Trolly Driver [1958]

4. Ek dil ke tkde hazar huye……Rafi….Pyar Ki Jeet

AK ji mentioned this song in the right up but I feel this song should have been credited as Rafi’s most popular sad song of that time.

…..will be back with some more .

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