Travesty of missing the Filmfare award
This is the Golden Jubilee year of Mughal-e-Azam (1960), and the media, both print and electronic, is rightly full of the movie. Everything about the film was superlative – its lavish production, awesome battle scenes with thousands of camels, horses and soldiers (there were no computer generated imaging those days), great acting by all the lead players Prithviraj Kapur (Akbar), Dilip Kumar (Salim) and Madhubala (Anarkali), grand ornate dialogues, and above all its timeless music composed by Naushad. But all the stories in the media have missed what Sherlock Holmes would have called the most significant thing about the film – that is, the Filmfare award for the best music director which Naushad did not win. The composers who beat him to it were the duo Shankar Jaikishan for Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayee.
Like everything else about Mughal-e-Azam, the music also had to be opulent and of epic proportions. Naushad also had the challenge of surpassing C Ramchandra’s Anarkali (1953). So if Tansen’s ragini had to waft through the lovers’ secret rendezvouz, it had to be who else but Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan singing Prem jogan ban ke. Ustad Saheb would have nothing to do with film music, so to ward off approaches made to him, he quoted some humungous amount, several times more than what was paid to Lata and Rafi. Naushad instantly agreed. Another piece the Ustad sang was Shubh din ayo. Naushad had earlier worked magic with doyen of classical singers DV Paluskar and Amir Khan in Baiju Bawra (1952) with Aj gawat man mero jhum ke in Raag Desi.
If an expensive sheesh mahal had to be erected just for picturisation of one song, so be it. The song Jab pyar kiya to darna kya is an eternal metaphor for a lover’s defiance of a stubborn authority. The Emperor Akbar’s silent rage at this challenge, the mother Jodha Bai’s (Durga Khote) understanding the gravity of the situation and Salim’s surprised admiration at Anarkali’s courage are unforgettable images from this song.
Krishna lore has inspired many great film songs. But Mohe panghat pe Nandlal ched gayo re (Lata) enacted so beautifully on the screen by Madhubhala remains unsurpassed. Shakeel Badayuni has been credited as the lyricist of this song too. As a matter of fact this is a much older traditional composition, predating Shakeel Badayuni’s arrival by several years. Ignoring this matter of a little detail, what is remarkable is the way Naushad adapted the traditional classic to film medium with a little tweaking of the Raag and making it incredibly beautiful in the voice of Lata. Compare the film version of Mohe panghat pe Nandlal ched gayo re with a very old recording of 78 rpm era sung by Indubala, who belonged to the earliest era of female singers such as Gauhar Jan, Angurbala and Kamla Jharia, whose gramophone records became famous much before the advent of sound films:
Lata Mangeshkar sings Mohe panghat pe Nandlal ched gayo re
Indubala sings Mohe panghat pe Nandlal ched gayo re
The qawwali duet Teri mehfil mein kismet azma kar by Lata and Shamshad, presented on the screen by the pure Madhubala and her jealous rival Nigar Sultana for the prince’s love, brings to life their different world view of ‘love’ – one, all conquering, and the other, all sacrificing. Other Lata numbers – Mohabbat ki jhuthi kahani pe roye, Khuda nigehban ho tumhara, Bekas pe karam kijiye – all haunting melodies bring out so beautifully the pain and hopelessness of Madhubala thrown in a dungeon shackled in heavy chains. You are still left with great Lata gems Ye dil ki lagi kam kya hogi and Humein kash tumse mohabbat na hoti.
Though, surprisingly, there are no songs on Dilip Kumar, yet there is a very evocative Rafi number Zindabad, zindabad ae mohabbat zindabad, picturised on the rebel sculptor, who had a great deal of scorn for the ways of the palace. Coming towards the end when Salim was going to be executed for treason for the sake of his love, Ae mohabbat zindabad captures the entire spirit of Mughal-e-Azam in those few minutes.
Naushad was naturally disappointed to be denied the Filmfare award for the best music direction. Shankar Jaikishan’s Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayee did have some good numbers such as, Ajeeb dastan hai ye, Mera dil ab tera o sajna and Jane kahan gayee. But it would be stretching credulity to suggest it was any match to Mughal-e-Azam.
This was not the only time SJ were able to spring such surprises. In 1971 their Pehchan won the Filmfare over Laxmikant Pyarelal’s Do Raste and SD Burman’s Talaash, and most perverse of all, in 1973 their Beiman(!) won over Ghulam Mohammad’s Pakeezah. While SJ’s music ability declined, they were not beyond showing their non-musical prowess. Filmfare and the Times group did not enhance their prestige by such decisions.
It beats me why SJ should have even cared for such things. That they were one of the greatest music directors was never in doubt. With their very first film Barsaat (1949), they came to occupy the top place with Naushad, and dominated the film music for the next 15 years. There is no other instance of such a meteoric entry and such a long domination in the history of film music.
One more or less award does not add or detract anything from Naushad’s contribution to Hindi film music. He is the only one who has given everlasting gems with singers of vintage era such as Saigal, Surendranath, Parul Ghosh, Amirbai Karnataki, Zohra Ambalewali, Noorjehan, Shamshad Begum, Uma Devi (Tuntun) and Suraiya as with singers of golden era such as Lata, Talat, Rafi and Mukesh. I entirely agree with those who regard him as the greatest music director of all time. Mughal-e-Azam was not any film for him, it meant the peak and essence of whatever was in him. Indeed if the movie is a timeless classic, much of it is due to the timeless music of Naushad.