Ghulam Mohammad was Naushad’s senior in the music industry by several years. He was an established tabla player, earning Rs 60 per month, with Ustad Jhande Khan, when Naushad joined him, in 1937, as a piano player at Rs. 40 per month. Fate catapulted Naushad to commanding heights, making him the greatest Mughal of Movie Music. And fate destined Ghulam Mohammad to work for several years as his Chief Music Assistant. Concurrently, he also composed music independently in several films, giving outstanding music. When Naushad broke with AR Kardar finally in 1952, Ghulam Mohammad, too, decided to cease being his assistant. Dil-e-Naadan (1953) was launched with great fanfare typical of Kardar and its music was entrusted to Ghulam Mohammad, hoping that he would repeat the magic of Naushad. Its music was absolutely mesmerizing – not a poor copy of Naushad, but very different and very original. But Ghulam Mohammad was not lucky, the film bombed.
A year later, Mirza Ghalib was a masterly work, earning a well-deserved National Award. It boasted of all-time great music. But the film flopped, and Ghulam Mohammad came to be known as unsaleable in the soulless world of commercial cinema.
His most famous work, Pakeezah (1972), which also eventually became a great commercial success, came to be released four years after his death on 17 March 1968. His soul must be turning in his grave to see that the film’s credit titles mention Naushad’s name first, under the heading “Title and Background Music”, followed by his name under the title “Music”. Naushad publicly claimed that besides the background score, a number of songlets and three songs – Inhi logo ne, Chalte chalte and Mausam hai aashiqaana – were composed by him. Ghulam Mohammad would have been further mortified to see Shankar-Jaikishan singing away Jai bolo Beimaan ki with the Filmfare Award. The film took over ten years in the making as Kamal Amrohi-Meena Kumari marriage hit the rocks. Meanwhile black & white was no longer in vogue and the film had to be redone in colour, but Meena Kumari’s severe drinking and health problems would have made her quite unpresentable compared to what she was ten years ago. Many shots had to be taken in profile or long shot; in some dance sequences, Padma Khanna had to be used as a double. The film opened to a tepid response, but soon Meena Kumari passed away, and the film became a roaring success, which was attributed to a sympathy wave for the Tragedienne. Poor Ghulam Mohammad!
Born in village Naal in Rajasthan, Ghulam Mohammad learnt the dholak and tabla from his father, Nabibakhsh, in childhood. He was also a trained dancer and worked with travelling theatres, such as Lahore’s New Albert Theatre Company and Bikaner’s JB Company. He got further training in the tabla, dholak and pakhavaj from Hyderabad’s Ghulam Rasool Khan. He got work as a tabla player in Saroj Movietone’s film Bhartrihari (1932). Thereafter, he associated with Anil Biswas, and later with Naushad from 1943 (Sanjog) to 1952 (Aan).
In all, Ghulam Mohammad gave music independently for over 30 films. There is some uncertainty about his first film. Pankaj Raag’s Dhunon Ki Yatra mentions Mera Geet (1946, with some other MDs), Doli (1947) and Tiger Queen (1947) as his first films. However, several sources, including HFGK, mention Mera Khwab (1943) as his first film. HFGK also mentions one Ghulam Mohammad as the music director of a much earlier film, Baanke Sipahi (1937). Sudhir Kapur speculates on Atul’s site that this could be the same person, and HFGK might have missed to make the correction when the first volume (1931-40) was published later than the second volume (1941-50). This is completely in the realm of conjecture. One doubt arises because there is a long gap of six years between Baanke Sipahi and Mera Khwab. No song from the first film is available as of now. Even if we take 1943 as the beginning of Ghulam Mohammad’s independent career, he is among the earliest music directors, spanning both the Vintage and the Golden Era. Besides the films mentioned above, his music in Grihasthi, Pagree (1948), Shayar (1949), Bikhare Moti (1951), Amber (1952), Laila Majnu, Rail Ka Dibba (1953), Paak Daaman (1957), Maalik (1958), Do Gunde (1959) and Shama (1961) became very famous and is popular among music lovers.
Ghulam Mohammad has always been mentioned with high respect on Songs of Yore. His songs have apeared in a number of posts, such as in the detailed review of the best songs of 1951 and 1953, which was his big year. His Rafi-Late duet Bheegi palkein utha from Do Gunde has been listed very high in their best ten, above Nuahshad. His Suraiya’s songs – Mast aankhon mein shararat kabhi aisi to na thi and Aapse pyar hua jata hai – has been listed in her best songs. There have been several other mentions, and request by the readers that he needs to be covered independently. I am his huge admirer. Except for a few songs, his well-known songs are very different from Naushad’s style. I can’t say the same for another similar case of Dattaram with respect to Shankar-Jaikishan.
The best way to start Ghulam Mohammad is with Talat Mahmood. He used him in seven films: 1. Nazneen (1951), 2. Ajeeb Ladki, 3. Sheesha (1952), 4. Dil-e-Naadan, 5. Laila Majnu (1953), 6. Mirza Ghalib (1954) and Maalik (1958). There are others who have used him in more films, or might have composed more songs for him. For example, I could count nine films in which Shankar-Jaikishan have used Talat Mahmood’s voice. But whenever I think of Talat Mahmood’s best songs, Ghulam Mohammad’s name springs to my mind. If you associate Anil Biswas, C Ramchandra, Madan Mohan and SD Burman for the best of Talat Mahmood, I put Ghulam Mohammad at equal footing with them.
Let me start my tribute to the Unlucky Genius with his best songs for Talat Mahmood as a tribute to the singer, too, with velvet voice on his 92nd birth anniversary.
1. Zindagi ki qasam ho chuke unke hum from Maalik (1958), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni
If you can’t tire of Zindagi denewale sun, here is another one in the same league. This song is up there in the list my best songs of Talat Mahmood by any music director.
2. Ishq mujhako nahi wahshat hi sahi from Mirza Ghalib (1954), lyrics Ghalib
With such soulful singing, it is no wonder Talat Mahmood came to be known as Ghazal King.
3. Phir mujhe deeda-e-tar yaad aya from Mirza Ghalib
Mirza Ghalib had only two solos and a duet by Talat Mahmood out of 11 songs, but Talat Mahmood became ever etched in our memory as Ghalib going on Bharat Bhushan. Many years later, Ghalib was brought alive by Jagjit Singh on Naseeruddin Shah for the eponymous TV serial by Gulzar.
4. Chal diya kaarwan from Laila Majnu (1953), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni
Before the transformation by OP Nayyar and Shankar-Jaikishan, Shammi Kapoor was a serious hero, singing such poignant songs like his other peers. Now it may seem discordant on him, but for the music lovers we only knew it as a Talat Mahmood song, and what a beautiful song at that.
5. Chaandni raaton mein jis dam yaad aa jaate ho tum from Naazneen (1951), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni
This should be their first song together, but Ghulam Mohammad captures the emotion in Talat Mahmood’s voice perfectly.
6. Jo khushi se chot khaye wo jigar kahan se laaun from Dil-e-Naadan (1953), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni
The best ten male solos of 1953 were topped by six songs by Talat Mahmood, including Zindagi denewale sun from this film. Dil-e-Naadan was a cornucopia of several outstanding songs; forget how the movie fared. Jo khushi se chot khaye is another gem from this film.
7. Ye raat suhani raat nahin ai chaand sitaaron so jaao from Dil-e-Naadan
Here is another one which was lost in the bountiful Talat riches of 1953.
8. Dil-e-Naadan tujhe hua kya hai (with Suraiya) from Mirza Ghalib
This beautiful duet with Suraiya brings up the third Talat Mahmood song in Mirza Ghalib.
9. Ek bewafa ko dil ka sahara samajh liya (with Lata Mangeshkar) from Ajeeb Ladki (1952) lyrics Shakeel Badayuni
Ajeeb Ladki had two Talat-Lata duets, the other being Chhodo chhodoji piya mora todo na jiya. But Ek bewafa ko dil ka sahara samajh liya is more in the line of Talat in a blue mood.
10. Man dheere dheere gaaye re (with Suraiya) from Maalik (1958)
And here is a pleasant romantic duet with Suraiya.
11. Mohabbat ki dhun beqaraaron se poochho (with Jajit Kaur and Sudha Malhotra) from Dil-e-Naadan (1953), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni
I can’t help repeat an earlier song, because it is among the songs I can hear endlessly. This figured in the Best duets of 1953 (as duets include triad and mixed songs in my classification). Incidentally, several songs of Ghulam Mohammad figured in different best lists of that year. He was such a genius. It is a tragedy that he was ‘unlucky’, but for music lovers it does not matter. He is among the greatest, and I end this post with a repeat song which is absolutely charming.