DAWN Tuesday Review, October 29-November 4, 1996
PROFILE: NISAR BAZMI
On A Song
Bazmi, Nisar. Born 1925, in Jalagaon near Bombay. Began working in C class and B class movies in 1944. Migrated to Pakistan in the early 1960s, and received instant recognition as a foremost film composer. Composed music for over 140 films altogether. Presently lives in Karachi, in a way 'retired' from films, dedicating some of his time to teaching music from his house in North Nazimabad, Karachi...
Entries on some of his memorable songs follow:
Song Chanda ka dil toot gaya hai (Rafi)
Film Khoj (1953)
This is a song Nisar Bazmi recalls when referring to the Indian span of his career. Among other songs: Chalti ka naam gadi, Jo smajh gaye who samajh gaye, Peechhay reh gaye anadi. He did almost 40 films in India, which included many songs sung by Mohammad Rafi, Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar.
Song Ho tamanna aur kiya (Noorjehan)
Film Aisa Bhi Hota Hai (1965)
In 1962, Bazmi was in Pakistan to visit some relatives as well as explore the possibilities of work her. A friend arranged his meeting with Fazle Karim Fazlee and his son Faizee, well-connected filmmakers of the 1960s. They booked him for their film Aisa Bhi Hota Hai, and also helped him procure Pakistani nationality. The recordings started in December 1962, and the entire score was ready by the first few months of the following year. The film, however, was not released until 1965. The songs, lent out to the radio soon after their recording, thus became popular long before the first screening of the film. Among the popular numbers were the comic-modem Hum ko toh ishq nay buddhoo bana diya (Ahmed Rushdi) and Mohabbat mien teray sir ki qasam (Rushdi and Noorjehan). But the composer's own favourite remained Ho tamaana, which also became extremely popular with the public. "I like it because it is so eastern. It really gives you a feel of our classical music," he says.
An interesting anecdote is related to the recording of the first song of this film: Aye aye bahar kay din aye. "All the music directors had gathered to watch my work -- Khwaja Khurshid Anwer, Rasheed Atre, Master Inayat Husain, and others. Those days, songs were recorded on three tracks: two were given to the musicans, and one to the singer. For certain reasons, I was not getting the required effect, and kept on asking Madame (Noorjehan) for more re-takes. On the nineteenth, Masster Inayat, who had just entered the hall, said to me, 'Bazmi Saheb, this is good.' And I Okay-ed it. Those were the good old days when you could ask even a senior artiste to give many re-takes," recounts the composer.
Song Mushkil mein sub nay tujh ko pukara (Masood Rana)
Film Hatim Tai (1967)
These were the days when Nisar Bazmi had signed a contract with Eveready Pictures -- the kind of employment which provided him with an office to work in, but did not stop him from taking up jobs offered by other companies. To his dismay, he noticed a gramophone being brought into his office. He protested, "but I don't need a gramophone here." The employers told him it was just therte in case he wants to use it... But Bazmi knew its real purpose and his worries were realized when the employers brought in a record with Hatim Tai printed in Hindi on its sleeve.
They said, "we see you are working on the hamd. Incidentally, the Indian film also has a hamd in it. Why don't you listen to it..."
"Listen," said Bazmi very curtly (the unassuming Bazmi can become disrespectful sometimes, i.e., when he is offended). "If you wanted someone to copy the tunes, you could have hired a musician. You don't need a composer for that". Eventually, the hamd he prepared was original, and quite a good one.
Hatim Tai was a costume film, like an earlier one he had done, called Aadil (1965) which starred Muhammad Ali, like so many costume films of the day. But unlike Aadil, it was a film about the magical world, and provided an opportunity for him to express his wildest imagination and take his audience on a trip beyond the real word -- which he did!
Remembering his tussle with filmmakers, Nisar Bazmi says: "I was fortunate to work with people who did not force me to compose plagiarized tunes, even when they wanted me to do so. Of course, I never worked with the ones who were notorious for plagiarism. I need not mention them, because you all know who they were."
Song Halat badal nahin saktay (Noorjehan)
Film Lakhon Mein Eik (1967)
Afzal Husain, who had recorded the songs for Aisa Bhi Hota Hai, decided to produce a film. He wanted Raza Mir to direct and Bazmi to compose the music. It turned out to be a good team. Many music listeners as well as critics remember the score from Lakhon Mein Eik as the best of Bazmi, although he himself thinks he surpassed himself in Naag Muni, a few years later (which was again, incidentally, a Raza Mir direction).
The most popular song from Lakhon Mein Eik has been, of course, the evergreen, ever-sad number: Chalo achha hua tum bhool gaye. It was also very well placed in the film.
"That song was entirely inspired from the situation. I was reading the script. The lover, a Muslim boy, has lost his memory. His father brings the heroine, to see him. She is a Hindu girl whom this boy had loved madly. Now he asks, "Who is she?" Just as I read this, I thought they could not have been married anyway, so these words came to mind: 'Chalo achha hua tum bhool gaye, ik bhool he thha mera pyaar...' And I composed the song with these dummy words. Later, the poet decided to keep them..." says Bazmi.
Bazmi's own favourite, however, remains Halat badal nahin saktay. What he likes about it is the contrast between classical and light classical. "The asthai is very classical; the antra so light. And they go along together in perfect harmony," he says.
Another song, Sun Sajna, was typical of Bazmi because it was rendered at an extremely high-pitch. "I have never sung at such a pitch", the Madame complained when it was recorded. Well, that was just the beginning. She would soon find herself eclipsing her own pitch a few years later, in Naag Muni.
Song Kuchh loge rooth ker bhi (Noorjehan)
Film Andaleeb (1968)
Nisar Bazmi thinks that Fareed Ahmed, the director, deserves credit for the success of this film, "He was a hard-working person, who had a grip on every department of the film: beackground music, editing, processing... everything."
Almost all the songs of this memorable film were super hit -- Nanhi munni gudiya rani, Meray dil ki mehfil saja dainay wally, Gaysuon kay anchal mein... to name but a few. Bazmi's own favourite remains the sad version of Kuchh Loge. He prefers it over the lighter version, which "did not have such a powerful situation in the film as this one".
Interestingly, Bazmi had composed a song by Jan Nisar Akhtar in his days earlier in India. That tune was also based on Bilawal that. The beginning of the song, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, was strikingly similar to Kuchh Loge. (If you like, why not try out humming it yourself. The line is: Yeh raat yeh jaltay tarray/Yoonhi jaltay nah rehain gay/Badlain gay yeh nazaray/Yeh raat...)
Song Saajna ray (Noorjehan)
Film Naag Muni (1972)
"In my opinion, the only good film music is that which bursts out from the situation in the script and forces itself upon the music director," says Bazmi. Naag Muni had everything Bazmi could dream of. Out-of-this-world situation, the backdrop of an imaginary dance-and-music based culture, and Raza Mir. Waheed Murad, the hero in Andaleeb, was once again in the starring role. What resulted was one of the best films ever made in our industry (forgive the lousy insertion of a sub-plot in the second half), and one of the best musical scores which is still remembered today. Aaj bhi sooraj doob gaya hai was the song Madame had to render in such a high picth, it must have made the tune seem so easy from Sun sajna. And then there was Tun toh pay waroon, one of the most celebrated songs of our cultural history -- some adored its heart-rending melody while others found it disgusting for being too earthy. Almost nobody has ever been able to forget it.
Nisar Bazmi's favourite, however, remains the horrible Saajna ray. "There have been so many songs about love, happiness and sorrow. This one is different from them all. This one is different from them all. This one is about fear. Straight fear. Not just the fear of losing love, but also the fear of losing someone's life." Indeed, it is.
In this song, Bazmi was also able to pay homage to S. D. Burman, one of his favourite music directors from India. Burman's song Rangeela ray had been living in the memory of Bazmi for quite some time. (That was an old song, don't confuse it with the new one, please!) The beginning of Sajna ray was an allusion to that song, but very much in the tradition of true art -- which meant that the resemblance ends there.
"Just listen to the two songs yourself and compare them", says Bazmi, "You will know what am I saying".
Song: Aisay bhi hain meherban (Ahmed Rushdi)
Film: Jaisey Jantey Nahin (1969)
Nisar Bazmi usually quotes this song to prove that Rushdi was also a master of serious singing. "This song is very popular," he adds. "People from abroad also sing it. I was happy and amazed to find a Chinese group rendering it on one occasion." The film was directed by Suleman, who was also the director of the earlier Ali-Zeb production Aag (1967). Songs from that movie, also composed by Bazmi, were also popular, including Mausam haseen hai (Ahmed Rushdi-Mala duet).
Jaise Jante Nahin was among the last of the black and white films. The era of colour movies had at last also begun in Pakistan. (Hollywood had released its first colour movie in 1939, while India's Aan, released in 1956, was the first colour production of that country).
Song Chalo yoonhi roothe raho (Mehdi Hasan)
Film Shararat (1974)
Mehdi Hasan had a reputation for singing slow songs. "Why not try him on a fast, happy song?" Bazmi thought. In the beginning people were reluctant, but the number turned out quite well, and became popular at once.
Suleman was a director who usually made a good team with Bazmi (they must have worked on 15 or 16 films together). With Shararat, however, differences arose between them. Bazmi had always been fond of long pieces of 'intervals' in his songs. With the arrival of colour he had started taking even greater liberties, as he thought that the colour camera can hold people's interest over long sequences of musical action. Some of the actors did not like that, saying it was too much fatigue. In Shararat, Suleman gave in to such actors and mutilated the interval pieces. "Why, you could have told me," said Bazmi, "I could have kept them short in the original score... if your actors are tired of running around, next time I will only give you asthai and antra!"
Song Aisi chaal main chaloon (Tasawur Khanum)
Pervez Malik had decided to direct a film about a strong female character - something of a modern-day Amazon. This was the song Bazmi prepared to introduce to the tougher side of the character. Likewise, he chose a new voice: Tasawur Khanum had done only one song before. The naturally high pitch of her voice was quite suitable for this character (although an ironically ill-matched contrast with the original voice of the actress, who was, incidentally, the soft-spoken Shabnam).
Earlier, the heroines of our films had usually played passive roles: blood, sweat and tears, and sacrifice. Anmol was something of a gender revolution as far as the cinema is concerned. Where did this character come from?
"We can't say," says Nisar Bazmi. "But it just might have come from somewhere (across the border)." Laughs.
Other super hit memorables from Anmol: Pyaar insaan ko (Mehdi Hasan), Abhi aap ki umar hi kya hai (Runa Laila and Rushdi), and many others.
Apparently, Bazmi likes this movie. "I have done several pictures with Pervez Malik but the really good ones amongst them are only three: Anmol, Pehchan and Talash." Then, if you mention Intikhab, he will respond with an ambiguous "ji han", leaving you to wonder if he means to review his judgment. Of course, the most memorable hit from Bazmi-Malik team remains the unforgettable "Allah hi Allah kiya karo" from Pehchan (1976), which gave boost to the upcoming crooner Naheed Akhtar.
"That was based on a Kashmiri folk tune", says Bazmi. "And I think Masroor Anwar, the poet, did a good job on it."
Song Mein tera sheher chhor jaoon ga (Mujeeb Alam)
Film Shama Aur Perwana (1972).
This was the film which brought him together with Hasan Tariq. Many critics still consider Tariq-Bazmi-Rani team to be one of the most successful groupings in the history of our cinema.
The song, which also marked the mahurat (launching) of the film, was originally recorded in the voice of Mehdi Hasan. Other songs, such as Mein teray ajnabi sheher mein, etc., required a higher pitch and hence they were rendered by Mujeeb Aalam. Hasan Tariq, however, wanted all the songs for the character to be done in a single voice. Since it was more difficult to ask Mehdi Hasan to render the five other high-pitched songs, Bazmi called upon Mujeeb Alam to re-record this one in his own voice. Fortunately, the four-track system had already been introduced by that time, so that Mujeeb merely had to dub his voice on the previously recorded musical track. In this song Bazmi had deliberately kept the interval pieces short. The situation demanded that, since the singer was supposed to be gazing at the beloved, without taking his eyes away even for a moment.
Shama Aur Parwana had a nominal storyline, and the film depended upon its music in order to avoid a complete box office failure. Bazmi composed eleven songs, out of which ten became super hit (including Mein tere ajnabi sheher mien (Mujeeb), Pyaar ko jurm (Mujeeb-Mala) and Aaj hai mehfil deed ke qabil (Noorjehan).
Watching the premiere show, Pervaiz Malik remarked, "It seems as if, whenever Hasan Tariq failed to come up with something in the story, he simply asked Bazmi Saheb to put a song there" Bazmi recalls this comment whenever someone mentions Shama Aur Parwana. I do not think he disagrees altogether.
Song Laga hai Misr ka bazaar (Mehdi Hasan/Noorjehan)
Film Tehzib (1974).
In 1973, Bazmi went off for his pilgrimage (he has always been a religious person). As soon as he came back, he was picked up by Hasan Tariq right from the airport, who told him, "Bazmi Saheb, you have to do this song just now, for me..." The song was for his next venture Tehzeeb, describing the emotions of a girl who is completely drunk and alone with her lover.
However, the song from Tehzeeb which became most popular was Laga Hai -- rendered twice in the film, in two different voices. Interestingly, the censors first passed the song but later decided to get the word 'Misr' (Egypt) removed for diplomatic reasons. By then, the film had already been released and the records sold. They could not do anything about the records but they did get Hasan Tariq to dub the prints again, substituting husn for 'Misr'; watch out for the brief jerk the next time you watch Tehzib!
Song Jo bacha tha wo lutanay (Noorjehan)
Film Umrao Jan Ada
The favourite character of Hasan Tariq was the prostitute. Anjuman and Umrao Jan Ada will go down in our history as two of the most memorable films on the topic. Hasan Tariq had discovered Rani's talent for dancing roles, and nobody could ever cast her again the way Hasan did. In fact, her career faded with her separation from Hasan.
Of the several dance scores Bazmi did for the Rani-Hasan team, perhaps the best remembered ones are Dil Dharkey (Anjuman) and Jo bacha tha. About the latter song, he says, "I have now come to like the song myself. Look at the way Madame has rendered the word 'tha' in the first line. Simply wonderful. But, strange, as it may seem now, I wasn't quite happy with this song in the beginning." Why? Bazmi refused to say. "Oh, I don't want to name anyone. They all have been so nice. I really care for their feelings, and don't want to hurt..."
From other reliable sources we learn that the song was originally meant for Runa Laila, who was taking over the music scene in those times. And Bazmi had always treated the young crooner with the kindness of an elderly person. It was Hasan Tariq who suddenly decided to take the song away from Runa and give it to Madame. Bazmi, who is by nature calm could not cope with the last-moment change, and it needed the rest of the country to really convince him that the rendering was, after all, not quite bad.
Song Khayal rakhna
Made for TV (1982)
This song was just as popular in the early eighties as the Vital Signs' Dil Dil Pakistan was to become about five years later. It was rendered by Alamgir, whom Nisar Bazmi had introduced earlier in his film Jageer, with the fast-rhythm song: Hum chalay to humaray sang sang. It was also a breakthrough for the Benjamin Sisters as the chorus. Rendered on modern beats, but still with rather simple equipment as compared to the gadgets people use today - it had an 80-keyboard, guitar and jazz only - this was the tune picked up by Shoaib Mansoor, the producer, out of the several Bazmi had prepared for the song. The rest is history.
Song Sacha tera naam (Mehnaz)
Film Biwi ho to Aisi (1983)
This is amongst the last works of Bazmi, so far. The trends had changed by then. Most of the musical score from Biwi ho to Aisi reminds us of the disco trends, but Bazmi's own favourite remains Sacha tera naam - a simplistic hymn. Why? Don't ask him. He would say, "Allah ka naam hai bhai. Isn't that reason enough to like the song?"
"In my opinion, the only good film music is that which bursts out from the situation in the script and forces itself upon the music director," says Bazmi.