by: Harjap Singh Aujla
A yesteryears popular music director of Punjabi films Sardul Singh Kwatra once, who is no more us, once painfully remarked that the Bombay film industry can swing in extremes, at times it can be very generous and at others very cruel. It bows its head before you, if you have a big nametag or a big name God-father is solidly behind you and more often it denies respect your genius. Perhaps Sardul also meant that even he was not given his due by the Bombay film World. According to Sardul, the Bombay film industry certainly did not give what was due to some brilliant music directors like Shyam Sunder, Vinod, Sajjad Hussain, Alla Rakha, Khursheed Anwar, Hans Raj Behl and Sardar Malik to name a few.
According to Sardul, the Bombay film industry deserted Husan Lal and Bhagat Ram, when they were at their creative best. Even the acclaimed greats like Anil Biswas and Madan Mahan did not get their rightful due, compared to some much pampered mediocres. Sardul would have been a very happy man, had he been alive when film “Veer Zara” became a box office and musical success and Madan Mahan got a lot of public support and several top awards for his 1972 musical compositions in 2005. About music director Vinod, whom Sardul knew since his childhood, Sardul believed that he was very creative, who produced some of the most soul stirring tunes, but he never got what he deserved in life and in death.
Music Director Vinod’s real name was Eric Roberts, but for film industry he chose a more familiar and shorter name “Vinod”. This was revealed to me by one of his sons-in-law Kelly Mistry, who is married to his daughter Veera Roberts. His other daughter’s name is Veena Roberts (after marriage Veena Solomon).
Sardul was feeling very dejected about the plight of music director Vinod, who died at a young age and in poverty
on the Christmas day in 1959. Sardul Kwatra knew Vinod since his days inLahore and from a time when Sardul himself was a child, quite ignorant about his destiny. Vinod hailed from a Christian family of Lahore , who were converted from Hindus. Vinod had his family tree connected to Gurdaspur and Amritsar . As a child Vinod was fascinated by the band music which was prominently played during Lahore ’s colorful Hindu weddings. Vinod also listened carefully for hours to the Rababi musicians performing “Shabad Kirtan” at Gurdwara Dehra Sabib Lahore and other shrines. Sardul said Vinod became a student of Lahore ’s famous music director Pandit Amar Nath and learnt the fundamentals of ragas and tune making with the help of a harmonium from the great maestro. He started making tunes while being in Lahore prior to 1947 and after the death of Pandit Amar Nath, he got the contract of composing the music for a number of films including Punjabi film “Chaman”. But the film could not be taken up due to tense communal atmosphere in Lahore . It was made much later on in India after 1947. Pushpa Hans and Shamshad Begum lent their voices to the songs in this film. Lata Mangeshkar was a new find, looking for work and Vinod gave her three songs to sing. Incidentally Lata’s all three numbers became landmark songs not only for this film, but for other Punjabi films to follow. Those were the days of extreme communal tension on both sides of the Radcliffe line in Punjab , as a consequence after its release the film did not do well in Pakistani Punjab. But the selling of its music even in Pakistan did quite a decent business.
According to some historians Vinod’s mentor Pandit Amar Nath died in 1946. Some other historians say that Pandit Amar Nath died in February of 1947. But by 1944 most of the Lahore based music directors like Khurshid Anwar (in 1941), Shyam Sunder (in 1943), Hans Raj Behl (in 1944) , Rashid Atre, Feroze Nizami, Ghulam Haider, Pandit Husna Lal Bhagat Ram shifted their base to Bombay . Pandit Amar Nath and Pandit Gobind Ram were the only ones left in Lahore . After Pandit Amar Nath’s health deteriorated in 1946, Vinod inherited some of his contracts. “Khamosh Nigahein”, “Paraye Bas Main” and “Kamini” were some of the movies which fell into Vinod’s kitty. None of these 1946 movies did well at the box office and Vinod did not get any milage either.
Lata (1950-color added)
Vinod got the best break in life in 1949, when he got the contract to compose the music for Hindi film “Ek Thi Ladki”. The film became a hit and its Lata song “Lara lappa lara lappa layi rakhda, addi tappa addi tappa layi rakhda” became a nation-wide hit. The tune of this song was based on an old Pahadi Punjabi folk tune of Kangra district. While listening to his other songs for this film, a similarity with the tunes of film “Mirza Sahiban” composed by his mentor Pandit Amar Nath could be clearly established. This goes to prove that Vinod, in letter and spirit, learnt the art of tune making from his teacher. This earned him contract for another Punjabi film “Bhaiya Ji” made in 1950. Lata sang several memorable songs for this movie. One of its sad songs “Ajj mera mahi nall tutt gaya pyar ve akhiyan na maar ve” was acclaimed to be a landmark song. Even Sardul Kwatra had a great admiration for this song. This song later on inspired the tunes of several Hindi songs. In 1949 Vinod composed music for another Hindi film “Taara”, which did not create any waves.
Talat Mahmood and Mohammad Rafi were the favourite male singers of Vinod, who always did full justice to his tunes. According to Sardul Kwatra Vinod had no God-father like Shanker and Jaikishan had in producer actor Raj Kapoor and producer Amiya Chakravarty and Naushad had in a very popular producer Mehboob Khan. Roop K. Shori, who gave Vinod music composition contracts for his films, somehow did not belong to the big league of Bombay based film producers like Sohrab Modi, K.A. Abbas, V. Shantaram, Mehboob Khan, Raj Kapoor etc.
Roop K. Shori of course was a very famous film producer in Lahore , who while moving to Bombay , took his entire
Vinod with his daughters
team with him. Music director Vinod and lyricist Aziz Kashmiri were members of his group. Vinod composed the music for most of Roop K. Shori films. In all Vinod composed music for 27 Hindi films, out of which he shared music with other music directors for at least six films. Some of his films were not completed and some were not released even after completion. Among some of Vinod’s best known creations were the musical compositions of films “Anmol Rattan” (1950), “Wafaa” (1950) “Sabaz Bagh” (1951) “Aag ka Dariya” (1953), “Laadla” (1954) and “Makhi Choos” (1956). For a while Roop K. Shori got Vinod a salaried job as a music director in “Filmistan Studios”. One characteristic of Vinod was that in Punjabi films he inserted Hindi songs and in Hindi film songs he inserted some Punjabi wording. This trend was discontinued later on, but since the nineties once again Punjabi songs are becoming a part of most Hindi films and these songs are proving big hits.
According to Vonod’s son-in-law Kelly Mistry, Vinod was born on May 28, 1922. On the average Vinod was doing one or two successful films a year from 1948 to 1957, but one or two hit films in a year are not enough to ensure a decent standard of living in a city like Bombay . Husan Lal Bhagat Ram gave the music for 19 films in 1949 and 1950 and Shanker Jaikishan were composing the music for on the average 3 to 4 hit films every year during the fifties and sixties. Such busy schedules made both duos financially quite well off. O.P. Nayyar was also doing 3 to 4 successful films a year during the fifties, but somehow he did not manage his finances well. On the other hand Naushad was professionally quite creative and he always managed his finances well and lived in style.
Vinod with his family
Both Shyam Sunder and Vinod, in spite of being thoroughly professional, were never financially well off. They both died during the fifties. After Vinod’s untimely death at a young age of thirty seven on December 25, 1959, his wife Sheela had great difficulty in bringing up his children. Vinod loved his childhood city of Lahore and did not want to leave that great cultural centre, but the unfortunate partition of Punjab and the resultant bloodshed and its trauma left no option of going back to Lahore . Vinod was every inch a Punjabi and he longed to compose music for the Punjabi films, but after 1951 mostly two music directors ended up getting all the music direction contracts. They were Master Hans Raj Behl and Sardul Kwatra. Vinod composed music for only five Punjabi movies. These are “Chaman” (1948), “Bhaiya Jee” (1950), “Mitiar” (1950), “Ashtalli” (1954) and “Nikki” (1958). Vinod died a frustrated man, who’s professional genius was always shortchanged.
Although Vinod composed music for thirty two films, but most of these films were under small banners and the music of many was let down by the film’s poor showing at the box office. The following is the complete list of his films:
1. KHAMOSH NIGAHEIN 1946
2. PARAYE BUS MAIN 1946 (with Niaz Husain)
3. KAMINI 1946
4. CHAMAN (PUNJABI) 1948
5. EK THI LADKI 1949
6. TAARA 1949
7. ANMOL RATTAN 1950
8. BHAIYA JI (PUNJABI) 1950
9. WAFFA 1950 (with Bulo C. Rani)
10. MUTIAR (PUNJABI) 1950
11. FOR LADIES ONLY 1951
12. MUKHRHA 1951
13. SABZ BAGH 1951 (with Gulshan Sufi)
14. AAG KA DARYA 1953
15. EK DO TEEN 1953
16. ASHTALLI (PUNJABI) 1954
17. LAADLA 1954
18. RAMMAN 1954
19. HAA HAA HII HII HOO HOO 1954
20. JALWA 1955
21. OOT PATANG 1955
22. SHRI NAQAD NARAIN 1955
23. MAKHI CHOOS 1956
24. AMAR SHAHEED (with Vasant Desai) YEAR UN-KNOWN
25. SHEIKH CHILLI 1956
26. GARMA GARAM 1957
27. MUMTAZ MAHAL 1957
28. NIKKI (PUNJABI) 1958
29. MISS HUNTERWALI 1959
30. DEKHI TERI BUMBAI 1961
31. EK LADKI SAAT LADKE (with S. Mohinder ) 1961
32. RANG RALIYAN (with Lachhi Ram and Mukherjee) 1962
Note: Last three films were released after his death at the age of thirty seven in 1959.
Had Vinod remained busy under big banner movie makers, he may not have died at the prime of his youth. One of Vinod’s masterpiece creations is the music for the Punjabi film “Mutiar” (1951). One of its Urdu Ghazals “Aye dil mujhe jaane de, jis raah pe jaata hoon” recorded in the silken voice of Talat Mahmood is simply outstanding. Its Punjabi version was never recorded. The lovers of Punjab and Punjabi language, bow their heads before Vinod for all the great musical compositions he has given to his mother-tongue.
1. Dr. Har Mandir Singh Hamraaz of Kanpur U.P., the author of “Hindi Geet Kosh from 1931 to date, for painstakingly digging up and supplying complete list of Vinod’s films.
2. Dr. Surjit Singh of San Diego California USA, for enabling me to access his veb-site for listening to Late Allahdad Khan of Peshawar Pakistan’s great collection of vintage Hindi and Punjabi film music.
3. Shri Harish Raghuvanshi, a film music historian of Surat Gujarat, the compiler of “Mukesh Geet Kosh”, “Gujarati Film Geet Kosh” and the writer of “Inhe Na Bhulana” for digging up information about music director Vinod’s forgotten Hindi and Punjabi film songs.
4. Late Sardar Sardul Singh Kwatra, Music Director of yesteryears for sharing his Vinod related precious memories with me.
5. Music Director S. Mohinder (Mohinder Singh Sarna) for sharing his memories of Vinod with me.
6. Vinod’s son-in-law Kelly Mistry for sharing thoughts and photos with me.
Harjap Singh Aujla E-MAIL Address firstname.lastname@example.org