The Light of Music:  Roshan 

                                                                                                  - Satish Chopra


‘Khayalon mein kisi ke is tarah aya nahin karte’  sung by Mukesh and Geeta Roy for film- ‘Bawre Nain’- starring Raj Kapoor and Geeta Bali- in the year 1950 is still alive in the head and heart of millions of nostalgic music lovers world over. As and when the unforgettable melody is played, the listener derives a different kind of soul throbbing experience, which somehow cannot be put to words.

The reason- singing at ease, simple lyrics and above all captivating and charming instrumentation of its music by an almost unheard of melody maker called- Roshan Lal Nagrath- more popularly known as Roshan.

After serving All India Radio, Delhi for ten years as a class dilruba player  besides a love affair and second marriage with his disciple-  Ira Moitra (a Bengali), Roshan reached Bombay in search of some  assignment as a music composer. The place to stay was a garage of Husnalal (of Husnalal Bhagatram- duo). It was in this garage,  where his fist son Rakesh was born.          

A coincidence !  At Dadar station, he came across Kidar Sharma, the doyen of Indian cinema and the renowned producer-director, who was planning his next film- ‘Neki Aur Badi’ (1949). He somehow reposed his trust in Roshan as composer  for the film by replacing Snehal Bhatkar.

The film proved a failure and the dejected and a highly sensitive Roshan, one day came to his mentor- Kidar Sharma fully charged with emotions, sobbing and in tears. He said- “Sharmaji mein khudkushi karna chahta hoon”  (Sharmaji, I want to commit suicide).

Later  while narrating this incident, Kidar Sharma revealed that after patiently listening to Roshan, he told him that as regard his intention of committing suicide, he had no objection. At the same time, he asked him whether  he would like to be drowned in Haji Ali or should he take him to Varsova, where the water was deeper. However, he assured him that  if he defer his decision he could give another chance  in his next film- ‘Bawre Nain’.  

Thus, the suicide attempt of Roshan was averted; but the fact remained that during such period of mental distress, the composer in  Roshan created a soul stirring- ‘Teri dunian mein dil lagta nahin, wapas bula le, main sazde mei’  -later on sung by Mukesh for film ‘Bawre Nain’.

Before commenting on the grand success of ‘Bawre Nain’, I would like to narrate another incident, which occurred during the course of its making. Kidar Sharma in his interview to the brilliant Radio broadcaster Ameen Sayani once told- “One day Mr Dondh, a film distributer from Indore came to my office, when Roshan was already there. He put a bundle of  fifty thousand rupees on my table and told me that he would also give me another fifty thousand  for an additional territory of East Punjab for his forthcoming film ‘Bawre Nain’ on the condition, if I replace Roshan and instead engage- Husnalal Bhagatram for its music”.

“Roshan, who was sitting in the same room, on hearing  these words, immediately left”- added Kidar Sharma- “I too  left the room, leaving behind Mr Dondh and went to the adjacent room, where I saw Roshan sobbing with tears.  He (Roshan) told me- ‘Sharmji aap Husnalal Bhagatram ko le lijiye, jis-se aapka pachhees hazar bhi bach jayenge’”. (Sharmaji, you please engage Husnalal Bhagatram in my place, thus you will save twenty five thousand rupees).

“I came back to my room, where Mr. Dondh was sitting. Though in my life, at one given moment, I had never seen such big amount of money; I gave him back the bundle containing fifty thousand  and told him that his conditions were not acceptable to me and further said that it was like inducing  me to change my wife for a lucrative consideration”.

Inspite of his maiden failure in ‘Neki Aur Badi’ , as a visionary he could visualize a lot of hidden talent in Roshan. The episode of confidence imposed by Kidar Sharma inspite of all odds  deserves to be written in golden letters.

This is how the journey of music of Roshan commenced.

In ‘Bawre Nain’, in addition to ‘Teri duniyan mein dil lagta nahin’ & ‘Khayalon mein kisi ke is tarah aya nahin karte’  he composed some bewitching melodies.  ‘Muhabbat ke maron ka’- sung by Rafi; Ghir ghir ke aasman par’, Kyoun mere dil mein’ & ‘Sun bairi balam mat bol’ –sung by Rajkumari and ‘Mujhe sach sach batado, kya’-sung by Mukesh & Rajkumari.   

During the decade (1951-60) Indian film industry had a galaxy of music composers and each one of them wanted to give something better than the other.  Amongst  the front liners  were- Anil Biswas, Naushad, Husnalal Bhagatram, Shanker Jaikishan, Hemant Kumar, S.D. Burman,  C.Ramchandra, Vasant Desai, Ghulam Mohammad. O.P. Nayyar and Khaiyyam- just to name a few.  The  music of  those days was one of the prime factors for the success of a film. As such, for a new composer, it was extremely difficult to survive in the industry, if the songs composed for the film were  not to the expectations of its viewers. In view of such grand music of the said  decade, the phase  was named as the ‘Golden Era’ of Indian cinema. Distinctively, Roshan was not lacking, as he fairly proved his worth.    

Back to Roshan’s early days at Gujranwala (Punjab) where he was born on 14 July, 1917. He  had little interest in his studies, but could play harmonium at ease. He quit his schooling at an early stage and went to Shahjahanpur (near Lucknow) where his father was in service.  It was at this stage that he had an opportunity of learning  from the legend- Ustad Allaudin Khan, the doyen of Maihar gharana and father of renowned sarod maestro- Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi.  Such training though for a short while proved to be of an immense value and a blessing for his future course of music career.

Thereafter he studied at Marris College, Lucknow (later on known as Bhatkhande College of Music) and had an opportunity of learning music from Pt S.N. Ratanjankar. Subsequently Roshan came to Delhi, where he met the grand singer in offing- Mukesh.  They became very close friends and the amity resulted in creation of some of the finest songs ever sung by Mukesh.

In the film- ‘Malhar’ (1952) Roshan composed some alluring melodies- ‘Bade armanon se rakha hei sanam teri kasam’, ‘Ik baar agar tu keh de’ & ‘Kahan ho tum’- duets by Lata and Mukesh; ‘Hota rahaa yun hi agar’, ‘Tara toote duniyan dekhe’ & ‘Dil tujhe diya tha rakhne ko’ –three memorable solos of Mukesh; ‘Koyee to sune mere dil ka fasana’ & ‘Mohabbat ki kismet banane se pahle, diniyan ke maalik tu roya to hoga’ –solos  of Lata.  Added, there was a captivating classical title song of  Lata- ‘Garjat barest bheejat’.

Equally well, here were some fascinating compositions for film ‘Humlog’ (1952)- ‘Chhun chhun chhun baaje payal mori’ & ‘Chalee ja chalee ja chhod ke duniyan’ –solos by Lata,  ‘Apni nazar se unki nazr tak’ & ‘Dil ki pareshanian ishq ki veeraniyan’ –sung by Mukesh and ‘Gaaye chalaa ja gaaye chalaa ja’ –duet by Lata and Durrani.

In film- ‘Naubahaar’ (1952),  there were four everlasting melodies of Lata- ‘Aree mein to prem diwani mora dard na jaane koye’, ‘Dekho ji mora jiya churaye liye jaye’, ‘Wo paas nahin majboor hei dil’ & ‘Unke bhulane pe bole mera dil’. These songs are still fresh in the head and heart of ardent music lovers. The charm of the throat of Rajkumari was very much visible in her number- ‘Kajrari matwari madbhari akhiyan’.  Added, a ghazal of Talat Mehmood,  in his silken voice- ‘Kisi soorat lagi dil ki’  made the film, a mile stone in career memoirs of the maestro.  In ‘Raag Rang’ (1952) Roshan composed yet another classic ‘Aye ree aalee piya bin’ –sung by Lata.

Kidar Sharma produced and directed a film ‘Rangeen Ratein’ (1956) starring Shammi Kapoor and his charming wife Geeta Bali and  Roshan provided its music. A duet of Mohd Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar –‘Bahut assaan hei chilman se laga kar muskura dena’ became an instant hit.  In film ‘Aji Bas Shukriya’ (1958), Lata sang –‘Saari saari raat teri yaad sataye’  which, of course,  is  one of her finest numbers.

In the career of  Roshan, 1960 was perhaps the most successful year. It was certainly  in view of his all time great- ‘Barsaat Ki Raat’.  The cine goers went to cinema halls time and again not merely to see the film, but to enjoy and listen to its all time great qawwallies. How can one forget these charismatic qawwallies- ‘Naa to karwan ki talash hei__ye ishq ishq hei ishq’- sung by Manna Dey, Asha, Sudha Malhotra, Shiv Dayal Batish and others which was recorded in on both sides of two 78 rpm records. The composition proved to be the most popular qawwally in the history of Indian cine music- in view of its captivating rhythm, lyrics, instrumentation and above all  the total effect.  Besides this number,  there were other two-  ‘Nigahein naaz ke’ -sung by Shanker Shambhu, Asha, Sudha Malhotra & others  and ‘Jee chataa hei jee’ –sung by Balbir,  Asha,  Sudha Malhotra  &  Bande Hasan.  In addition to these qawwallies, there were few other fascinating melodies, which made the film a perfect musical hit for all the times to come.  The music lover just cannot forget- ‘Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi wo barsaar ki raat’ –sung by Lata and Rafi; and ‘Maine shaayad tumhein, pelhe bhee kahin dekha hei’ – Rafi.  Above all, there was classical classic title music- ‘Garjat barsat saawan ayo re, laayo na humre’ – sung by Kamal Barot and Suman Kalyanpur. The orchestrisation for this number was simply superb. Experience the enjoyment of listening to the captivating jaltarang, sarangi and all other instruments deployed. Undoubtedly, in this immortal number, Roshan was at his best.

The musical journey continued and in the film ‘Aartee’ (1962), there was a appealing  solo  of  Lata- ‘Aapne yaad dilaya to hamein’ and  ‘Ab kya misaal doon’  - of Rafi and a duet -‘Baar baar tohey kya samjhay’.

‘Dil Hi To Hai’ (1963) was another splendid attempt.  Manna Dey sang one of his apex classical favorites- ‘Lagaa chunri mein daag, chhupaaun kaise’ and Lata sang- ‘Dil jo hi kahega maneige, Mukesh-  ‘Tum agar mujhko na chaho to koi baat nahin’ & ‘Bhoole se muhabbat kar baithe nadan tha bechara’. Besides there was a qawwalli sung by Asha and others- ‘Nigahein milanein ko jee chahta hai’  and another by Manna Dey, Asha and others- ‘Parda uthe salaam ho jaye’.

The film ‘Tajmahal’ (1963) was another landmark in the professional career graph of  Roshan.  We just cannot forget, the most popular duet of Lata and Rafi- ‘Jo wadaa kiya wo nibhana padega’ ?  It  was rated as the year’s top song for  Bianca Geetmala in  its  annual programme. Also, there were two solo numbers of  Lata and Rafi- ‘Julmein ulfat pe hamein log’ & ‘Jo baat tujhmein hai teri tasveer mein nahin’ and a qawwalli – ‘Chandi ka badan sone ki nazar’- sung by Lata, Rafi, Manna Dey and Mahender Kappor. The maestro was conferred the prestigious ‘Filmfare’ award for the music of this film.      

The passion of Kidar Sharma for portraying  mental conflict motivated him to produce yet another version of the film ‘Chitralekha’ based on the novel of Hindi laureate- Bhagwati Charan Verma.  The earlier ‘Chitrlekha’ was produced by him in the year 1941 and music was composed by Jhande Khan. One of its successful songs- ‘Tum jao jao’ is invariably placed in the list of songs of  ‘Sentimental Era’.

This time the composer was Roshan. Though an established composer, it was a challenge for Roshan; as he was working for his mentor’s paramount conviction and his utmost trust imposed on him.

The music once again was enthralling. The deep rooted lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi- matching with the mental conflict was remarkably captivating. Two solo songs of Lata and Rafi- ‘Sansaar se bhage phirtey ho’ and ‘Man re tu kahey na dheer dahrey’ respectively proved somewhat unique. And  a classic- ‘Kahe tarsaye jihra’ sung by Usha Mangeshkar and Asha and another of Lata- ‘Aali ree roko na koi’.   Thus making the music for the film- a magnum opus!

Manna Day’s characteristic style of singing was once agian visible in ‘Dooj Ka Chaand’ (1964) when he sang- ‘Phul gendwa na maaro, lagat karejwa pe chot’. In ‘Bheegi Raat’ (1965) as well, Lata and Rafi individually sang an instant hit - ‘Dil jo na keh sakaa, wohi raze dil kehne ki’.

The stage-poet Neeraj offered some of his trendy lyrics for the film- ‘Nai Umar Nai Fasal’  (1965) and Roshan provided the music.  Rafi sang.-‘Karwaaan gujar gaya’ & ‘Aaj ki raat badi natkhat hei’.   Mukesh sang- ‘Dekhtee hi na raho aaj darpan na tum’.  For film Dadi Maa (1966) Manna Dey and Mahender Kapoor sang –‘Usko nahin dekha hamnein magar’  which, as well proved some successful numbers.

Mamta (1966) was  another  signpost in the musical journey of Roshan. In this film; he provided some of his well acclaimed melodies. Lata once again sang some of the stirring classics-‘Rahein na rahein hum’, ‘’Rehte the kabhi unke dil mein’, ‘Sakal ban magan pawan chalat’  & ‘Vikal mora manwa un bin haye’.  Also there was a  poignant duet of  Hemant and Lata –‘Chhupa lo yun dil mein pyar mera, jaise mandir mein lau diye ki’ which made somewhat emotive  impact on the listeners.

In film ‘Bahu Begum’ (1967) the composer provided some popular melodies- ‘Parh gaye jhoole sawan rut aayee re’ – sung by Lata and Asha. Whereas Rafi sang- ‘Ham Intzaar karenge kayamat tak’ and in ‘Noorjehan’ (1967) Suman Kalyanpur sang –‘Sharabee sharabee’ which were well admired.

A heart patient for almost twenty years and a hypersensitive, the maestro died in Bombay on 16 November, 1967 leaving behind his first name-‘Roshan’, as surname for his sons- Rakesh and Rajesh and thereafter for his grandson- Hrithik.

This was  perhaps in extension to the tradition of gaining recognition at the  initial stage by using their father’s first name- as being adopted by Amitabh Bachchan, who as well adopted his father’s pen-name ‘Bachchan’ as his surname.

Mukesh Chand Mathur’s son and grandson -Nitin Mukesh and Neel Nitan Mukesh respectively, also adopted ‘Mukesh’ as their surname.      

What an irony!

This was the same Roshan Lal Nagrath, who had determined to commit suicide after his maiden failure of the film ‘Neki Aur Badi’ in the year 1949.

When he died,  his last released film ‘Anokhi Raat’ starring Sanjeev Kumar was in making, wherein Mukesh sang the philosophy of life- ‘Oh re taal mile nadee ke jal mein, nadi mile sagar mein, sagar mile kaun se jal mein koi janey na’.



Satish Chopra, BA/26B Ashok Vihar-I, Delhi-110052 #011-27134229/20316429 Email: