A singer and composer, the great:  Pankaj Mullick


                                                                                  -Satish Chopra

 ‘Gujar gaya wo zamana, kaisa kaisa’, as and when we listen to these grand nostalgic signatures of the melody of the gone by days; something, which cannot be put to words, erupts in the head and heart of millions of music  lovers. Was this melody sung and composed by Pankaj Mullick for the film ‘Doctor’ (1941), a mere song?  Certainly  not.

 It was indeed more than a song to be evaluated, as the music   had a wonderful expression of thought immersed in the lyrics, the musical instruments deployed,  the complete control over the tonal quality of the singer and above all its magical spell on the listeners. And, this was just a glimpse of the music of one of the greatest singers and composers of the last century.

 Pankaj Mullick was born in a middle class family on 20 April, 1904 in Calcutta . He had a deep interest in music from his early childhood days. As he could not afford to buy a harmonium, he borrowed one from his neighbor, who was away to Iraq. He had his early lessens in music from Durgadas Chatterjee, followed by Laxmibai Mitra (for Robindra Sangeet) and Dinendranath Tagore.

 In view of early demise of his father and consequent economic constraints, he could not complete his college education. However, he carried on with his music training. He was thus destined to be a singer and a composer! Thereby, making his first recording disc for Beelophone Company in the year- 1926.

 In the year-1931, Pankaj Mullick joined the renowned music director, Rai Chand Boral for the orchestral music, under the banner of International Film Craft and jointly composed music for films ‘Chesher Meya’, ‘Chorkata’ and ‘Dena Paona’ in Bangla.

 He was perhaps the first to introduce Western Classical orchestral music in films and or otherwise, besides keeping the flavor and tang of traditional Indian character intact.  He, as a result, successfully accorded new dimensions to the vocal cord of the singers.

 At  All India Radio,  Punkaj Mullick taught music to song loving pupils, which was a celebrated job in those days. He as well  wrote books on music,  such as -‘Geet Balmiki’, ‘Raag Lakshan’, ‘Geet Manjan’ and ‘Mahishasur Mardan’. Besides, he acted in films- ‘Dhartimata’, ‘Kapaal Kundala’ and ‘Nartaki’.    

 As he had a deep understanding of literature, he could explore qualitative feelings in singing while composing; be it was  K.L. Saigal, Kanan Devi, K.C. Dey or he himself and or any other singer of his era. Thus creating an  effortless immortality in his melodies.

 Pankaj Mullick composed music for an all time great film -‘Yahudi ki Ladki’ (1933) starring K.L. Saigal & Ratanbai. Its songs – ‘Lag gayee chot karejwa pe’, ‘Laakh sahee ab pee ki batiyan’, ‘Yey tassaruf allah allah’  sung by  Saigal continue to haunt the music listeners. And, the ghazal of Ghalib -’Nukta cheen hei gamey dil’ sung by the maestro (Saigal) for the film is till date considered as a marvel in the field of ghazal singing. What better style of ghazal recitation one can expect?  It is a lessen not only for the singers but also for the listeners. By all standards the piece of music sets up a base to evaluate, a qualitative ghazal singing and how to  effectively communicate poet’s creation and its recitation. The composer shaped a benchmark, by which after listening to the melody, it appears that the poet (Mirza Ghalib) has come alive!

The film -‘Mukti’(1937) starring P.C. Barua & Kanan Devi is another milestone in the career of Pankaj Mullick. Its enthralling music with the shades of   Robindra Sageet  was simply amazing. Listen to   Kanan Devi- ‘Kaisa ujrha chaman kisi ka’,   ‘Kaun desh hei janaa’ & ‘Sanwariya mun ayaa re’  and  Pankaj Mullick, himself  when he sings ‘Kaun desh hei janaa, babu’ & ‘Sharabee soch na kar matwaley’. The entirety enriches the grand nostalgic treasure of cine music!

 In  ‘President’ (1937) though the music  was composed by Rai Chand Boral, but a melody lover cannot escape his attention from the orchestral  effects contributed by Pankaj Mullick for the film.

 ‘Duniyaan rang rangelee baba, duniyaan rang rangelee rey’ a duet of film ‘Dhartimata’ (1938) is one of most popular songs of the century. There are two versions of this epoch-making recording, one better than the other. In soundtrack portrayal of the film, the song  was sung by K.C. Dey, Umashashi and  K.L. Saigal, while in the other (gramophone-record) version,  it was in the voices of Pankaj Mullick, Umashashi & K.L. Saigal. The fact remains that   the composition of Pankaj Mullick in both the forms, is simply fabulous. And, there was another bewitching song of Saigal in this film- ‘Ab mein kah karoon kit jaun’.  In the song  the depth of the singer’s voice cannot be put to words, it can simply  be felt and experienced. Whenever a music-listener needs a deep solitude. I feel that there cannot be a better substitute than this everlasting melody.

 The music for another prominent film composed by the maestro was ‘Dushman’ (1939) starring K.L. Saigal & Leela Desai. In this venture  also when Saigal sings- ‘Karun kya aas niraas bhayee’, ‘Preet mein hei jeewan jokhon’, and another  two numbers, the impact is simply fabulous. The soul of the lyricist Arzu Lucknavi appeared entirely different! .

 The songs sung by the maestro himself- ‘Piyaa Milan ko janaa for film- ‘Kapaal Kundla’ (1939); ‘Yey kaun aaj ayaa, sawerey sawerey’, ‘Madh bharee rutt jawaan hei’ & ‘Prem ka nataa chhutaa’ are some of the rare gems for listeners who cherish the music for the soul.

 “The film ‘Zindagi’ released in the year-1940 starring K.L. Saigal, Pahari Sanyal & Ashalata will not be recognized for its legendary director -P.C. Barua, nor   for the production-banner of ‘New Theatres’ of Calcutta; but will be remembered for the songs sung by K.L.Saigal and its music composed by Pankaj Mullick,”- thus wrote the flamboyant editor,  Baburao Patel in  April 1940  issue of  ‘Filmindia’- while reviewing the film after its release.

 Listen to some of the greatest melodies of the century for this film- ‘Mein kya janoo kya jadoo hei’, ‘So jaa rajkumari’, ‘Deewana hoon, raahat sey mein beganaa hoon’ & ’Jeevan asha yey hei meree’. The heart-throbbing style of singing- ‘Kya jadoo hei’ of wordings immersed in the song- ‘Mein kya janoo__’, and the way it was composed; further requires a deep sense of imagination to appreciate the music. In ‘So jaa rajkumari’ singing, the singer and the composer have created one of the greatest lorees (lullabies) in the annals of film music.

 Interestingly, the lyricist Kidar Sharma initially wrote this loree as ‘So jaa Rajdulari’ as an offering in a casual manner to his wife, Rajdulari.  But, for the song, it was altered to Rajkumari.  

 Pankaj Mullick will  always be recognized  for composing and singing  songs for the film- ‘Doctor’ (1941) which bears his complete signatures.  The full throated voice quality in rendering- ‘Aayee bahaar’, loveable impact on the listener in- ‘Mehak rahee phulwari’, ‘Chaley pawan ki chaal’, ‘Aaj apni mehanton ka humko tamga mil gaya’ and amazing western orchestral instrumentation in ‘Pran chahey nein naa chahey’ - all such factors established  the maestro as a truly  genius singer and a composer.

 The paramount of the career of the maestro as composer came in film ‘My Sister (1944) starring K.L.Saigal. Just have a listening to four golden melodies, 

sung in four different styles by one and only-  K.L. Saigal- ‘Do nainaa matwaley’, ‘Chhupo na chhupo na’, ‘Aye quatibey taqdeer’ & ‘Hayey kis but ki muhabbat mein giraftaar huyey’.

 A casual hearing to these captivating numbers, will certainly prove as a love at first sight!  If not, there is some thing wrong with the listener.

 Looking to the acclaim received from first three numbers viz ‘Do nainaa matwaley’, ‘Chhupo na chhupo na’ & ‘Aye quatibey taqdeer’; Pankaj Mullick recorded these three songs in his own voice, which is indeed a collectors’ treasure.

 A question  generally arises  amongst the listeners, as to who sang better these three songs? Though, apparently it looks irrelevant, like comparing different flowers. A rose is a rose, like a jasmine is a jasmine. But, the fact remains that what Saigal sang; it will be remembered for times to come. But, nobody can predict about the other.

 The chapter on Pankaj Mullick will be incomplete, if a reference to his own non-film songs is not made. The list of such numbers include- ‘Yey ratein yey mausam yey hasna hasana’, ‘Terey mandir ka hun deepak jal rahaa’, ‘Pran chahey nein na chahein’ & ‘Yaad ayey ki na ayey tumhari’.  In these fabulous melodies, the singer has secretly created an ambience of a class and further explored the fascinating   feelings immersed in the lyrics.

 Some of the other films, in which he composed music were- ‘Meenakshi’ (1942), ‘Oonch Neech’ &  ‘Ajangarh’ (1948), ‘Manjoor’ (1949), ‘Roop Kahani’ (1950), ‘Chhoti Maa’, ‘Yatrik’ & ‘Jaljala’ (1952), ‘Naya Safar’ (1953), ‘Chitrangda’ (1954) and ‘Kasturi’  -with Jamal Sen (1954).

 Pankaj Mullick for his meritorious contribution to Indian cinema,  was awarded ‘Padma Shee’ in the year 1970 and the prestigious  ‘Dada Saheb Phalke Award’ (the highest for contribution to Indian Cinema) in the year 1973, besides the coveted ‘Sursaagar’.

 Leaving behind the haunting lines, he once rendered- ‘Yey kaun ayaa sawerey sawerey’   and an aura; the maestro breathed his last on 10 February, 1978.


-Satish Chopra, BA/26B-Ashok Vihar-I, Delhi-110052 #27134229/27450869

Email: satishchopra@rediffmail.com