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A contentious perfectionist of film-music: Sajjad Husain



                                                                                                       -Satish Chopra

 Indian film panorama after the commencement of talking era, witnessed a variety of personalities attached to different faculties of production; may it be acting, direction, photography, editing, dialogue-writing, music composing and or singing. 

Amongst a large number of the music composers, we had some rarest of the rare glittering gems, who not only fashioned some captivating melodies, but also shaped the destiny of a large number of singers. This was in view of the fact that these maestro music directors had a profound understanding of lyrics, instrumentation, classical music, the voice quality of the respective singer and insight of the eminence of recording. This was perhaps one of the foremost reasons that music and musicians of first three decades (1931-60) i.e after the beginning of film-recording are considered as all time greats. 

One amongst such composers was Sajjad Husain, who was known for his contentious personality, but he created some immortal melodies, which were altogether different from all others. But, .with the passage of time, he has been completely forgotten.

Sajjad Husain was a master of a number of musical instruments; be it a Violin, Veena, Jaltarang, Flute, Piano, Banjo, Accordian, Hawaiin & Spanish Guitar, Sitar, Clarinet, Harp and Mandolin. He could even play Mandolin, with perfection even for classical ragas.

In the All India Music Conference held at Calcutta in the year 1956; where greats of classical music such as- Vinayak Rao Patvardhan, Ali Akbar Khan, Allaudin Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ahmed Jaan Thirakwa and Nikhil Banerjee were present; Sajjad Husain played classical ragas-’Shivranjani’ and ‘Harikauns’- on Mandolin. The listeners including the maestros were spell bound at his classical playing of Mandolin, which is considered a completely un-traditional musical instrument.

Sajjad Husain as music director fashioned some immortal melodies in the voices of Noorjehan, Rattanbai, Nirmala Devi (mother of actor Govinda), Lata Mangeshkar, Suraiya, Geeta Roy, Asha Bhonsle, Mohd Rafi, Talat Mehmood, Surender and others. 

A few lines about the careergraph of the maestro. Sajjad was born at Sitamau (Madhya Pradesh) on 15 June, 1917. His father Mohd Amir Khan, used to play sitar. But, Sajjad could not confine his learning to sitar only. He additionally learnt playing Veena, Jaltarang, Accordian, Violin, Spanish & Hawaiin Guitar, Flute, Piano, Banjo and Harp. Thereby he could deploy these instruments for background music effects brilliantly and also created some enthralling sound effects. 

He came to Bombay in the year 1940 and was introduced to Mir Allahbuksh (father of Meena Kumari) who was a composer and associated with Minerva Movietone. Mir was very much impressed with Sajjad’s mandolin playing, as a result he took him as his assistant. 

Later on he joined Pt Hanuman Prasad, another composer and assisted him for the music of film- ‘Gaali’ (1944). In this film Sajjad composed two songs of Nirmala Devi –‘Aag lagey saawan mein’ & ‘Ab aa jaa dil na lagey’.

Sajjad Husain got his major break in the year 1944 for the film ‘Dost’ starring-Noorjehan and Motilal. . Noorjehan sang some unforgettable songs- ‘Badnaam muhabbat kaun karey’, ‘Ab kaun hei mera’, and ‘Koyee prem ka de key sandesa’ and the film till date is remembered because of such musical super-hits. 

If you have listened to these captivating melodies, you must have observed the beauty of delivery of word ‘Badnaam’ and a charismatic pause thereafter. Besides, expression of thought and an extra-ordinary quality of sur. It was somewhat classic! Then, the pain of parting and sorrow transformed in other numbers- ‘Ab kaun hei mera’ and ’Koyee prem ka de key sandesha’. The songs provided a remarkable impact on the listeners. 

Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, the paramour and later on husband of Noorjehan, who produced the film ‘Dost’, after viewing its grand success observed that entire credit for the success of these songs goes to Noorjehan, who sang such fabulous melodies. 

Sajjad could not digest such remarks and vowed not to compose a song for Noorjehan for her future films. As a result, for her next film ‘Jugnu’, the music was composed by Firoze Nizami.

Just have a glance at some of his subsequent marvels- ‘Dharti se door, badlon ke paar aaja’, (Asha & Geeta Roy)‘Darshan pyasi aayi daasi’ (Geeta Roy), ‘Wo to chale gaye aye dil” (Lata) and ‘ ‘Yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chandni’ (Talat Mehmood)- the maestro composed for film ‘Sangdil’ (1952). 

While listening to these three immortal numbers, sung by four different singers, at times it is extremely difficult to evaluate, as to which one is better than the other. The harmonium played as prelude to ‘Yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chandni’ available on soundtracks was simply classic; whereas touches of flute in the duet of Asha & Geeta are heart-throbbing and the total impact of Lata’s ‘Wo to chaley gaye’ is simply beyond my capacity to find words of appreciation.. 

Inspite of creating such crest melodies, he could merely get a chance of giving music for just 14 films. The reasons were very simple. He was a highly perfectionist, egoist and extremely short-tempered. And above all, suffered from a complex behavior. 

Though the list of other phenomenal melodies composed by the maestro may not be long, yet the fact remains whatever he composed, it was completely different from all others and was unique.

A look at some of his fabulous melodies- ‘Aaj mere naseeb ne mujhko rula rula diya’ (Hulchal’51); ‘Bhool ja aye dil’ (Khel’50), ‘Kaali kaali raat mujhe baraa sataye, teri yeead aye’ and ‘Kismat mein khushi ka naam nahin’ (Saiyan’51), ‘Tumhein dil dia’, ‘Wo to chale gaye aye dil, yaad se unki pyaar kar, (Sangdil’52) -all sung by Lata Mangeshkar; ‘Teri nazar mein main rahoon meree nazar mein tu’ -Suraiya and Surender; ‘Dil mein samaa gaye samaa gaye sanam’ -Lata & Talat Mehmood; ‘Ye hawaa ye raat ye chandni’ -Talat Mehmood and ‘Sajna din bahure hamare’ -geeta Roy (Khel’50)-Geeta Roy. 

Each of these melodies has more than one matchless feature; be it a superb pause, un-comparable expression of lyrics, brilliant style of musical instruments deployed and excellent choice of the voice quality of the singer. 

But, inspite of his original and enduring creations, he could not get chance of composing in very many films. The reasons was his most stubborn, short-tempered and rigid behavior. 

In one of the rehearsals, he told Lata Mangeshkar- ‘Yeh Naushad miyan ka ganaa nahin, ganey mein dhyan dijiye’. And he once observed- ”Kishore Kumar should have been named as Shor Kumar and Talat Mehmood as Galat Mehmood”. 

He took 17 retakes of ‘Yeh hawa ye raat ye chandni’ sung by Talat Mehmood for film ‘Sangdil’. D.N. Madhok wrote all the eight songs for film ‘Saiyyan’, which were super-hit. But, due to their personal conflict; he never composed thereafter any creation of D.N. Madhok. 

In the year 1955, he composed music for film ‘Rukhsana’ and after a considerable gap, in the year 1963, Sajjad got a chance of composing music for historic film-‘Rustam Sohrab’ -starring Prithviraj Kappor and Suraiya. In this film, he once again created some memorable melodies viz ’Phir tumhari yaad aayee’ in quawali style -sung by Rafi, Manna Dey and Sadat Khan and ‘Ab der ho gayee wallah’ sung by Asha Bhonsle. 

Though the maestro composed some of the outstanding songs for Lata Mangeshkar, in particular and a few for others as well; yet he always remained in oblivion and neglected. Listen to some of my favorites of Lata- ‘Muzko mere naseeb ne rula rula diya’, ‘Bhool ja aye dil’ (Khel’ 50). ‘Kali kali raat re bada satayey, teri yaad aayey’ (Saiyyan’51), ‘Dil mein samaa gayey sanam’ –with Talat Mehmood (Sangdil’ 52), 

In the year 1958 Madan Mohan, the renowned music director composed one of his songs viz ‘Tujhe kya bataun aye dilruba, tere samne mera haal hei’ in the voice of Rafi for the film- ‘Akhari Dao’. The song was by all standard identical to Sajjad’s immortal composition-‘Ye hawaa ye raat ye chandni’ - film-Sangdil. . 

Sajjad was furious, owing to the fact that Madan Mohan had copied his composition. In a get-together at the Music Directors Association, he asked Madan Mohan in a fit of anger, as to how he dare, without his permission to have copied his tune. Madan Mohan very calmly and shrewdly replied- “I could’nt find a better composer to copy”. This made Sajjad speechless!
“He was an extremely talented man, very knowledgeable about music, but his temperament was his undoing” said Naushad. “even if someone made a minor suggestion, he would turn on him and say, ‘what do you know about music?’ He fought with almost everyone. Because of this, he sat at home most of his life and wasted his talent. But, the body of work he has produced, small as it may be, ranks among the best in Indian film music.”

“By all standards Sajjad Husain was an original, a genius music director, different from all others and each of his musical composition carried most difficult notations, which he himself used to create and took utmost pleasure out of it”, once observed Anil Biswas. 

Sajjad died in oblivion. His last years were not exactly how they should have been. His genius went unsung. One wonders if the story would have been different had he been a little tolerant. Then he would’nt have been Sajjad. Sajjad was a package deal- either take him in his entirety or forget about him. The waste of his talent is ultimately our loss. We have missed the hundreds of of times that never got created by Sajjad, because he was never given a chance. What we have with us now is just an infinitesimal fraction of his untamed genius. We should be thankful for that. After all his music was eternal ! 

Sajjad breathed his last on 21 July, 1995. The leitmotif of his lifetime, isolation, cast its shadow over his death too, when, with the notable exception of Khaiyyam and Pankaj Udas none else from the film industry bothered to turn up to pay him their last respects. “It hurt,” admits his son, “but what is far more important is that to the last day of his life, my father was happy. There was no bitterness, no regrets. He could have been hugely successful, made piles of money, but the only thing he wanted was to be acknowledged as a great musician, and to live life on his own terms. And I think he achieved that.” 

“We get only once in our life-time, a music director like Sajjad”–bemoaned Noorjehan at the demise of Sajjad Husain.



-Satish Chopra, BA/26B Ashok Vihar-I, Delhi-110052  # 011-27134229/27450869 Email: