Narendra Kusnur's music musings …


Farooque Shaikh and Rekha in ‘Umrao Jaan’

THE sudden and untimely death of Farooque Shaikh has come as a huge shock to friends, colleagues and fans, who are at a loss when it comes to speaking about his immense contribution to the world of films, theatre and television. Some wonderful tributes have been written, both in the print and social media, describing his brilliance as an actor, his simplicity as a human being, his passion for cinema and food, and his vast knowledge of politics and current affairs.

This blog aims to touch upon another aspect revolving around Farooque ― of his being the actor who regularly symbolised the late 1970s and early 1980s ghazal revival in Hindi cinema. More than any other actor, it was he who was picturised on some of the best ghazals released between 1978 and 1982, when the ghazal wave was at its peak. Even today, those songs are popular among the generation that grew up on them.

To be precise, of the six films that focused on ghazals during that period, whose music was commercially successful then and is considered timeless even today, four featured Farooque. These were ‘Gaman’ (1978), ‘Umrao Jaan’ (1981), ‘Bazaar’ (1982) and ‘Saath Saath’ (1982). The other two were Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Arth’ and BR Chopra’s ‘Nikaah’ (both 1982), the former having Kulbhushan Kharbanda in the male lead and Raj Kiran in a supporting role, and the latter featuring Raj Babbar and Deepak Parasher.

In these four films, quite a few songs were picturised on Farooque ― either portraying him singing them, or being part of the scene when the heroine is singing them. But before talking of the music of these films, here’s a bit on the overall music scenario during that period.

WHILE the late 1970s brought back the genre, ghazals were actually nothing new in Hindi cinema. Ghazals basically involve a certain format while writing poetry, and poets like Shakeel Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Jan Nisar Akhtar had been using that structure for film songs, which were set to tune by music directors from Naushad to Madan Mohan to SD Burman. From the 1940s onwards, all major singers like KL Saigal, Talat Mahmood, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle had sung them.

Besides ghazals, Hindi films also featured related forms like the nazm, which involves free-flowing poetry, or the simple ‘geet’ or love song. But trends changed and by the late 1960s, there were fewer ghazals in the traditional sense of the term. So what happened in the late 1970s was essentially a revival sparked off for two reasons.

The first was that the Hindi parallel cinema movement had gained momentum, and directors like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Mirza, Gulzar, Muzaffar Ali, Kumar Shahani and Mahesh Bhatt, to name a few, came up with a realistic alternative to the fantasy-ridden commercial films of the day.

Even for their music, such filmmakers preferred something that differed from and went against the popular commercial sound. Some chose light classical or folk music, while others relied on simple melodies not belonging to any genre as such.

Still others opted for the ghazal, as the genre had been making waves in the non-film segment. Artistes like Jagjit-Chitra Singh and Rajendra-Nina Mehta had become popular, and the late 1970s and early 1980s saw the discovery of new artistes like Hariharan, Talat Aziz, Pankaj Udhas, Anup Jalota and Penaz Masani in the non-film ghazal segment.

Thus, the second reason for this revival was that with ghazals becoming popular outside of films, it was only natural they found a place in parallel cinema too. With commercial films getting into disco and loud music that went with the violence and sleaze, ghazals acted as a refreshing change. Ghazal singers like Jagjit Singh, Chitra Singh, Talat Aziz and Hariharan got opportunities to sing in films.

However, one just couldn’t put in a ghazal everywhere for the sake of it. The song had to fit with the storyline and the situations. So while there were quite a few films that used one or two ghazals (like Jagjit Singh’s ‘Honto Se Choolon Tum’ in the 1981 film ‘Prem Geet’ or the couple of songs in Bhimsain’s 1979 venture ‘Dooriyan’), only a handful of them focused entirely on the genre. Of these, four starred Farooque Shaikh.

LET’S now look at the music of these four films, in the chronological order of their release. Needless to say, even today, their songs create the same impact, though it’s unfortunate that large sections of the younger generation are yet to discover them.

Gaman (1978): Directed by Muzaffar Ali, ‘Gaman’ had music by the great Jaidev. Two of the songs, written by the brilliant Shahryaar, were picturised on Farooque.

‘Seene Mein Jalan’ gave a huge boost to the career of Suresh Wadkar, and the lines “Seene mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyon hai; Is sheher mein har shaks pareshan sa kyon hai” became a hit among Mumbai residents.

The second ghazal is an absolute beauty sung by Hariharan. Titled ‘Ajeeb Saaneha Mujhpar Guzar Gaya Yaaron’, it has marvellous lines like, “Woh kaun tha, woh kahan ka tha, kya hua tha usey; suna hai aaj koi shaks mar gaya yaaro.” Hariharan is a treat to hear, showing perfection in classical technique and Urdu diction.

The film has two other beauties. In ‘Aap Ki Yaad Aati Rahe Raat Bhar’, Maqdoom Mohiuddin’s lines are sung by the National Award-winning Chhaya Ganguli. The traditional semi-classical ‘Ras Ke Bhare Torey Nain’ is rendered soulfully by Hiradevi Mishra.

Umrao Jaan (1981): Music director Khayyam, lyricist Shahryaar and singer Asha Bhosle combine to make this an unforgettable collection of songs. For Farooque, Talat Aziz charmingly sings ‘Zindagi Jab Bhi Teri Bazm Mein’, which had those amazing lines, “Har mulaqaat ka anjaam judaai kyon hai; Ab toh har waqt yehi baat sataati hai humein.”

The other songs are picturised on Rekha, and in some cases Farooque, who plays Nawab Sultan. These include evergreen numbers like “In Aankhon Ki Masti’, ‘Dil Cheez Kya Hai’, ‘Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston’ and ‘Justuju Jiski Thi’. Poetry, melody and cinematic beauty at their best.

Both Khayyam and Asha Bhosle won the National Award for this film.

Bazaar (1982): Starring Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Farooque Shaikh and Supriya Pathak, Sagar Sarhadi’s ‘Bazaar’ made amazing use of the ghazal medium. Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s ‘Phir Chiddi Raat Baat Phoolon Ki’, sung by Talat Aziz and Lata Mangeshkar, is picturised on Farooque and Supriya, and Lata’s solo ‘Dikhayi Diye Yoon’, written by the legendary Mir Taqi Mir, is one of the best songs she’s rendered in that era.

Jagjit Kaur renders the touching Mirza Shauq-penned ‘Dekh Lo Aaj Humko Jee Bhar Ke’, which shows Farooque in an emotional scene. Finally, ‘Karoge Yaad Toh Har Baat Yaad Aayegi’, written by Bashar Nawaz and sung by the outstanding Bhupinder, is picturised on Naseeruddin and Smita.

Saath Saath (1982): With music by Kuldeep Singh and lyrics by Javed Akhtar, Raman Kumar’s film had some wonderful ghazals and geets sung by Jagjit and Chitra Singh, and filmed on Farooque and Deepti Naval.

Jagjit’s ‘Tumko Dekha Toh Yeh Khayal Aaya’ remained one of his concert favourites till the end, with lines like, “Aaj phir dil ne ek tamanna ki; Aaj phir dil ko humne samjhaaya” and “Hum jisey gunguna nahin sakte; Waqt ne aisa geet kyon gaaya.”

‘Kyun Zindagi Ki Raah Mein’, ‘Pyaar Mujhse Jo Kiya Tumne Toh Kya Paaogi’ and ‘Yeh Bata De Zindagi’ are still admired by connoisseurs, and the lighter ‘Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar’ has become a staple among newly-weds.

Of the four films, ‘Saath Saath’ had the most accessible music, attracting both serious ghazal lovers and lay listeners.

WITH these films, Farooque just had a wonderful repertoire of ghazals to portray on screen. Though the music of his ‘Noorie’, composed by Khayyam, was successful too, and other films like ‘Chasme Buddoor’ had a couple of popular songs, the ghazals recorded during that five-year span had a different class altogether.

Sadly, after1983, the ghazal fad slowly died down in films. In concerts and non-film albums, it lasted another few years, but by the second half of the 1980s, the overall consistency of the existing singers had declined, and the entry of too many singers had affected the quality. Only a few artistes survived, and continued to carry the baton for years.

As a tribute to Farooque, it would be ideal to get back into the music of these four films, and understand the beauty and depth of the ghazals. The actor will definitely be missed. But as that song said in ‘Umrao Jaan’, “Har mulaqaat ka anjaam judaai kyon hai; Ab toh har waqt yehi baat sataati hai humein.”


Comments on: "Farooque Shaikh and the 1980s ghazal revival in Hindi cinema" (1)

  1. Shankar Shenai said:

    Dear Narendra, Excellent write up.
    There was one movie “Katha” Naseer, Farookh & Deepti starrer, which had a great song picturized on Naseer & Deept. The song was, ”maine tum se kotch nahi maanga, aaj de do, sou baras se jage in nainon ko, neend ka vardaan de do”. This song just came to my mind whicle reading your article.
    Wish you all a Happy & Prosperous New Year.

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