Timeless Melodies

If there is one writer who has contributed prolifically to the appreciation of the subcontinent’s music, it is S.M.Shahid, an advertising man turned author. His latest offering is ‘Immortal Film Songs Inspired by Raags” – a work based on 25 truly priceless film songs that is appropriately accompanied by two CDs to complete the total experience.

Shahid cites two reasons for writing the book: one, to relive the days of the past and bring back their priceless memories and, the other to share with readers an experience that is more than ephemeral listening. The volume is elaborately laid out, with wordings of each of the 25 songs reproduced both in Urdu and Roman script, a description of the raag it is based on, along with the author’s comments about the composer and how he went about applying the raag in question to the composition.

The collection faithfully represents the rich spectrum of popular compositions that enthused listeners in those halcyon decades of the subcontinent’s film music. It has some priceless jewels, such as ‘Do naina matwaray teharay’ composed by Pankaj Mullick in Aiman in 1944 to ‘Jyoti kalash chhalkay’ composed by Sudhir Phadke in Kidara in 1961 and from ‘Dil main sama gaye sajan’ composed by Sajjad Hussain in Raageshri in 1952 to ‘Aaj socha to aansoo bhar aaye’ composed by Madan Mohan in Kirwani in 1973, despite the fact that it is a random selection.

Writes Javed Jabbar in his foreward, titled ‘Songs of the soul’, “Distinct and endearing when we first heard them, these songs have endured in their appeal.” He further adds, “Wherever we are when we hear these songs, we respond to them – in our hearts and in our minds – humming them and singing them … these songs have that rare magical power to take us – for a few seconds, for a few minutes – out and away from the physical context in which we are at that particular time, and transport us into their own realm of romance, of yearnings for by-gone times, of a sense of loss and yet also able to add shades of happiness to the place where we happen to be.”

The book features 11 songs from 1941 to 1950 and 23 songs from 1951 to 1960, whereas there are only four songs to represent the years from1961 to 1970 and just two for the period 1971 to 1973. The writer terms the 40s and the 50s up until 1960, as the ‘golden era’ of the subcontinent’s film music. This view is fully supported by Javed Jabbar, who describes the 1940s and 50s as a period when “when several extraordinary music composers, lyricists and singers produced hundreds of exquisitely beautiful film songs. These melodies and their pictures captivated listeners and viewers almost instantly and have kept us imprisoned in their castle of dreams for over 50 years.”

S.M. Shahid claims that Lata Mangeshkar remained the most favoured playback singer of the great composers and she did full justice to their melodious compositions. Perhaps he would have done well to at least include Noor Jehan and Muhammad Rafi in the list as well, if not K.L. Saigal, Talat Mahmood, Geeta Dutt, Hemant Kumar and Mukesh.

The composers featuring in Shahid’s hall of fame include Madan Mohan, Naushad Ali, S.D. Burman, Roshan, Anil Biswas, Sajjad Hussain, Khemchand Prakash, Shyam Sunder, Pankaj Mullick, Sudhir Phadke, C. Ramchandra, Ghulam Haider, Inayat Hussain, Khursheed Anwar, Salil Chaudhry, Khayyam, Gyan Dutt and R.D.Burman. Since Ghulam Haider appears in the book for compositions he did while he was still in India, this leaves only two Pakistani composers – Inayat Hussain, Khursheed Anwar – on the list. Could any more names from this side of the divide have made the list?

As with many of S.M. Shahid’s other ventures in the realm of book writing, Shahid K. Hak, the managing director of Pak-Arab Refinery, is the one who has made this book possible. All those people who love good music owe to this man a note of gratitude for going beyond the business of refining crude oil and doing his part in helping refine the mind and thought by sponsoring such books as this one.