The death anniversary of the legendary music director, Khemchand Prakash, was observed on August 10 both by Vividh Bharti and Radio Ceylon, with the latter, as usual, scoring over the former by presenting some of his rare compositions. He passed away in 1950—i.e. over 62 years ago. But can anyone say that his immortal creation, ‘Aye ga aane wala’ is that old ? He began his career with New Theatres but migrated to Bombay in search of pastures more green.
As luck would have it, he joined the Ranjit Studios which had singing star Khurshid on its rolls. Khemchand Prakash exploited the magic of Khurshid’s voice to the brim. But he composed the music of his earlier films under the name of Khemraj. I was very small when I would hear my elders play on the gramophone her melodious numbers. In film ‘Shadi’ she sang, ‘Ai dil kahan le jaaoon ab kaun thikana hai, apne na hue apne yeh kaisa zamana hai’. He made her render a Bhajan as well: ‘Hari ke gun gaaoon main’ and also a Holi, ‘ Bhigodi mori sari re, dekho bheege na choli’ (Holi reminds me that in a film by that name he made Kathak queen Sitara Devi sing, with Amritlal, a famous song, ‘Phagun ki ritu ayi re zara baaje bansuri’).
Film ‘Pardesi’ was fantastic. Once again Khurshid sang for him that unforgettable number, ‘Pehle jo muhabbat se inkaar kiya hota’ and also, ‘Toot gai daali, bikhar gae tinke, ab kahan basera apna’. Incidentally in this film he utilized the voice of actress Sneh Prabha Pradhan to sing that melodious song of a beggar woman, ‘;Hath mein hogi khali jholi, mooh mein duaaen hazaar’.
Then in Musafir Khemchand produced some lovely tunes like , ‘Ritu basant ki ayi jeeya nahin laage piya ghar aja balamva’. Child star Vasanti sang a sad solo in this film too: ‘Voh bisari kahani, sun meri zubani..’ There was a breezy duet ( I don’t know which film was that): ‘Mori atariya hai sooni Mohan nahin aye’. There were two voices singing it. Khurshid sounded so sweet when she repeatedly said, ‘Mohan nahin aye..Mohan nahin aye..’ A very sad song was composed by Khemraj for film ‘Chandni’ ( or was it ‘Nurse’? ) ‘Dil aah bhar aisi ‘.
Khurshid sang some fabulous numbers for Khemraj. And film ‘Shehenshah Babar’ was simply marvelous. The song, ‘Muhabbat mein sara jahan jal raha hai zameen to zameen aasma jal raha hai’ was hauntingly beautiful. There was a chorus too: ‘Bulbul aa tub hi gaa , pyar ke gaane main gaaoon tub hi gaa’. And then there was Mumtaz Mahal with such bewitching songs as, ‘Jala patang to is mein kusoor kis ka hai’. Film ‘Beti’ had a sweet number by Khurshid: ‘Nainon se naina mila ke, nyari chabi dikhla ke, ab bolo kahe bhaage’ Would you believe it ? He composed music for ‘Sukh Dukh’ in which Mukesh sang for him too ? But I have no idea about the song. Talat sang for him much later a song with Geeta in film ‘Jan Pehchan’ in which Raj and Nargis were the stars. The song was, ‘Arman bhare dil ki lagan tere liye hai.
In 11 years he gave music in just 34 films. One of these movies was ‘Raja Bharthari’ in whch the Surendra-Amir Bai duet , ‘Bhiksha de de maiya Pingala’ was a big hit along with Amir Bai’s solos like ‘Chanda desh piya ke jaa’ and ‘ Mohe hush us ke paan khilaye piya, main kachchu na boli’.
When Khurshid migrated to Pakistan Khemchand, impressed by Amir Bai’s singing in Bharthari, took her to Filmistan to sing some unforgettable melodies for Sindoor. The songs were, ‘Koi roke use aur ye keh de kuch apni nishani deta ja’. There was a double-size song by her, ‘O roothe hue bhagwan tum ko kaise manavun’. This had an orchestra which included the thunder of the clouds as well. And the third song was ‘O roothe hue bhagwan tun ko kaiose manaaon’. ‘Sindoor’ had some lively songs too sung by Paro Devi and Sushil Sahu. One of these was, ‘Silvade re sajanwa mohe reshmi salwar’ There was a Basant song too, ‘Basant ritu ai Rama jubna ubhar ke’ in which Meena Kapoor’s voice is recognizable.The dute by Sushil Sahu and Naseem Akhtar was a hit in ‘Sindoor’ too: ‘Kisi ke madhur pyar mein man mera kho gaya’.
Khemchand Prakash’s music for Kishore Sahu’s, ‘Sawan Aya Re’ was also superb. He used Shamshad for all songs. The biggest hit was of course, ‘Nahin fariyad karte hum, tujhe bus yaad karte hum,sanam terri kasam’. It was a sad song with fast rhythm. A Rafi-Shamshad duet was just wonderful: ‘Ai dil na mujhe yaad dila baaten purani, main bhool raha bhool raha hoon jo kahani’. Likewise in ‘Rimjhim’ he also used Shamshad to sing, ‘Na tum aye na neend ayi, tumhari yaad hi ayee’. But the Kishore solo has become an all-time classic: ‘Jag mag jag mag karta nikla chand poonam ka pyaara, meri chandni bicharr gai mere jug mein hua andhiyara.
I regard two of his films, ‘Tansen’ and ‘Mahal’ as his greatest . And out of these two I would place Tansen on top and Mahal at Number 2. This is because in ‘Mahal’ ‘Ayega aane wala’ and a few more were hits but their popularity was not as much as the one enjoyed by’Ayaega aane wala’. However, Raj Kumari’s ‘Ghabra ke jo hum sur ko takraen to achcha ho’ has crossed the time barrier. But I will come to that later.‘Tansen’ was superb because in this film Saigal sang six songs, all in classical raags. The dhrupad that he rendered was admired profusely by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan too. I need hardly go into their various details and intricacies. But Saigal’s ‘Baag laga dun sajni’, ‘Kahe guman kare’, ‘Bina pankh panchi hoon main’, ‘Rum jhum rum jhum chaal tihari’, ‘Sapt suran ‘ and ‘Deeya jalao’ have no parallel. In addition, Saigal sang a duet with Khurshid too, which was a light romantic number, ‘More baalapan ke saathi chhaila bhool jaiyo naa’ This song appears in the film twice, once towards the end. He also tuned four songs for Khurshid. The biggest hit of these was ‘Ghata ghanghor ghor, mor machave shor, more sajan aaja’. She also sings a song, calling out to her cows and buffaloes to return home to the shed. The song was, ‘Avo Gori Avo Shyama sanjh bhayee ghar avo’. Then there were two sad solos by Khurshid, ‘Oh dukhiya jiyara rode naina’ and ‘Ab raja bhaye more balam voh din bhool gae’ (He repeated the tune of the opening line in Sindoor’s ‘Koi roke use aur ye keh de kuchch apni nishani deta jaa’.) But the most challenging song for Khurshid was the one she rendered in Megh Malhar to bring down rain so as to douse the unseen flames that had heated up Tansen’s body after he had rendered the Deepak Raag. The song was, ‘Barso re’. She begins the song with a long piece without tabla : ‘Mai jalti mera pee jaley..piya..pee aur…’ and then after some time comes down to the rhythmic portion, ‘Barso re…’ In Mahal he repeated this style by starting off with a long unrhythmic piece, ‘Khamosh hai zamana, chup chaap hain sitare….’ Followed much later with ‘Aye gaa aane wala…’
Saigal and Khemchand Prakash teamed up once again in Ranjit’s ‘Bhanwara’. The biggest hit from this was Saigal’s, ‘Thukra rahi hai duniya hum hain ke so rahe hain’. But there were other songs too like, ‘Kya hum ne bigara hai kyon hum ko satate ho’ in which Amir Bai was the other singer(not mentioned on disc though). Then there was a solo by Saigal: ‘Hum apna unhen bana na sake’ and the extra-romantic number, ‘Diya jis ne dil lut gaya voh bechara’ – again with Amir Bai.
I would concede that just one song of Mahal, ‘Aye ga aane wala’ was very, very weighty, carrying the whole film on its shoulders, carrying the whole century on its shoulders. But there were other Lata numbers in it too, like, ‘Dil ne phir yaad kiya bewafa laut bhi aa’ and ‘Mushkil hai bahut mushkil chahat ka bhula dena’. Raj Kumari has sung three songs in the move. One of these, ‘Ik teer chala dil pe laga, hae mera dil..’ was I think filmed on Madhubala But the other two, ‘Ghabra ke’ and ‘Main voh dulhan hoon raas na aya jise singhar, main voh kali hoon jis pe na ayi kabhi bahar’ were filmed on Vijaylaxmi. There was a song picturised on two nautch girls. ‘Ye raat phir na aye gi jawani beet jaye gi’. It was sung by Raj Kumari and Zohra Bai. In a way Raj Kumari sang three solos and one duet whereas Lata sang only three solos.
‘Ziddi’ was a very significant film from the point of view of the fact that it was in this film that Kishore Kumar got a break with the solo, ‘Marne ki duaaen kyon mangun’. He also sang a duet with Lata, ‘Ye kaun aya’. But the musical show was stolen by Lata. The biggest hit of the movie was, ‘Chanda re jare jare’. There were other Lata numbers too like, ‘Ab kaun sahara hai jab tera sahara toot gaya’ and ‘Gokul dhoondhoon Mathura dhoondhoon bolo main kit jaaoon ‘ Khemchand Prakash used Shamshad Begum too, to sing a sad solo for Indu Paul (who hailed from Allahabad): ‘Chali pi se Milan banthan ke dulhan chhan chhana nana payal baajt hai, ab kahe ko der karo ri sakhi more maike mein jee ghabrata hai’. (This tune was identical with a Bhajan which S.D.Batish had recorded for HMV, “Nandlal Gopal Gopal hare brindaban mohe bula lena’) But a haunting song by Lata is unforgettable: ‘Tujhe O bewafa hum zindagi ka aasra samjhe, barre nadaan thhe hum hae samjhe bhi to kya samjhe’.
Khemchand did make music for some non-consequential films, the last one being ‘Tamasha’ in which two other music directors were roped in as he apparently died when the film was in the making. But Khemchand Praklash, whom Naushad regarded as his Guru, will be remembered for drawing out the best musical talent out of Sitara Devi (still living), Baby Vasanti, Sneh Prabha, Khurshid, Amir Bai Karnataki, Shamshad Begum (still living), even Paro, Geeta Roy and above them all Lata Mangeshkar. And among males Surendra, Kanti Lal (who sang with Vasanti in film ‘Diwali’ the then popular song, ‘Kahe panchjchi bawaria, rona raag sunae),were his earlier finds. Kishore ( Ziddi and Rimjhim) was his top discovery and Saigal his greatest achievement, though Talat and Rafi were also used by him.. What more can a music director ask for ?