On 5th evening, I was watching the nine o' clock news on my favorite news channel : violence in Vadodara, arson in J&K, shooting in Haryana ' so what else is new, I thought reaching for the remote. I wanted to watch something less mundane than the staple fare of aggression - leashed or unleashed. Just then the ticker line caught my attention : Music legend Naushad passes away.
I sat up, Naushad the sartaj of music was dead. I desperately waited for the lead news and after ten minutes of impatient waiting was rewarded. Naushad had left all music lovers orphaned at the 'ripe old age' of 86 leaving a legacy of immortal melodies behind. The eulogies and encomiums were poring in. This was of course nothing unusual. What was refreshingly different was the sincerity with which people from different walks of life were paying tribute to the genius.
I sat back and closed my eyes and was lost in a collage of images ' each more endearing than the other ' Madhubala singing the mesmeric Pyar kiya to darna kya, Dilip Kumar dancing to the earthy beat of Nain lad jayin hai to manwama kasak huibe kari, Bharat Bhushan invoking the lord in the classic O duniya ke rakhwale ' the list is endless'
Once again I was struck by something uncanny. I do not belong to the Naushad generation, I wasn't even existing in the fifties when Naushad's brilliance had lit up the Bollywood firmament. I belong to the RD Burman and Lakshmikant-Pyarelal generation, yet why did I feel such a sense of loss at the departure of a man who wove his magic much before my musical sensibilities had been honed. There could be only one reason for this - Naushad didn't merely make music, he made magic. He was not into churning out tunes he was into creating an ambience ' an ambience of melody, of tradition and of culture. His music was based on the Indian ethos and was like him - honest and pure. He brought to Bollywood the richness of classical music and using his artistry made it appealing to the hoi polloi. He was probably the only music composer whose tunes were adored by the classes as well as the masses.
Born in Lucknow in 1919, Naushad's journey from rebellion to rags to riches reads almost like a fairy tale. His father gave the eighteen year old Naushad a choice ' either home or music! The callow and immature youth chose the latter and came to Mumbai the city of magnificent dreams and harsh realities. With stars in his eyes, a footpath for a home and a will to win the young genius went about his task of crafting melodies. How could Mumbai ignore this pied piper of Lucknow. Slowly but surely the tinsel town woke up to the tunes of the 'tunester'. And thus began the era of music and melody at its pristine best. Mahal, Baiju Baawra, Mother India, Mughal-e-Azam, Dard, Mela, Sangharsh, Ram aur Shyam, Mere Mehboob ' it reads like a virtual treasure trove of Indian cinema.
But for Naushad we probably wouldn't have seen the flowering of the two greatest musical geniuses ' Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi. From the angst filled Mohabbat ki jhooti kahani pe roye (Mughle Aazam) to the playfulDhoondo, dhoondo re saajana (Gunga Jamuna) if there was one music director who best understood the lyrical nuances of the nightingale's voice it was Naushad.
Rafi's repertoire includes a mind-boggling array of songs but if you were to pick up his two best renditions they would probably be E duniya ke rakhwale' andMan tadpat hari darshan ko aaj (Baiju Baawra).
To Naushad, quality was supreme. That is why in his six decade long career he composed music for only 66 films. He was also a perfectionist to the core. When he was composing the score of one movie his full attention would be on it. He would pick up another assignment only after finishing the one at hand. The lyricists too had to adjust to his penchant for perfection. If he didn't like a line from a song the lyricist had to work on it until the maestro was satisfied.
Doesn't all this sound strange in this era of Anu Maliks and Himesh Reshammiyas whose idea of music is stringing together a few tunes lifted from old Indian or western hits and passing them off as original. Who 'decompose' songs with the alacrity of a vending machine and also resort to the ultimate molestation of music ' remix.
Naushad, a purist to the core was saddened by the state of music or what passes off as music today! Plagiarized tunes, inane lyrics, non-existent melody and worst of all vulgarity at its 'crudesome' best - this medley of cacophony, deception and cheapness made him yearn for the unspoiled past.
Our greatest tribute to this consummate artist and great humanist would be to bring back the values he stood for ' to return to our cultural roots ' a culture which epitomizes quality, melody and poetry.
With the passing away of Naushad an era has come to an end ' an era of mellifluous melodies, pristine tones and memorable lyrics.
Music will be there ' but it will be without a soul. The soul has gone forever with the messiah ' the messiah of melody ' Naushad.