Meet music composer Nisar Bazmi

A musical prodigy, composer and singer, Nisar Bazmi is a forgotten name in the history of Indian cinema. Here's a look at the career of a man who found success on both sides of the border.

Shriram Iyengar

On March 22 2007, newspapers in Pakistan mourned the loss of one of their most competent film music composers. That Nisar Bazmi began his career in the vast industry of Indian cinema was but a footnote in his career. Born in the district of Jalgaon in Maharashtra, Bazmi had no tutelage or background in music. This did not restrict his musical genius in any way. Struggling through the miseries of poverty at an early age, Mr. Bazmi joined the qawwali troupe of Yasin Khan. It was here that the youngster learned the ropes of classical Hindustani music.

Penury might have pushed him into music, but his natural talents drove him higher up the scales. Having noticed Bazmi's individual skills at a concert, Ustad Amanullah Khan took him up as a disciple. Nisar Bazmi spent four years learning the arts and travelling with the Ustad's troupe. Soon, All India Radio offered Bazmi a stint as a staff artist. This was the perfect launchpad for the next leap he was about to make.

The 40s were a great age for Indian theatre and cinema. The new Progressive movement had opened up the floodgates for ethnic Indian music and plays. It was one such play, Nadir Shah Durrani, that got Bazmi noticed by the film industry. Dinkar Rao, a well known Hindustani music composer, offered Bazmi the chance to provide music for the play. Sung by the illustrious Amiri Bai Karnataki and Rafiq Ghaznavi, Bazmi's music captured the soul of the play.

Recognition arrived further in the form of AR Zamindar. A prominent producer in the budding Indian film industry, Zamindar tasked Bazmi with composing the music for his film Jamna Paar in 1946. It began a fruitful period in Bazmi's music career. Over the next couple of decades, Nisar Bazmi composed music for 40 films like Jeb Katra, Khauffnaak, Aankhen, Dagabaaz and Khoj. His songs were put to voice by the top artistes of the day like Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosale and Manna Dey. Among his troupe were two very gifted artistes, who would go on to become the leading lights of the Indian music industry themselves, Laxmikant Shantaram Kudalkar and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma.

In 1962, on being invited by Fazal Karim Fazli, a Pakistani filmmaker, Bazmi took to composing music for a relatively unknown Pakistani film industry. His work earned him praise and a huge fan following. The film Nagmani remains one of his most popular works, with compositions sung by the legendary Noorjehan.

In 2007, his career and life came to an abrupt end. Yet, Bazmi left some unforgettable memories and an imprint as one of the foremost participants from the exclusive club of Hindustani music to have composed for films in India.