Article Hindi

5 instances of Naushad's creative genius

On the legendary music composer’s 97th birth anniversary, we examine five soundtracks in which he created new techniques to achieve the sound that he wanted.

Sonal Pandya

1. Rattan (1944)

The breakthrough soundtrack made Naushad one of the most sought-after music composers in the industry. He had made his debut as an independent composer just four years earlier. His music on this film, written by DN Madhok, was a blockbuster success. Inspired by the folk tunes of Uttar Pradesh, Naushad created 12 songs which perfectly fit the situation of the film. In a 1997 Filmfare interview, Naushad himself discussed the techniques he used to make new sounds: “I'd kept a microphone in a toilet which had ceramic tiles all over. Then I played the music... so the sound reverberated against those tiles, producing an echo effect.”

2. Aan (1952)

On Mehboob Khan’s extravagant feature, no expense was spared. The first Indian film in Technicolor, Aan had a grand premise of a royal split in disarray and a swashbuckling local hero (Dilip Kumar) who swoops in and saves the day. Naushad worked hard on the film’s soundtrack of 10 songs for three whole months. He used a 100-piece orchestra on stage to record the music, something that no music composer in Hindi cinema had attempted till then. Since the studios at the time weren’t cent per cent sound-proof, he laid out a special tent and put up coir carpets so that the sound would not echo. Eventually the songs were mixed in a studio in London. After the film’s release, his orchestra piece even played on the BBC.

3. Uran Khatola (1955)

Starring Dilip Kumar and Nimmi, Uran Khatola was also produced by Naushad. The film was directed by SU Sunny and Naushad tried a special technique on this soundtrack as well. He explained in the same Filmfare interview: “We would record the voice of a particular artiste on a scale of 90... then we would record his voice on 70... then 50... and so on. After the complete recording, we would play it for the scene and the impact it created was terrific.” Initially, the songs were sung by Sudha Malhotra. Later, Lata Mangeshkar stepped in to record them. Naushad also did not use an orchestra in ‘Mera Salaam Le Ja’, opting to use a chorus humming to replace the instruments.

4. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

In yet another magnum opus starring Dilip Kumar, the tragic love story of Salim and Anarkali was given a classic score by Naushad who came aboard the project after an initial misunderstanding with filmmaker K Asif. (Naushad was keen to score the music for the project but was offended by what he felt was Asif's suggestion that he should do it for the money. It was Naushad's wife who saved the day.) On the melancholy song, ‘Ae Mohabbat Zindabad’, sung by Mohammed Rafi, Naushad used a hundred chorus singers to back him.

5. Mere Mehboob (1963)

The title song of Harnam Singh Rawail’s Muslim social is an evergreen classic. With lyrics from Naushad’s close collaborator Shakeel Badayuni, the film’s score fetched him a nomination for Best Music where he lost out to Roshan’s compositions for Taj Mahal. For the love song ‘Mere Mehboob’, Naushad only used six instruments, keeping the score minimalist and the focus of the number right on its core – the words which were straight from the heart.