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Remember music composer Bhagatram?


A look at the life and work of one half of Hindi cinema's first film composer duo Husnlal-Bhagatram on his 43rd death anniversary.

Sonal Pandya

Music composer Bhagatram and younger brother Husnlal became Hindi cinema's first music-director duo. After them, such pairings became common, with some like Shankar-Jaikishan, Kalyanji-Anandji and Laxmikant-Pyarelal rising to the very top of their profession. Husnlal and Bhagatram even trained the next generation of music composers with Shankar and Khayyam as well as the singer Mahendra Kapoor starting out with them.

Bhagatram's date of birth is unrecorded, but it is widely believed that he was born in 1914 in the small Punjabi village of Khama in Jalandhar district. The brothers received their initial training from the classical musician, Pandit Dilip Chandra Vedi. They had a musical connection in an older cousin, Pandit Amarnath, who composed music for films made in Lahore. It was on DM Pancholi's film Dassi (1944) that they assisted Pandit Amarnath.

Husnlal-Bhagatram

Bhagatram, who was an expert harmonium player, scored music independently for smaller films like K Amarnath's Midnight Mail (1939), Nanubhai Vakil's Hatimtai Ki Beti (1940) and AM Khan's Hamara Desh (1940).

But his big opportunity came as a duo with his younger brother with Prabhat Studios' Chand (1944). There was a lot riding on this film as the illustrious V Shantaram had parted ways with Prabhat to set up his own Rajkamal Kalamandir in Bombay. The remaining partners, Damle and Fatehlal, wanted Chand's soundtrack to stand out.

They need not have worried. The music of Chand (1944), directed by DD Kashyap, was a hit with songs like 'Aye Chand Bata Mujhko', the duet sung by GM Durrani and Zeenat Begum, and the solos by Manju, 'Do Dilon Ko Yeh Duniya', and by Sitara, 'Chupke Chupke Mere Dil Mein'.

The success of this soundtrack led to another film with Prabhat, which, incidentally, was Dev Anand's first film, Hum Ek Hain (1946), directed by PL Santoshi and co-starring Durga Khote, Rehman and Rehana.

The duo continued its stellar work, imbuing their music with their unique Punjabi touch, in films like Nargis (1946), Mirza Sahiban (1947), for which they finished the work of their late cousin Amarnath, and Heera (1947). In 1948, they composed the song 'Suno Suno Aye Duniyawalo Bapu Ki Yeh Amar Kahani' written by lyricist Rajinder Krishan after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The tribute was recognized around the country.

The films for which Husnlal-Bhagatram are most known are Famous Pictures' Pyar Ki Jeet (1948) with songs like 'Oh Door Jaanewale Waada Na Bhool Jaana' sung by Suraiya and Bari Bahen (1949) with solos from Lata Mangeshkar in 'Chale Jaana Nahin' and Mohammad Rafi in 'Mohabbat Ke Dhoke Mein Koi Na Aaye'. They continued working in Hindi and Punjabi cinema until the 1960s when they broke up and went their separate ways.

Husnlal took up performing and teaching classical music in Punjab and Delhi while Bhagatram stayed back in Bombay to play in the orchestras of other music composers. In 1968, Husnlal died while out on his morning walk. The death of his younger brother hit Bhagatram hard. He died a few years later on 29 November 1973 at the age of 59. His son, Ashok Sharma, also chose a musical career; he is a noted sitar player and has worked with music composers like RD Burman and Rajesh Roshan.