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Parveen Sultana’s contribution to Gadar: Birthday special

The celebrated classical singer struck all the right chords in the Sunny Deol film.

Keyur Seta

Anil Sharma’s Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001) is known for a number of reasons. First, it is one of the biggest blockbusters Hindi cinema has produced. The film reinforced Sunny Deol’s image as our homegrown action hero. His patriotic dialogues are remembered vividly and the unforgettable handpump scene is still talked about.

There is one more reason for which the film should be remembered. It is one of the very few Hindi films for which classical vocalist Parveen Sultana sang. On her 67th birthday today (10 July), we revisit the song from Gadar.

Set during Partition in 1947, Gadar is a love story between Sakina (Ameesha Patel) and Tara Singh (Deol). The girl’s family leaves for Pakistan, but she is left behind. Sakina is saved from a rioting mob by Tara Singh and the two gradually fall in love. After they get married and have a child, Sakina’s parents’ whereabouts become known and she goes to Pakistan to meet them.

Once she arrives in Pakistan, however, Sakina learns of the sinister plan of her father (Amrish Puri), who has become an influential politician — the mayor of Lahore. He wants his daughter to cut off all ties with India. Needless to add, he wants Sakina to forget Tara Singh forever.

The song ‘Aan Milo Sajana’ arrives after the interval when Sakina is going through the pain of separation while at a function at her family's house in Pakistan. The song aptly serves to portray Sakina’s sorry condition without her husband and child.

The track, a thumri, is moving. Pandit Ajay Chakraborty and Parveen Sultana’s soulful rendition of composer Uttam Singh’s classical tune is an aural treat. It is surprising why the song did not receive as much appreciation as the other songs in the film like ‘Udja Kale Kawa’, ‘Main Nikla Gaddi Leke’ and ‘Musafir Janewale.’

Following Gadar, the Assam-born Parveen Sultana has sung for only one other Hindi film — Vikram Bhatt’s horror flick 1920 (2008). It was a track called ‘Vaada Tumse Hain Vaada’. This one is remembered even less, as it comes on during the end credits of the film. There is a male version of the same song that plays during the film. It's hard to believe that Pandit Jasraj sang it.

Parveen Sultana was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014 by the government of India for her contribution to Indian classical music. She was just 25 when she received the Padma Shri. Born in Nagaon in Assam, she started training in classical music at an early age and gave her first stage performance in 1962, aged just 12.

Her most popular Hindi film song remains ‘Humein Tumse Pyaar Kitna’ from Chetan Anand’s Kudrat (1981), which was picturized on Aruna Irani.