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Changez Khan song 'Mohabbat Zinda Rehti Hai' shows Hansraj Behl's mastery – Death anniversary special

The composer, who died on 20 May 1984, often combined classical compositions with Punjabi rhythms.

Sonal Pandya

One part of the larger-than-life story of Mongol conqueror Changez Khan, also known as Genghis Khan, was brought to the big screen in 1957 by director Kedar Kapoor for NC Films. Starring real-life couple Premnath and Bina Rai, Johnny Walker, and Sheikh Mukhtar as the Mongol warlord, this film focused on the leader’s infatuation with and admiration for a Tatar princess named Azra.

The beautiful Azra was played by Rai while Premnath essayed the role of Sherwa, a commander in the Tatar army. The Tatars are in battle with Changez Khan and the leader uses every ruthless trick in the book to defeat them and capture Azra.

Sherwa and Azra are in love and fight against all odds to try and thwart Changez Khan. But when so many lives are at stake, will one love affair be able to withstand the forces of the legendary conqueror?

Today, the film is largely forgotten except for the powerful solo number, 'Mohabbat Zinda Rehti Hai', sung by Mohammed Rafi. The mournful track is picturized on Premnath after Sherwa and Azra are captured by the Khan’s troops and the vanquished general calls out to his lady love.

The song was masterfully composed by Hansraj Behl who moulded the composition in raga Sohani to Rafi’s voice. The forceful lyrics were written by Qamar Jalalabadi. According to the book, Those Magnificent Music Makers, Behl initially did not like the antaras written by Jalalabadi and wanted him replaced by Naqsh Lyallpuri. The mukhda of ‘Mohabbat Zinda Rehti Hai’ was to remain the same.

But Lyallpuri did not want to change Jalalabadi’s words and wrote an entirely new song. Eventually, the song written by Jalalabadi was used. But the incident caused a rift between the lyricist and the composer and they did not work together again for a long time.

Author Sujata Dev explained in the book, Mohammed Rafi: Voice of a Nation, why this song is so momentous. She wrote: “[It] is often referred to as a significant song in Rafi’s career, marked for its intensity – especially in the line ‘Chali aa, chali aa, chali aa...’ which the singer has rendered with total vocal control to progressively reach a crescendo. It exemplifies how a song can sometimes surpass even the film and the actors involved in terms of success and recall value.”

'Mohabbat Zinda Rehti Hai' was by far the most popular song of the Changez Khan (1957) album and ranks high amongst Hansraj Behl’s discography. Behl is often credited with giving singer Asha Bhosle a break with the song ‘Saawan Aaya Re Jaage’ from Chunaria (1948).

The composer gave music for nearly 70 films from the 1940s to the late 1970s, but few remember his three-decade career and the largely period films that he composed for.

Rafi’s unforgettable rendition of this Hansraj Behl composition, which is repeated often in the film, deserves a revival, and a second chance.

Watch the song 'Mohabbat Zinda Rehti Hai' below: