Published on 07 Nov 2010 | over 7 years ago

Regarded as a pioneer of Indian music, Naushad Ali was one of the one of the first and foremost composers in the history of Bollywood. Since 1937, he was composing music for films that, along with his music, formed the very foundation and core of Bollywood. He is also known for introducing the legendary singers Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi to the world and transfiguring them into the icons they are today. While he did less than a hundred films during his lifetime, 26 of those films went on to celebrate jubilees, some of them making golden and even diamond jubilees!

He was born on December 25, 1919, in the city of Lucknow. From early childhood, he was an avid film buff, listening to the live orchestras that accompanied silent films back then. He studied classical Indian music under renowned musicians like Ustad Ghurbat Ali, Ustad Yusuf Ali, and Ustad Babban Saheb, and began composing music for amateur theatrical groups like the Windsor Music Entertainers. He also spent much of his time repairing harmoniums.

In the late 1930s, he came to Bombay to be a success as a musician. But he had to struggle to make it to the top. Initially he faced rebuffs, and had to endure periods of utter deprivation. Naushad even spent nights sleeping on footpaths before he finally secured a job as a pianist in composer Mushtaq Hussain 's orchestra. Composer Khemchand Prakash took him on as his assistant and taught him, an act for which he remained extremely grateful throughout his life. His friend, lyricist D N Madhok trusted Naushad's unusual talent for composing music and introduced him to various film producers. Chandulal Shah, the owner of Ranjit Studios, offered to sign Naushad for one of his forthcoming films. Naushad composed a lilting bhajan for this film, Bata de koi kaun gali gaye Shyam ( film - kanchan singer - leela chitnis ). He composed only one song in this film , the other 10 songs were composed by Gyan Dutt .It was his first signed movie but the movie released in 1941 and took third number in his career. Naushad got his break with the film Prem Nagar (1940), but it was only with Sharda (1942) that he got attention. The film Ratan (1944) took him right to the top, and from then on he could produce blockbuster songs for appropriately smash hit films, most notably films made by either Abdul Rashid Kardar or Mehboob Khan.

Naushad's style was renowned for his ability to incorporate classical rhythms into his symphonies. He based his music upon the "ragas" that formed a basis in Indian classical music, and thus his music took on complex formations and . His taste for classical music was legendary - in the Mughal musical Baiju Bawra (1952), he used actual classical singers to sing his ghazals. In spite of his classical tendencies, he could also keep up with the times and adapt Western techniques and instruments into his music, as heard in the films Jadoo (1951) and Mere Mehboob (1963). Naushad was also among the first to use the techniques of sound mixing, of separate recording of vocal and music tracks in playback singing, and using background scores to enhance characters' moods and dialogues through music.

Naushad's career continued at a steady peak throughout the 1950s and 1960s, with some of his melodies being featured in now-perennial classics like the Mughal period films Baiju Bawra (1952) and Mughal-E-Azam (1960) and the epic Mother India (1957). Unfortunately and to his distaste the times were changing and demanded more fast-paced, peppier tunes, and Naushad had to struggle to keep his music pure and classical. In fact for Saathi (1968), he was persuaded, against his will, to re-record two of his songs to pep up their pace and their appeal. It was due to this uncompromising attitude towards his music that he would only compose less than a hundred films in his lifetime.

In the 1960s, he composed for Dilip Kumar 's dacoit drama Gunga Jumna (1961), which became a smash hit in India. However, both Kumar's and Naushad's days were numbered, and as their films came unstuck at the box-office, their fortunes dwindled. Naushad was still held in high regard, but he was now given mostly period films, most notably the courtesan romance Pakeezah (1972). However, he still gave his all in his efforts and he continued composing for films right through to the 1990s. He received the Dhundiraj Govind Phalke Award in 1981 for his lifetime contribution to Bollywood cinema and in 2004, when Mughal-E-Azam (1960) was re-released in colour, he was on hand along with Dilip Kumar - to attend the premiere and revive their days of glory.

In early 2006, Naushad was admitted to Ninavati Hospital after complaints of uneasiness, and on 5 May 2006, he died of old age. His last film, Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story (2005), while receiving mixed reviews, was greatly praised for its musical score. Even in today's fast-moving world, people still found something special in his music. Such is the hallmark of a truly great composer...
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