Vinod – The brilliant music director
Harjap Singh Aujla
OF course Lata Mangeshkar was discovered by Music Director Ghulam Haider, but somehow he did not give his most soul inspiring tunes to her to sing. As a result the tunes of Lata’s most brilliant renditions were composed by other music directors. Punjab born and Punjab bred music director Vinod happened to be one of the first music directors who gave his finest tunes to Lata Mangeshkar to sing. Punjabi film “Chaman” made and released in 1948 has the distinction of being one of the first films to contain Lata Mangeshkar’s best composed debut songs. Music Director Vinod had the unique distinction of composing the most brilliant musical score for this second oldest Punjabi classic made in Bombay.
A yesteryears popular music director of Punjabi films Sardul Singh Kwatra who is no more with us, once painfully remarked that the Bombay film industry can swing in extremes. At times Bombay can be very generous and at others it can be very cruel. It bows its head before you, if you have a big nametag or a big name God-father is solidly behind you and more often it denies respect to your genius. Perhaps Sardul also meant that even he was not given his due by the Bombay film World. According to Sardul, the Bombay film industry certainly did not give what was due to some brilliant music directors of yesteryears like Shyam Sunder, Vinod, Sajjad Hussain, Alla Rakha, Khursheed Anwar, Hans Raj Behl, Jamal Sen, Snehal Bhatkar, Jai Dev and Sardar Malik to name a few.
According to Sardul, the Bombay film industry deserted Husan Lal and Bhagat Ram, when they were at their creative best. Even the acclaimed greats like Anil Biswas and Madan Mahan did not get their rightful due, compared to some much pampered but business savvy mediocres. Sardul would have been a very happy man, had he been alive when film “Veer Zara” became a box office and musical success and an all time great music director Madan Mahan got a lot of public support and several top awards for his 1972 musical compositions in 2005. About music director Vinod, whom Sardul knew since his childhood, Sardul believed that he was very creative, who produced some of the most soul stirring tunes, but he never got what he deserved in life and in death.
Music Director Vinod’s real name was Eric Roberts, but for film industry he chose a more familiar and shorter name “Vinod”. This was revealed to me by one of his sons-in-law Kelly Mistry, who is married to his daughter Veera Roberts. His other daughter’s name is Veena Roberts (after marriage Veena Solomon).
Sardul was feeling very dejected about the plight of music director Vinod, who died at a young age and in poverty on the Christmas day in 1959. Sardul Kwatra knew Vinod since his days in Lahore and from a time when Sardul himself was a child, quite ignorant about his destiny. Vinod hailed from a Christian family of Lahore, who were converted from Hindus. Vinod had his family tree connected to Gurdaspur and Amritsar. As a child Vinod was fascinated by the band music which was prominently played during Lahore’s colorful Hindu weddings.
Vinod also listened carefully for hours to the Rababi musicians performing “Shabad Kirtan” at Gurdwara Dehra Sabib Lahore and other Sikh shrines. Sardul said Vinod became a student of Lahore’s famous music director Pandit Amar Nath and learnt the fundamentals of ragas and tune making with the help of a harmonium from the great maestro. He started making tunes while being in Lahore prior to 1947 and during Pandit Amar Nath’s illness leading to his death in 1947, Vinod got the contract of composing the music for a number of films including Punjabi film “Chaman”. But the film could not be taken up due to tense communal atmosphere in Lahore. It was made much later on in India after 1947. Pushpa Hans and Shamshad Begum lent their voices to the songs in this film. Lata Mangeshkar was a new find, looking for work and Vinod gave her three songs to sing. Incidentally Lata’s all three numbers became landmark songs not only for this film, but for other Punjabi films to follow. Those were the days of extreme communal tension on both sides of the Radcliffe line in Punjab, as a consequence after its release the film did not do so well in Pakistani Punjab. But the selling of its music even in Pakistan did quite a decent business.
According to some historians Vinod’s mentor Pandit Amar Nath died in 1946. Some other historians say that Pandit Amar Nath died in February of 1947. I shall agree with 1947 date. But by 1944 most of the Lahore based music directors like Khurshid Anwar (in 1941), Shyam Sunder (in 1943), Hans Raj Behl (in 1944) , Rashid Atre, Feroze Nizami, Ghulam Haider, Pandit Husna Lal Bhagat Ram shifted their base to Bombay in 1944. Pandit Amar Nath and Pandit Gobind Ram were the only music directors left to hold the fort in Lahore. After Pandit Amar Nath’s health deteriorated in 1946, Vinod inherited some of his contracts. “Khamosh Nigahein”, “Paraye Bas Main” and “Kamini” were some of the movies which fell into Vinod’s kitty. None of these 1946 movies did well at the box office and Vinod did not get any milage out of them.
Vinod got the best break in life in 1949, when he got the contract to compose the music for Hindi film “Ek Thi Ladki”. A Shourie production this film became a hit and its Lata song “Lara lappa lara lappa layi rakhda, addi tappa addi tappa layi rakhda” became a nation-wide hit. The tune of this song was based on an old Pahadi Punjabi folk tune of Kangra district. While listening to his other songs for this film particularly its duets, a similarity with the tunes of film “Mirza Sahiban” composed by his mentor Pandit Amar Nath could be clearly established. This goes to prove that Vinod, in letter and spirit, learnt the art of tune making from his teacher. This earned him contract for another Punjabi film “Bhaiya Ji” made in 1950. Lata sang several memorable songs for this movie. One of its sad songs “Ajj mera mahi nall tutt gaya pyar ve akhiyan na maar ve” was acclaimed to be a landmark song. Even Sardul Kwatra had a great admiration for this emotional song. This song later on inspired the tunes of several Hindi songs. In 1949 Vinod composed music for another Hindi film “Taara”, which did not create any waves.
Talat Mahmood and Mohammad Rafi were the favourite male singers of Vinod, who always did full justice to his tunes. According to Sardul Kwatra Vinod had no God-father like Shanker and Jaikishan had in producer actor Raj Kapoor and producer Amiya Chakravarty and Naushad had in a very popular producer Mehboob Khan. Roop K. Shori, who gave Vinod music composition contracts for his films, although was a very big name in Lahore, somehow did not belong to the big league of Bombay based film producers like Sohrab Modi, K.A. Abbas, V. Shantaram, Mehboob Khan, A.R. Kardar and Raj Kapoor.
Roop K. Shori of course earned great name and fame as a producer in Lahore, while moving to Bombay, took his entire team with him. Music director Vinod and lyricist Aziz Kashmiri were members of his core group. In Bombay Vinod composed the music for most of Roop K. Shori films. In all Vinod composed music for 27 Hindi films, out of which he shared music with other music directors for at least six films. Some of his films were not completed and some were not released even after completion. Among some of Vinod’s best known creations were the musical compositions of films “Anmol Rattan” (1950), “Wafaa” (1950) “Sabaz Bagh” (1951) “Aag ka Dariya” (1953), “Laadla” (1954) and “Makhi Choos” (1956). For a while Roop K. Shori got Vinod a salaried job as a music director in “Filmistan Studios”. One characteristic of Vinod was that in Punjabi films he inserted Hindi songs and in Hindi film songs he inserted some Punjabi wording. This trend was discontinued later on, but since the nineties once again Punjabi songs are becoming a part and parcel of most Hindi films and these songs are proving big hits, especially in the Western countries.
According to Vonod’s son-in-law Kelly Mistry, Vinod was born on May 28, 1922. On the average Vinod was doing one or two successful films a year from 1948 to 1957, but one or two hit films in a year are not enough to ensure a decent standard of living in a city like Bombay. Husan Lal Bhagat Ram gave the music for 19 films in 1949 and 1950 and Shanker Jaikishan were composing the music for on the average 3 to 4 hit films every year during the fifties and sixties. Such busy schedules made both duos financially quite well off. O.P. Nayyar was also doing 3 to 4 successful films a year during the fifties, but somehow he did not manage his finances well. On the other hand Naushad was professionally quite creative and he always managed his finances well and lived in style.
Both Shyam Sunder and Vinod, in spite of being thoroughly professional, were never financially well off. They both died during the fifties. After Vinod’s untimely death at a young age of thirty seven on December 25, 1959, his wife Sheela had great difficulty in bringing up his children. Vinod loved his childhood city of Lahore and did not want to leave that great cultural centre, but the unfortunate partition of Punjab and the resultant bloodshed and the trauma of brutality left no option of going back to Lahore. Vinod was every inch a Punjabi and he longed to compose music for the Punjabi films, but after 1951 mostly two music directors ended up getting all the music direction contracts for Punjabi films. They were Master Hans Raj Behl and Sardul Kwatra. Vinod composed music for only five Punjabi movies. These are “Chaman” (1948), “Bhaiya Jee” (1950), “Mitiar” (1950), “Ashtalli” (1954) and “Nikki” (1958). Vinod died a frustrated man, who’s professional genius was always shortchanged.
Although Vinod composed music for thirty two films, but most of these films were under small banners and the music of many was let down by the film’s poor showing at the box office. The following is the complete list of his films: