Shyam Sundar (full name – Shyam Sundar Gaba) was an extraordinary composer of many wonderful, unforgettable melodious songs of 1940s and early 50s. Although his career lasted for just about 15 years (1939-1953) and he composed music for just 24 films (4 Punjabi and 20 Hindi films), the list of hit or popular songs by him is very long and he composed some of the most memorable songs of that era.
Not much is known about the earlier life of Shyam Sundar, except that he was from Lahore and was fascinated by the music of MD Ghulam Haider. He started his career by giving music in Punjabi films. ‘Sohni Kumharan-39’, ‘Laila Majnu-40’, ‘Jagga Daaku-40’ and ‘Gul Baloch-44’ are the known films with music by Shyam Sundar and it was the last one ‘Gul Baloch’, in which he introduced the legendary singer Mohd. Rafi to the music world by giving him a duet with Zeenat Begum – ‘sohniye ni heeriye ni teri yaad ne bahut sataaya’. Earlier it was Shyam Sundar who accompanied K.L.Saigal ji for a programme in Lahore, where Mohd. Rafi had come with his brother and sang Punjabi songs without mike due to electricity failure and got appreciation from Shyam Sundar and Saigal sahib as well. Shyam Sundar called Mohd. Rafi to Bombay and gave the chance to sing him his first film song mentioned above. Later Shyam Sundar signed Mohd. Rafi for a duet with G.M.Durrani in ‘Village Girl (Gaaon ki Gori)-1945’- ‘’aji dil pe ho kaabu to dildaar ki aisi taisi’’. Mohd. Rafi himself claimed this song to be his first song for Hindi films, although a song from ‘Pehle Aap-1944’ having music of Naushad was released first, as is evident from the record number too.
1943 : for HFM, Shyam Sundar started with ‘Nai Kahaani’, having 9 songs written by Vali Sahib. G.M.Durrani sang 3 solos and 3 duets in the film, out of which duet with Balak Ram– ‘’neend hamaari khwaab tumhaare, kitne meethe kitne pyaare’’ is the most memorable and popular song. Durrani’s solos -‘aa ja bichhde huye saajan’, ‘humein kya an khizaa jaaye na jaaye’ and ‘kya sukh paaya nain milaa ke’ are wonderful songs. ‘Dhuen ki gaadi udaaye liye jaaye, jeevan ki naiya bahaaye liye jaaye’, a duet of Rajkumari and P.Bannerji is the other unforgettable melody from this film. In 1943 Shyam Sundar gave music in another film ‘Jungi Jawaan’ along with Mohd. Aslam, but details are unavailable.
1944 : Shyam Sundar shared the compopsiton for ‘Bhai’ with his favourite MD Ghulam Haider. 3 out of 8 songs penned by Khan Shatir Ghaznavi are composed by Shyam Sundar. ‘kuchh yaad dilaati hain humein beeti huyi baatein’ by Naseem Akhtar and ‘duniya ki yeh khushi hai tujhe bhool jaayein hum’ by Zeenat Begum are the memorable songs from this film. In ‘Bhai Jaan’, starring Noorjehan and Karan Deewan, Noorjehan sang 4 beautiful solos out of 8 songs (all penned by Partau Lakhanvi) , but due to tussle with director S.Khalil, Noorjehan refused to record the songs for disc separately. Records were released later with voice of Zeenat begum and songs with Noorjehan’s voice remained restricted to the soundtrack only and are not available.
1945 : Then came ‘Village Girl or Gaaon ki Gori’in 1945, in which noorjehan sang as much as 6 solos, each one a gem. ‘kis tarah bhoolega dil, unka khyaal aaya hua’, ‘baithi hun teri yaad ka lekar ke sahaara’, ‘main kheton ka panchhi mere pankh niraale hain’, ‘yeh kaun hansa, yeh kisne sitaaron ko hansaaya’, ‘rut aayi suhaani hai’ and ‘sajan pardesi, balam pardesi’. All songs are penned by Vali Sahib and wonderfully composed by Shyam Sundar, showing his superb in depth knowledge of use of instruments. Noorjehan sang these songs with such a feel and depth that these songs became some of the most popular and memorable songs of Noorjehan’s career in india. ‘hindustan ki khatir hum jaan ladaa denge’ by Durrani and chorus and duet of Durrani-Mohd. Rafi – ‘aji dil ho kaabu mein to dildaar ki aisi taisi’ are also beautiful songs. Ameerbai sang two beautiful solos ‘bansi ki madhur dhun se’ and ‘saiyan salone se nain mila ke’ and 1 duet with Shanta Patel ‘o pardesi raaja, koyal kook rahi hai’.
1946 : Details of 6 out of 10 songs of ‘Dev Kanya’ are available, of which there are 3 solos of Shamshad Begum and one solo each of Ameerbai, Saraswati Rane and khan Mastana. ‘piya milan ko jaane waali sambhal-sambhal ke chal’ by Ameerbai and ‘aasha ki jyot jagaaye ja’ by Khan Mastana are fantastic songs. Shamshad Begum songs ‘ek nazar mein mere man ko churaaya’, ‘aaj mere ghar aayenge’ and ‘kismat mein likha ho jo, use kaun mitaaye’ areother wonderful songs. ‘Urvashi’ was the other film, in which Shyam Sundar gave music along with Ramchander Paul and Paigankar, but details are unavailable.
1947 : Two films of Shyam Sundar were released – ‘Arsi’ (with lachchhiram) and ‘Ek Roz’. Details are unavailable as to which songs are composed by Shyam Sundar out of 12 songs of ‘Arsi’, except of ‘kya humse poochhte ho kidhar jaa rahey hain hum’ , a wonderful solo of S.D.Batish penned by Sarshar Sailani. In ‘Ek Roz, all songs are penned by Sarshar Sailani and Dilshad Degum sang 3 beautiful solos and 2 duets (one with Naseem Akhtar and one with Imdad). Solo of Naseem Akhtar ‘bhoole se kabhie yaad kar ae bhoolne waale’, solo of Munawwar Sultana ‘masti ka samaa, do phool khile hain’, ‘o bhoolne waale gam mein tere hum apna fasaana bhool gaye’ and ‘hum jisko chaahte hain, use kuchh khabar nahin’ both by Dilshad Begum are unforgettable melodies. Most memorable songs are solos of G.M.Durrani – ‘toota hua dil leke chale apne watan se’ and ‘ik bewafa ne sheesha-a-dil choor kar diya’.
1948 : in ‘Actress-1948’, Mohd. Rafi sang two beautiful solos ‘hum apne dil ka fasaana unhe suna na sake’, ‘ae dil meri aahon mein itna to asar aaye’ and one duet with Shamshad Begum – ‘dheere dheere bol koi sun na le bol’.(all penned by Nakhshab) shamshad’s solo-‘mohabbat mein humein yeh aakhiri sadma uthaana hai’ , duets – ‘hello hello gentle man, milaate kyon nahin humse nain’ (with Lata (?)) and‘aankhon-aankhon mein veh dil se dil ki baatein keh gaye’(with Geeta) are other popular songs of this film. Lyricists are Nakhshab, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and P.L.Santoshi.
1949 : Shyam Sundar gave three films this year – ‘Bazaar’, ‘Chaar din’ and ‘Lahore’, all musically hit films. In ‘Bazaar’, all songs are written by Qamar Jalalabadi. Rafi’s solos ‘yeh hai duniya ka bazaar’, ‘shaheedo tumko mera salaam’, ‘o jaane waale chaand, zaraa muskura ke jaa’, ‘mere bhagwaan tu mujhko yun hi barbaad rehne de’ and ‘maang rahaa hai hindustan roti kapda aur makaan’ were instant hits and are popular till date. Lata’s solos ‘basaa lo apni nigaahon mein pyaar thoda sa’, ‘ae dil unko yaad na karna’ and ‘saajan ki galiyaan chhod chaley’ and her duets ‘apni nazar se door woh’ (with Mohd. Rafi) and ‘zaraa sun lo hum apne pyaar ka afsaana kehte hain’ (with Rajkumari) are also popular songs. Shamshad Begum sang one solo ‘pee aaye aakar chal bhi diye’ and one wonderful duet with Mohd. Rafi, Satish Batra and chorus ‘chhalla de ja nishaani teri meharbaani’. In ‘Chaar Din’, Suraiya remained the main singer, singing as much as 5 solos – ‘kaise bedardi se paala pada’, ‘kismat ki baathai’, ‘koi jaane waale se keh de jaake’, ‘ik bewafaa ki yaad ne tadpake maar daala’and ‘anjaam-e-mohabbat kuchh bhi nahin’. Shamshad begum sang one solo and one duet. Premlata and Master Sonik sang a wonderful duet – ‘sajan ghar jaane waale, manzil door nahin hai’. For two different parts of group song ‘yeh bholi soorat waale’, Shyam Sundar used different singers. In one part Rajkumari, S.D.Batish, Mohd. Rafi and chorus and for second part Iqbal, Zohrabai, Lata and chorus. Lyricist of all these songs was Shakeel Badayuni. In ‘Lahore’ Lata sang two wonderful duets with Karan Deewan – ‘duniya hamaare pyar ki yun hi jawaan rahey’ penned by Rajendra Krishan and ‘sun lo sajan meri baat’ penned by Aziz Kashmiri. (not surprised that lata ji consider ‘duniya hamaare pyar ki’ in one of her 10 best songs). Lata sang 4 solos too– ‘bahaarein phir bhi aayengi’, ‘toote huye armaanon ki ik duniya basaaye’, ‘ik aas bandhaaye jaati hai’ and ‘us dil ki kismat kya kahiye’, all fantastic songs. Karan Deewan sang two wonderful solos too – ‘hum jahaan mein aaye hain aansoo bahaane ke liye’ and ‘wohi rota huya dil idhar bhi hai, udhar bhi hai’. Manna dey sang one song (with chorus)’duniya to yeh kehti hai insaan kahaan hai’ and G.M.Durrani sang comedy song ‘humne circus mein naukri kar lee’. During recording of songs, some differences appear between Lata ji and MD Shyam Sundar because of his drinking habit and using abusive language during recording.
1950 : three films came of Shyam Sundar – ‘Bhai Behan’, ‘Kamal Ke Phool’ and ‘Nirdosh’. In ‘Bhai Behan’ Shamshad sang 3 solos and 3 duets. All duets are comedy songs – ‘judaai mein kisi ki geet filmi gaate phirte hain’ (with Trilok Kapoor and chorus), ‘baithe raho zoru ke paas’ and ‘tumko humse pyar hai’ (both with Satish Batra). Mukesh’s only song for Shyam Sundar, a duet with Premlata is there too – ‘kisiko kya khabar, hamaare dil par kya-kya guzarti hai’. 3 solos one each by Premlata (kahaan chaley ji, chhod ke na jaao), talat (ban than ke chali, saj dhaj ke chali) and Lata (suno sunaaun ek kahaani) are wonderful songs. Suraiya again showed her superb singing in ‘Kamal Ke Phool’ by singing 5 solos, among which ‘koi dil mein samaaya chupke-chupke’ ,‘o dene waale yeh kyadiya’, ‘mitaa sakey to mitaa le duniya’ and ‘sazaa mili hai kisi se yeh dil lagaane ki’ are wonderful songs. Shamshad solos – ‘o bedardi jaane waale’ and ‘thoda thoda pyar thodithodi takraar ho’ and Talat’s solo ‘jalti hai duniya jalti rahegi’ make this film an unforgettable music album. In ‘Nirdosh’, Shamshad Begum sang as much as 7 solos and one duet with Satish Batra. ‘maaro na nainwa ke baan’, ‘gaye woh mere dil ko veeraan karke’, ‘mere pee hai jahaan, mujhko le chal wahaan’, ‘duniya mein hamaari kismat ne do din na hamaara saath diya’ and ‘ishq mein hum zindagi barbaad karke chal diye’ all are unforgettable melodies by shamshad begum. Meena Kapoor solo ‘dil ke tukde tujhe seene se laga lun’ and Lata solo ‘yeh meri chalti phirti laash kal gairon ke ghar hogi’ are also memorable songs. (Lata’s song penned by Asad Bhopali is included by writer ‘Ajatshatru’ in the book ’Baba Teri Sonchiraiya – musical review of 80 rare songs of Lata Mangeshkar’).
1951 : Shyam Sundar give chance to Sulochana Kadam as main singer in ‘Dholak’ and ‘Kaale Baadal’, due to differences with Lata ji. In Dholak, Sulochana Kadam sang two beautiful solos –’chor-chori aag si dil mein lagaa kar chal diye’ and ‘chhalak rahaa hai nigaahon se pyar thoda sa’ and two duets – ‘magar ae hasina-e-bekhabr, zaraa dekh chupke se ik nazar’ (with Mohd. Rafi )and ‘mausam aaya hai rangeen, baji hai kahin sureeli been’ (with Satish Batra), all wonderful melodies. Mohd. Rafi also sang three duets, two with Lata (‘ke ik pal ruk jaana sarkaar’ and ‘aise rasiya kac kya aetbaar’), one with Uma Devi (‘chaand ki sundar nagri mein pariyon ki raani’), and one trio comedy song with Shamshad Begum and Satish Batra (with chorus) –‘halla gulla laai laa halla gulla’. One unforgettable melody of Shamshad Begum is also there – ‘mere dil mein aaiye, meri nazar mein aaiye’. In ‘Kaale Baadal’, Sulochana Kadam sang four beautiful solos – ‘’kisi majboor ka jalta hua ghar dekhte jaana’, ‘dil hi dil mein royenge hum duniya hansti rahegi’, ‘ulfat jise kehte hain jeene ka sahaara hai’ and ‘teri nazar ne meri nazar se keh di dil ki baat’. Pushpa Hans sang 2 solos – ‘tu maane ya na maane, tu jaane ya na jaane’ and ‘dil kisi se lagaa ke dekh liya’. Shamshad’s duet ‘pehle unke saamne jaate hi khanjar rakh diya’ and Durrani’s solo –‘tadapna aur chup rehna, mohabbat aur kya hogi’ are other songs making this film a melodious album. Only one song in voice of Sulochana Kadam (akhiyaan milaa ke akhiyon ki neend chura ke na ja) composed by Shyam Sundar is therein ‘Mukhda’, as other songs are composed by md Vinod. Sulochana Kadam give full credit of her singing career to Shyam Sundar by saying in an interview that although she started singing before she met Shyam Sundar, she gained confidence only after meeting him and after singing for his films.
1953 : ‘Alif Laila-1953’ was the last film with music of Shyam Sundar. All songs were penned by Sahir Ludhianvi in this film. Lata refused to sing songs for this film initially due to drinking habit of Shyam Sundar, but knowing his capability, insisted to sing for Shyam Sundar only, when producer tried to change the MD. She sang two solos – ‘bahaar aayi khili kaliyaan’and ‘tujkhko bhulaana mere bas mein nahin hai’ and two duets with Rafi – ‘kya raat suhaani hai’ and ‘khaamosh kyon hotaaro’. Asha sang for the first and last time for Shyam Sundar, singing two solos ‘dilon ke shikaar ko kataar leke aayi hun’and ‘raatein pyar ki beet jaayengi’. Talat Mahmood sang two beautiful solos – ‘mere naghmon mein un mastaana aankhon ki kahaani hai’ and ‘yeh babasi yeh mera haal-e-zaar dekh to le’. Due to death of md Shyam Sundarji in 1953, MD Madan Mohan ji completed composition of some songs of this last film of Shyam Sundar.
Shyam Sundar will always be remembered for perfect planning of instruments and wonderful orchestration for composing songs and also for his choice of singers. For his extraordinary compositions Shyam Sundar gained respect from other MDs of his times as well. Every time Shyam Sundar’s name came up in O. P Nayyar’s presence, the reaction would be worth watching. His hands would hold his earlobes and his tongue would come out, trapped between his teeth. Then his head would oscillate a few times. A perfect method to salute his senior and a genius composer. Shyam Sundar also had good relations with Anil Biswas, Husnalal-Bhagatram and of course Madan Mohan.
Memories of two of his compositions become alive, when in 1982, malika-e-tarannum Noorjehan visited India and a show was organised at Bombay in her honour. There Lata sang ‘saajan ki galiyaan chhod chaley’ (Bazaar-1949) on stage, followed by ‘baithi hun teri yaad ka lekar ke sahaara’ (Village girl/Gaaon ki gori-1945) by Noorjehan. These songs got a great applause from the audience.
Shyam Sundar’s family lives in Delhi and his grandson Vijay Gaba is running a stationary shop after becoming handicapped in a paralytic attack. Shyam Sundar’s grandsons have no interest in old songs, although he will always be remembered by music lovers across the world for his various melodious compositions even after 60 years of his death.
Thanks to Mr. Girdharilal Vishwakarma ji and Mr.Bhim Garg ji for valuable information.
References : 1. Article by Mr. Satish Chopra ji on various sites.
2. Listener’s bulletins – Harminder Singh Hamraaz.
3. Yesterday’s Melodies-Today’s Memories : Mr. Manek Premchand.
4. Malika-e-tarannum Noorjehan – Mr. Aijaz Gul.
5. Baba Teri Son Chiraiya – musical review of 80 rare songs of Lata Mangeshkar – Mr. Ajatshatru.