There have been only two composer emeritus in the Hindi film world whom colleagues and musicians have addressed as Masterji . Of course, the great Master Ghulam Haider was the first such composer and the other one was the creator of enchanting classical base compostions imbued with typically Punjabi rhythms- Hansraj Behl. Today a forgotten name,Hansraj Behl’s musical zeal was next to none and in his times, the composer emeritus composed a litany of splendid timeless melodies with a fabulous musical zeal. Born in a Punjabi household on November 19, 1916 near Shaikhupura (now on the Pakistani side of Punjab, near Rawalpindi),
Hansraj Behl’s father Nihal Chand Behl was zamindar in the area. None in the family had any musical inclination but an in-born sense of music. Even at a very young age, he used to compose and play the entire music played in the background of the “Ram Leela’s” performed in Shaikhupura. Later, he formally learnt music from Achary Chiranjivilal in Ambala and opened a “Music School” in the famous Anarkali bazaar of Lahore (now in Pakistan). He also recorded some non-film songs for H.M.V in those days.
Hansraj also started appearing on stage shows and later organized them himself. Behl’s music class and stage show achieved great popularity in Punjab those days. As he became know, Hansraj Behl set his sights higher and the lure of the film industry in Bombay (now Mumbai) brought him (with his younger brother Gulshan Behl and friend and later day lyricist Verma Mlik) to the Tinsel town in 1944. Hansraj pleaded with and got his uncle Chunnilal Behl (an acquaintance of the Kapoor family) to introduce him to the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor.
Hansraj Behl’s first trial in Bombay was at the Bombay talkies. He then assisted Pt. Gobindram in a film for Prakash Pictures.
A two week stint with Navyug Chitrapat followed. However, his first break as an independent music director came from Ardeshir B. Irani (maker of India’s first Talkie Alam Ara), who ate the recommendation of the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor ,assigned him to score the music for Pujari(1946) with lyrics by Pt. Indra and Wali Saheb. A notable feature of the music of Behl’s first film was that Baby Mumtaz , who later went on to become the legendary “Venus of Indian Screen” Madhubala Sang a song “Bhagwan mere gyan ke Deepak ko jala”. The Rest is history,
Hansraj Behl scored music for around 67 films in a four decade long career.
Gwalin(1946) was Hansraj Behl’s second film and he started using the legendary Mukesh as his mainstay playback singer. Mukesh’s duet with Sushila Rani(acknowledged classical singer of “Jaipur Gharana” , who later married the famous fire-brand journalist of that era , Baburao Patel, the editor of Film India And Motherland Magazines ) “Nazar lagat tori chhalaiyya more gore badan ko “ became very popular. Pt.Indra was the lyricist if this film.
Doyen Sardar Chandulal Shah inducted Hansraj Behl into his famous Ranjeet Studios and the composer gave music in four of Ranjeet’s films (Cheen Le Azaadi,Phulwari,Lakhon Mein Ek and Duniya Ek Sarai)Composer Bulo C. Rani was a co-composer in Lakhon mein ek and separately recorded a few songs. Legendary leading lady Meena Kumari sang some numbers as the side heroine in Duniya ek Sarai under the baton of Hansraj Behl .
Initially, when masterji Hansraj Behl heard the voice of “Melody Queen” Lata Mangeshkar , he called it a “Lead laden” voice , but after recording the superhit number “Naale laami wey naale haaye wey channa raat judariyanwali” in Lata’s voice in the raging Punjabi hit Lachchhi , his opinion changed and he called Lata , the ‘Saraswati of the era’. The Lachchhi song was such a nationwide hit that writer Yashpal mentioned it in his famous literary classic Jhootha Sach. But Lata’s first immortal golden nugget under the baton of hansraj behl was “Dil-e-nashad ko jeene ki hasrat ho gayi tumse’ in Chunria. It was an outstanding composition, which years later was copied by composers LP , in Lata’s “Zamane mein aji aise kayi nadaan” in Jeevan Mrityu(1970) . Chunria is also known for Hansraj Behl giving a break to the legendary Asha Bhonsle-she sang her first ever Hindi film song’Sawab aaya re jaahe more bhaag sakhi ri”, a duet with Zohrabai Ambalewali. But Chunria also saw the composer use his later day Fav. Singer, the legendary Mohm. Rafi to record “Sab kuchh lutaya humne aa kar trei gali mein”.
But at the box office failure of Chunria prevented Hansraj Behl from establishing his own distinct identity in the Hindi film music world, as he had to share musical credit with other composers in films, like Pehli Pechaan,Gun Sundari and Mitti ke Khilaune.”Hotel ka kinare ho nazara pyara pyare ho” (Leela Mehta/A.R Mehta ) and “Aana na tha jo dil mein” (Ameerbai Karnataki/S.R Ojha) in Gun Sundari became popular. Pt.Indra and B.R Sharma wrote some of the songs. Hansraj returned as a solo composer in Pardesi Mehman with hits like “Parwane ho Parwane too kya jalna jaane(Mukesh/Husn Bano) Amd “Hoshiyar naujawaan jag aye naujawan”(mukesh) penned again by Pt.Indra.
Legendary producer-director B.R Chopra’s directorial debut Karwat(1949) which he directed under the pseudonym of Prakash with Geeta Nizami/Satish in the leads had Hansraj Behl’s music with hit songs , like the enchantingly delightful “Deewana gaya daaman se lipat kabhi is karwat kabhi us karwat”(Paro Devi). But Karwat was no great shakes at the box office , nor was Bhikhari (1949) which came next.
This was the time when original masterji Ghulam Haider left for Pakistan , leaving the score of the under-production Shyam/Munawwar Sultana starrer Kaneez (1949) half way and Hansraj Behl stepped in to complete the two remaining songs and the background music. Then came Roomal(1949) with the chart buster Rafi Number “Dil toota aur aramaan lute” and other hit songs.
Consistent box office failures of films did not deter Hansrah Behal and the composer did come up with a very popular score in the Nalini Jaywant/Bharat Bhooshan starer Chakore(1949) with Lata truly excelling to render an immortal classic “haaye chanda gaye pardes”, an intensely plaintive composition which made its percussionist cry during the recording . Veteran Actor Jagdish Sethi turned producer –director with the shyam/Munawwar Sultana starre Raat ki Rani(1949) embellished it with a splendid Hansraj Behl score. One of Mohammad Rafi’s early immortal Ghazal “Jin raaton mein neend ud jaayo hai kya kaher ki raatein hoti hain’ in “Mushaira rendition” style went on the lips of every connoisseur of Urdu poetry as well as every romanticist of that era. It as a unique composition based on a captivating judicious mix of “Kaafi” , “Bahar” and Bhimplasi” ragas on “Dadra Taal”. Grapevine has it that the celebrated song “Jin raaton mein neend” was first recorded in the voice of Mukesh , but Behl was not too pleased with the result. He decided to use Rafi’s voice instead , summoned the great singer to the studio at midnight and completed the recoding by 7 A.M Raat Ki Rani was a box office hit.
The quality of work of the composer was an evident from the fact that the scored music for as many as seven films in the year 1949. The music of the last Hansraj Release of 1949, the Meena/Masood starrer Zevraaat , directed by Habib Sarhadi, became superhit. Behl came up with and exuberant foot tapping dulcet Rafi/Lata duet “sajan ki oat leke haaton mein haath leke koi idhar na dekhe” with its enchanting refrain “Lal lalla la la lalala”, which became a raging hit.
Hansraj recorded two popular rhythmic Rafi/Lata duets, viz.”Ankhiyan gulabi jaise mad ki hain pyaliyan” and “hans ke na teer chalana” in Beqasoor(1950), which was basicall a composer emeritus Anil Biswas – scored film. Gulnar(1950) had Behl extensively use the voice of Zeenat Begum.
The composer emeritus got the opportunity to score got the legendary singer and Heroine Suraiya in the Ashok Kumar starrer Khiladi ( 1950 ) and he took it with both hands . Suraiya sang a string of soulful melodies, like “ Dil – e – nashaad na ro “ and few more . Surprisingly , the film had also had sonorous Lata number “ Darde – e – dil tham jara . Another Suraiya starrer Shaan (1950) with Rehman had popular songs ( will be sharing her song ) . Shamshaad also rendered “ Zamana dus dud ked us note ka “ .
The Geeta Bali / Nasir Khan starrer Nakhre ( 1951 ) had Hansraj in the prime form to create a splendid score hit songs .Geeta Bali / Nigar / Nasir Khan starrer Phooloon Ke Haar ( 1951 ) had Mubaraq Begum ‘ s voice for the first time , with eight songs . Another Suraiya sterrer Rajpoot with Jairaj opposite her came out next with a memorable Suraiya dominated score by Hansraj , Suraiya was at her bewitching best to sonorously render the exquisite charmer “ Raste par hum khade hai dil – e – bekaraar lekar “ which proved a nationwide hit . Singer Madhubala Zaveri made her Hindi film debut under the baton of Hansraj to render the evocative duet Talat in the film . Apni Izzat ( 1952 ) with legendary Motilal and and Munawwar Sultana in the leads had a couple of charming Talat and Madhubala duets , like “ Pyar ki rut dorangi saajan “ and “ Dil mera tera deevana “ on a classical base .
Hansraj always encouraged new talent , be the playback artiste or lyricists . Poet Verma Malik was a personal friend ( and a possibly a school mate ) of Hansraj and even use to stay with him at his Union Park residence at Chembur . When veteran actor – producer – director Jagdish Sethi , in the wake of the success of Raar ki Rani , launched Jaggu ( 1952 ) with Hansraj’ s music gave his friend Varma Malik the first break as a lyricists . Naqsh Laayalpuri got his first break from Hansraj when he penned “ Main teri hoon to mera ( Madhubala Zaveri ) for Jaggu .
It was character artiste Ram Mohan ‘ s debut movie .
Yet another Suraiya starrer , a fairly successful Moti Mahal ( 1952 ) with Ajit in the main lead had a huge popular score with Kabhi na bigde motor car ( Suraiya ) . Hansraj first and last foray into the realm of mythological was in the Raja Nene directed Lanka Dahan ( 1952 ) in which my personal fav “ Bhool huyi kya mujhse Bhagwan “ ( Geeta ) Mamta ( 1953 ) had music by Sonik and Hansraj had only one solo song by Shyam . Kedar Kapoor ( father of heroine of mid 70 s Madhu Kapoor ) directed Khaibar ( with Nigar / Kamal Kapoor had hit songs and did reasonably well at the box office , Usha Kiron / Suresh starrer Dost ( 1954 ) had Behel use Talat so very appropriately for an usual composition “ Aye bhi Akela jaaye bhi akela “ a heart rending hit melody in “ Raag Multani “ penned by Verma Malik and other solo by Madhubala Zaveri “ Dil deke bahut pachtayee “ was also hit .
Jagdish Sethi once again signed Hansraj to write the score for his next film “Pensioner “ with veteran actor plated title role along with Shyama . Rafi s “ Manwa kaahe dheer ganwayee “ was popular . Lata s “ Dil ki duniya loot kar oh jaanewaale “ was repeated in the film . Asha sang a popular “ Arabic music based song “ Agar teri aankoon mein aankheen “ Embellished with fluent western orchestra .
The Behl family , under the supervision of Hansraj and the younger brother Gulsgan , established itd own film production “ N . C . Films “ . Its first film Laal Pari ( 1954 ) directed by Kedar Kapoor with Shakila / Mahipal in the leads had an unforgettable Talat / Geeta “ Keh rahi hai dhadkanein pukar ke chupke chupke pyar kar “ which became a super hit . It was modern western orchestration based lilting number and few more songs were popular . Mahipal / Chitra starrer Darbar ( 1955 ) , a stunt film too had some delectable Hansraj melodies . such as Geeta / Talat duet “ Kya paaya duniya ne do pyar bhare dil tod ke “ . The composer also gave an enchanting Mukesh melody “ Aawaaz hai ki “ in Manoo Na Manoo ( 1955 ) , a self proclaimed India s first “ Psychological Photoplay “ . Behel home corncern , N . C . Films repeated Shakila in their next Mast Qalandar ( 1955 ) in which Hansraj created that timeless euphonious duet “ Dil – e – nadaan zamane mohabbat ek dhoka hai “ Talat / Asha ) based on Raag Shiv Ranjani and rest songs were also melodious and personal fav of mine ,
In the mid fifties , Hansraj consistently gave hit numbers in each and every film scored by him , Shah Behram ( 1955 ) Khul Ja Sim Sim , Mallika and Inquilaab ( 1956 ) . N . C Films Raajdhani ( 1956 ) starring Nimmi and Sunil Dutt was a costume drama with the haunting captivating Lata and Talat Duet “ Bhool ja sapne suhane “ with enticing Violin play and seven Lata numbers .
For next two years , Hansraj composed only for his home production .Chengez Khan starring hit couple Bina Rai and Prem Nath . Hansraj came up with one if Rafi’s landmark songs/ the “Raag Sohoni” based “Mohabbat zinda rahti hao , mohbbat mar nahin sakti” with a fabulous chord’s progression rising to the climatic refrain of “Chali aa Chali aa” in a musical crescendo. Hansraj jad experimented and experimented successfully but well within the parameters of classical composition.
There is an interesting anecdote related to the writing of the lyrics of the song. Qamar Jalalabadi was writing the lyrics of this all time hit “Mohabbat zinda eahti hai” song, but somehow Hansraj did not like the “antaraas” written by Qamar Saheb and wanted to switch to Naqsh Lyallpuri, retaing the words of the “mukhda”. Behl’s logic was that even Qamar had lifted the “mukhda” from the poetry of an “Ustaad Shayar”. Naqsh refused, saying that he would rather write a new song instead of tampering with the words of Qamar and wrote an alternative “Mukhda” for the song “Mohbbat mit nahin sakti zamaane ke mitane se. Ye aisi Aag hai jo aur bhadkegi bujhane se”.
The alternative “Mukhda” fitted the situation equally aptly, but hansraj still wanted to retain the earlier “Mukhda”. The composer and the lyricist fell off, not to work together for quite some time. Qamar eventually wrote the song. The film also had a splendidly sculpted Lata classic in “Raag Bhoopali”.Jab raat nahin katati ek ratt nahin katati zindagi kaise kategi”, euphoniously rendered by the “Melody Queen”.
Now concluding the write up and few more movies Such as Miss Bombay which had Bhangra style songs . Milan ( 1958 ) is considered Hanraj greatest score . Lata sang mesmerisingly to render two immortal which are well known . Saawan ( 1959 ) fragrant basket of blooming Hanraj melodies . “ Nain Dwar se “ with Lata and Mukesh simultaneously singing in the highest octave respectively comprised a super hit score .
Over his decades long career , Hansraj had developed a unique individual style of composing within the ambit of “ Classical Raag “ , bandishes and seamlessly amalgamating Punjaabi rhythmic patterns with them . Some how inexplicably in the sixties , he moved away from his vital individualistic trait to create “ Chaalu Dhun “ . Quality was perhaps sacrificed at the altar of commercial dictates .
Miss Good Night ( 1960 ) Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh ( 1960 were B grade movies . He introduced new singer Surinder Kohli in Gul – e Bakawali ( 1963 ) with Asha “ Yeh keh do tumhein kya chahiye “ was big popular . In the later day films like Daara Singh ( 1964 ) , Ek Din Ka Baadshah ( 1964 ) , Teen Sardar ( 1965 ) . Mujhe Seene se Laga lo ( 1969 ) , Sikendar – e – Aazam , and his last hit song which is my fav “ Kamal ke phool jaisa badan tera chikna “ by Rafi in Do Aankeein ( 1964 ) . Alibaba ( 1975 ) , Badmashoo Ka Badmash ( 1979 ) were some other films scored by Hanraj , His Last film Insaaf Ka Khoon ( 1988 ) was released after his untimely death on May 20 , 1984 .
Masterji Hanraj shall forever be remembered for his successfully steeping classical compositions in iPunjabi Rhythm to mesmerize his admirers . His musical prowess had all those elements of an expert and he did create his own trends . His great songs may not have registered on some , but they carved out an immortal pride of place for him in the realm of H F M – “ Mohabbat Zinda rahti hai , Mohabbat mar Nahi Sakti ( like his compositions )
Sharing lovely diet rendered by Geeta and Talat from Laal Pari (1954 ) and penned by Asad Bhopali. ‘KAHE RAHI HAI DHARDKANE – LAL PARI 1954 – TALAT & GEETA DUTT’
Bhagat Singh Lyallpuria
December 28, 2013 at 7:59 am
Sheikhupura is near Lahore,the district where Baba Nanak ji and Waris Shah were born. Rawalpindi is almost 300 km far from Sheikhupura.
March 4, 2014 at 7:36 pm
Please check out my tribute to Hansraj Behl . Thanks – https://soundcloud.com/srikant-ramabadran/feb-20-rare-songs