GUZRA HUA ZAMANA: REMEMBERING OUR GLORIOUS PAST –
S. MOHINDER by Darkndusky Hoon
Making of this article
In a brief senseless moment I mentioned that I would like to write something for GHZ sometime. What was a joke initially became serious and I found myself with a couple of articles on S.Mohinder sahab. Just like every GHZ episode, I felt not an iota of interest and avoided it for weeks.
I hadn’t heard a single song except “Guzra hua zamana” and didn’t relate to his music at all. Soon the approaching deadline started feeling like the school annual exams…perish or pass I told myself … I felt thoroughly incompetent, knowing I couldn’t add any knowledgeable insights on someone I clearly knew nothing about. Did I mention one of the articles was in Hindi which felt like Russian in every sentence? I imagined myself sending apology letters to Aditya & Archana and deactivating my FB account …till a brilliant plan came to me.
I would just be myself as on every GHZ episode, bored , apprehensive and wondering how I’d survive this theme….I would listen to his songs and simply walk you through his movies “oohing and aahing” at the lovelies with much help from Pankaj Rag & Harjap Singh Aujla saahib…
Let’s first take a look at his beginnings, birth, schooling, musical moorings, etc.
S.Mohinder or Mohinder Singh Saran/ Bakshi, as he was known to his friends, was born in the town of Silanwala in current Pakistan in 1925. His father Sujan Singh Bakshi was a sub-inspector in the Police force and played tantu vadya (a stringed instrument which is both plucked and bowed). The family moved to Lyallpur soon and at the tender age of 10, S. Mohinder started learning music from a Sikh guru Sant Sujan Singh, where he spent several years sharpening his skills. Since the family had to move often due to his father’s postings, his education was suffering and he was enrolled in Khalsa High School in village Kairon in Amritsar District.
He also had the chance to learn classical music from a famous Sikh guru Bhai Samand Singh, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Lakshmi Prasad and spent a couple of years in Benaras picking up skills. In an interview he describes how he was heading for Lyallpur from Lahore during the partition and upon hearing news of killings on the train boarded the Frontier mail to Bombay instead.
His first movie was Sehra for Filmistan Studios in 1948 starring Govinda’s parents Nirmala Devi & Arun Kumar Ahuja. The film was a disaster, pushing the Ahuja couple into bankruptcy and bringing no benefit to S. Mohinder.
His next was Jeewan Sathi in 1949 and his distinct Punjabi style songs like “mohabbat rog ban kar” became popular. Other lovely songs include “Kaise keh doon”, “Milkar jaye preet ke deewane” and “chanda ji teri chandni me bawli ban jaun “. Although neither were very successful albums, his music caught the eye or ear of Chandu Lal Shah, the owner of Ranjit studios who engaged him for NIli.
Nili (1950) starred the hit pair of Dev Anand & Suraiyya. She sang most of the songs in this movie including the popular “Phool khilen hai gulshan” which is part of her Rare Gems cassette brought out by HMV. G. M Durrani has a crackling duet with her too – “Teri zalim nigahon ne”.
Other cheerful songs include “Ulfat ka afsaana ” and “Chori chori aana raja more dil ke “. Shamshad Begun gets a buoyant song “Mere nainon me koi aaya ” and Asha Bhosle has a number “Nacho neele akaash ke taaron nacho” with some lovely Jal Tarang music.
“Shaadi Ki Raat” which came out the same year had some lovely songs as well. Although the music was credited to Pt Govindram officially, S.Mohinder ji is believed to have composed the following songs – “poochh rahe ve yaar ki bibi” a modern n funny duet by Talat & Surinder kaur, a sad one for Lata “hum dil ki kahani kya kehte” and “Sheher anokha sheher rangeela Dilli” for Amirbai Karnataki. The task of composing these songs fell upon him because Pt. Gobindram left the film midway due to a dispute.
In Shrimati ji (1952) which was hogged by Jimmy & Basant Prakash, Mohinder ji got to compose 1 fast paced lovely song “Do naina tumhare pare pyare ” in Hemant Kumar & Geeta Dutt’s voices. In Veer Arjun too he gets edged out by Avinash Vyas ji for 1 song but makes his presence felt through this divine classical bhajan in G. M Durrani’s voice “Yadunath Dwarkanath Shyam Re Natwar kunj bihari”.
Suddenly I felt lucky to be hearing and writing this … I also started listening to the songs happily now.
In 1953 came Bahadur and he truly comes into his own with “zanjeer ne karwat li shayad ke bahaar aayi” in Asha’s voice and an awesome Sarangi tabla tango. There is also a fast paced duet by Rafi and Aashima Bannerjee – “Hamari mohabat hamara zamana” and a lovely bhairavi for Rajkumari “Kagva re ja balma ke desva”. All these left me wanting more but I found none were available online for listening …
Bahadur was just the stepping stone for the true treasure of 1953 from Mohinder saab – Paapi by Chandulal Shah again. It starred the hit lead pair of Raj Kapoor and Nargis. There is an interesting story of how Mohinder saab missed stardom enjoyed by other greats like CRamachandra. According to Pankaj Rag he had committed to Anarkali and showed its producer a couple of dhuns that he had created for Paapi. The producer rejected them and Mohinder ji used them for Paapi. Now the Anarkali producer backtracked and wanted those same dhuns… Mohinder saab was in a dilemma. To him it made perfect sense to go with Paapi, a movie with a popular duo RK- Nargis as opposed to Anarkali with a relatively unknown Bina Rai. This turned out to be a huge loss for him.
Paapi flopped and is known to be a downward turning point in Chandulal Shah’s career. By now I was in tears and I still hadn’t heard Paapi’s songs. Boy, was I blown away! Mohinder saab first pulls off a coup with 6 lyricists and Rafi’s voice for Raj and it fits him like the vest he sports during the whole movie – utterly dandy.
The music of this movie did very well. Buoyant songs like “meri zindagi hai tu” a lovely Rafi-Asha duet, a fast and funny sales pitch “Le le gori” replete with conga drums and a lilting “tera kaam hai jalna” were steered by Rafi brilliantly. Interestingly the last was rejected by the producer and brought in as a filler and the rest is history. Asha Bhosle gets all the songs here and has a semi-sad Afghani/ Arabic “kaun kahe unse jaake ai huzoor” , a happy “aa jaane bahaar aa”, a beautiful “na pehlu me dil hai na muh me zabaan hai”, whose pace does not let it become too sad. “Abhi abhi bahar thi” and the brilliant “ai jazba e mohabbat” are both soulful sad numbers with lovely string sections. By now I was ecstatic from these rich Asha numbers and heard them repeatedly.
In 1955 along came Shehzada where he shared space with Nashad. He gave a lovely Talat number “gham na kar khushi ka bhi din aayega” which went into HMV’s Rare Gems cassette for Talat . Then came a fast paced song for Geeta Dutt ” Mera pyar hai ajab” and a cheerful duet for Asha and Rafi “aati hai mere saamne ” in which he rolls his “Rs” enough to make us giddy.
After some net practice with Shehzada, Mohinder saab serves ace after ace in Naata the same year. One sees a total reliance on Tanvir Naqvi saab for the lyrics.
According to Pankaj Rag, Naata highlights Mohinder ji’s friendship with Madhubala’s dad and was likely the reason for this scintillating and unforgettable album otherwise known as D. N Madhok’s heartbreak central. As elated as the credits (direction & story by DNM) made me feel, the ending with a dead Madhubala left me baying for his blood. Mohinder saab ensures the tragic route is as scenic as possible.
The following songs make up the Latascape of Naata ..”More salone kanha “, a peppy rasleela song in Sudha Malhotra & Lata’s voices with lots of ghunghroo and the sisters (no pts for guessing who Radha is but this is the first Krishna with hip length hair). “Jawani jhoolti hai” has an addictive beat and is filmed on the happy sisters as is “ghir ghir chayen” with lovely Punjabi folk touches, a lovely been and Sudha Malhotra accompanying Lata again. There is also an upbeat chorus song “Dhadke dhadke ” set to a punjabi dhun. A gazelle like Madhubala emotes to Lata’s “Lagan lagi hai sakhi sajan ki” and her subsequent heartbreak is caught in a lovely “is bewafa jaha ka dastur hai purana”. Another Tanvir Nqvi gem is a qawwali for Rafi and Batish saabs’ “Ek muddat se deewana dil”, a kiddie song for Rafi “Sun suno ek nai kahani” which transforms into a typical “Rafi ke Naale in Darbari” song. The piece de resistance is “mat samjho neer bahaati hoon” set to raag Darbari, accompanied by Sitar on screen and sarod in the book . The entire song turns your heart to mush as there is a cute kid and a doting dad on screen in addition to gorgeous Madhubala and her awestruck sister Chanchal. Then we have a heartbreaking and cruel “Dekhte dekhte jal gaya ashiyaan” in raag Jhinjhoti and “Sun sakhi jal gaya ashiyaan” with lots of mournful been in both to seal the tragedy.
Overwhelmed by Naata, I headed towards “Shirin Farhad” which is Mohinder saab’s magnum opus in Hindi film music. All but 1 song (Saba Afghani) belong to Tanvir Naqvi saab. “Guzra hua zamana” in Lata’s voice needs no intro and is the bulwark of this series. Lata has another soulful gem “Aasman wale bata de ki hai maine kya khata”. The other highlights are gems by Hemant Kumar – namely the Arabian sounding duet with Lata “aaja o jaan-e-wafa” and his duets with Asha “”Ai dilruba jaan-e-wafa” and “khushiyon ko lootkar”. Rafi gives awesome naale in “Hazaron rang badlega zamana” and a rocking qawwali “Ankhon mein tumhare afsaane”, the Saba Afghani one, and sings a lovely Heer in “Na taajshaahi na baadshahi”. Talat has a brilliant “Sunaoon kis ko afsana” which is part of his Rare Gems collection. To sum up – Shirin Farhad is a treasure chest and turned to be Mohinder saab’s biggest hit.
Over the next few years he worked on several films like Kaarvaan(56), Sultan-e-Alam (56), Paataal Pari(57), Naya Paisa(58), Bhagwaan Aur Shaitaan(59). But none of these albums could achieve the heights of Shirin Farhad. Some of the interesting songs are “Ai sarban ai sarban” in G. M Durrani & Lata’s voices from Kaarvaan, and a Rafi song “Aag rag se aag laga” from Sultan-e-Alam (56) . This movie also had a lovely soulful song for Mukesh “Girengi bijliyaan kab tak”.
His Sun To Le Haseena (58) had an inspiring duet by Asha & Rafi “Musafir raah kar paida” and Naya Paisa 1958 had many light and modern numbers like “Mera dil tujhpe qurbaan hai” , “Tauba tauba ye adayen”, “Ek do teen dil gayi cheen “, Punjabi numbers like “Tere ghunghro chham cham “. Despite these beauties the music failed to make an impact. Another failed album was Bhagwan and Shaitan with many preachy songs. Other good ones include “Ai jaane e jahaan jaate ho kahaan” a romantic one from Patal Pari with some lovely string action.
In 1959, his Khoobsoorat Dhokha had lovely light numbers like “Do qadam ai saathi”, “Chupke se kuchh dil ne kaha” in Rafi’s voice, etc. He also gave a couple of cheerful emotive ones to Mukesh like “Kisi ka dil chura lena badi pyari shararat hai ” and the hit number “Ye jawani ye haseen raat khuda khair kare”. The latter had a lovely instrumental score and was also included in HMV’s Favorites Collection of Mukesh.
Mohinder ji got another chance to compose some lovely songs for Madhubala in Mehlon Ke Khwaab(1960). The popular ones include “Ai jaane jigar ghut ghut ke” for Kishore Kumar & Asha, “Gar tum bura na mano ” for Subir Sen & Asha, hit solos for Kishore Kumar like “Lo ji bujh gai bijli pyar ki” and “Ye hai jeevan ki rail”.
This is the perfect time to share a juicy anecdote relating to the Belle n Mohinder saab. According to Aujla saab’s article, and he quotes from a book by a punjabi author, Madhubala was smitten by Mohinder saab’s charms and even proposed to him while he was a much married man. He being the perfect gentleman turned the pretty maiden away after much deliberation. My heart skipped many beats at this news and after pondering over several dramatic what-may-have-been situations I returned to the task at hand.
In the same year came another movie by Chandulal Shah “Zameen Ke Taare” a seemingly cute story which flopped badly, taking down Shah with it. It had several cheerful kiddie numbers like “Deep gagan ke tum ho” with a marching band, “Chunnu patang ko bole kite”, “O mere pyare zameen ke taaro”, “Tinke pe Tinka ” which reminded me of “We didnt start the fire “. It even had an addictive patriotic group song “Ye zameen humari ye aasmaan humara” an ode to Punjabi folk music. The flopping of this lovely movie is a perfect example of Box Office blasphemy.
Mohinder saab worked with Bharat Vyas ji in “Do Dost” but the movie never released. A couple that were set to pealing church bells and stood out were “Ye sone ki duniya” in Hemant Kumar’s voice and the soulful “Chup zameen aasmaan ” in Manna Dey’s voice.
In 1961 came Jai Bhawani whose music became quite popular. Gopal Sigh Nepali was the lyricist for the movie. Mukesh & Suman Kalyanpur got to sing a gorgeous “Shama se koi kehde” with beautiful pauses. “Jhoom ke piya ki gali” and “Mausam machalta hua” are a couple of breezy fast paced numbers in Suman and Asha’s voices respectively. “Baanwra Lama” is a very interesting Nepali sounding folk song. “Yahaan raat kisi ki roti kate ” is another beautiful yet sad song from Mukesh.
Bekhabar of 1965 had a few popular songs as well penned by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan – a splendid ghazal in Rafi’s expressive voice “Phir teri yaad naye geet” the lively n lilting “Karte ho mujhse kitni mohabbat” for Asha and Rafi. The only other significant success was the music of Picnic 1966 starring the talented Azra. Lata sings the heart tugging classical “Balamva Bolo na” in Bageshree to some stunning choreography and an enchanting dance by Azra. Manoj Kumar tries to pull of an Elvis. There are a few modern western “Nashili raftaar bhare ” numbers like “Anchal ko udne do” with girls whisting, “Mausam lehra gaya” with cute gibberish “La laroo” thrown in and ” Ye dil mera le lo” all in Rafi and Asha’s voices. A very Lightning and wind-whooshy Rafi ke naale in “Bijli giri kahaan se” provides the sadness.
There were a few more movies in the early sixties like Banke Sanwariya, Zarak Khan, Reporter Raju, Captain Sheroo, Professor X, Sunehre Kadam (with Bulo c rani),etc.
He seemed to be swamped with a bunch of lackluster stunt movies. Nevertheless some gems that happened were “Paniya bharan radha aayi” in Banke Sanwariya 1962, a rocking qawwali for Rafi & Balbir “Duniya mein ujala hai tumse”, and an breezy Afghani sounding “taron ki chaanv tale shama parwaane mile” for Suman & Rafi in Zarak Khan 1963. Captain Sheroo had the romantic chhed-chhad duet “Kiska Intezar hai janab-e-mann” for Rafi and Asha, a breezy solo “Ankh sharmane lagi” for Suman and a plaintive “Mubarak ho tumhe khushiyan” in Suman’s voice & Naqsh Lyallpuri saab’s words. I think it resembles “Ai mere watan ke logo” just a teensy bit.
It was clearly the time to bid good bye to the HFM scene and concentrate on his output in Punjabi movies. His best was yet to come there. He had many hits in Punjabi films, like “Pardesi Dhola”, “Chambe Di Kali”, “Daaj” to name a few and some non-film albums with stars like Asa Singh Mastana and Surinder Kaur as well. He also went on to produce a few Punjabi feature films like Pardesi Dhola and Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam, and documentaries like Guru Nanak Darshan and Guru Gobind Darshan.
All that musical training with Sikh gurus came handy when he scored the music for “Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai” a movie set to a Sikh religious story. He roped in his mentor Bhai Samund Singh to sing some of the Shabads. The movie not only was a roaring success but along with it came a chain of Sikh religious movies like “Dukh Bhanjan Tero Naam”, “Man Jeete Jag Jeet” and “Paapi Tare Anek”. The music of all these were a rage and “Nanak Nam Jahaaz Hai” won him the prestigious National Film Award in 1969 for Best Music Direction. In this film he gave Asha some precious songs like “Mere saahib”,”Re man aiso kar sanyasa”, “Hum maile tum ujjal karte” to Manna Dey and a heart tugging “Mittar pyare nu” to Rafi and a rousing “Deh shiva bar mohe ” to Mahendra Kapoor.
S. Mohinder also went on to compose many non-film Shabad albums including a popular one on Hazrat Baba Sheikh Farid with Jagjit Singh.
In 1982 he moved to USA to live with his children and grandchildren and has been spending his happy autumn years there. We are immensely thankful for his huge and stunning contribution to HFM and wish him good health and pray for his long life.
S.Mohinder’s interview (courtesy Archana gupta)
1948 – Sehra
1949 – Jeewan Saathi (aka Prem Ki Kahaani)
1950 – Neeli
1950 – Shaadi Ki Raat (with Pt. Gobindram)
1952 – Shrimati Ji (with Jimmy & Basant Prakash), Veer Arjun (with Avinash Vyas)
1953 – Bahaadur, Paapi
1955 – Alladin Ka Beta, Naata, Sau Ka Note, Shahzaada (with Nashad)
1956 – Carvaan, Sultaan-E-Alam
1957 – Pataal Pari, Shirin Farhaad
1958 – Naya Paisa
1959 – Bhagwan Aur Shaitan, Khoobsoorat Dhokha, Sun To Le Haseena
1960 – Mahlon Ke Khwaab, Zameen Ke Taare
1961 – Ek Ladki Saat Ladke (with Vinod), Jai Bhawaani
1962 – Baanke Saanwariya, Reporter Raju, Pardesi Dhola (Punjabi, with Sapan Jagmohan)
1963 – Captain Sheroo, Zaraak Khan
1964 – Sarfarosh, Geet Baharan De (Punjabi)
1965 – Bekhabar, Chambe Di Kali (Punjabi)
1966 – Picnic, Professor X, Sunehre Qadam (with Bulo C. Rani)
1969 – Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai (Punjabi)
1973 – Man Jeeta Jag Jeet (Punjabi)
1974 – Teri Meri Ik Jindri (Punjabi), Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam (Punjabi)
1976 – Daaj (Punjabi), Paapi Tare Anek (Punjabi)
1977 – Santo Banto (Punjabi)
1978 – Sukhi Perwar (Punjabi)
1979 – Laadli (Punjabi), Mughlani Begum (Punjabi)
1980 – Fauji Chacha (Punjabi)
1981 – Dahej
1986 – Sandli
1988 – Maula Jatt (Punjabi)
Unreleased – Geet Aur Aansoo (1940s), Do Dost (1950s), Maa Di Godh (Punjabi, 1970s)