Master Ghulam Haider

10 Jan


For the 37th episode of Guzra Hua Zamana on January 10-11, we have selected Ghulam Haider, a name that evokes a whole lot of respect and gratitude in other legends of HFM. Despite a short career, he has left an indelible mark in the film music scene of the sub-continent. Let’s enjoy and relish his creations on these two days.

On behalf of the SKS family, I would like to express our sincere thanks to Khantha Mahadevan for putting together this fantastic write-up that is not only written so lucidly, but is also one of the most comprehensive account of the maestro’s life and work one would come across anywhere.


Master Ghulam Haider



The legacy of a composer is determined primarily by the quality of his compositions. The creative beauty and styles used to juxtapose melody, harmony, rhythms into preludes, interludes, vocal, choral and orchestral sections reveal the mastery of a composer. Additionally, a composer can leave behind a rich legacy by introducing new talent, by being an effective teacher, by nurturing fellow musicians, by being a responsible member of the fraternity and by being a role model for younger generation of composers. Most of the best music composers revered by the masses and connoisseurs have left an indelible imprint on utmost a few of the above criteria. Some have reigned supreme for a few decades and have left an immense treasure trove of songs, that, one does not even pause to measure their legacy using any other criteria outlined above. Some have had a short career but each of their musical compositions is so unique that those become their defining legacy. Some composers have won laurels only after their death when the beauty of their compositions has been absorbed.

Amidst the tortuous and fleeting pathways of stardom in the galaxy of Indian film music, there is only one music composer whose name evokes unbridled love, respect, admiration and gratitude. To date, he is regarded as the ultimate mentor, a supreme composer, a trailblazer, an excellent teacher, a superb voice trainer, adviser, a mega talent hunter, and above all, a most beloved human being who cared deeply for the welfare of his singers, musicians and colleagues. This Polaris of film world is none other than Master Ghulam Haider. His career in films spanned a mere eighteen years from 1935 until 1953. He gave music to approximately thirty six films but his legacy is far-reaching that he shall always remain the North Star of film music.

No matter which yardstick is used, Master Ghulam Haider’s legacy is everlasting. Simply put, his knowledge of music was extensive, his ability to recognize vocal talent was extraordinary, his potential to mentor, nurture and groom the juvenile talents he discovered remains unsurpassed, his prophetic statements have come true even beyond his wildest imaginations, his service to fellow composers and the industry remains unforgettable, his treasury of non-film songs is as exquisite as his compendium of film songs, the reverence he commanded from his singers and musicians is unmatched, his revolutionary style of music opened a cosmos of melody, rhythm and fusion that rules the film music world even today. Master Ghulam Haider (MGH) remains the Master of masters of film music.

MGH was a pioneer who was recognized and revered during his brief career and his persona continues to draw glowing tributes even in this seventh decade after his death. A beautifully crafted four-part video tribute, put together by Inaam Nadeem running to a total of 45 minutes ( ) is a recommended must watch to appreciate the enormous influence of MGH. Before elaborating on his short life of 44 years, it is appropriate to quote what famous people have said about their Master.



Noor Jehan

Noor Jehan

“Master Ghulam Haider saab ke liye main kehna chahthi hoon: haqeeqat kee toh yeh baat hai, ki main film line main jab se aayi hoon, unhi ki shagird hoon. Unhone hee mujhe mike pe khade hona bataya hai, alfaaz kehne, gaate hue bol ginna, bataya hai; Mere film line ke wahi Ustad hain”.
“Unki ek aadat thi ki kabhi kisi ko daad nahi dete they …bilawajah … Baharhaal, unhone mujh pe badi meherbaaniyan keen. Aur unhi ki tufail mein aaj film line mein alfaaz ke bayan karne mein mujhe logon se daad milti hai”.

(As told in Tarannum program on PTV and in Part 1 of the video tribute by Inaam Nadeem).


Lata mangeshkar

Lata mangeshkar

Jab main Bombay aayi 1947 mein, jab mujhe Master Ghulam Haider Saab ne suna, toh unhone ek picture ke liye mujhe kaha ki bhai tum isme gaane gao. Lekin jab uske producer Filmistaan ke Shashadhar Mukherjee ne meri awaaz suni, toh unhone Master ji se kaha “yeh awaaz nahi chal sakthi..yeh awaaz bahut patli hai aur heroine ke liye nahi chalegi”. MGH is said to have replied to the producer: “You are rejecting her now. But one day will arrive when the entire industry will spread a red carpet for this girl”.
“Lekin yeh baat Master ji ne mujhe nahi batayi. Woh bahut ziddi they. Woh bahut naraaz nikle aur bole: Lata chalo mere saath..hum log station gaye aur seedha train pakad ke Bombay Talkies Malad gaye. Wahan unhone mujhe gaana sikhaya. Aur doosre teesre din hamne gaana record kiya, ‘Majboor’ picture ke liye..Main kabhi nahi bhoolungi Master Ghulam Haider saab ne mere liye kya kiya. Maine Majboor picture mein pehli baar heroine ke liye gaaya.”
Master ji referred to me as Memsahib. Master ji said, “Memsahib, I had told you, people will never forget you, and you will not forget me either!”

(As told by Lata Mangeshkar in a concert titled ‘Shraddhanjali’ and in an interview whose excerpts are included as the Part 2 tribute to MGH by Inaam Nadeem. Also taken from a 2011 calendar tribute to the maestros by Lata Mangeshkar.)

Read also : लोग नूरजहां,शमशाद बेगम को भूल जायेंगे’: गुलाम हैदर

3. SHAMSHAD BEGUM: “Mere Ustaad jaanat mein jhoole”1381414_10153282704265627_1075873916_n

“My uncle took me to an audition (to Jenaphone Recording Company whose music composer was Master Ghulam Haider). During the audition, I sang a Bhahadur Shah Zafar ghazal, ‘mera yaar gar mile mujhe jaan dil fida karoon’ and some marsiya. Master Sahab was impressed by my voice and told me to sign the contract the same day. I was offered a contract to sing twelve songs at a rate of Rs. 12.50 each which was a big amount in those times (1937). I asked him, taleem (training)? He said that I didn’t need formal training and just following his instructions would be enough. Master Sahab was a great man. He took personal interest in ensuring that we were able to absorb the nuances of singing and music. He had his own unique style of training where, while making us sing various kinds of songs, he was able to chisel our voices to be able to sing any kind of song. His method of training was hundred times more effective than formal method of training and was akin to polishing of a diamond. I can never forget all that he has done. Mera Ustaad jannat mein jhoole. He used to call me his Chaumukhiya (versatile) artist who could do justice to any song.”

(As told to Gajendra Khanna in an interview done on January 26, 2012, a year before her demise.)
Master ji would say, “Accept offers from all composers. Learn their style. Don’t impose your style on them”.

He taught me two very important things. “First, Be a good person, and, second, just like water takes shape of the utensil, you should also mould yourself according to the situation.”
(Taken from her last interview to Filmfare)


“No one so revolutionized my outlook on music as Master Ghulam Haider did.”
(As mentioned by Raju Bharatan in Naushadnama)


Naushad and shamshad“He completely changed the complexion of the Indian film music. His asthais and antaras had a peculiar charm because of the perfect blending and exactitude of the compositions. He was also responsible for the introduction of the ‘dholak’. Another novel feature was the importance he attached to the lyrics which were stretched and broken to enhance the beauty and weight of the rhythm.”
(Taken from Imprints and Images of Indian Film Music)

6. POET NAZIM PANIPATI: (He worked with Master Ghulam Haider in several films and wrote Lata Mangeshkar’s song ‘dil mera toda’ in ‘Majboor’)

“Master ji had a distinct way of composing tunes. Master ji would take at least four days to compose a tune. Then the composition was rehearsed with his own orchestra for at least one week. His orchestra comprised of the best musicians hand-picked by Master ji from princely courts or were rababis: Bhai Lal Muhammad Sabri on harmonium , Fateh Ali Khan of Patiala gharana on sitar, Master Manzur Husain on tabla, Master Sohni Khan, the master clarinettist, Lal Mohammad on tabla, and Master Habib Khan Ghouri on sitar. A minimum period of two weeks was spent on composing, rehearsing and recording a song. His sense of perfection and respect for his musicians were immense.”
(Taken from


“I single out Master Ghulam Haider as a great original composer whose name spread to all the nook and cranny of the sub-continent because of the lilt and cadences of his tune. He was one of the best composers of film songs the sub-continent has ever produced. Some of his compositions retain their incantatory impact even after the passage of so many decades.”
(Excerpts from the “Meanderings of an Octogenarian Musician” published on April 15, 1998 and reproduced in RMIM)


When Naushad was asked if his song “dharti ko aakash pukare” was a copy of Master ji’s tune for a non-film song titled “Raavi ke us paar” sung by Umrao Zia Begum (a renowned singer in Lahore in the thirties who earned the tile Bulbul Hazaar dastan and later married MGH), he replied that Ghulam Haider was so far ahead of his times that all the famous composers of the forties were inspired by him and copied his tunes and style.
On hearing about the demise of Master Ghulam Haider in 1953, C. Ramachandra is reported to have started crying. When asked about the reason, C.R. said, “Ghulam Haider used to compose the tunes, I used to steal those and after making minor alterations and after changing the taal, I used to create hit music under my own banner. Now, the fountainhead of tunes has gone dry. I have been deprived of my source of ideas. I am the person who has been hit the hardest.”
(Taken from a post in RMIM by Afzal Khan.)



Master Ghulam Haider revolutionized Hindi film music in more than one way. His mastery of classical music, extensive knowledge of Punjabi folk music and its sub-genres, combined with his sharp intellect made him concoct a fusion blend of film songs seeped in classical raaga based melodies and engulfed by folk rhythms. The result was magical giving rise to songs with long preludes, beautiful melodic segments interspersed with pulsating rhythmic overtones and interludes that were either tantalizing and fleeting or rich and grand to savor till the antara followed. The finished composition resembled a rich tapestry, tightly woven in many shades and colors depicting a scene or situation with amazing clarity, depth and structure. The orchestra of Master Ghulam Haider was renowned in Lahore and its timbre recognizable instantly. Thus, MGH songs carried a stamp of authenticity and originality.

This experiment of combining folk traditions with classical base for a three-minute film song had not been attempted before MGH introduced it in 1941 in the runaway blockbuster film “Khazanchi”. The thirties era was dominated by the New Theatre composers Boral, Mullick and Baran in Calcutta and the Bombay school dominated by Ustad Jhande Khan, Anil Biswas, Saraswati Devi and others. While these composers also experimented and introduced western orchestra into film songs, the classical and folk genres were kept distinct. MGH not only blended the two boldly but also combined it with the clarinet and the inimitable dholak and other percussion instruments to give film songs a joie-de vivre that was utterly irresistible and uplifting to the public who were mired in the freedom struggle and the second world war. This first successful fusion by MGH has formed the foundation of Hindi film music.


shamshad begum

It is either serendipity or an uncanny ability to spot talent that MGH possessed in abundance. He used it many times and each of his discoveries turned out to be pure gold. Not only did he train, groom and mentor the three most versatile female singers of the sub-continent (Noor Jehan, Lata Mangeshkar and Shamshad Begum), he had supreme confidence in their abilities even when they were merely teenagers. The way he spotted talent and nurtured it until perfection reveals a kind-hearted composer who cared deeply for his singers and musicians. As revealed by Shamshad Begum to Gajendra Khanna, her talent was spotted by MGH at an audition for the Jenaphone Recording company. She sang many private songs and naats (more than a hundred perhaps) under this banner whose house composer was MGH. Unfortunately, most of these records are unavailable. The fusion style perfected by MGH started from the film Khazanchi and through its songs the public was introduced to the inimitable magic of Shamshad Begum.

Noor Jehan’s talent was spotted by MGH when she was brought to his studio as a versatile child artist. Upon hearing her, he recommended her to his friend Dalsukh Pancholi who signed Baby Noor Jehan for the Punjabi film Gul-bakavali in 1939. The elegant classical songs that she rendered in her strong, raw voice (‘Shala jawaaniyan Maan’en’ and ‘pinjre de vich’) remain delightful even today. Their beauty catapulted the singer, composer and producer to the top of the charts of Punjabi cinema. The music of the film and its singing star were appreciated and admired also in non-Punjabi speaking lands.

pic courtesy : Rehan Mohd

pic courtesy : Rehan Mohd

The discovery of Lata Mangeshkar by MGH has several versions. One claims he spotted her at a music contest in Maharashtra in 1942 following the spectacular success of the blockbuster film Khaandaan. Another claims MGH noticed a frail girl on a train singing softly to herself. He used a stick and a plate to compose a melody on the train and asked the girl to sing. She sang it to perfection. He then improvised the song and found the girl could again render it perfectly. Amazed by her talent, he asked her to come for an audition the next day. It is said that Lata waited patiently all day outside his studio and was finally called for audition in the evening. MGH found her voice enchanting on mike and took her to Shashadhar Mukherjee. Spurned by him, MGH signed Lata for ‘Majboor’. The rest of the tale and MGH’s prophesy has been mentioned under Tributes in Lata’s own words.


sudha Malhotra

Another young talent spotted by MGH was a seven year old girl who appeared on stage at a wartime concert in Ferozepur in 1943. She sang a thumri and then a song based on raag Malkauns. MGH was not a judge but his orchestra provided support to the performing artists. After hearing the girl sing, MGH came on stage, patted the child on the back and made a prophesy that she would become a great singer one day. The words came true much after Master Ghulam Haider’s demise on November 9, 1953. The child artist who won his heart in 1943 was Sudha Malhotra.

Other singers who were either introduced or nurtured by MGH in films include Umrao Zia who featured as an actor/singer in his first film, ‘Swarg ki Seedhi’ in 1935 and then became his Begum, Zeenat Begum (who sang a non-film version of a song from Khandaan in 1942 and then sang for Pandit Amarnath in Nishani (1942)), Surinder Kaur who was invited personally by MGH from Lahore after the partition and debuted in Hindi in his film ‘Shaheed’ in 1948, and, the singer Munawwar Sultana (not to be confused with the actor Munawwar Sultana) who sang for him in Mehendi (1947) and Aabshar (1953). There is mention that MGH also liked Mohammed Rafi’s voice in Lahore and recommended him to become a student of Feroze Nizami.

This is the impressive list of talents discovered by MGH in a short span of approximately ten years.


As a composer for the Jenaphone Record Company in Lahore, MGH had the opportunity to compose music for both films and non-film naats, ghazals and geet. Some of his most famous non-film compositions are
(i) Raavi ke is paar sajanwa by Umrao Zia Begum (~ 1936)
(ii) Mera salaam le jaa by Umrao Zia Begum (~1936)
(iii) Paigham saba layi hai by Shamshad Begum (~1937)
(iv) Mohammad Mustafa ke naam ko by Shamshad Begum (~1937)
(v) Tere poojan ko bhagwan by Shamshad Begum (~1938)

In addition to naats and geets, the orchestra of Master Ghulam Haider was famous in Lahore for its skilled players. Two sets of recordings made in Lahore in the late thirties require special mention here as they show his command in composing orchestral music. MGH spent time in Amritsar before settling down in Lahore around 1933. He absorbed the rare raags and taals used in Gurbani and befriended many famous singers of the town and enhanced his knowledge of music. Bhai Santa Singh is regarded as one-of-a-kind prodigy who could sing extremely high notes in perfect sur and slow taan for a very long period. He was the senior most singer of Gurbani at the Golden temple in the thirties. MGH persuaded Bhai Santa Singh to come to Lahore and record his renditions for posterity. While initially the idea was opposed, Bhai Santa Singh obliged his dear friend and MGH had the opportunity to give orchestral support in the form of preludes and interludes for Bhai’s kirtans. Eight of these have survived on four 78-RPM records. These are considered extraordinary renditions even today. The stamp of MGH orchestra is clearly discernible in these recordings.

The child prodigy Master Madan who died at the tender age of fourteen in 1942 was an extraordinary singer, famous all over the land and patronized by Maharajas to sing in their durbar. Only eight of his recordings have survived to date. Two of these eight songs are in Punjabi (‘baagan vich pingan paiyan’ and ‘Raavi de parle kande ve mitara’) and were recorded in Lahore with the orchestral support of Master Ghulam Haider. These two Punjabi songs are distinctly different from his other six ghazals due to the rich prelude and interludes interwoven around the ethereal voice. It is heartening to note that MGH left an imprint in this tiny but most precious collection of this genius singer.


Master Ghulam Haider recognized the value of songs in films and its repeat entertainment quotient on the public. It appears he realized this as his film career started in 1935 in Lahore. He was on the payroll of Jenaphone Recording Company at a monthly salary of Rs. 250, a princely amount in that era. Freed from financial worries and assured of a stable income, he could turn his mind to creative pursuits composing original music of the highest caliber. When he moved to Bombay in 1944 and was signed by K. Asif for ‘Phool’, he demanded Rs. 20,000 as his price (as mentioned by Raju Bharatan in Naushadnama) and got what he wanted. The success of Khazanchi, Khaandaan, Zamindar and Poonji had taken him to the top of the Bombay world and producers were willing to pay his asking price for the quality songs he created. Many music composers have mentioned that they realized their own worth only after MGH showed them the way to fair compensation.

After the partition, when most of his musicians expressed a desire to migrate to Lahore, MGH begged them to stay on in Bombay as they were at the top of the charts. However, the uncertain times and the prospect of establishing a film industry in a nascent nation held attraction. MGH did not merely plead with them to stay but even offered each of them two month’s salary as bonus to compensate for any losses they might incur by staying back in Bombay. It is only when this kind proposition was also not taken up, did he decide to migrate to Lahore while finishing assignments in Bombay. He cared deeply for his musicians and their families.

It is mentioned that his confidence in the abilities of Lata Mangeshkar to rule the world was so strong that he invited all the leading composers in Bombay to the recording of songs of Majboor and Padmini. He wanted to expose the talent inherent in Lata to all composers so that she may get many opportunities in films. Those offers indeed followed quickly, and, by 1949, Lata Mangeshkar had climbed to the top. It is also necessary to mention that Lata offered to take care of all the expenses when she learned in 1953 that Master Ghulam Haider was suffering from throat cancer. She begged him to come to Bombay for treatment. Alas, it did not happen and the world was bereft of a most worthy composer and human being.

Having summarized the major achievements of Master Ghulam Haider, let us now get acquainted with his life and works.

THE EARLY YEARS: (1908 – EARLY 1930’s)

Most accounts mention that Ghulam Haider was born in Hyderabad, Sind Province, in 1908, to a family of rababis. An article by Harjap Singh Aujla states that he was perhaps born in Amritsar. His father did not pursue music professionally despite being born into a rababi clan but instead chose dentistry as his profession. After finishing his intermediate school exams, Ghulam Haider enrolled himself in a dentistry college. However, his heart lay in music. He decided to pursue his inner calling and quit the dentistry training much to the dismay of his father. Several accounts mention that Ghulam Haider learned music from Babu Ganesh Lal. He is also said to have learned music from Ustad Beebay Khan. Calcutta was the center of the musical world and cinema of those days. Ghulam Haider is reported to have spent three to four years in Calcutta just as the industry was transitioning from the silent era films to talkies beginning in 1931. MGH was a skilled piano player and could also play other instruments. He was hired by New Alfred and Alexandra Theatrical Company in Calcutta as a harmonium player. There are accounts that Ghulam Haider traveled to Punjab and other territories as part of the touring theater group in the early thirties. He was enchanted with folk music and absorbed its nuances, melody and rhythm thoroughly. He also spent time in Amritsar and acclimatized himself with Gurbani singers and their rich traditions of using lesser-known taals and raags. Ghulam Haider was an eager and keen student absorbing the musical traditions of different regions and befriending the best of musicians in this early phase of his life. This continuing education was invaluable in forging a trailblazing path in the industry later. It was also effective in forming an orchestra with the best of hand-picked musicians whom he had interacted with during his travels.

THE LAHORE YEARS (1933 – 1944):

Ghulam Haider returned to Lahore by approximately 1933. A recording company called Jenaphone was established by Janki Nath Kumar & Brothers in Lahore. Ghulam Haider was hired by this company as a composer. Both non-film songs and film songs were recorded by Jenaphone. The three big producer-directors in Lahore were A. R. Kardar, father-son team of Roshan Lal Shorey and Roop Kumar Shorey, and Dalsukh M. Pancholi. The first film assignment for MGH was ‘Swarg ki seedhi’, produced by A. R. Kardar and directed by Syed Imtiaz Ali Taj. The film featured a famous singer of Lahore Umrao Zia in the lead role. A few compositions from this film are available on youtube in the melodious voice of Umrao Zia. This film did not prove to be the ladder of success for MGH and was soon forgotten. However, some of the trademark features of MGH can be discerned in the classical compositions of this film: ‘Pati dhyan se hi pat’ and ‘tum bin naiyya mori’. A brisk long prelude of twenty seconds in the first song gives way to a sober mood but the rhythm sections are prominent and add to the weight of the sentiments expressed by the lyricist. This first film of MGH however turned out to be a life changer for him as he found the love of his life in Umrao Zia whom he married soon after. MGH also gave music to a film titled ‘Majnu’ in 1935 produced by Roshan Lal Shorey and starring Harold Lewis and Shyama Zutshi. The film was successful enough to christen the hero Majnu for life.

The years 1936 to 1938 were spent mostly in creating many non-film geets, ghazals and naats for Jenaphone, as summarized above under his achievements.

The year 1939 marked his entry into Punjabi cinema with three major hit Pancholi films: Gul-e-bakavali (1939), Yamla Jat (1940), Chaudhary (1941). The three films featured hit solos of Noor Jehan (‘Shala jawaaniyan Maan’en’, ‘pinjre de vich’ and ‘kachiyaan ve kaliyan tu na toor’), Shamshad Begum (‘Kankan diya faslan pakiyaan ne’) and duets of Noor Jehan with Ghulam Haider (‘bus bus ve dholna’). The tunes were based on folk melodies with brisk interludes dripping with foot-tapping rhythms. Yamla Jat also marked the entry of Pran Sikandar as hero.

After the success of these early Punjabi films, Pancholi films made Khazanchi in Hindi in 1941 featuring Ramola and M. Ismail. This was the film where MGH introduced the clever fusion of folk and classical music to awaken a nation to vibrancy, fluidity and beauty, employing the golden voice of his Chaumukhiya, Shamshad Begum. Its songs ‘Saawan ke nazare hain’, ‘ek kali naazon ki pali’, ‘naninon ke baan’, ‘laut gayi paapan’ are amongst the nine supreme solos Shamshad sang for this film. All the lyrics were by Wali Sahib who had already partnered with MGH earlier. This film also marked Shamshad Begum’s entry to Hindi films. A trademark feature of MGH tunes was a long prelude often extending to thirty seconds that set the stage for harmony, rhythm and melody to come alive on a common platform.

Encouraged by the roaring success of Khazanchi, Pancholi films made the first Urdu social film ‘Khaandaan’ featuring Noor Jehan and Pran. It was a landmark film that launched the singing, acting career of an almost adult Noor Jehan and its dashing hero Pran in Hindi cinema. The songs were of all types: ethereal (‘mere liye jahan mein’) , vibrant (‘aa gaya mere baagh ka maali’, ‘chalo paniya bharan ko chale’, ‘maar gayi re’ – the preludes in all these songs last 20 seconds or more and are a treat in themselves), soul-stirring pathos (‘tu kaun si badli me mere’), and a fresh duet of Noor Jehan and Shamshad Begum (‘pi le pi le more raja’ with a unique antara in conversation style). Eleven songs helped carve a niche for both the composer and the leading lady in the hearts of people all over the sub-continent. The composer made excellent use of the pliable and most skillful voice of Noor Jehan and revealed how the singer/actor had matured in a mere three years.

More Pancholi Art Films followed with music by MGH. ‘Zamindar’ in 1942 featured Shanta Apte and Shamshad Begum songs. The songs were mostly classical based and beautifully rendered by the talented singers. ‘Poonji’ in 1943 had Shamshad songs, some solos and duets with MGH (‘jhalak dikha kar chuppi chandni’,’ kaan mein baaliyaan, jhoomer waaliyan’). He made taal as prominent as laya in songs and used taals different from the popular dadra, keherwa and teentaal, to subtle effect.

THE BOMBAY YEARS (1944-1948):

Master Ghulam Haider shifted base to Bombay in 1944. He shared musical credits for the film ‘Bhai’with Shyam Sundar, another Lahore stalwart. Solos of Zeenat Begum in this movie were classical based while Naseem Akhtar had some nice solos in almost qawwali style: ‘Is dil kee haalat kya kahiye’ comes to mind. A lovely duet ‘saajan aa jaa, raajan aa ja’ featured Zeenat Begum and MGH.

‘Chal chal re naujawan’ featured Ashok Kumar and Nasim Bano with song lyrics by Kavi Pradeep. There were delightful duets, solos by the lead actors and also solos of Shamshad Begum. Then came ‘Phool’ featuring the talented Suraiyya. Solos such as ‘wo dil gaya’ had a beautiful prelude and a totally contemporary feel. ‘Gori kar le hum se pyar’ used a delightful chorus with the characteristic bols aa ra aa ra interspersed with short interlude ditties.

1945 saw MGH give exemplary music to Mehboob Productions blockbuster ‘Humayun’ featuring Nargis and Ashok Kumar. Songs by Rajkumari and Shamshad Begum were majestic and captivating (‘ae chand tu bata de’, ‘naina bhar aaye neer’) and ‘jo desh kal nahi tha woh desh phir hamara’ had superb rhythm and choral sections befitting the royal pageantry).

In 1946 MGH gave music to ‘Bairam Khan’ and ‘Shama’. Geeta Dutt sang a solo in Bairam Khan (‘jab chand jawan hoga’). It was structured uniquely to suggest reaching out to the stars. The interludes were delightful conjuring a night sky of twinkling stars. Shama featured Shamshad, ZohraBai, G. M. Durrani and Hamida Banu while Khan Mastana sang for Bairam Khan. The film ‘Jag Biti’ in 1947 featured Suraiyya while ‘Majdhar” featured songs by Khursheed and Surendra. The film ‘Mehendi’ in 1947 featured Munawwar Sultana and Surinder Kaur in solos and an interesting duet (‘aa chand raat aayi’) totally different in style from the Bairam Khan song. The film ‘But tarash’ in 1947 featured Mukesh and Hamida Banu songs along with G. M. Durrani and Shamshad Begum.

Lata’s entry into Hindi films, singing for heroines, commenced with blessings from MGH for the film ‘Majboor’: “This voice shall rule the world”. Lata had four outstanding solos (‘dil mera toda’, ‘piya milne ko aa’, ‘daman hai chak chak mera’, ‘dekho ji mori baiyyan pakad’), two duets with Geeta Dutt and one with Mukesh (possibly her first recorded song for MGH). The crystal clear freshness of Lata’s voice and its inherent sweetness come alive in all glorious shades in Majboor. The lyrics were by Nazim Panipati, brother of Wali Sahab.

Majboor was followed by ‘Padmini’ in 1948 which featured only one solo by Lata, ‘bedard tere dard ko’, her last song for her mentor. This song is exquisite and remains a favorite in many compendiums of Lata’s songs and appears to be a favorite of the singer too. The other songs in Padmini were by Geeta Roy, Zohrabai and Ashok Kumar.

A landmark film of MGH before he left Bombay was ‘Shaheed’ which gave Mohammad Rafi one of his biggest hits. It features the most inspirational patriotic song of all times in two versions. Written by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, the happy and slow versions of ‘watan ki raah mein watan ke naujawaan shaheed ho’, featuring Rafi and Khan Mastana, move the listener/viewer to pride and tears at the same time. Its chorus and bugles capture the mood totally and leave the listener in a trance. The other significant feature of this movie was the entry of Surinder Kaur to Hindi films. MGH called Surinder specially from Lahore to establish a career in India after the partition (yet another benevolent aspect of Master Saab to care of good singers and musicians) and gave her opportunities to sing in Shaheed. Interestingly, Lata sang a duet with Madan Mohan for this film (‘Pinjre mein bulbul bole mera chota sa dil dole’) but the song was not included in the film.

MGH also gave partial music to ‘Aabshar’ which released in 1953 with two solos by Munawwar Sultana and one solo by Mukesh. The other songs of this film were composed by Mohammad Shafi and Bhola Shrestha.

THE RETURN TO LAHORE (1948 – 1953):

After Master Ghulam Haider returned to Lahore having been led there by the exodus of his musicians, he formed a film production company “Film Saaz’ along with director S. Nazir Ajmeri and actor S. Gul. He gave music for six films, Shahida, Beqaraar, Akeli, Bheegi Palken, Ghulam and Gulnar. The song ‘Jawano aaee re’ in Ghulam by Munawwar Sultana is stylisly composed and sounds contemporary even today. The immortal songs of his last film, Gulnar, featuring his favorite singer/actor Noor Jehan, reverberated around the two lands for months, beckoning the composer to return. Master Ghulam Haider passed away on November 9, 1953, a mere three days after the release of Gulnar. This last ode from the maestro features some of the most spectacular songs of Noor Jehan. The melody and orchestral arrangements are of the highest caliber. Its lyrics by Qateel Shifai bring a lump to the throat every time the songs ring in the ears:
“Sakhi re nahi aaye sajanwa more” is in classical style and resonates in the soul long after the record stops.
“Bachpan ki yaad garo
Main tumko dhoondhthi hoon, Tum bhi mujhe pukaro”
“Lo chal diye woh humko tasallee diye bagair
Ik chand chup gaya hai ujala kiye bagair, Lo chal diye”

Master Ghulam Haider left this world too soon at the age of 44 on November 9, 1953.


1935 Swarag ki Seedhi
1935 Majnu
1939 Gul-e-Bakawali
1940 YamlaJatt
1941 Choudhary
1941 Khazanchi
1942 Khandan
1942 Zamindar
1942 Sehti Murad
1943 Poonji
1944 Bhai
1944 Chal Chal Re Naujawan
1944 Phool
1945 Humayun
1946 Bairam Khan
1946 Shama
1946 Jag Beeti
1947 Majhdar
1947 Mehndi
1947 But Tarash
1948 Padmini
1948 Shaheed
1948 Majboor
1948 Barsat Ki Ik Raat
1948 Patjhar
1949 Kaneez
1949 Shahida
1950 Khana Badosh / Do Saudagar
1950 Putli
1950 Beqarar
1951 Akeli
1952 Bheegi Palken
1953 Aabshar
1953 Ghulam
1953 Gulnar
Unrel Andhi Mohabbat


The sudden demise of Master Ghulam Haider left his beloved wife in shock. She was rarely seen in public after her marriage. However, she gathered courage and brought up her children, giving them the best of education. It appears that the children excelled in the fields they chose. Umrao Zia Begum died at the home of her younger son in Bahawalpur many years after the children had attained fame. One of their sons, Mohammad Munir Hussain was a leading singer in films of the fifties, sixties and seventies in Pakistan. He sang more than two hundred songs in Punjabi and Urdu for all the leading composers such as Khwaja Khurshid Anwar and Rashid Attre, who was his maternal uncle. His son, Salman Muneer, is presently a young, budding singer bringing out albums which are a tribute to his father and grandfather. He has modernized the orchestral arrangements a bit to appeal to the present generation but has left the core melody of his grandfather and father’s music intact.


I thank Aditya Pant for asking me to write this article for the GHZ series and waiting patiently for over two months. I thoroughly enjoyed putting it together for the Guzra Hua Zamana series. My sincere thanks to Gajendra Khanna for posting the interview of Shamshad Begum that he was fortunate to conduct in 2012. I also thank Girdharilal Viswakarma ji for sharing many precious songs of Umrao Zia Begum.

REFERENCES:thank you

1. Video tribute to Master Ghulam Haider by Inaam Nadeem on Youtube
2. Interview of Shamshad Begum by Gajendra Khanna (currently unavailable online but cached versions from www.shamshadbegum.comcan be found)
3. Last interview of Shamshad Begum for Filmfare (…/remembering-shamshad-begum-2948.h…)
4. The legendary Master Ghulam Haider by Saeed Malik for The Nation, Pakistan (posted in RMIM and available on
5. Article by Anis Shakur (
6. Article by Harjap Singh Aujla on Ghulam Haider: Punjab Pioneering Musician in (archived by Vikas Zutshi on Tere sur aur mere geet)
7. Of the Great Discoverer (…/…/of-great-discoverer.html)
8. Material taken from
9. Ghulam Haider – the game changer (
10. Newspaper report (…)
11. Ghulam Haider and Umrao Zia Begum (…/ghulam-haidar-and-umar…/)
12. Information from Cineplot.
13. Manek Premchand’s book “Yesterday’s melodies, Today’s memories”.
15. Ashok Ranade, Hindi film song – Music beyond boundaries


Posted by on January 10, 2015 in Uncategorized


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4 responses to “Master Ghulam Haider

  1. mirzadhamani

    October 14, 2019 at 7:13 am

    Master Ghulam Haider was a popular Music Director from our Hyderabad Sind,was a popular in India & Pakistan. Mirza Ladak.

  2. Muhammad imran munir

    July 24, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    I have red your article on my grand father Master Ghulam Haider shb but many little changes need to be corrected. Pakistan ‘s top play back singer Munir Hussain was not son of Master Gee as he was son-in-law of Master sahib, so he was our Nana Jee.

    • Mahadevan Khantha

      September 12, 2021 at 3:31 am

      Thank you for the correction. I will let the owner of the blog know. With regards, Mahadevan Khantha


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