G.M. Durrani : The Forgotten Great Male Playback Singer
(Guzre Zamaane ke Azeem Pratinidhi Gaayak)
By Gajendra Khanna
Ghulam Mustafa Durrani was born in Peshawar in 1919. He was a Pathan and belonged to the Mohammad Zahid Durrani Kabila. His was from a conservative family where even tea was not taken. Milk and lassi were the drinks of choice. When he used to go to those shops and some songs used to be heard, he used to hum along with them. Everyone used to say this boy should go to Bombay as his voice was very good. The thought of becoming an actor entered his mind as well. He soon ran out of money and to make ends meet.
In 1935 he got the job in Sohrab Modi’s Minerva Movietone.The film was Saaed-e-Hawas and The music director was the classical musician Bundu Khan .At that time the playback system was not existent and one had to act and sing on screen. He didn’t like running around trees and refused to work further. He faced a lot of difficulties and could not
return as people would call him a “Kanjar”. Minerva was to soon closedown . He then joined the Delhi Radio Station and later shifted to the Mumbai Radio Station where he met a big personality whom he considered one of his ustads, Zaide Bukhari. Whenever a big artist would come he would sit next to him with a tanpura and listen to him sing a line here and there. This is how he got his grounding in music and learnt murkis and tans in music. He worked as a drama artist and was later to be counted among the best drama artists of those days. But fate would soon call him back to films.
By 1939-40 playback singing had been introduced in the films and he got the opportunity to sing for a movie called Bahurani. The film’s composer was his Guru, Rafeeq Gazanavi. On 31st December, 1940 he bid adieu to his radio job and decided to concentrate fully on his film career.
He became friends with an upcoming composer at the time called Naushad Ali. He offered him to sing for a movie he was composing called Darshan. The movie had a chorus song, O Pardesi Babu Aate Jaate Rehna. Famous artists Prem Adeeb, Jyoti and an artist called Ghosh were to sing it. There was another artist Shaaqir in the film who didn’t know how to sing. His playback was given to G.M. Durrani. The song was a hit and Durrani became famous. In the same movie, Durrani also got to sing two duets with Mira. The famous actress Jyoti who sang with him was impressed by this handsome pathan with a wonderful voice. Her real name was Sitara Begum. They fell in love and both got married soon.
The same year, he got the opportunity to work as the assistant composer for his friend Khawaja Khurshid Anwar for his debut in Punjabi, Kurmai.. Durrani went on to work a lot with both Khurshid Anwar and D N Madhok in the years to come. He also sang a sweet solo, Dil Ainjh Ainjh Karda Soon. He was popular and singing with many top composers of the period. Interestingly, he was also one of the first Muslim singers to sing Hindu Devotionals. One such song he sang was for composer Shankar Rao Vyas, Raghukul Reet Sada Chali Aayi in the movie Bharat Milap(1942):- In the same year he sang the title song “Choodiyaan Le Lo” for composer S N Tripathi in movie Churiyaan(1942). Offers were coming in and Durrani tried to reinvent himself. To his credit, He tried to make his own identity as a playback singer and not try to follow the K L Sehgal style of singing. Years later he was to a parody for movie Bazooband (1954) that same style in Diya Bujhao Jhatpat Jhatpat for composer Mohd Shafi.
Durrani also started assisting his friend Naushad and another big break soon came in the form of the movie Nai Duniya (1942). Composers had noticed that his teaming with Rajkumari was brilliant and fans were treated to as many as four duets of theirs for this movie which became very popular. The most popular one was the Tanvir Naqvi written Dil Loot Liya Ji Dil Loot Liya where both gave one of their best. Another popular one was Barsan Laagi Haaye Ram:- The third and fourth ones were as follows: Prem Ne Mann Mein Aag Lagaayi Preet Mujhe Kyon Raas Na Aayi, and Aaj Mera Man Dole Ek Suhana Sapna Dekha
With such mellifluous singing, he became a force to reckon with and the audiences craved for more.
Sharda the same year saw two solos by him. One of them, Duniya Mein Sab Jode Jode Ashiq Phiren Nigode was greatly appreciated by the filmgoers. One just has to listen to those songs to imagine what kind of impact they must have had. His other solo, It Jaaye Ut Jaaye Nazariya was also appreciated. Naushad didn’t forget to repeat his winning combo of Rajkumari-Durrani in Station Master with Baras Gayi Raam Badariya Kaari.
By now the style of Durrani was in full form. In 1943, all stalwarts started using his services and started composing specially for him. Pandit Gobindram was to use his voice for his Sitara starrer Aabroo. His success in duets led to many new pairings with lovely melodies that are enjoyed to this day. Aabroo for instance had two duets of his with Sitara. Not surprisingly, for music lovers of the coming generations, the introduction to Durrani has been through his duets.
In the same year, he himself became a composer with movie Angoori. The songs of this movie are very rare. Only one of these is easily available which is a sweet duet with Kaushalya, Nainon Mein Naina Dinho Daal.
The song that made him a rage was however composed by Shyam Sundar for his movie Nai Kahani. This song sung by G.M. Durrani with some support by child-star Balakram was played everywhere. When he sang, Neend Hamaari Khwaab Tumhaare Kitne Meethe Kitne Pyaare, the listeners went crazy. This timeless melody can never be forgotten by fans of Indian Cinema (Nearly 40 years later, when he was invited to sing in Mortal Men Immortal Melodies, though many had forgotten him, his voice was still great and he got an applause for it)
That same year Namaste saw him sing four songs, two of which were duets with Parul Ghosh which were also a radio favourite in those days. Ambuwa Pe Panchhi Baanwra, Aan Milo More Shyam .With lovely songs like these, it is not a wonder that from 1944-1951 he was the top singer. Not surprisingly, this must have incited jealousy in other singers. Legend goes that his friend was the singer-composer Khan Mastana (alias Hafeez Khan). There was some controversy regarding the professional jealousy between two in the early 40s.
Durrani produced many hits in the coming years and everyone wanted to work with him. Here is a small list of composers who used his services:-
Khawaja Khurshid Anwar
S D Burman
Shankar rao Vyas
Bulo C Rani
A R Qureshi
O P Nayyar
Let me highlights some of his songs in the years that followed.
In 1944, He sang for debutants Husanlal-Bhagatram for the movie Chaand. He got a chance to sing with Zeenat Begum and Manju for the film. Each song he sang for the film, be it Aye Chaand Bata Mujhko Kya Isi Ka Naam Hai Pyar, Ae Dil Mujhe Rone, Aaye Hain Balma Din Pyaare Pyaare or Watan Se Chala Hai Watan Ka Sipahi are memorable. Mohd Rafi debuted that year singing Aji Dil Ho Qaboo Mein with him for the movie Village Girl. His duet with Zeenat Begum, Jhoom Rahi Baaghon Mein for the movie Yateem in 1945 sung for Khurshid Anwar, remains a fabulous one. The solo, Main Usase Karoon Pyaar is also another wonderful one.
In 1946, his good songs continued. His song, Ek Yaad Kisi Ki Yaad Rahi (which had a solo tandem and a duet tandem with Shamshad) is unforgettable. It is interesting to note that he also sang for the version records of the movie with Suraiya. Ghulam Haider used his singing very well. He also had him sing for But Tarash the same year. He sang some four songs for Sassi Punnu for Pt Gobindram out of which Dekho Ji Kya Sama Hai with Shamshad Begum was quite popular. Both were to sing many fabulous duets in the years to come. He sang many songs in 1947 as well, but the highlight is definitely Mirza Sahiban. His duet with Noorjehan, Haath Seene Pe Rakh Do was a super duper hit with a really fabulous rendition by him. Many old timers feel that this is one of his best and there are no arguments on this. He had sung a duet with Geeta Roy in Do Bhai In 1948, his duet Chandni Raaten Sar Sar Aayen Mast Hawayen with Zohrabai for Gyan Dutt is a delightful one. In Aaj Ki Raat, we have as many as 3 duets of his with Suraiya.
1949 was a very important year for him where he sang many delightful songs. This year saw him singing for the first time with Lata Mangeshkar. Infact, her first song with Naushad was a duet with him, Haaye Chhore Ki Jaat Badi Bewafa which is a really sweet one highlighting their strengths. Their duet for Shair, Do Bichhde Hue Dil is fabulous too.. One must make a special note of his singing for the movie Aiiye for Naushad that year. His solos Itni Si Kahani Hai Itna Mera Afsana and Jigar Ke Tukde Hain are two song sthat I can listen any number of times. The movie also had him sing two duets with the young lata, Baad Muddat Ke Hua … Kar Sakega Na Juda Humko, Duniya Badal Gayi are both a must listen for fans of the singers. What wonderful work Shaukat Dehlvi “Nashad” was able to extract from them in that movie. And then, One cannot forget his duets with Shamshad that year like Chal Chal Chameli Bagh Mein (for Nashad’s Dada) and Tum Kya Jaano Mere Maathe Ki Bindiya Ka Mol (for Ghulam Haider in Kaneez). The former was very popular in those days and even inspired parodies in the coming years. His duet with Geeta, Naazuk Hai Dil Tod Na Dena for Dil Ki Basti is a real delight sung for Ghulam Mohd.
Just like 1949, the year 1950 was also a strong year for Durrani. As mentioned above, he sang some good songs for Gyan Dutt in Dilruba. Other than the duet above, we hear him singing the lovely Chiraiya Udi Jaaye with Pramodini and making a guest appearance in the fun Limbo Limbo. He had another fabulous duet, Hum To Tere Dil Ke Bangle Mein Aana Maangta in movie Maghroor which is a must listen for their fans. Aao Baitho Baat suno with Lata for Maang is in the same category. He also sang a lovely solo, Main Kisko Sunaoon Gham Ki Kahani for the same movie. Sajjad also used him well that year in Khel. His solo in that movie Humen Ab Ye Jeena Gawara Nahin Hai deserves special mention. I am quite fond of his duet Teri Meri Meri Teri Lad Gayi Nazariya with Meena Kapoor for Shadi Ki Raat for composer Pt Govindram. His fabulous solo Nayi Jawani Rut Mastani for movie Madhubala is also unforgettable. And one cannot forget what he did with his old friend from radio days A R Qureshi. In the movie Sabak, he sang a lovely solo, Ni Sa Pa Ma Ga Haaye Raam ji which used to play on the radio for a long time. I would err if I didn’t mention the Punjabi movie Madari for which A R Qureshi gave music that year. Durrani got three songs in that movie. One was a duet with Shamshad, Badlan Di Chan Chan Ve which was quite sweet. Its the two solos he sang there which are indeed really memorable. Both were likely picturised on the titular Madari (Oh How I’d love to see the videos of these songs!). First one, Chhad Bure Di Yaari Nu and the second one, Main Koi Jhooth Boleya are real delights and are not to be missed by punjabi movie fans. Incidentally, the same year, Hansraj Behl also gave him two songs in his movie Chhai. One was a nice solo, Koi Laale Nu La Le Moose. The other is the standout duet with Shamshad, Mainu Maahi Naal Ho Gaya Pyar Haule Haule. A really lovely qawwali there. I am surprised that one doesn’t see him singing in more punjabi movies. He sang less in Punjabi movies but the quality is really high.
1951 was also a year of ‘high’ for him. His duet with Sulochana Kadam, Dil Tere Hijr Mein Beemaar Hai Thoda Thoda is quite sweet. He sang as many as four duets with Shamshad ji for Bade Bhaiya for composer Prem Nath. Their duet Hello Saain Hello was very popular. Gori Ki Chatak Matak mein is no less either for me. Geeta fans count his duet for movie Sansaar, Lucknow Chalo Ab Rani as one of their best. He also rendered Hazaaron Khwahishen Aisi for Gyan Dutt in movie Ghayal. Ek Din Tumne Kaha Tha with Shamshad for movie Ek Tha Ladka is enjoyable to this day. And one must make a notable mention for their duet, Nazar Phero Na Humse Hum Hain Tumpar Marne Waalon Mein for movie Deedar where he sang for Ashok Kumar (Shamshad ji sang for Nargis). Luckily for us it is available on youtube for enjoying. His fun songs are always a delight and his fans must listen to Tera Gora Gora Gaal Humko Ekdum Pasand Hai with Shamshad ji for movie Gumaashta. K Dutta extracted wonderfully from him in the movie where he had two more songs. Roshan made him sing the wonderful “rap” song Bogi Bogi Bogi with Shamshad ji too which is probably one of his easiest available songs today. How Cukoo danced to the song! Pyaar Ki Baaten’s Chalo wahan chalen (with Chunnilal Pardesi) and Woh Humse Mohabbat Karte Hain (with Asha) are noteworthy as well.
1952 saw him giving some lovely songs as well. In movie Baghad, his songs Dil-e-Beqaraar Kahe Baar Baar (with Geeta) and Yeh Pyaar Ki Baaten Yeh Aaj Ki Baaten Dildar Yaad Rakhna (with Geeta and Talat) are a collector’s delight. His fabulous solo, Dhoondhta Hoon Har Jagha Kahin Nahin Tera Pata for movie Izzat is counted by me as one of his really best solos. His duet Tera Jhoomta Shabaad with Sandhya Mukherjee also deserves special mention Ajeeb Ladki saw again three songs with Shamshad . I particularly remember O Cycle Waale Babu as I think of the movie. Bulo C Rani had him sing the lovely Tu Jo Mere Pyar Ki Khichdi Pakaayega with Geeta for movie Nirmal. Neelampari’s Jab Tak Chamken Chaand Sitaare with Geeta for Khurshid Anwar is a lovely song. Its a real pity that this was Khurshid Anwar’s last movie in India. In fact, the careers of many of his main composers was declining at this time. Some were moving away from him as well.
After that his career started declining. Many reasons are attributed to this. A story goes that Durrani was of a flamboyant nature and offended Lata Mangeshkar who complained about him to Naushad. (in fact one sees their duets coming as late as 1956 in Karwaan). The other story is that he had become spiritually inclined because of which he slowly left the industry. In an interview with Ameen Sayani in 1978, He said that he got bored of the materialistic world of Bombay Film Industry and started avoiding the film line. He started keeping a beard so nobody would recognise him. He started giving away money from the bank to various Faqirs. Finally, He opened a general merchant shop after taking a loan!
His songs continued to release as late as 1966. One must make a mention of some of his best songs in the declining period from 1953 to 1966 for the sake of completeness. Composer Vinod gave him some nice songs in the period. Thumak Thumak Chali Kaamini (with Asha) for movie Ek Do Teen is one of those. Sheikh Chilli had two really lovely songs by him. One is a fabulous solo, Mohabbat Ranj-o-Gham Ki Dastaan Hai which displays his lovely touch for all to see. The other is the fabulous duet with Geeta, Madhoshi Mein Tanhaai Mein which is not to be missed. I love his duet, Hello Mr Dil with Lata in Anand Bhawan as well. There is something really cute about the song. His duet Arre Ho Jaise Sawan Mein Badal with Shamshad for Suhaag Sindoor is a rare and lovely duet. His duets Hum Tumse Raazi (Awara Shehzaadi), Ho Gaye Barbaad Hum (Akashpari) and Dil Ke Darwaaze Pe Hui Thak Thak (Badshah Salamat) with Geeta can be heard repeatedly due to their timeless charm.
Unfortunately, he started getting very few assignments and many were not under big banners. Due to this wonderful songs also couldn’t give him enough to make a come back. It is said that Rafi helped him bag two lovely duets with him, Kuchh Aankh Mili (Musafirkhana) and Humko Hanste Dekh zamaana Jalta Hai (Hum sab Chor Hain) for O P Nayyar but it was not enough. When Harmandir Singh Hamraaz ji met him in connection with Geet Kosh, Durrani told him that he gave music to two stunt movies Kismat Palat Ke Dekh and State Express in 1961 under the pseudonym of Gunjan. As the films came and went he could get no more work. But like many stalwarts, the last released songs showed his worth. For the movie Sunehre Qadam in 1966, Bulo C Rani (for whom this was also sadly the last Hindi movie) gave him two fabulous duets with Sudha Malhotra. These are Yeh Ghar Aapka Hai and Na To Inkaar Kiya. Both sound so fresh in the songs. It is indeed a loss of music lovers that he sang very less in the later years and one day the singing assignments totally dried up. Other voices were coming up at the time like Talat, Rafi, Mukesh and Manna Dey and he was sadly forgotten with time. His songs would be played on the radio occasionally and soon that too stopped. As a result, sadly this golden voice was lost in the new generation to come.
Some years later, he could even be seen in movie Lal Patthar getting playback from Mohd Rafi who had once been inspired by him. The song is of course Unke Khayaal Aaye .
It is indeed a big loss for us that he stopped singing prematurely as his voice continued to be good for years. When one hears him singing in 1981 for the Mortal Men Immortal Melodies, one finds his voice was still a force to reckon with. Indeed, it is very sad. In an interview in 1978 with Ameen Sayani, he quoted this couplet by Ghalib to express how he felt about everything:
Jala Hai Jism Jahan Dil Bhi Jal Gaya Hoga
Kuredte Ho Jo Ab Raakh Justaju Kya Hai?
This golden voice passed away finally unsung in 1988 in Mumbai.
(A detailed version of this write-up with more information, song links and anecdotes is available at this link: )
Sources: Down Melody Lane, Madhuri magazine, some other articles, Manna Dey’s Autobiography, Discussions with Various Friends including Shishir Krishna Sharma ji and Harmandir Singh Hamraaz ji, My Memory and Thoughts. Pictures from various sources on the net including Hamaraforums, Cineplot, Down Melody Lane, Beete Hue Din etc, Many initial songs are referred from Prof Surjit Singh’s wonderful site. Thanks to him and the generous people who shared for the same.
quiz time 😉
Answer : G M Durrani ji as ‘Gunjan’, Kismat Palat ke Dekh, Mohd Rafi ji. (In fact there is one more song by Manna Dey ji in the film but could not find it on YT).As per EM database, Manna da sang this song for this film: zara palat ke dekh o zara palat ke