A golden hearted individual, Ataur Rehman sahab delved in poetry and music. His musical acumen proved to be an asset for the Bengal industry. Lots of time it happened that when the filmmaker could not acquire the services of a music director, Ataur Rehman sahab gave his services and produced such fabulous songs that they are remembered till now. Like minded intellectuals, Suroor Barabankvi, Akhter Yusuf, Ataur Rehman, Nazrul Islam, Anwar Hussain and A.R. Kardar used to get together now and then, to enjoy and plan for the future. That’s why Khan Ataur Rehman produced 4 such artistic movies as Aakhri Station and Soey Nadia Jagey Pani.
Khan Sahab’s debut venture as the music director was Zaheer Rehan’s Sangam in 1964. The leading cast of the film was Rozi and Haroon, but more than its cinematic novelty, the film was liked for its musical score. The film was based on an English movie, which was about college students visiting remote village of Bengal for an excursion but they get caught in an island . The most popular song of Sangam was Satar Saal Jo Budha Milgia, based on a famous English number and very intelligently adopted by Ataur Rehman. It was sung by Bashir Ahmad and chorus voices. Surfing on the waves of the accordion, and the guitar strings, the song took the local industry by storm and the film got a good reception. Kitni Suhani Rangeen Khwab Dikha Kar, by Firdousi Begum was a sad melody with the taanpura and violin in attendance. Chali Re Chali had that jovial touch of the Bengali winds. Neela Gagan Hai was a Hemant Kumar type duet, a fabulous number with the banjo and accordion, sung delightfully by Firdousi Begum and Abdul Jabbar. The Neeli Neeli Aankhon Mein was another lively duet.
Ataur Rehman, before coming into Urdu ventures, had worked for Bengali films as a music director of some renown. He had opened his account actually in 1959, with Ehtesham’s Ae Desh Tomar Amar, which was also Shabnam’s debut in local cinema, as Jharna. Ataur Rehman also acted in this film and composed good tunes for it. In 1961, he gave a stirring score for another Bengali film, this time by Salahuddin, titled Suraj Ashnan, with Nasima Khan and Anwer in the lead. In 1962, Ataur Rehman excelled himself in Zaheer Rehan’s Sunar Kajal, for which he got awards in 1963. In the same year, Bengali cinema was enlivened by a superb film, Kanchar Dayal by Zaheer Rehan, with splendid numbers sung by Firdausi and composed by Khan sahab. So, when East Pakistan’s first Urdu full color film, Sangam was released, nobody was surprised by Ataur Rehman’s compositional skills.
In 1964, Rahman’s Milan was also released, which boasted of such hits by Bashir Ahmed, as Tum salamat raho and Jo mujh se door sahi. Tum salamat raho is an all time hit and fills one with pure, honest delight, with its onus on the sitar, banjo and flute and a continuous changing of beats during the intervals. Bashir also sang Jo mujh se door sahi, which was splendidly arranged with piano, violin, flute and sitar. Though slow paced, the ghazal like effect of the song gripped people’s heartbeats. A third number that was very listenable was a duet in the voices of Bashir Ahmed and Noor Jahan, phrased Tum jo milay pyar mila. It begins with a flute intro and the accordion follows suit before the asthai. The Bengali flute is used frequently, while the violin also lends it class, and accordion and banjo add color in the intervals. It was all over a marvelous score in Milan.
The same year Ataur Rehman composed good tunes for the Bengali film, Doi Digangta and his own production, Anek Diner Chena. The talented tunesmith came up with film Sagar’s score in 1965, though barely a number was memorable. But Bahana the same year, was a massive hit as far as the songs were concerned. Shot partly in Karachi, the film also had a number based around the fast life in Karachi. Irene Parveen sang most of the songs in the film. Band keeje kitabein khuda ke liya by her was nice, and Ab to bujha do shama was just beautiful. A sad number, the song was picturized on the new heroine Kabori from Bengal. The song was enlivened by the aid of flute in the interludes, Irene sang it more softly than most of her other songs. In his tribute to Karachi, he brought together Rushdi, Waseem Farooqui and Irene Parveen. The song was titled Shehr ka naam hai Karachi. Brilliantly filled with the invigorating sound of the accordion and the violins, apart from engaging guitar, it’s a song that should now be sung anew, with the latest mixing, which will surely make the people mad with delight.
Two more of Ataur Rehmah’s films were released the same year, that is 1966, namely Aakhri Station and Mala. The first one was an art movie, with Shabnam in the role of a handicapped girl, who performed well. Two songs that come to mind from Aakhri Station are quite nice. A Lesser known , Bengali singer, Mohammad Hafeez sang Ae mere anokhey humrahi, which is a typical song from the ’60s; more melodic and enthralling than most of the noisy numbers of the 21st century. After a single sitar piece, it begins to unfold very serenely, with the singer sort of being Bengal’s answer to Rafi. The song depicts something of a musical nexus with the arrival of the night train, which is accomplished intelligently. But the intensely sad resonance of Irene’s Toota ik tar is much more touching, with the flute and violin depth charging it to the highest level of excellence. And from Mala, Rushdi’s Jhooti hat yeh sari nagri got a lot of public response.
In 1966, Ataur Rehman had no Urdu film, he just did his own Bengali production, named Raja Sanyasi. But Khan Ataur Rehman produced a most scintillating historic film, Nawab Sirajuddaula in 1967, which was full of memorable numbers. Khan Sahab was committed to producing top grade art movies and you can see how this masterpiece was created. It’s still available at the Rainbow Centre and shows you what progressive minds were housed by those greats of yesteryears. Firdausi Begum sang a beautiful ghazal by Suroor Barabankvi, title Hai Yeh Aalam Tujhe Bhulaney Mein, reverbrating with the sitar, tabla and flute. Firdausi’s voice had that educated touch and ghazal especially suited her. Then Shahnaz Begum’s Bedardi tere dil mein pyar naheen is a nice mujra number, and Ataur Rehman’s wife Mebooba Rehman and Shehnaz Begum sang a naat famously, titled Tumhee se hai meri dua Kamliwaley. The best song, of the, film was Do kinarey Aik Nadiya Ke kitney hain bemail. It was sung by a Bengali singer, Abdul Aleem and was a perfect song for the fishermen of East Pakistan which laments the deteriorating conditions in the region in a symbolic style. That song is riveting stuff, with the special Ik tara of the fisherman community continuously used throughout the song. It has a curious effect which, though; seemingly out of tune adds that sad touch which takes the song ahead of all the other compositions in the film. It was of greater consequence because of the historic reference of the film and enhanced the deep sensitive fiber of the making of the film. Watching such films give you sense of purpose in life.
After such classical cinematic ventures were crowned with success and Nawab Sirajdu Daula was a hit, Ataur Rehman once again, produced a top ranking art movie, Soey Nadya Jagey Pani in 1968 with the cast including Kabori, Hasan Imam, Rozi and Jalil Afghani. This was a more sobering vision and unlike the awe-inspiring martyr’s story Nawab Sirajud Daula, it did not have that kind of pace and climax. So, it did modestly at the box-office and Ataur Rehman lost a lot of investment. This dejected him and he went out of circulation for some time. In 1969, he produced a Bengali film, Joar Bhata, with Rahman and Shabnam, while he also did Zaheer Rehan’s Moner Motu Bou and Shesh Parjyanta. Ataur Rehman also produced Ornoboran Kiranmala in 1969, which was appreciated for its lilting music. In 1970, too, he worked for Zaheer Rehan’s Bengali venture, Jubon Thinkey Naya, but that was the last one heard of him in our cinema, since our eastern province was severed in 1971 and we were left with just intensely sad visions of what might have been…