When first I heard this most haunting number, Mera dil najaney kab se tera pyar dhoondta hai, from Iqbal Yusuf’s cloak-&-dagger movie, Hill Station, released in 1972, I was transported back to the days when I had visited East Pakistan at a very young age. The song seem to nostalgically harken back to the days when all seemed so hunky dory with our world, enveloping us in a false sense of security that nothing untoward can happen to our lovely world of warmth and good will. But, Jo khizan mein kho gaee hai who bahaar dhoondta hai was a melancholic cry from far away land of dream that is lost forever. Composed by that brilliant music director, Nashad, it was sung by Bashir Ahmed, his last song for a Pakistani film!
Not many people know that Bashir Ahmed, the famous singer and playback from Bangladesh, was not Bengali. In fact he didn’t even know Bengali language. He belonged to a Delhi Saudagran family, but was born in Calcutta (Kolkata now) in 1940. He was crazy about music, and was accepted as a pupil by Ustad Vilayat Hussain at the age of 15. Later, he came to Bombay, and became a pupil of Ustad Barey Ghulam Ali Khan. He got lots of encouragement from him. In 1960, Bashir Ahmed migrated to Dhaka.
In Dhaka, his mentor and brother-in-law, Ishrat Kalkatvi introduced him to Robin Ghosh. Ishrat Sahab was writing songs for film Talash, although eventually, Suroor Barabankvi contributed more songs to the film. Robin Ghosh was making tunes for the film, and he gave Bashir Ahmed a chance to prove himself. Bashir Ahmed sang some beautiful numbers for Talash, including that unforgettable soft romantic one, titled Kuch apni kahiyye, kuch meri sunyey. Bashir sang another most famous song, Main rickshawalla matwala, which those who have listened to it can never forget. He had two other songs in the film, both duets. With such a famous beginning, he was sure to stay on. Bashir was also a poet and a lyricist, with a pseudonym B.A Deep. Film-maker, Mustafiz they contacted Bashir and asked him to write a song for his film, Saagar, which he did, titled Ja dekha pyar tera, and sang it too. Similarly in Robin Ghosh’s another lilting offering, Karwan, in 1964, Bashir wrote and sang a memorable hit, Jab tum akele hoge hum yaad aaeingey , which used to be played quite often during the sixties on radio Pakistan. So, he wrote film songs, as B. A. Deep, and also continued to sing as Bashir Ahmed for films like Saagar, Karwan, Eindhan, Milan, Kangan and Darshan. He won a lot of approval from the West Pakistan too at that time, for those songs in Darshan. The hits from the films were Yeh sama pyara pyara, Yeh mausam yeh mast nazarey, Tumharay liyay iss dil mein, Din raat khayalon mein, Hum chaley chor kar, Gulshan mein baharun mein too hai and Chun liya ik phool ku, with Madam Noor Jahan.
Listening regularly to Hemant Kumar’s compositions was enough to make Bashir note details of arrangement in the songs. This made him suggest the instrument that should be used for that particular song. His usual orchestra was on the softer side, and mostly he depended on the piano, the flute and sitar or sarangi, and very rarely did he resort to the guitar, the clarinet or the saxophone. You can see that even in Hum chaley chor kar in Darshan, where he has to go a little on the higher plain, he still worked well in the piano. In Milan, Rehman’s own production, during which he lost one of his legs, the artistes worked almost free for him. Basher too, did not take any amount for two songs he wrote for Milan, phrased Tum jo milay pyar mila, which he sang with Noor Jahan, and Jo mujh se door sahi. Another hit from Milan is Tum salamat rahu muskurao hanso.
Bashir Ahmed’s other songs include songs like Hum to urtey panchi hain from an unreleased film, Urte Panchi, Beete hue din raat and Zara kitab se nazar hattaiye from film Maina, Main hu aik awara from Footpath and Phir aik baar wahi naghma gunganana du zara from film Gori, Ae mere daur ke dukhi insan from the art film, Iss Dharti Par etc.
In 1971, when the situation worsened, he came to this wing, and stayed here for five years. Unfortunately, he was not encouraged in the industry and the Hill Station songs, namely Mera dil najaney and Mere seene per sar rakhdo remain his only contributions in this period. A film that was made on the Dhaka Debacle in the late70s, called Sangtarash, also included his numbers, namely Bol zara kuch duniyawaley and Mukhrey mein chand, but the film, despite pleadings of the film-maker to the military regime of Zia, remained unreleased. So, he went back to Bangladesh in 1975, and only sings private songs in functions now – Zulqarnain Shahid