While waters rise up in the shape of a cyclone wall in Bengal, musical waves sigh softly when they touch its coastal sands. Compositions in Bengal sweep off your feet, even as the storms drown the region in depression and deprivation. Harmonic brilliance is a thing of wonder in Bengal, which has produced such masters of the trait as S.D Burman, R.D Burman, Robin Ghosh, Anil Biswas, Karim Shahbudin, Pankaj Malik, Subul Das, etc.
In the context of Pakistani films, there’s no bigger name in this field than Robin Ghosh. His typically wave-on-wave symphonic compositions are a unique source of pleasure for listeners. Fusing the magical Bengali tones with European symphonic influences, Robin produced tremendous music in the 60’s and 70’s. Bengali musicians, while fusing two separate tones, have an uncanny knack of filling up the eastern and western veins of the musical channels with enough juice of their own making to give the fusion a new identity card. This was what R.D Burman did in India. Similarly, Robin Ghosh and Muslehuddin worked tirelessly in uniting the two musical poles successfully. But, as against others of his ilk, Ghosh’s symphonic branches issue from a distinctive oriental stem. Most of his songs are original pieces of compositional invention. So much so, that famed Indian tunesmiths Laximikant- Pyarelal copied quite few of his top hits.
Belonging to a feudal family of Bangladesh, it seems strange that Robin Ghosh thought of musical compositions at all. His father, Mohan Ghosh, had afforded him every luxury of life, but creative impulses just transcend every other aspect of worldly life. And so, Robin made music. It’s an interesting little tale of how Robin was introduced to the musical notes. His father’s flourishing Red Cross career took him to Baghdad. They used to live opposite a cinema hall during the 40’s, and whenever there was a song played during a film, the speakers installed outside would amplify the Arabic numbers. This obviously made Robin a compulsive listener at an early age. Finally, they came back to Dacca, where Robin got his education from St. Gregory School and Dacca College. He was offered a career in Belfast, Ireland, where he would have a luxurious life, but he declined and his brother, Ashok, took the opportunity instead. By then, Robin played quite a few instruments and could sing well too. But compositional skills need to be acquired. For that he went to Calcutta, the hub of all cultural activity in Bengal.
In Calcutta, Robin had the fortune to assist some big names in music direction, including Hemant Kumar. He developed compositional skills quickly and was good enough to be considered for Bangla films. Ehtisham, later Nadeem’s father-in-law, was so impressed by him that he thought Robin was another R.D Burman in the making. “He knew I would not give hackneyed tunes for films,” Robin said in an interview during 90’s. “So he took the risk of signing me on for his Bengali film Laldani Bookay (heart of the city) and Rehman was selected as the hero. Talat Mehmood’s heart-wrenching voice was selected for the playback.”
Actually, Robin met Shabnam on the set of his debut film. She was named Jharna at the time and was very young and impressionable. But it wasn’t love at first sight. Love came later, after they had worked together for years. But the films were a lucky draw for Robin as Laldani Bookay was a hit and the songs were mega-hits on the Bengali charts. President Ayub Khan had announced Film Awards and Laldani Bookay received several. Later, he composed music for many more Bengali movies.
In 1962, again it was Ehtisham who provided Robin with a break in his Urdu film, Chanda, the title of which was played by Shabnum. Dossani films Chanda was, at first, not so enthusiastically accepted by distributors and exhibitors from West Pakistan, who thought the film had a largely unknown cast and would not attract cine-goers. But then, Ehtisham came up with an idea. He opened his own office on Mcleod Road. Lahore, and released the film himself. Chanda became the talk of the towns within days and Ehtisham earned millions. Robin’s score was highly applauded for its melodic innocence and freshness of note. Bengali folk, mixed with the softness of tone that came with it, conquered the hearts of the films enthusiasts of West Pakistan. Especially, Firdausi who sang a beautiful folk song, Pardesia O Pardesia, opened by sitar and tabla. It is actually the fishermen’s folk song in Bangladesh and touched the hearts with its lyrical quality. Firdausi was a rage in those days and had a beautifully resonant vocal quality that was as much liked in Lahore as in Dacca. Meanwhile, the intimacy between Shabnam and Robin increased with each film they did together and they finally got married in 1965 and moved to Karachi.
Talash had mega-hit music. Its songs are still well known, despite the fact after we lost East Pakistan, Urdu film albums of those days are not sold or bought much. Songs like Mein ne Kaha Salam alaikum, Rickshawala bechara, Kuch apni Kahiyye were on everybody’s lips. There was affection between people and they appreciated each other’s work in different departments is other provinces. In those days, there were no ethnic or national extremists in the country. Moreover, the music, as opposed to today’s sound, banked on the common man’s moods. You can cite many hit awami numbers in those days, and Rickshawala Bechara was an anthem of the common folk. It portrayed the sensitivity which spoke of the depravity and sadness of a poor Rickshaw driver. Today, the songs cater primarily to the upper classes and there is hardly any sensitivity or sincerity involved. More cheapness and virtual degradation, apart from meaningless poetry, is the order of the day. Kuch Apni Kahiyye was a ghazal and was liked by all sections of the people. It was written well by Suroor Barabonkvi, one of the top Urdu poets of those times. Janey Mujhe Kya Ho Gaya was also a big hit from Bhaiyya. Such music can only be termed dreamy. A typical horse cart beat for such a scene drives the song up the musical valley. For Begana, most people wouldn’t know that Nadeem had partnered with Firdausi to sing Main Tujh Se Mehabbat Karti Hoon. Robin Ghosh’s three best movies were Chakori, Chahat and Aaina. Chakori popularized Ahmed Rushdi in Bengal, with masterpiece numbers like Kabhi To Tum Ko Yaad Aaengi and Tujhe Chahein Meri Bahein. The first number was the highlight of the film and launched a brilliant actor, Nadeem.
Robin Ghosh made inspiring music throughout his career. I remember a film shown on PTV during the late 60’s, one of those ghostly movies, Tum Mere Ho, which was produced by Suroor Sahab who also wrote the song for it, titled Wohi Gham Hai, Wohi Tanhai. It was awesome poetry and an equally superlative tune.
However, Robin gave music to only 32 films. But whichever film came his way was brilliantly executed on the musical channels. The day Robin Ghosh shifted to this part of the country; he conquered people’s tastes here too. His last two movies were also blockbusters, namely Jo Darrr Gaya Woh Mar Gaya and Nikaah. Isn’t it sad that even after giving such tremendous hits like Zindagi Mein Mujh Ko Itna Pyar Mil Gaya in JDGWMG and Kel Chand Kee Chaudhween Raat from Nikah, Robin Ghosh was not able to net any more films in our industry? Doesn’t it say much for the state of our films? Just recently Robin and Shabnam shifted to Bangladesh and we have lost one of the best pairs of our last 30 years.
In Aaina, Robin Ghosh seemed to hit a high which he hardly ever achieved after that although he also gave good numbers in Bandish and Naheen Abhi Naheen. But Aaina was one of those films where everything comes together in a marvelous way. Nazarul Islam’s mega hit was full of fabulous love songs by Alamgir, Mehnaz, Mehdi Hasan and Nayyara Noor. Who can forget songs like Bichreinga Na Hum Kabhi, Mujhe Dil Se Na Bhulana and Roothe Ho Tum Tum Ko Kaise Manaoon Piya?
Like all the top men and the women in this field of art, Robin Ghosh also developed monotonous edges to his music over the years. Robin always tended to prolong songs, and it later became very boring, like in Fazil’s Aahat or in Askari’s Dooriyan. Robin also regularly used the symphonies of the European masters like Bach and Beethoven in films like Do Sathi, Ambar, and Bheege Badan. For some time these interludes between songs did interest people but later they became cumbersome because the song seemed to go on and on. But, of course, such corners develop in the best of the music directors. For example, Khursheed Anwar’s excessively mourning melodies do get you depressed at times. But all this is just a small section of the huge treasure that these masters have deposited for us to enjoy and delight in for centuries on end – Zulqarnain Shahid