Written by Manohar Iyer
The Hindi film music scene in the thirties was dominated by tradition-imbued melodies of conservative and purist composers mostly belonging to the Bengal and Maharashtra school of film music. In striking contrast to these composers with their heavy classical leanings and theatrical moorings, was the Lahore-based Master Ghulam Haider who defied tradition, set a new trend and brought about a musical revolution with his effervescent and free-wheeling compositions like Sawan ke nazaare hain, laut gayi paapan andhiyaari, Ek kali naazon ki pali, Diwali phir aa gayi sajni... from Dalsukh Pancholi's epoch-making money spinner “Khazanchi”. These modern sounding rhythmings reverberated in the early forties and stirred the entire nation which was then reeling in the aftermath of World War II. Ghulam Haider set his lilting melodies, which had the rich flavour of the lush folk songs of Punjab, to vibrant and vigorous rhythm and presented them through a new orotund singer named Shamshad Begum, who with her bold, bright and boisterous singing went on to become the leading and the highest paid numero uno star singer of the forties and acquired the legendary status in the dawn of her career.
Sadly, it is in the twilight of her light (She turned ninety two on 14th April 2011) that a super songster like Shamshad Begum has been conferred the prestigious Padma Bhushan and recognised for her melodious contribution to the field of Hindi film music! Need to mention, she deserved many more awards and accolades and deserved them much earlier in her life time – at a time when it would have made a bigger difference to the singer who had at all times made an unfathomable difference to the lives of millions of music lovers all over the world.