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Article by Saeed Malik

About Khurshid Anwar 

Khurshid Anwar, a leading light of the film world won immense popularity in the Subcontinent for his stylish and heart rending compositions. He was pluck away from our midst by the inexorable angel of deatn seventeen years ago on October 30, 1984 signalin the end of a golden chapter in film music. It is difficulL to encompass his multi-faceted personality in a single piece of writing. He was at once a poet of considerable merit, a perceptive playwright, sensitive film director, and a competent film producer, a musicologist of uncommon erudition and scholarship and, above all, an original and stylish composer. He had the knack of picking the right instrument for the conveyance of the nuances and emotion sofasong. He created a new style, provided a new tangent and gave an elan to film music. Dulcet, tender and tuneful, his songs were decorated viith dreamy cadences. Music buffs and listeners were equally hypnotized by the sweetness of his compositions.

To the art of composition, Khurshid Anwar brought the same trenchant and restless intellect that made him so fine a scholar, poet, producer-director and one of the most erudite interpreters of classical music in the Sub-continent. His musical thinking was profound (sometimes abstruse and esoteric) as perhaps only those who listened to his discourses frequently could best appreciate these. His special gift for endowing tonality in general; and the use of shurtis (microtonal pitches) in particular, were the striking features of his songs.

Khurshid Anwar was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. His father was a leading specialist in criminal law, but had an irresistiole passion for music. He had a large collection of gramophone discs, containing good selection of classical and light classical music. He also held soiree at his residence wherein seasoned practitioners of classical music were invited to demonstrate their melodic prowess. It was in this congenial environment that Khurshid Anwar was brought up. Besides, he spent a part of his formative years in Rohtak (Haryana), where his grandfather served as a senior civil servant. The influence of Haryana folk melodies on Khurshid Anwar's compositions can easily he discerned by discriminating listeners.

To some, because of his excellent educational qualifications and rich family background, Khurshid Anwar was a dry, not very affable individual, but to those (like this scribe), who succeeded in penetrating the veneer of the introvert ambiance of his personality, Khurshid Anwar was friendly, kind and an understanding person.

It was a time of great political unrest when Khurshid Anwar was studying at Government College, Lahore. Left-oriented and anti-colonial enthusiasts started a movement to rid India of colonial Yoke of the British. As an acutely sensitive person, young Khurshid Anwar could not resist the temptation of joining the movement. Touching base with freedom frontline fighters of the time like Bhagat Singh and within his limits, he took part in the struggle for independence.

It is a popular misconception that Kh~irshid Anwar could not sing, nor he could play an instrument. The fact of the matter is that he was a practitioner of the art of classical singing, which he learnt from Ustad Tawwakal Husain Khan. According to his younger brother, Khawaja Sultan Ahmad (a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan), Khurshid Anwar was extremely good at imitating the singing styles of classical vocalists of different hues. He learnt classical vocalization by listening to the recorded music of frontline melodists of that time.' Once Ustad Tawwakal Husain Khan chanced to listen to Khurshid Anwar imitating his style of singing during one of his visits to our house, disclosed Khawaja Sultan, adding, "My brother was not aware of the fact that someone was eves-dropping on him. The Khan Sahib did not interrupt Khurshid Anwar and waited for him to complete his practice session. Giving him a friendly hug, Tawwakal Khan, who was so pleased with my brother's talent, congratulated Khurshid Anwar and offered to teach him on a regular basis. In the estimation of the Khan Sahib, Khurshid Anwar become a competent classical singer already'.

We inquired how come Khurshid Anwar did not vocally rehearse his compositions with the singers during the final pre-recording sessiors. "It is not entirely true", he responded with a touch of authority, adding, "I have in my possession a cassette containing a very difficult composition of my brother - Chaand hassey duniya bassey, which Khurshid A2war recorded in his voice without any musical accompaniment. It was only after he underwent surgery for the removal of his inflamed tonsils that he gave up singing on doctor" advice".

At that stage of our conversation, another younger brother of the late composer, Khawala Afzal interjected to remind us about the daily Riaz (training) which Khurshid Anwar used to have during the prime of his youth. "He would sing for hours", Khawaja Afzal pointed out, "when we, as younger brothers, used to listen in such a manner as would not disturb him or distract his concentration.

When asked to comment on his brother's acumen for compositions, Khawaja Sultan reminded about an incident that took place in Pehalgam in Kashmir in the year 1940, "When all of us had gone there on a vacation. While Khrshid Anwar was enjoying the swings of a 'Jhoola tied with strong branches of a tree', and was being pushed by Rafiq Ghazanvi, he composed a beautiful song using his own lyrics written simultaneously with the invention of the tune surprising all of us. Mind you! He had not yet made his debut as a film composer althougn he was working for All India Radio as the producer incharge of music programmes . Creativity was simply oozing out of him", Khawaja Sultan recalled with a touch of nostalgic fondness.

Khawaja Sultan Ahmad also recalled his brother's association with lyricist D.N. Madhok in Lahore and Bombay and how KA was cheated by the songwriter on several occasions.

"Madhok was not a clean person as he would stealthily sell my brother's compositions to producers of other films. After the success of Kurmai, my brother was assigned to score music for Kardar's film Sharda, ano he composed a song - ghir ghir ayee badariya - for the film. But when Khurshid Anwar learnt that the film would not be directed by J.K. Nanda, as agreed upon earlier and that Mian Kardar would direct it, Khurshio Anwar go miffed and repudiated the commitment. Learning of toe development, lyricist Madhok, who had earlier on rehearsed the mukhra of that song with my brother, passed it on to composer Naushad, who used it as his own creation in the film Sharda.

"Similarly, the tune of the song Mohay mera bachpna, in Kajal (produced by Malikka Pukhraj in Bombay) was invented by my brother Khurshid Anwar, but was passed on to music director Ghulam Muhammad by Madhok. The tune of another song, which Khurshid Anwar composed for the film Parwana, and was not included in it, was also given to the music director of the film, dak Bangla by Madhok. Later, Khurshid Anwar used the same composition - Jaab yad kisi ki aye - in pakistani film Jhoomar, which was a remake of Parwana".

It is generally believed, that Khurshid Anwar when he was asked to sing for the radio, he shied away from the offer. What do you have to say about it?

"The perception is not based on facts. Khurshid Anwar did participate in the morning stint of radio by singing a morning raga. However, he was visibly nervous because it was the first time that he sang before a live microphone. Later in the night, he rendered a ghazal for the radio - Ye Kaya keeya mujhey kuch kuch mita kay choor diya, zara sa chehrey say parda utha ke choor diya with complete confidence and ease. Perhaps, the ghazal was written by Khurshid Anwar, but not known for sure. What about the episode in which Late Mangeshkar reportedly did not wait for Khurshid Anwar for the rehearsal of a song when she learnt that the composer could neither sing or play an instrument, as narrated by Raju Bhartan in the biography of Lata Mangeshker he has outhored, Khawaja Sultan was asked.

This too has been misreported. The factual position is that Lata had been booked for recording at HMV studios for five consecutive days, and she had no time for the rehearsal of a song composed by Kiurshid Anwar. Learning about it, my brother used the voice of Asha Bhosley, which he found equally effective to convey the nuances of his composition. Lata did not show any contempt for Khurshid Anwar for his inability to sing or play an instrument as narrated by the author of her biography.

A majority of Khurshid Anwar compositions are heard and enjoyed even today for their sonic freshness and enduring impact. His songs have the irresistible appeal of the sentiment of love and tender pahtos. They also radiate matchless beauty of music true to nature and daring in invention, and are as captivating to a child as to the sophisticatec grown up individuals. The more often one listens to his compositions, the more meaning he/she reads into their melodies. One's aesthetic experience gets enriched and stimulated after a listening session. His varied pieces are original in all respects and exhibit a marked individuality of style distinct from those of his illustrious contemporaries in the subcontinent.

The mortal Khurshid Anwar is no more but his immortal melodies continue to provide solace to millions of his fans in the Subcontinent.

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