T H E   R E S P L E N D E N T   R O S H A N

रहें न रहें हम, मेहका करेंगे,

बनके कली, बनके सबा, बाग़-ए-वफ़ा में। 

Rahen na rahen hum, mehka karenge,

Banke kali, banke sabaa, baagh-e-wafaa mein.

Like a whiff of serene morning breeze caressing a colourful cascade of blossoming buds and spreading their fragrance, the refulgent resplendence of master composer Roshan continues to dazzle even after its premature eclipse 50 years before when the maestro was just 50. Unfortunately, it dazzles only in the dark and dust-filled recesses of a few vintage music connoisseurs.

Let us admit it unabashedly; like some of his talented contemporaries, Roshan is a forgotten name today. There are only a few connoisseurs who still have a ravenous appetite for the Roshanous tuneful treat. To the others, particularly the present day generation moving with superluminal and supersonic speed, the name Roshan is just a shimmering star on the horizon of a faraway ‘alien’ planet called the Golden Era. It is unfortunate that today the Jaadu (magic) of his music is ‘seen’ in the reflected glory of his immensely talented and good-looking grandson Hrithik Roshan!

Musical Milieu

Roshan (full name Roshan Lal Nagrath) was born on July 14, 1917 at Gujranwala (now in Pakistan), in the undivided Punjab. Incidentally, the day marks the death anniversary of his equally skilled and sensitive contemporary, Madan Mohan. There sure was some divine musical connection between the two! Both of them had similar musical sensibilities, success ratio, life span and almost a parallel career graph though Roshan’s career was cut short!

Roshan belonged to a wealthy family engaged in civil construction business. From his childhood, he was fond of music and he also played the Harmonium.  He obtained his basic training in Hindustani music first at the tender age of eight from Master Manohar Barve and later from Pandit S N Ratanjanker in the Marris College (now Bhatkhande Music Institute) at Lucknow.

He learnt to play the Sarangi from Ustad Allaudin Khan and he also played what are now defunct instruments like the Esraj, Sarod and Dilruba with a deep sense of attachment. Mellifluous strains of the Sarangi and Sarod, and also of the Flute and Sitar, abound in many of his compositions which celebrated and cerebrated the Indo-Islamic synthesis.

Roshan had an abiding and lasting love for Urdu literature and poetry. This helped him in his composing career particularly in the composition of ghazal, nazm, mujra, qawali in each of which he reveled and excelled. His mastery in these genres elevated and enhanced the ambience and aura of historical films and Muslim socials for which Roshan was considered as the ideal choice of composer.

Before he turned a composer, his friend and composer Khwaja Khurshid Anwar (of Parwana and Singaar fame) employed him as a staff to play the Esraj in the AIR, Delhi of which he was the Programme Director (Music). Roshan worked there for about 10 years both as a musician and music teacher. There he met the talented singer Ira Moitra who had come for an audition and the two fell in love and got married later.

Dulcet Debut

Spotting his potential, legendary maestro Anil Biswas advised him not to waste his talent working as a musician. He asked him to come to Bombay which had better opportunities for budding talents like him. Roshan came to Mumbai after partition and worked initially as an assistant to Khurshid Anwar for a brief period.

Ace filmmaker Kidar Sharma, with a knack for spotting talent, gave Roshan his first break in Neki aur Badi (1949). The film starring himself with Madhubala and Geeta Bali did not fare well and the songs too went unnoticed. Roshan was mighty sensitive and of a nervous temperament; it is believed that in despair he almost went to commit suicide! Probably, the walk by the sea to calm the troubled mind was construed to be a lead-in to the drastic act.

Bawre Nain

As a further fillip to his promising career, Kidar Sharma gave one more opportunity to him and signed him for his next film Bawre Nain (1950). The distributors wanted Roshan to be removed out of the film or their money back. And, an unfazed Sharma agreed to return their money! 

The film starring Raj Kapoor and Geeta Bali was a moderate success but the songs became immensely popular and got him instant recognition: Teri duniya mein dil lagta nahin, Khayalon mein kisike, Mujhe sach sach batao,O eechak beechak chur, Sunn bairi balam sach bol. These songs have still retained their appeal and charm with the listeners. 

Khwaja Irfan Anwar, son of Khurshid Anwar, let me into a truth: the Punjab and Purvi folk based endearing entreaty Sunn bairi balam was ‘gifted’ to Roshan by his father. Incidentally, the song has a striking resemblance to yet another folk based romantic ditty of the maestro Kaisi murli bajaayi Shyam ne from the film Nishana (1950). Khurshid Anwar also ‘helped’ Roshan in films like Bawre Nain, Humlog, Malhar when he was wallowing in diffidence and low self esteem.

M3: Maestro ~ Melancholy ~ Mukesh

Roshan’s early despair and disenchantment could be discerned from the pathos laden songs that he composed like Teri duniya mein dil lagta nahin (Bawre Nain), Taara toote duniya dekhe, dekha na kisi ne dil toot gaya (Malhar), Sataayega kise tu aasmaan jab hum nahin honge (Shisham) and Hamen ae dil kahin le chal (Chandni Chowk).

All these self reflective and symbolically worded songs were sung by Mukesh whose voice is inextricably identified with melancholy. But, in no way, they projected the melodramatic and mawkish misery of the maestro.

Incidentally, Mukesh sang some of his career best songs for Roshan. Besides the above classics, the other melancholy filled melodies include songs like:

Malhar Dil tujhe diya tha rakhne ko
Humlog Dil ki pareshaniyan ishq ke veeraniyan
Shisham Ek jhoothi si tasalli woh mujhe deke chale
Mashooqa O dil na lagaana
Maine Jeena Seekh Liya Tere pyar ko is tarah se bhulana
Soorat aur Seerat Bahut diya denewale ne tujhko
Dil Hi To Hai Bhoole se mohabbat kar baitha
Dil Hi To Hai Dil jo bhi kahega maanenge
Devar Aaya hai mujhe phir yaad woh zaalim
Devar Baharon ne mera chaman lootkar
Anokhi Raat Ohre taal mile nadi ke jal se

These Mukesh memorabilia, marked by an innate introversion and spontaneous sadness, can rightly be described as a sentimental ode to the sensitive maestro. Whenever situation demanded, Roshan summoned Mukesh for recording and brought out the best in him right from the time he opened his ‘Bawre Nain’ till when they closed forever on the fateful ‘Anokhi Raat’ of 16 November, 1967.     

Incidentally, it was after the musical success of Bawre Nain that Mukesh entrusted the music of his own production Malhar to Roshan. Besides the songs immortalised by Mukesh, the film had some of the finest duets which he sang with Lata Mangeshkar: Bade armaanon se rakha hai balam, Ek baat agar main kehdoon, Kahan ho tum zara awaaz do.   

Kismat at Crossroad

Both Roshan and Shankar-Jaikishan were the first among the major composers to debut in the post independence era. Both of them got their break in 1949: Roshan with Kidar Sharma’s Neki aur Badi and Shankar-Jaikishan with Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat. For the record, it was Kidar Sharma who introduced Raj Kapoor (and also Madhubala) as the lead actor(s) in his film Neel Kamal (1947).

While the blockbuster Barsaat swept the entire nation with its catchy and captivating music, youthful effervescence and exuberance and the sizzling chemistry of the lead pair on screen, Neki aur Badi was left high and dry and sank without a trace. Shankar-Jaikishan achieved instant name and fame with the torrential success of Barsaat, whereas, an ill fated Roshan had to wait for eleven years till Barsaat Ki Raat for his first major commercial hit!

Phase of Fame  

However, the impressive music of his second film Bawre Nain (1950) made people take notice of Roshan and his composing craft and caliber. He went on to give music for films like Anhonee, Bedardi, Humlog, Malhar, Naubahar, Raag Rang, Sanskar, Sheesham which were released in the next two years. Some of these films were moderate successes and are still remembered for their immensely melodious music. Clearly, Roshan’s career was picking up and he had made his way to the league of big composers.

Flops and Frustration

More films released between 1953 ~ 1959 and unfortunately, despite melodious music, all of them fared badly: Agosh, Aji Bas Shukriya, Barati, Chandni Chowk, Ghar Ghar Mein Diwali, Heera Moti, Jashan, Madhu, Malkin, Mashooqa, Mehbooba, Rangeen Raaten, Taksaal, etc. Flops led to frustration; humility led to humiliation. It must have been quite agonising and demoralising when he was suddenly replaced by O P Nayyar in Mehbooba (1954) at the insistence of the distributors.

There were other non consequential films like Agra Road, C I D Girl, Coffee House with which it is difficult to associate a man of Roshan’s caliber and his music. Even the music in these films was not of his style. He probably did them out of compulsion or desperation. As a result, his music too suffered though there were some fleeting exceptions. By the end of the decade, his morale was down and he had almost lost his confidence.

As a matter of fact, Roshan was neither lucky in the matter of big banners, big stars (he never gave music for films of Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand) and box office hits nor did he have the business acumen very essential to survive in the film industry.

Individualistic – Ingenious – Insightful

Roshan’s films of the 50s are at best remembered for his individualistic creations, ingenious craftsmanship and insightful collage of musical genres. Of course, quite a few of his songs had a striking resemblance to those of Anil Biswas, a composer whom Roshan admired and held in great esteem. So moved was Roshan with the maestro’s composition Kahan tak hum uthaayen gham from Arzoo, that he used the tune in the background score of Bawre Nain. Many such inspirations were discerned in Roshan’s songs.    

Songs were heard mostly in the voices of three top singers like Mukesh, Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar. Again, Roshan seemed to be inspired by Anil Biswas in the choice of his singers. Other singers like Asha Bhosle, Geeta Dutt, Rajkumari, Shamshad Begum, Suraiya, Mohammed Rafi too formed a part of the Roshan repertoire in the 50s but in a limited way or the songs were incidental and, therefore, relatively less significant.

The Maestro and his Muse Mangeshkar

Roshan, like Anil Biswas and his equally sensitive contemporary composer friend Madan and a few others, had a special niche in the vocal lexicon of Lata Mangeshkar. When Roshan made his debut, Lata Mangeshkar was already a big name. Yet, she did not decline to sing for him the way she did to Madan Mohan going by his military background and western outlook. In fact, Lata Mangeshkar stood sentinel with her vocals for Roshan to develop his musical wings and reach exalted heights.

Lata Mangeshkar first sang for Roshan in Malhar and Humlog and went on to sing some of her career best till his last film. She sang for him songs of myriad moods including a sole Qawali (with Asha Bhosle and Shamshad Begum in Chandni Chowk) and fun duet (with Mohammed Rafi in Chhora Chhori). But, the divinity in her voice suited more his sensitive and soulful compositions with all the sweet and subtle nuances.

Roshan was the first composer to put the Meera mantle on Lata Mangeshkar.  Roshan had created a unique tune to Meerabai’s psalm (screen adaptation by Satyendra Athaiya) Ae ri main to prem diwani in Raag Bhimpalasi to go on Nalini Jaywant for the film Naubahar. The song was rendered with bhakti and shakti by Lata Mangeshkar and finds a niche in the Top Ten Songs she selected on her completing 25 years of playback singing in 1967. The song also ranks among the Top Ten bhajans heard in Hindi films.

From among her favourite and successful composers, Lata Mangeshkar handpicked Roshan and entrusted him with the music of her film titled Bhairavi in 1956. Unfortunately, the film was never made.

A select list of Top 30 nostalgic nuggets embellished by the honey sweet vocal resilience of the nuanced Nightingale is given below:

         30 Resplendent Gems of Roshan ~ Lata Mangeshkar

Name of Film Year Song
Humlog 1951 Chali ja chali ja chali ja, chhodke duniya, ghamon ki duniya
Malhar 1951 Mohabbat ki qismat banaane se pehle
Anhonee 1952 Is dil ki haalat kya kahiye, jo shaad bhi hai nashaad bhi hai
Naubahar 1952 Ae ri main to prem diwani, mera dard na jaane koyi
Naubahar 1952 Kahan hai tu kahan hai, meri duniya lootnewale
Raag Rang 1952 Yahi bahaar hai duniya ko bhool jaane ki
Sheesham 1952 Banaayi hai itni badi jisne duniya
Agosh 1953 Mohabbat ek shola hai, bachaa daaman zamaane
Malkin 1953 Mohabbat ne kya kya tamaashe dikhaaye
Baraati 1954 Aa phir se mere pyar ki qismat sanwaar de
Chandni Chowk 1954 Aa jaaye jaanewale, laut aayin bahaaren
Mehbooba 1954 Aa ke ab aata nahin dil ko qaraar
Ghar Ghar Mein Diwali 1955 Kahan kho gayi hai bahaar aate aate
Jashn 1955 Dard-e-dil tu hi bataa
Taksaal 1956 Brij ke nandlala, Radha ke sanwariya
Aji Bas Shukriya 1957 Saari saari raat teri yaad sataaye
Madhu 1959 Bataa de koyi kaun gali gaye Shyam
Barsaat Ki Raat 1960 Mujhe mil gaya bahaana teri deed ka
Aarti 1962 Kabhi to milegi, kahin to milegi, baharon ki manzil raahi
Zindagi aur Hum 1962 Tu humko dekh aur hamaari nazar se dekh
Taj Mahal 1963 Jurm-e-ulfat pe hamen log sazaa dete hain
Chitralekha 1964 Sansaar se bhaage phirte ho
Dooj Ka Chand 1964 Pade barkha phuhaar, kare jiyara pukaar
Bheegi Raat 1965 Dil jo na keh saka
Devar 1965 Duniya mein aisa kahan sabka naseeb hai
Mamta 1966 Rahen na rahen hum mehka karenge
Mamta 1966 Rehte the kabhi jinke dil mein
Bahu Begum 1967 Duniya kare sawaal to hum kya jawab den
Noorjahan 1967 Raat ki mehfil sooni sooni
Anokhi Raat 1968 Mehlon ka raja mila, tumhari beti raj karegi

Successful Sixties

The second phase of Roshan in the 60s was a successful one. The thundering popularity of his ghazals and qawalis from the film Barsaat Ki Raat (1960) brought copious rains of commercial success to him. Alas, this success was short-lived. While still at his creative peak, his life and career were cut short callously by cruel death on the tragic Anokhi Raat of November 16, 1967.         

In the eight years that he lived in that decade, Roshan created a special niche for himself with his matured and memorable music in a wide variety of films: Historicals and Muslim socials like Babar, Bahu Begum, Barsaat Ki Raat, Dil Hi To Hai, Noorjahan, Taj Mahal; Musical socials based on literary works like Aarti, Chitralekha, Devar, Mamta; Family melodramas and tearjerkers like Bedaag, Bheegi Raat, Daadimaa, Dooj Ka Chand, Soorat aur Seerat; Socially relevant films like Anokhi Raat, Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal.  

Roshanous Rafi

Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh always had a special niche in Roshan’s oeuvre; and also Mohammed Rafi. But, in the 50s, he was heard fleetingly in some flippant and fun filled as also folk based songs like:

Chhora Chhori ~ Khaali jeben hon kadki ho, mera dil maange woh ladki ho (a brilliant blend of the oriental and occidental in both melody and rhythm; variations galore and ‘breathtaking’ rendering in rap style);

Maine Jeena Seekh Liya ~ Aji maine poochha aapko huzoor kya hua;

Duets with Asha Bhosle like:

Jashn Bade khoobsurat, bade woh haseen hain rehash of Mohabbat ne kya kya tamaashe
Jashn Maarenge kas kas ke baan a blend of Purvi and Punjab’s Bedaar ang
Aji Bas Shukriya O daata.. de humko bhi ek pyaara bangla
Aji Bas Shukriya Kadki tera hi naam clerki
C I D Girl Loshe jhooth nahin loot nahin
C I D Girl Badi buland meri bhabhi ki pasand recyled as Khanke to khanke kyon khanke
Maine Jeena… Itni si baat pe bigad gaye

Duets with Geeta Dutt:

Agra Road Unse rippi tippi ho gayi
Agra Road Duniya ki nazar hai buri a blend of Tappa ~ Mahiya of Bedaar ang
Do Roti Ghirke barse ye ghatayen to maza aa jaaye

Duets with Kishore Kumar:

Malkin Dhoti aur patloon mein ik din hui ladaayi
Malkin Kahin se oonchi, kahin se neeche

All these songs, which came between 1953 ~ 59, have shades of the style of C Ramchandra and O P Nayyar both in their melody and rhythm structure.  These songs, no doubt, brought out his versatility but somehow they did not match his musical sensitivities and sensibilities. They seemed to be more experimental and exploratory, situational and / or random submissions to the commercial diktats which diluted the purity and sanctity of his music idiom.

There were a few duets with Lata Mangeshkar too: Falak milega tujhe kya mujhe mitaane se (Ghar Ghar Mein Diwali) Bahut aasan hai chilman se lagkar muskurana (Rangeen Raaten), Tumse lagan laagi haay aisi agan jaagi (Madhu), a playful and pleasing conversational duet Aa bedardi baalma preet ka karen hisaab (Chhora Chhori) to name a few.

The sole Roshan ~ Rafi heartstopper of the 50s was Zameen bhi wohi hai, wohi asmaan (Chandni Chowk) echoing the agony and pain of those afflicted in the 1857 mutiny. Incidentally, Chandni Chowk was the first Muslim social for which Roshan composed and some of his popular ghazals and nazms of the 60s have their genesis in this forgotten number.   

The 60s were marked by glitz, glamour and gaiety and enlivened and enraptured by snow clad mountains, smoky valleys, silvery lakes, serene landscapes, Shankar-Jaikishan, Shammi Kapoor and other sugary stars. The real star of the decade was Mohammed Rafi who ruled the roost with his ‘ruffian’ rhapsodies as well as romantic raptures.

It was in this forbidding and intimidating cold and colourful set up that Mohammed Rafi became the mainstay of Roshan’s repertoire in the 60s. What is amazing is Roshan came to completely rely on Rafi after taking him less seriously in the earlier decade when the master singer was heard fleetingly in fun filled and flippant songs. Some of the Rafi ~ Roshan songs gems are enlisted below:

Top 20 Resplendent Gems of Roshan ~ Rafi

Name of Film Year Song
Chandni Chowk 1954 Zameen bhi wohi hai, wohi asmaan
Babar 1960 Tum ek baar mohabbat ka imtehan to lo
Barsaat Ki Raat 1960 Maine shayad tumhen pehle bhi kahin dekha hai
Barsaat Ki Raat 1960 Mayoos to hoon waade se tere
Barsaat Ki Raat 1960 Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi wo barsaat ki raat
Aarti 1962 Ab kya misaal doon main tumhare shabab ki
Vallah Kya Baat Hai 1962 Gham-e-hasti se begaana hota
Taj Mahal 1963 Jo baat tujhmein hai teri tasveer mein nahin
Chitralekha 1963 Mann re tu kaahe na dheer dhare
Dooj Ka Chand 1964 Mehfil se uth jaanewalo tum logon par kya ilzaam
Bedaag 1965 Zindagi ke mod pe jo koyi raasta mila
Bheegi Raat 1965 Dil jo na keh saka, wohi raaz-e-dil kehni ki raat aayi
Bheegi Raat 1965 Jaane woh kaun hai, kya naam hai un ankhon ka
Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal 1965 Aaj ki raat badi shokh badi natkhat hai
Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal 1965 Swapn jhare phool se…. carvaan guzar gaya
Daadimaa 1966 Jaata hoon main mujhe ab na bulaana
Bahu Begum 1967 Hum intzaar karenge
Bahu Begum 1967 Log kehte hain ke hum tumse kinara kar len
Noorjahan 1967 Woh mohabbat woh wafaayen kis tarah hum bhool jaayen
Anokhi Raat 1968 Mile na phool to kaanton se dosti karli

Most of the above songs were filmed on aging stars like Bharat Bhushan and Pradeep Kumar in historical films and Muslim socials or on relatively lesser known younger stars like Kashinath Ghanekar and Parikshit Sahni. Yet, Roshan, aided by the magical mass touch of Mohammed Rafi, held his sway in the 60s with his characteristic class touch.

Roshan alternated between three prominent female singers in the duets that Rafi sang. Some of the popular duets are enlisted below: 

Duets of Mohammed Rafi ~ Asha Bhosle of the 60s:

Aarti Jo teer dil pe chala woh teri kamaan mein hai + plus two more
Bahu Begum Hum intzaar karenge, hum intzaar karenge
Bedaag Ankhon ankhon mein na jaane kya ishaare ho gaye
Chitralekha Chhaa gaye baadal neel gagan par
Mamta In baharon mein akele na phiro
Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal Aaj ki raat badi shokh badi natkhat hai
Noorjahan Aap jab se kareeb aaye hain, pyar ke rang dil pe chhaaye hain
Vallah Kya Baat Hai Khanke to khanke kyon khanke jab raat ko chamke taare

Duets of Mohammed Rafi ~ Lata Mangeshkar of the 60s:

Aarti Aap ne yaad dilaya to mujhe yaad aaya
Aarti Baar baar tohe kya samjhaaye paayal ki jhankaar
Barsaat Ki Raat Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat
Taj Mahal Jo waada kiya woh nibhaana padega
Taj Mahal Paon chhoo lene do phoolon ko inaayat hogi

Duets of Mohammed Rafi ~ Suman Kalyanpur of the 60s:

Bedaag Maine ae jaan-e-wafaa tumse mohabbat ki hai
Bheegi Raat Aise to na dekho ke behak jaayen kahin
Dooj Ka Chand Chand takta hai idhar aao kahin chhup jaayen
Mamta Rahen na rahen hum mehka karenge

Other Singers

Though Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi were his favourites, Roshan used judiciously the vocals of other singers too and brought out the best in them particularly singers like: Rajkumari, Talat Mahmood, Manna Dey, Suman Kalyanpur and Asha Bhosle.

Rajkumari was his first muse in his debut film Neki aur Badi. Roshan gave her a new identity through the folk based Bawre Nain’s endearing entreaty Sunn bairi balam sach bol with the special stress on the dialect ‘ib’ which enhances the appeal of the song.

Roshan was among the initial composers to place the vocals of Talat Mahmood on the visages of the Kapoor brothers: Raj Kapoor (Main dil hoon ek armaan bhara, Ye jhilmil karte hue deeye and the two duets with Lata Mangeshkar Mere dil ki dhadkan kya bole and Samaake dil mein hamaare zara khayal rahe from Anhonee) and Shammi Kapoor (the teasing duet with Lata Mangeshkar Aji humko hai tumse pyar).

Besides these, Talat Mahmood sang some of the finest ghazals for Roshan: Kisi surat lagi dil ki behal jaaye to achha ho (Naubahar), Mohabbat ke jhoothe sahaaron ne loota (Sanskar), Mere khayalon mein aake gale lagaa ja mujhe (Gunah), Aur hai dil ki lagi aur dil lagaana aur hai (Raag Rang) and Unko aata hai pyar pe gussa (in a semi qawali mould from Malkin). The last mentioned film had a classic Talat – Lata duet Matt chhed zindagi ke khamosh taar so ja. Roshan, all of a sudden drifted away from Talat once he became a singing star after Dil-e-Nadaan in 1953.

Roshan first used the vocals of Suman Kalyanpur in female duets like: folk oriented Kaun rang mungva (with Sudha Malhotra in Heera Moti); classical Garjat barsat sawan aayo re (with Kamal Barot in Barsaat Ki Raat); mujra styled Na na na re na na, haath na lagana (with Minoo Purshottam in Taj Mahal) and Jhaankti hai meri ankhon se qaza tham tham ke (with Shyama Hemmadi in Dooj Ka Chand), nautanki flavoured Mere saiyyan gulabiya ka phool (with Minoo Purshottam in Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal).  

As mentioned before, Suman Kalyanpur sang a couple of duets with Mohammed Rafi in films like Bedaag, Bheegi Raat, Dooj Ka Chand, Mamta. All these films came in the mid 60s when Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar had a disagreement on the royalty issue and had fallen out (albeit for a brief period of two years). And for all the Rafi duets of the time, Roshan opted for either Asha Bhosle or Suman Kalyanur. 

However, the best of Suman Kalyanpur for Roshan remains Sharabi sharabi ye sawan ka mausam (Noorjahan) and Yoon hi dil ne chaaha tha rona rulana (Dil Hi To Hai); the duet version Chura le na tumko ye mausam suhana of the latter was rendered by Mukesh and Suman Kalyanpur.

Asha Bhosle sang a number of western oriented songs in B or C grade films of Roshan in the 50s and 60s and none of them became popular. But, she was at her vivacious best when she sang songs in the mujra, qawali and folk genres: Nikle the kahan jaane ke liye (Bahu Begum) and Mohabbat ho gayi hai mere mehrbaan ko (Noorjahan), Nigaahen milaane ko jee chaahta hai (Dil Hi To Hai), Meri beri ke ber matt todo (Anokhi Raat).

All these songs have a classical base which was a forte of Roshan. And, when one makes a mention of his songs in the classical mould, the song that comes first to mind is the Bhairavi based philosophical number Laaga chunri mein daagh (Dil Hi To Hai). All the songs in the Raj Kapoor starrer were by Mukesh. But, for this Bhairavi composition, Roshan summoned the classically accomplished consummate singer Manna Dey; the song ranks among some of the career best of the singer.  

Manna Dey sang a couple of fun loving songs too like Maara gaya brahmachari (Chitralekha), Phul gendva na maaro (Dooj Ka Chand), Haay re main to prem diwana (Bedaag) to name a few. And, who can forget the ode to motherhood: Usko nahin dekha humne kabhi (with Mahendra Kapoor in Daadimaa)

Both Asha Bhosle and Manna Dey and also Sudha Malhotra were regular voices in a musical genre in which Roshan had a strong grip and which he popularised unstintingly i.e. Qawali.  

Qawali King

Roshan’s art and craft of composing Qawalis had its genesis in his very first film Neki aur Badi:  Hamen na roko hamen unke paas jaane do (Amirbai and a male singer). This was followed by Humko kisise kyon hai mohabbat na poochhiye (the only qawali by Lata Mangeshkar which she shared with Asha Bhosle and Shamshad Begum in Chandni Chowk), Agar ae dil tu laila ke gale ka haar ho jaaye (Ghar Ghar Mein Diwali), Farishta ho to behak jaaye and Ye jo nazren jhukaaye jaate hain (Do Roti) of the 50s which, however, did not create any impact. Also the fun song Khaali jeben hon, kadki ho (Chhora Chhori) has a portion in the stanza in qawali style.

Roshan was hailed as the ‘Qawali King’ unparalleled only after the success of Barsaat Ki Raat. Roshan brought together an ensemble of mainstream singers: Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey, Asha Bhosle, Sudha Malhotra, Balbir, Batish and popular qawwals like Shankar-Shambhu, Bande Hasan for his qawali based songs. The popular qawalis post Barsaat Ki Raat are enlisted below:

Barsaat Ki Raat Naa to carvaan ki talash hai… Ye ishk ishk hai (mother of all qawalis)
Barsaat Ki Raat Jee chaahta hai choomlun apni nazar ko main
Barsaat Ki Raat Nigah-e-naaz ke maaron ka haal kya hoga
Babar Haseenon ke jalwe pareshan rehte, agar hum na hote
Taj Mahal Chaandi ka badan sone ki nazar, us par ye nazaaqat kya kahiye
Dil Hi To Hai Parda uthe salaam ho jaaye, baat ban jaaye kaam  ho jaaye
Dil Hi To Hai Nigaahen milaane ko jee chaahta hai
Bahu Begum Ab jaan balab hoon shiddat-e-dard-e-nihaan se main
Bahu Begum Waaqif hoon khoob ishk ke tarz-e-bayaan se main

Roshan had an abiding and lasting love for Urdu poetry and literature.  Most of these qawalis were penned by great Urdu poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi. The potent combination of the musical genius of Roshan and the wild lyrical secularism of Sahir demonstrated amply the mating of minds and melding of thoughts of two culture and religion. This Indo-Islamic synthesis or the musico-lyrical fusion of the two geniuses guide and lead the listeners to a spiritual communion with the saints, with the Prophet and eventually with God! It’s an ecstatic journey from the ishq-e-majaazi (love for mankind) to ishq-e-haqeeqi (love for God) i.e from humanity to divinity!

Credit goes to Roshan for getting the Qawali out of its ‘Roadside Romeo’ image to the drawing rooms of the elite and gentry and further elevating it to ethereal heights. He gave a new dimension and dignity, regality and respectability to this form of music and a set a trend which continues to this day in the name of ‘sufiyana music’.


Each composer had his favourite Raga and based his compositions on that particular Raga. Some of them did not have classical grounding but composed subconsciously in some Raga. Roshan, with all his classical background, based many of his songs in Yaman or Yaman Kalyan.

Roshan used the popular bandish in Yaman: Ae ri aali piya bin and embellished it with appropriate orchestration in the film Raag Rang (1952). It was rendered by Lata Mangeshkar. Other popular compositions of Roshan based on Yaman or Yaman Kalyan include Salaam-e-hasrat kubool karlo (Babar), Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat (Barsaat Ki Raat), Mann re tu kaahe na dheer dhare (Chitralekha), Dil jo na keh saka (Bheegi Raat), Chhupalo yoon dil mein pyar mera (Mamta), Bhoole se mohabbat kar baitha, Dil jo bhi kahega maanenge, Tum agar mujhko na chaaho to koyi baat nahin, Tumhari mast nazar, Nigaahen milaane ko ji chaahta hai (all the five from Dil Hi To Hai) to name a few.

  • Chhupaalo yoon dil mein pyar mera
  • Dil jo na keh saka
  • Mann re tu kaahe na dheer dhare
  • Nigahen milaane ko ji chaahta hai
  • Tum agar mujhko na chaaho to koyi baat nahin
  • Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat


PENchant for Poetry

In an illustrious career spanning eighteen years, Roshan worked with a number of lyricists ranging from Kidar Sharma, D N Madhok, Pradeep, Bharat Vyas, P L Santoshi to Zia Sarhady, Khumar Barabankvi, Naqshab, Sardar Jafri to Kaif Irfani, Vishwamitra Adil, Udhhav Kumar, Satyendra Athaiya to Prem Dhawan, Indivar, Rajendra Krishan, Shailendra, Anand Bakshi, Neeraj to Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni and Kaifi Azmi.

Roshan’s deep understanding of the Indo-Islamic musical synthesis helped him give greater ‘meaning’ to the rich content and intent of a number of songs of different genres. His poetic compositions, particularly, in the historical and Muslim socials and films based on literary works were, arguably, a cut above the commonplace. Accordingly, his teaming up with prolific writers with a literary flourish and poetic panache like Kidar Sharma, Indivar, Shailendra, Majrooh and Sahir was more rewarding artistically, emotionally and commercially.

Timeless Tunes

Consciously or otherwise, Roshan had this fondness of delving into his musical repertoire and unearthing some of his earlier creations which did not receive acclaim and justice commercially. In the successful phase of his career in the 60s, he composed a few ‘new’ songs by changing the notes, scales, orchestration and also singers of some of his older tunes which did not become popular then.

Name of Film Original Tune (of 50s) Name of Film Inspired Tune (of 60s)
Neki aur Badi Hamen na roko Barsaat Ki Raat Nigaah-e-naaz ke maaron ka
Malhar Garjat barsat beejat aayi lo Barsaat Ki Raat Garjat barsat sawan aayo re
Humlog Bahe ankhiyon se dhaar Dooj Ka Chand Pade barkha phuhaar
Chandni Chowk Tera dil kahan hai Mamta Rahen na rahen hum
Ghar Ghar Mein Kahan kho gayi hai bahar aate 2 Aarti Kabhi to milegi, kahin to milegi
Baraati Aa phir se mere pyar ki qismat Zindagi aur Hum Tu humko dekh aur hamari
Do Roti Tumre kaaran hamaar jiya jaay Devar Roothe saiyyan hamare saiyyan
Madhu Kaahe bano ji anjaan jaadu Devar Duniya mein aisa kahan
C I D Girl Badi buland meri bhabhi ki Vallah Kya Baat Khanke to khanke kyon khanke
Maine Jeena … Tere pyar ko is tarah se bhulana Devar Baharon ne mera chaman
Babar Payaam-e-ishk-o-mohabbat Aarti Aap ne yaad dilaya to mujhe
Barsaat Ki Raat Kya gham jo andheri raahen Dil Hi To Hai Bhoole se mohabbat kar baitha
Barsaat Ki Raat Ji chaahta hai choomlun Bahu Begum Waaqif hoon khoob ishk ke…
(Qawali) Ab jaan balab hoon

This trait and trend indicates that Roshan was probably aware of the ‘lack of mass appeal’ in many of his earlier compositions so very essential for commercial acceptance. Therefore, he adapted and recycled some of these potent and / or closer to heart older tunes and presented them in a more appealing and delightful garb in tune with the changing times and trends. And this experiment paid off; as envisaged, many of these ‘inspired’ and ‘improvised’ adaptations became relatively more popular than their older versions. Roshan got the much awaited ‘commercial recognition’ post Barsaat Ki Raat when both his fresh as well as ‘inspired’ adaptations had that ‘mass appeal’ and the class appeal!

Interestingly, there were a couple of songs of the 60s that Roshan based on his popular tunes of the 50s. Unfortunately, despite the improvisations, these songs did not become as popular. One such striking song is Chheen liya re beimaan mera dil from Zindagi aur Hum (1962). This was based on the immensely popular song Saari saari raat teri yaad sataaye from Aji Bas shukriya (1958) but failed to create the magic of the original.

Similarly, the Mujra style song Kasam hai tujhe meri in aansuon ki sung by Asha Bhosle from Noorjahan (1967) has the same feel, mood, situation, tune and, to some extent, lyrics of its relatively more popular version Kaha hai unhone ye raaz-e-mohabbat sung by Lata Mangeshkar from Anhonee (1952). Despite rich orchestration, lyrics and rendering, the song did not become popular.

Roshan based his Suman Kalyanpanur-Shyama Hemmadi duet Jhaankti hai meri ankhon se qazaa tham tham ke from Dooj Ka Chand (1964) on his relatively more popular qawali: Parda uthe salaam ho jaaye sung by Manna Dey and Asha Bhosle in Dil Hi To Hai (1963). 

Roshan made a tryst with such experimentation in the 50s itself and adapted or recycled his tunes in the same decade and at shorter interval but without any remarkable outcome. For instance:

The playful duet Bade khoobsurat, bade woh haseen hain sung by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle in Jashn (1955) was an upbeat version of the wistful Mohabbat ne kya kya tamaashe dikhaaye sung by Lata Mangeshkar in Malkin (1953);  

The sentimental duet Falak milega tujhe kya mujhe mitaane se sung by Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar in Ghar Ghar Mein Diwali (1955) was based on the breezy Yahi bahaar hai duniya ko bhool jaane ki sung by Lata Mangeshkar in Raag Rang (1952).  

As mentioned earlier, Roshan tasted success only after Barsaat Ki Raat. The success of the film and the immense popularity of its songs catapulted Roshan to greater glory after which he never looked back. Unfortunately, the successful career was terminated when he died young at the age of 50 in 1967. He had gone to attend a party hosted by Hari Valia (director of Coffee House, Vallah Kya Baat Hai and Latt Sahab) on 16 November, 1967. After a drink or two, he complained of chest pain and collapsed there on that fateful anokhi raat, never to see again the next Roshanous dawn! Roshan is gone; the Resplendence is on!! 

Anokhi Raat was the last film of Roshan and was released in 1968 after his death. Roshan had recorded all the songs before he died just leaving incomplete the recording of the theme song which we now hear in the form of Mehlon ka raja mila. It is believed that Asit Sen, the director of the film was contemplating to get the theme song done by Salil Chaudhary. But, a brave Ira Roshan, then still in a state of shock, insisted and took upon herself the mantle of recording the song as the tune had already been readied by Roshan. The song was finally recorded in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar under the supervision of Ira Roshan. That was the swan song of Roshan.   

Roshan’s two sons Rakesh Roshan and Rajesh Roshan were young then; soon, they too followed his footsteps and joined films. Both are highly successful and respected names of great reckoning in the field of film making and film music respectively. Though Rajesh Roshan’s music is quite distinct from that of Roshan, yet quite a few songs have some shades of his illustrious father. Greater glory and resplendence was added to the already ‘Roshan’ family by Hrithik Roshan, son of Rakesh Roshan.

Roshan’s compositions are remembered today for their dulcet tunes imbued with rich melody, their structural simplicity, sensitivity, artistic finesse, classy orchestration and rich poetry by prolific writers and fine rendering by top singers of his times. Roshan was versatile (but his versatility was never talked about as in the case of some his more successful seniors and contemporaries). He excelled in whatever he created as indicated by the random list:

Genre Song 1 Song 2 Song 3
Geet Bade armaanon se rakha hai
Jo waada kiya wo nibhana
Chhupalo yoon dil mein
Bhajan Ae ri main to prem diwani Brij ke nandlala Bataa do koyi kaun gali gaye
Ghazal Mohabbat ke jhoothe Rehte the kabhi jinke dil mein Mile na phool to kaanton se
Nazm Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi Khuda-e-bartar teri zameen par Swapn jhare phool se
Qawali Na to carvaan ki talash hai Nigaahen milaane ko Chandi ka badan sone ki nazar
Mujra Roothe saiyyan Chaahe to mora jiya laile Nikle the kahan jaane ke liye
Folk Sunn bairi balam sach bol Kaun rang mungva Ohre taal mile nadi ke jal se
Fun Bogi bogi bogi Khaali jeben hon kadki ho Phul gendva na maaro
Classical Mann re Kaahe tarsaaye jiyara Laaga chunri mein daag

Roshan won the Filmfare Award for Best Music only once for his memorable scores in the monumental Taj Mahal in 1963 though he richly deserved many more for his brilliant scores in films like Barsaat Ki Raat, Chitralekha and Mamta.

Roshan died young at the age of 50; it is now a full 50 years without him.

A musical tribute in fond memory of Roshan was organised by KEEP ALIVE in November 1997 on the occasion of his 30th death anniversary  The function was graced by the entire Roshan family. While Ira Roshan (wife of the maestro) and her sons re-experienced the maestro’s resplendent past, for the young Hrithik it was a discovery of a new world and values in music. In a short and sweet speech, punctuated with proper pauses, Hrithik said, “I never got to see my grandfather in person. I have also never been on stage, so I‘m a little shaky. But, being here this evening, seeing all of you people come here celebrating my grandfather’s works, I feel I know a little more of him and feel a little closer. I don’t know if people believe in spirits but I have a feeling of him being present here with us. I thank you all for coming here”.

A full twenty years later, to commemorate the twin occasions of his 50th death anniversary and his birth centenary, KEEP ALIVE dedicated two more musical tributes to the maestro in May 2017.

It is 50 years since Roshan passed away but the music world still remains and will remain eternally Roshan because of the timeless legacy of rich resplendent musical scores left behind by the maestro.

हमने कितने दीप जलाये फिर भी धुंधला था आंगन,

तेरे गीतों के दीपक से सारी दुनिया है रौशन

Humne kitne deep jalaaye phir bhi dhundhla tha aangan;

 Tere geeton ke deepak se saari duniya hai ROSHAN.  

Manohar ‘Mohabbat’ Iyer

PS: Some of the photographs are from Google while the others from personal collection.

Manohar Iyer

The author Manohar Iyer

Manohar Iyer breathes, eats, drinks, sleeps, walks and talks nothing but music. Through his brain-child Keep Alive and the recent offsprings thereof, he has been striving to resurrect the Golden Era of Hindi Films and Film Music and perpetuate the great cinematic and musical works of the legendary filmmakers, maestros. lyricists, singers, actors and others. For more details, kindly see 'About Us'.


  1. Simply marvelous and elaborately informative writing about my all time favourite music director. I have never heard a bhairavi like laga chunari mein daag and will never hear one better than it in rest of my life., I have been singing it for over 40 years in all our friends n family functions on unanimous demand . deeply appreciated by all every time and I give its credit 5% to my voice and rendering and 95% to roshan for its creation. Excellent article worth printing and preserving for posterity- thank you Manohar for enlightening me of many facets of this great maestro. May god in the form of Roshan bless you Manohar. You made my day.

  2. Manohar ji,
    Excellent piece of writing.
    Your highlighting puts the ROSHAN on this very sensitive and great composer.
    More strength to you to continue on these
    great maeostreos!!!!

    Anant. Bharadwaj

  3. A very exhaustive narrative of Roshan’s multifaceted talent in composing all kinds of MUSIC. Shri Manohar Iyer, has given a great insight into the life and times of Roshan, truly a forgotten legend. While it has brought back rightly the deserved memories of Roshan, we are fortunate to have someone like Shri Manohar ji with such passion and in depth knowledge of Bollywood who enlightens us on our forgotten treasure.

    1. Thank you Sastry. Just a humble effort at exploring the tuneful treasure trove of legends like Roshan and others ~ some forgotten and some unforgivably unsung.

  4. Sir…Superb wrute up on thus genius…I presonally love all musical creations of Roshan ji…The music in Bheegi Raat and Taj Mahal are my special favourires….Sometimes I wonder …which us overpowering me and more overwhelmimg. Is it his music or your description of his music….Granted that music is original…but none the less the power of description can not be underestimated.. It is a double treat for music lovers like us…
    Thank you so much Sir and Regards..

    1. Thank you very much sir. Legends like Roshan inspire us to highlight their great musical works and bring to fore front little known facts about them and their music. I have just unearthed the hidden treasure which lay buried under the dust of time.

  5. Hi Manohar
    What a superb piece of writing with such details. I wonder how you have this kind of analytical mind. Kudos to the article. Why don’t you send this to some film magazine or music based magazine for wider audience. Some may use for research in these areas. All the best.

    1. Ha ha ha…Ganesh, you very well know the statistical bent that I had when in IDBI, pushing paper and crunching number; that also honed the analytical skills. Just putting them to use in a different field. Thank You dear friend.

  6. What an insightful article! This comprehensive write up encapsulates the whole work of Roshanji superbly. His association with various Singers, his knowledge and mastery over poetry and musical instruments, ability to create different genres in music, his complete career graph……. ohhh! You have left no stone unturned.

    Every list of song is thoughtfully, carefully analysed and categorised. You have covered the vast canvas of his work so systemically. Also the way Roshanji’s Versatility is brought forward, he will be etched in the mind of music lovers forever , though it is a sad part that he remained underrated in the industry.

    Yes! KEEP ALIVE has given the best tribute to Roshan sahab in the past and recently in 2017.
    Manoharji, I appreciate your effort, observation and knowledge in Hindi Cinema and it’s music which makes this article complete in every aspect and every sense. Brilliant!!
    Great to see the legend still ‘ living ‘ through your efforts. A composer of Roshanji’s calibre deserves this kind of recognition and adulation
    Thank you very much for enriching our knowledge in this field.

    1. Hazaaron saal nargis apni benoori ko roti hai,
      Badi mushqil se hota hai chaman mein deedawar paida.

      You seem to have gone thru the write up from top to bottom, assimilated his musical works and then analysed the genius. Your preparation on the initial five films of the maestro for the seminar also must have added to your already rich repertoire on Roshan.

      Thank you very much.

  7. Fantastic and comprehensive biography of the Great maestro ! Such elaborate detail presented so beautifully ! Will be of great use to all in his family and to all who want to pay tributes to him! Kudos !

  8. Manoharji, a beautiful article covering the life n times of Roshan, his creative work and a very sensitive analysis of his career & creations from beginning to end in a very thorough scholarly manner as only you could do. You have analysed not only each n every film of his but also songs & singers, presenting the lists of impeccable songs from his films with singers.
    What a pleasure it was listening to your oratory and in-depth analysis of Roshan’s music at BARC recently. How I wished that you could have completed your lecture on Roshan without anty time constraint.
    Kudos to you Sir.

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