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‘Aye Ghame Dil Kya Karoon’ – Sardar Malik

09 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Sardar Malik. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

The history of Indian cinema can boast of many gifted composers like Ghulam MohammadHansraj Behl, Snehal Bhatkar, S.Mohindar, Ajeet Merchant, Ramlal, Jaidev, Iqbal Qureshi, Dan Singh and G.S.Kohli who grabbed every given opportunity to compose melodious tunes that won over the hearts of their audiences but alas this could not catapult their career graphs to the zenith they so deserved. The reason probably being, that, they didn’t know how to market themselves. Among such celebrities was a composer whose career was shot down before it could take flight because of ego clashes of two bigwigs of the Hindi film music. This extremely talented but unfortunate composer was Sardar Malik, whom I met during the third week of April 2004 in Mumbai at his Juhu Tara Road’s North Bombay Society flat.  During this interview, taken for Hindi Weekly Sahara Samay’s column kya bhooloon kya yaad karoon, he spoke very uninhibitedly about various aspects of his life. 
 
Born on 13 January 1930 in Kapurthala-Panjab, Sardar Malik’s father used to undertake painting contracts and his mother hailed from a rich seigneur family of Lahore who was called the Bhati Rajputs. According to Sardar Malik, his pseudonym ‘Malik’ comes from the maternal side of his family. He was fond of music since early childhood. His friend ‘Prakash’ had taught him to play the harmonium and to sing and at the very tender age of 7, he had started tutoring children of courtiers of the Kapurthala Maharaj’s court. As per Sardar Malik, he used to get a fee of Rs. 5 per month from every house he taught at.
 
Sardar Malik.  Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
When electricity came in the last years of the 1930’s decade, Sardar Malik’s father took on contracts of laying electricity cables in people’s houses. According to him, “Every afternoon, I used to bring lunch for my father. And it so happened that once I had to go to the house of Kapurthala’s famous harlot Mubarak and there I heard her singing the song jiya mera lehraye chhaai kaali ghata. I liked that song so much that I decided to learn classical music. Everyone at home was dead against my decision and hence one day, very quietly, I left home and went afoot to Lahore.
 
Laila Majnu from Cinemaazi archive
 
In fact at Mubarak’s house, Sardar Malik had met a patron of Mubarak who lived in Lahore and was a barrister by profession. As per Sardar Malik, “he had given me his address and had told me that if I am ever in need of anything, I should come and meet him. It was winter and I spent three cold nights, covering myself under carpets, at the masjids that were along the way to Lahore.  On reaching Lahore, with a lot of hope, I met barrister sahib but he immediately spurned me away. Once again facing the same difficult conditions, I made my way back to Kapurthala, camping at Masjid’s along the way and on reaching home found that my family had given in to my demands and now with their permissions, I started sitting with tabla player Mubarak Ali. And then I saw an advertisement that was in the newspapers and suddenly I could see a new prospect opening up for me.”
 
Stage (1951) Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
That advertisement published in the newspaper was by the famous ballet-dancer Uday Shankar for the Indian Cultural Centre situated in Almora. But it was not possible for Sardar Malik to bear all the expenses. At such a time, Kapurthala Maharaja’s P.A. Shiv Kumar came forward to help Sardar Malik. His 17-year-old daughter was Sardar Malik’s apprentice. On Shiv Kumar’s recommendation, the Maharaja bore all the expenses and Sardar Malik was enrolled in the Indian Cultural Centre. 
 
According to Sardar Malik, “During the 5-year course, I learned poetry from Sumitra Nandan Pant, ballet from Uday Shankar, Kathakali from Shankaran Namboodiri, Bharat Natyam from Pillai Guruji, yoga from Johra Sehgal, Manipuri Dance from Amobi Singh and music from  Vishnudas Shirali and also traveled all over the country for programs. I learned a lot from observing Ustad Alauddin Khan. Vijaylaxmi Pandit’s daughters Reeta and Tara, Laaj and Shanta - Granddaughters of the famous Lahore merchant Sir Gangaram, Guru Dutt, Mohan Sehgal, etc were my classmates.
 
Bachpan (1963) from Cinemaazi archive
 
During those days Uday Shankar’s ballet group came to Mumbai for a program where Director Ramesh Sehgal and producer Jayant Desai heard Sardar Malik’s song beete hue pal kuchh aise hain and they presented him with the offer of composing for the film Renuka (1947). But due to his already packed schedule of the program, Sardar Malik has to decline the offer. But in the coming days, due to monetary reasons, the group broke apart in Ahmedabad and filled with dreams of becoming a dance-director; Sardar Malik and Mohan Sehgal came to Mumbai. This incident is of 1945 and at that time Sardar Malik was just 15 years old.
 
According to Sardar Malik, “As soon as we reached Mumbai, without too much effort, we immediately got Nanabhai Bhatt’s film 40 Karod (1945). But due to some reasons; we had to drop the idea of dance direction. Later on, Mohan Sehgal became a very big director and I decided to become a music director. Ramesh Sehgal and Jayant Desai welcomed this decision and gave me the responsibility of providing music direction to the film Renuka (1947). Made in 1947 and lyricized by Qamar jalalabadi, of the 12 songs, I sang two solos and two duets with Zohra Bai. But when I heard the song, yahan badla wafa ka bewafaai ke siva kya hai, from the then recently released film Jugnu (1947), I thought that I fell short in comparison to Rafi’s voice. Although I sang four songs in my next film Raaz (1949), now my full attention was towards music direction.
 
Mera Ghar Mere Bachche (1960) from Cinemaazi archive
 
In a career spanning 30 years, along with films Renuka (1947) and Raaz (1949), Sardar Malik has given music to 24 Hindi films viz., Stage (1951, co-composer – Husnlal Bhagatram), Laila Majnu (1953, co-composer – Ghulam Mohammad), Thokar (1953), Aulaad (1954), Chor Bazar (1954), Aab-e-Hayat (1955), Chamak Chandni (1957), Taxi-555 (1958), Maa Ke Ansoo (1959), Mera Ghar Mere Bachche (1960), Saranga (1960), Superman (1960), Madan Manjari (1961), Pick Pocket (1962), Bachpan (1963), Naag Jyoti (1963), Naag Mohini (1963), Jantar Mantar (1964), Maharani Padmini (1964), Roop Sundari (1964), Panchratna (1965) and Gyaniji (1977) and one Panjabi movie Sat Shri Akal (1977, co-composer – Prem Nath). Whereas his songs like dekh li aye ishq teri meharbaani (Laila Majnu), aye ghame dil kya karoon (Thokar), chanda se pyare rajdulaare (Aulaad), mai ghareebon ka dil hoon (Aab-e-Hayat), kisi se aankh ladi (Maa ke Ansoo) and bahaaron se poochho (Mera Ghar Mere Bachche) were complete hits, it were the songs of the movie Saranga which had become so popular that his career instantly took off towards newer heights.  And just as suddenly, his career was crushed between the egos of two bigwigs of the industry.
 
Pick Pocket (1962) Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
(Sardar Malik’s condition for our interview was that he won’t discuss the heavyweight singer of his era, and I had no choice but to oblige to this condition. Very clearly his reference was towards Lata Mangeshkar. And like I had heard before from people associated with that era and still do hear this from many to date is that that clash had occurred between Lata Mangeshkar and Sahir Ludhiyanvi. As hearsay goes, during a Sardar Malik recording, Lata advised Sahir to change some lines (or maybe a word) of some song. Sahir, who was very blunt, immediately retorted, “Leave such things to educated people”. Lata got upset at this and left the recording midway. She could not touch Sahir’s reputation but, the insiders say, Lata unleashed her rage on Sardar Malik reasoning that why had not Sardar Malik stood up to Sahir.)
 
with his wife
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Once Sardar Malik got a little comfortable during our conversation, he did say, without taking any names that, “After Saranga’s success, my good time had just started that I was dragged in a fight that was between two well-established people of the time and that too for no fault of mine. On hearing my name people refused to give me bookings for recording rooms. As a result, I lost the films that were in my hand. One by one I had to sell off my wife’s jewelry and later on my home to sustain my children’s education and household expenses. In those days I had recorded a song chandan sa badan chehra ghulaab in Mukesh’s voice for producer Vinod Desai’s film Naag Nandini. The song had been picturized as well and just like that, the film was stopped midway. Then suddenly one day I came to know that the same tune had been used in the film Saraswati Chandra (1965). Even a few words that were originally written by Anjaan were changed here and there and the song chandan sa badan chanchal chitvan had been readied. Even after filing a complaint, our association was least interested in doing anything about it.”
 
During this downward spiral, Sardar Malik received some support from his wife’s brother Hasrat Jaipuri and from Shayar Josh Malihabadi, even his guru Vishnudas Shirali supported him as well. Today his two sons Anu Malik and Dabboo Malik are well-known music directors and his third son; Abu Malik is a big name in organizing national and international shows.
 
Sardar Malik passed away on 27 January 2006 at Juhu-Mumbai’s Arogyanidhi Hospital.

[part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series]

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