indian cinema heritage foundation

"Manzil To Hai Badi Door" - C H Atma

26 Mar, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
C H Atma. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

In between the decade 1930 – 40 the popularity and fame of Hindi cinemas first star singer Kundan Lal Saigal was such that Hindi cinema lovers would expect every new-comer singer to be on par with Saigals style of singing. That’s why Mukesh and Kishore Kumar's early songs have a strong impression of Saigal's singing style. However these singers did manage to come out of Saigal's shadow with changing times and did make their own prominent style of singing but a singer like C.H. Atma couldn’t manage to step out of Sehgals shadow during his lifetime. 

Holding the deep yearning to be able to make his own identity in his chosen field C.H. Atma unfortunately left this earthly realm at the age of 52. I met his younger brother singer Chandru Atma at his home at Cadell Road, Mahim. During that meeting Chandru Atma spoke about C.H. Atma in great depth. Here we present this conversation in Chandru Atma’s words.

"Our father Hashmatrai Chainani was a well-known lawyer in Karachi. He was very fond of music and this fondness carried on to the eldest among us siblings C.H. Atma as well."
“Our father Hashmatrai Chainani was a well-known lawyer in Karachi. He was very fond of music and this fondness carried on to the eldest among us siblings C.H. Atma as well. This was the time when the name Kundan Lal Saigal was prevalent everywhere. Bhaisahab was also a fan of Sehgal and would sing his songs only. But this was purely for leisure. He never thought of making singing his career.
 
C H Atma. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Once during vacations Bhaisahab went to visit our aunt’s house in Lahore where people got so impressed with his voice that they started inviting him to stage programs to sing Saigal songs.
Once during vacations Bhaisahab went to visit our aunt’s house in Lahore where people got so impressed with his voice that they started inviting him to stage programs to sing Saigal songs. The stage shows were such a success that he became very famous in Lahore and H.M.V. Company recorded a song in his voice that was composed by O.P. Nayyar titled Preetam aan milo ...dukhiya jiya bulaaye. During those days Bhaisahab had changed his name Atma Hashmatrai Chainani to C.H. Atma. This occurrence is of the year 1945. 
Because of the partition, our family left Karachi and went to Pune. At the same time Bhaisahab got a job as a co-pilot with Himalayan Airways and he went on to Kolkata. None of us knew that Preetam aan milo ...dukhiya jiya bulaaye had become a smashing hit and the record was selling like hot pancakes. 


Producer-director-distributor Dalsukh Pancholi had his own studio in Lahore where he had made many Hindi and Punjabi hit films under his banner Pancholi Art Pictures like Gul-e-Bakawali (1939), Yamla Jatt (1940), Chaudhry (1941), Khazanchi (1941), Khandan (1942), Zamindar (1942) and Poonji (1943).  Music director Ghulam Haider, singer Shamshad Begum, actor Pran and actresses Manorama and Munavvar Sultana started their film careers with Pancholi’s films.
 
Nagina. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
After the partition Dalsukh Pancholi went to Mumbai. He was so impressed with the song Preetam aan milo... that he searched for Bhaisahab and called him from Kolkata to Mumbai to sing for his film Nagina (1951).
After the partition Dalsukh Pancholi went to Mumbai. He was so impressed with the song Preetam aan milo... that he searched for Bhaisahab and called him from Kolkata to Mumbai to sing for his film Nagina (1951). Bhaisahab sang 3 solos under Shankar-Jaikishan's music direction - Roun mai sagar ke kinaare, ik sitara hai akash me and Dil beqaraar hai mera for the film which were well received. Film Nagina was Nutan’s first film as a heroine. 

Next year in 1952, Pancholi looked for Preetam aan milo’s music director O.P. Nayyar and gave him his career's first film Aasmaan, although O.P. Nayyar had given the background score for another film Kaneez which was made in 1949. Bhaisahab sang 3 solos under O.P. Nayyar’s baton for the film Aasmaan which were Iss bewafa jahan me, Raat suhaani hanste taare and Kachhu samajh nahin aaye. It was the same film Aasmaan with which Asha Parekh had started her acting career as a child artist.
Bhaisahab sang 3 solos under O.P. Nayyar’s baton for the film Aasmaan which were Iss bewafa jahan me, Raat suhaani hanste taare and Kachhu samajh nahin aaye. It was the same film Aasmaan with which Asha Parekh had started her acting career as a child artist.
Dalsukh Pancholi presented Bhaisahab as a hero in the film titled Bhaisahab in the year 1954. His heroines in the film were Poornima and Smriti Biswas. In the same year he also starred opposite Suraiya in the film Bilwamangal. He sung 8 songs for the film Bhaisahab under the music direction of Ninu Majumdar and 6 songs for the film Bilwamangal, this time under Bulo C.Rani’s music direction. However, both these films didn’t do well. 
 
Bilwamangal. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

This was the period where many new talents were foraying in the field of Hindi film music. Saigal’s style of singing had become obsolete. Hence Bhaisahab was assumed unusable for playback at the very beginning of his career. Despite this he got the opportunity to sing a song each in the film Mahatma Kabir (1954) under Anil Biswas’s music direction, in the film Dhake Ki Malmal (1956) under O.P. Nayyar’s music direction and in the film Jahaazi Lutera (1957) under Bulo C.Rani’s music direction. But he would be continuously busy with his stage shows and private albums. He became the first Indian to perform out of country in 1957 when he did a show in Nairobi. 
He became the first Indian to perform out of country in 1957 when he did a show in Nairobi. 
Bhaisahab was 15 years elder to me. He was born in Karachi on 3rd December in 1923. As soon as he came down from Kolkata, I too left Pune for Mumbai and went to him. Very often artists like Talat Mahmood, Mukesh and Jaikishan would mingle at our home in Mumbai. I would also be present with Bhaisahab at his stage shows. Because of such exposure I too started to lean heavily towards singing. Bhaisahab was my guru as well who recognized my aspiration and started my tutelage in music. And so I too started singing at private mehfils. 
 
Chandru Atma. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
I got my first opportunity to sing on stage during 1960s when during a show Bhaisahab fell ill between the show and I was asked to take over the mike. The program was a success and I too started getting more and more shows.
I got my first opportunity to sing on stage during 1960s when during a show Bhaisahab fell ill between the show and I was asked to take over the mike. The program was a success and I too started getting more and more shows. As I made a name for myself, H.M.V. and then T-Series made many private albums with me. And just like Bhaisahab, people started calling me Chandru Atma instead of Chandru Hashmatrai Chainani.

I sung film songs like Vanraj Bhatia composed Meri zindagi ki kashti tere pyar ka sahara (Bhoomika / 1977), Madan Mohan composed Hum paapi tu bakhshanhar (Sahib Bahadur / 1977), Laxmikant Pyarelal composed Sanwaria tori preet naye naye roop dikhaye (Prem Bandhan / 1978) and Rajesh Roshan composed Tumse badhkar duniya me na dekha koi aur (Kaamchor / 1982) and Paagal man mera prem deewana (Maardhaad / 1988) but I too was type casted within the Sehgal mould. 
 
Geet Gaaya Pattharonne. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

The fact that Bhaisahab’s original voice was never used in the films, used to disturb him a lot. He played Umar Khayyam in the film Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne (1964) wherein he also sung 2 songs Mandve tale ghareeb ke and Ik pal jo mila hai tujhko under Ramlal’s music direction after which his relation with films was more or less finished. His married life was not successful either which had a direct effect on his health. 

Bhaisahab went to London in 1975 for a program where the English cold caught a hold of him. Even after he returned, his health didn’t improve and after suffering ill health continuously for 8 months he passed away on 6th December 1975 at the age of 52. 

C.H. Atma’s younger brother Chandru Atma was born on 17 September 1938 in Karachi. He too passed away at the age of 71 on 12th April 2009 in Mumbai.


Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series
                                               

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