Appearing in several films as a singer-actor during the 30s and 40s, Pandit Feroze Dastoor eventually chose to bid adieu to acting and immerse himself fully in Indian classical singing. Born on 30 September, 1919 in Bombay, his father, Bejan ji Hormas Ji Dastoor was a well-known Billiards player who had won the National Championship. His father was an enthusiast of Indian classical music and could carry a tune very well. Feroze had received his initial training from his father, who would invite renowned singers to his house once every year for a music recital. A large portion of the audience used to be from the Parsi community itself and it was Pandit Feroze Dastoor who was always told to perform the opening act before the main event. On one such occasion, J. B. H. Wadia of Wadia Movietone happened to be attending the Dastoors’ musical event. At the time, Wadia was making his banner’s first talkie film Laal-E-Yaman (1933). Wadia took such a liking to Feroze’s voice that he offered him a song in his film. As the concept of playback hadn’t been introduced yet, Feroze had to sing the song in front of the camera. The song was Jao sidharo fateh pao tum pe saaya rab ka, lyricised by Munshi ‘Aashiq’ and composed by Joseph David and Master Mohammad. J. B. H. Wadia was so pleased by Feroze’s work that he not only asked him to record more songs, but also gave him a role in his movie. These songs from Laal-E-Yaman included Tasveer-e-gham bana hoon mai hairat me mubtila hoon, Tori hardam parvar aas, Mash-hoor the jahan me izzo-shaan waale, Aab nahin dhaarat dheer jiyarwa and Khaalik tori najariya najariya re tori. Thus, without any planning, Feroze Dastoor became an actor. He was just 15 years old at the time and had received Rs.100 rupees remuneration for his work in Laal-E-Yaman.
In 1934, Feroze acted in three of the four films of Wadia Movietone which released that year, namely Baag-E-Misar, Kala Ghulab and Waman Avtar. He also sang several songs such as Kudrat ayaan chamke-jhamke, Palat gai hawa aye maula, Dil ka ranj sohe naahi, Aye do jahaan waale fariyaad sun hamaari, Kar tu sakhaawat aye nek bande and Maula ne badi shauqat di islam ki (Baag-E-Misar), Khaaliq Akbar qadir tu kudratwala and Nahin parey ji ko chain aye khudaya (Kala Ghulab) and Roop dhara sada jagat ke paalan ko, Mangoon daan bikat kaaj, Byaah karey wo bala, Sara jagat maya bandhan me qaid, Tum vriksh latasam raho milke and Bahut gayi thodi rahi kyoon tu vyaakul hoye (Waman Avtar). In that era, Joseph David and Master Mohammad were the permanent music directors for Wadia Movietone, while Joseph David and Munshi ‘Aashiq’ were its permanent lyricists. Laal-E-Yaman’s sequel Noor-E-Yaman (1935) under the Wadia Movietone banner proved to be Feroze’s last film with the banner, after which he joined Eastern Arts Company.
Under the Eastern Arts Company banner, Feroze acted in films like Bharat Ki Beti (1935), Dharm Ki Devi (1935), Prem Raatri (1936) and Sher Ka Panja (1936) where he worked with renowned artistes like Ratan Bai, Ameer Bai Karnataki, Mijjan Kumar, Sardar Akhtar, Hari Shivdasani, Nazeer and Gope. He also sang songs under the direction of prominent composers like Ustad Jhande Khan, Anil Biswas and Shankar Rao. Among these were Bharatwasi karo aaj dukhi jan-sewa (co-singer: Sardar Akhtar), Azaad hoon duniya me duniya hai ye ghar mera, Dard ne dil me chamak ke turfa saamaan kar diya and Narayan Narayan kar madhusoodan ki aarti (Dharm Ki Devi/ - Anil Biswas), Naina ladey hain ji ka karoon and Jo apne mulq ki khidmat me dukh aur dard sehta hai (Prem Ratri - Shankar Rao) and Aisi chalet pawan sukhdai (Sher Ka Panja - Anil Biswas).
Feroze acted in Minerva Movietone’s Aatma Tarang (1937) and under the direction of music composer Habib Khan he sang solos, Bari bipda bhaari he bhagwan, Rakh li laaj more prabhu ne aaj, Jhootha ye sansaar re jhoothi maya, Jagat me prem bada balwaan, Jap naam hari-har narayan, and also sang a duet Kaisi prem basant ritu suhaani laage with Prabha. In the year 1938, Feroze’s father Bejan ji Hormas Ji Dastoor wrote and produced Sunehra Baal under the banner of Ram Movietone. The music was composed by Feroze Dastoor himself. The cast of the film comprised of Feroze Dastoor, Indu Rani, Sharifa Bano, Badri Prasad and Basant Pahelwan. Feroze sang a duet Chhod jaane waale ki kaisi aala shaan with Badri Prasad along with his solo songs Ab to humko hai paana, Kripa kar tu Narayan and Tori katari laage kaari. He acted in Pak Daman (1940) directed by Roustam Modi for the banner of Stage Film Company. Under the direction of K.M. Pawar’s music, he sang a solo, Maula sun le iltija and duets Hey jagmali phooli daali daali (co-singer: Kakaji) and Madbhari ankhiyan jiyra lubhayein (co-singer: Mira).
In 1942 he acted in Return Of Toofan Mail made under the banner of Wadia Movietone and sang a solo Mat ro mat ro o marad kahaane waale composed by Gyan Dutt and written by Pandit Indra. Feroze acted with well-known actors like Vanmala, Ishwarlal, Sumati Gupte, Agha and Rajkumari Shukla in Sharbati Ankhein (1945) made under the Wadia Movietone. He also sang solos composed by Feroze Nizami such as Bikhre kitne roop jagat me written by Pandit Indra and Rama badey ghazab ki naar written by Balam. He not only acted in Central Studio’s Gul Bakawli (1947) directed by Roustam Modi, he also composed for songs written by Munshi Shefta and Shaukat Hashmi, sang a duet Aalam shabaab ka hai aur josh par jawani (co-singer: Menka Bai) and solos Toofankhej maujein aur door hai kinara and Ye baag ye bahaar mere liye khijaan hai. In Neki Aur Badi (1949), he sang duets Jamuna tat par natwar girdhar (with Rajkumari) and Hamey na rook hamey unke paas jaane do and Kyon ji scent lagaaya hai (both with Amirbai Karnataki) which were penned by Kedar Sharma.
In the late 40s, Feroze bid farewell to films and immersed himself completely in music. He received tutelage in the Kirana-Gharana of classical singing by Pandit K.D. Javkar, Sawai Gandharv and Bal Krishna Buwa and soon came to be recognised as a Khayaal and Thumri singer of global calibre. His brothers and close relatives, all based in U.S.A, wanted him to migrate there but the enduring bachelor Feroze refused to leave his roots. He remained a part of Surdas Sangeet Sammelan, Sur Singar Sansad, Tansen Sangeet Mahotsav and Sawai Gandharv Mahotsav for the rest of his days. He was honored with the Indian government’s Sangeet Natak Academy Puraskar (1986), Madhya Pradesh government’s Tansen Puraskar (1988), South Gujarat University - Surat’s honorary Doctorate (1989) and Maharashtra Rajya Gaurav Puraskar (1990). In 1977 he sang a bandish Ghat ghat me Raam ramaiya in Raag Lalit for Shyam Benegal’s film Bhoomika. He maintained a lifelong association with Mumbai University’s Music department. His disciples Sudha Divekar, Uttara Kelkar, Usha Deshpande, Achyut Abhyankar, Shrikant Deshpande and Chandrashekhar Vaze kept his musical tradition alive.
A zealous devotee of Lord Krishna, Pandit Feroze Dastoor passed away at the age of 89 on 9 May, 2008. His last rites were carried out by his pupil and celebrated classical singer, Girish Sanjhgiri as per Hindu rituals.
Information courtesy: Shishir Krishna Sharma