indian cinema heritage foundation

Sardul Singh Kwatra

Music Director
  • Born: 1928 (Lahore)
  • Died: 6 July, 2004 (United States)
  • Primary Cinema: Punjabi
  • First film: Man Ka Meet (1950)

Sardul Singh Kwatra, the famed music director from Punjab, was known for simplifying classical ragas in his songs. He composed music for both Hindi as well as Punjabi films. He started off scoring music for the Punjabi film Posti (1950), which was produced by the Kwatra family. It became a box office hit. His music, especially the songs Do guttan kar mariyan and Jaa bhairha Posti, became popular. He modified Punjabi folk tunes for the film, and also introduced Asha Bhosle and Jagjit Kaur as playback singers for Punjabi cinema. Composing music for Hindi films as well, his most popular songs were from films like Goonj (1952) which starred actress-singer Suraiya, Pilpli Sahib (1954), and Mirza Sahiban (1957) which starred Shyama and had songs rendered by Lata Mangeshkar. He scored music for Punjabi films such as Vanjara (1954), and Billo (1960) for which he modified popular ragas to portray the nuances of subtle romanticism. After Hans Raj Behl, Sardul was considered the most prolific music director of Punjabi films. He established the Chandigarh Film Institute, and later in 1978, left for the United States of America. 

Born in 1928 in Lahore, he received his education here as well. Trained in classical music, his teacher was Sardar Awatar Singh, who was fairly well-known. Later, he honed his skills as an assistant to maestro Hans Raj Behl. Post Partition, his family first moved to Amritsar and then to Bombay. For the first few years in the city, the family had to face financial crisis. His elder brother, Harcharan Singh Kwatra struggled to become a film producer. 

The family-owned production company produced Ek Teri Nishani (1949). Sardul Singh composed its music, along with Pandit Amarnath and Vinod. He also composed for Jalte Deep (1950) with T K Das. Singh’s first film as independent music director was Man Ka Meet (1950). 

In 1949, the family financed Posti, a Punjabi film. The entire cast consisted of refugee artists from Lahore. Sardul picked young actress Shyama for the female lead. Shyama also went on to act in their second film, Kode Shah (1953), which became a blockbuster. The success of Posti paved the way for other Kwatra films in Punjabi. The folk tunes in Posti became very popular. Shamshad Begum, who had established herself as the first lady of playback singing for Punjabi films, rendered three songs - Mere sajnan di dachi badami rang di, Ajj sohne kapde te chunni vi bareek ae, and Chhad de toon mera dupatta, which became popular. For the Kwatras’ next Hindi film Goonj (1952), Sardul convinced Suraiya to be its heroine. He also composed the music for this film. 

Posti did well at the box office, with Sardul’s music also receiving critical acclaim. In particular, its songs Do guttan kar mariyan and Jaa bhairha posti became very popular. Sardul composed music for Hindi films as well, his most popular songs being from films such as Goonj, Mirza Sahiban, and Pilpli Sahib. He created memorable songs for Goonj, for which he managed to get the Lahore-born Suraiya to sing and act. The Kwatra family’s Mirza Sahiban made in Hindi starred Shyama, and included songs by Lata Mangeshkar, which became very popular. He also scored music that was well-appreciated in the Punjabi film Vanjara (1954), which included solos and duets by Lata Mangeshkar. Sardul also composed music for the Punjabi film Billo (1960). Kwatra had the skill of simplifying classical ragas to portray romantic nuances in his music. 

During the mid-1970s, Sardul Kwatra moved from Bombay to Chandigarh. For a short period, he established the Chandigarh Film Institute. During this period, he composed music for Punjabi film Shaheed Udham Singh also known as Sarfarosh (1976). The film and its music did fairly well. His last assignment was a Punjabi film, Ankheeli Mutiar (1979).

Other films Sardul Kwatra scored music for include Jalte Deep (1950), Tees Maar Khan (1955), Son of Ali Baba (1955), Kala Chor (1956), Char Minar (1956), Lady Robinhood (1959), Heer Sayal (1960), Air Mail (1960), Dekha Jayega (1960), Gypsy Girl (1961), Khilari (1961), Deccan Queen (1962), Kala Chashma (1962), Chandrashekhar Azad (1963), Satluj De Kande (1964), Accident (1965), and Yamla Jatt (1977). 

He left India for the US around 1978. Sardul Singh Kwatra passed away on 6 July, 2004.