GA Chishti, An Awami Composer
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

GHULAM Ahmad Chishti, a composer with scores of popular films to his credit is no more among us. He was a celebrity of sub-continental cinema whose name stands out with distinction among two generations of composers for the lilt and cadence of songs and a fetching folk orientation of style.

 Although he was not born in Lahore, he spent about 60 years of his life (in two phases) in this city.

Beginning his career as a com-poser in the early 1940s, Chishti also worked in Calcutta and Bombay before returning to this city shortly after partition. Sohni Mahinwal, the first film for which he composed the music, was produced in Lahore. Actor Hira Lai played Mahinwal against Almas, whose portrayal of Sohni was widely appreciated. His subsequent films included Pardesi Dhola,   which   was   shot   in Calcutta, Shukria was the name of his first Urdu movie (also produced in Calcutta) which was followed by Manchali. Popular songs of these films (which still ring a bell for senior denizens) were Bamari gali aanaa, achha jee and Jug hai gurriyion ka khel, recorded in the voice of Nazar Mohyuddin   (a   Lahore-born singing actor later known as Ajmar).

Some critics consider GA Chishti Pakistan's most prolific and popular composer.

This may sound like an exaggeration to those who appreciate quality more than quantity. There is little doubt nevertheless that very few among his contemporaries held the cinema-goers' interest and admiration the way Chishti did. He was one of the senior most among contemporary composers. Only Anil Biswas and Naushad Ali came close in terms of longevity of association with the art.

GA Chishti was born in a small village near the city of Jalindhar in East Punjab, about the turn of the 20th century. His original plan was to pursue a career in government service but he finally decided to opt for music as his vocation. First, he associated himself with the Columbia  Gramophone Recording Company in Lahore in around 1935. For a couple of years, he earned his living work¬ing for Columbia. Meanwhile, he set into motion his career as a composer with provocative inno¬vations and experiments with folk melodies that electrified the world of popular film music. From apprenticeship to maturi¬ty, his career sparkled with cre¬ative inventiveness. Since 1934, after bidding farewell to the Punjab Irrigation Department, where he was employed in a lowly position, Chishti devoted his time and energy to the refinement of music.

Although his most significant compositions were almost always elementary in technique, style,approach and idiom, they stood out for their abundant sonic appeal to listeners of all hues, particularly the simple and unsophisticated rural folks.

The simplicity of style was his major asset, which went a long way in taking his name to every nook and corner in the country.

Mindful of the distinctive characteristics of his compositions, several connoisseurs branded him as an orthodox composer, whose indebtedness to the styles of old masters like Jhandhay Khan and others of the theater era was evident in his early tunes. In this context, one is reminded of his compositions Hanstay Hain sitaray (Nur Jehan for the Columbia Recording Company) and Chabee deeyaan chunriaan, a chorus led by Umraozia Begum for the film Sohni Mahinwaah Later* more popular and, at times, comic elements were introduced by him (in Punjabi films) but even there adherence to an orthodox style persisted.
In 1934, Chishti shifted to Lahore. It was here that he made his acquaintance with Agha Hashar Kashmiri, the renowned playwright. Their association lasted for several months during the production of Beesham Pritigia into a film, which did not make to the silver screen.


Baba Chishti, as he was known before his death, did not quite remember the dates of certain events. He thought he joined Columbia Gramophone Company in 1935. His contemporaries were Bhai Lai Muhammad, Master Jhanday Khan, Master Ghulam Haider and Pundit Amar Nath.

On his return to Lahore ,in 1947, Chishti was engaged by producer-director-actor Nazir to score music for his Punjabi film, Phaimy. The movie was complet¬ed in the record time of two months and Chishti demonstrat¬ed his creative prowess and sta¬mina by writing lyrics, compos¬ing and recording six songs in just one day. The film was an instant success, as the songs became extremely popular.
Of the 2,000-plus songs, which Chishti claimed to have com¬posed for the movies and gramo-phone companies, a majorityy won public acclaim. Besides his Punjabi songs, a number of his compositions for Urdu films also won applause. For years, people used to hum and whistle his songs. Chanda ki nagri say aa ja and Raaj Dularay, mairi akheon kay taaray.

Octogenarian Chishti used to claim that he was capable of pro-ducing creative work with the same agility and speed as was the hallmark of his career.

Author of many popular Punjabi film songs, which earned him the approbation of being an awami composer, the grand old man of sub-continental cinema died in Lahore almost unnoticed and unsung.