Robin Ghosh - Down Memory Lane
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

It was a period many years before the emergence of TV in Pakistan. The cinema houses and there were many of them showing Urdu (both Pakistani and Indian), Punjabi and English movies , used to do thriving business since cinema was the main source of entertainment for all age and economic groups.

 For the lovers of music it used to be radio. The quality of Pakistani films produced in the late 50s and early 60s ' showed marked improvement, both technically and otherwise. The music of films such as Waada, Intezar, Koel, Saat Lafdi, Nagin, Salma, Saheti, Neend, Anarkali, Humsafar, Shaheed and Zamaana Kya Kahega had proved beyond doubt that even in the face of various constraints, the Pakistani composers had the capability to create enchanting music.

The year was 1962. East Pakistan which was till then producing only Bengali films, showcased its first Urdu movie Chanda with completely new cast and credits. The film made on a shoe-string budget turned out to be a bonanza for its makers as well as distributors. Its songs (Ankhiyaan tori raah nihaaren — Firdousi Begum and Chhalke gagaria bheege chunaria — Firdousi and Fareeda Yasmin) became quite popular, in spite of the singers' faulty diction and inferior quality of recording the songs were appreciated all over West Pakistan, The, two people responsible for creating the simple and yet captivating melodies were music director Robin Ghosh and poet Suroor Barabankvi.

Chanda was not a fluke. The success story was repeated by its unit on a larger scale in their next venture Talash. The music of this film was a smashing hit. Its songs, particularly their tandem Kuch apni kahiye, kuch meri suniye with its meaningful lyrics by Suroor, honey-dipped Bengali style composition by Ghosh and soulful voices by Firdousi Begum and Bashir Ahmad, surpassed in popularity the musical scores of all other films released in 1963 and won for Robin Ghosh the prestigious Nigar Award trophy as Best Music Director of the year. After Talash, Robin Ghosh scored music for a few comparatively inconsequential movies such as Bandhan, Karwaan, Paise, Begaana and Bhaiya. Though these films did not create ripples at the box office, in each of them he came up with at least one melody which was proof enough of his talent as a composer. And yet his style was considered by the West Pakistani producers as suited only to the simple theme based films produced in East Pakistan. Then in 1967 the producer-director team of Ehtesham  and Mustafiz of Chanda and Talash fame released Chakori with the debutante leading pair Nadeem and Shabana and with Robin Ghosh providing the musical support to the tragic love story, Chakori not only became a super duper hit then but continues to rank among the all time top ten grossers of Pakistan. The music Ghosh composed for this film became a rage all over the country and got him his second Nigar trophy. Even after 30 years, some of the songs from Chakori (Woh mere samne tasweer baney baithe hain, a tandem by Firdousi and Mujeeb Alam, Kahaan ho tum ko dhoondh rahi hain — Firdousi and Nazeer Baig alias Nadeem, Tujhe chaahen meri baahen — Rushdi, and Kabhi to tumko yaad aayengi — Rushdi) are still fresh in the memories of film music enthusiasts.

It was Chakori which established Robin Ghosh's credentials as a composer par excellence and opened for him the doors leading to the film industry in Lahore.

However, the first two films, Turn mere ho and Jahaan Tum Wahaan Hum, he scored music for in West Pakistan, in 1968, failed to make any impact at the box office. As a result Robin went into hibernation for about four years, only to reemerge with flying colours in 1972, with Ilyas Rasheedi's Ehsas. Remember the big hit Humein khokar bohat pachtaoge sung so soulfully by Runa Laila?

The success story continued with one musical hit after another such as Chaahat (Pyar bharey do sharmeele nam — Mehdi Hasan, a Nigar Award inning movie), Sharafat (Tere bheege badan ki khushboo se — Mehdi Hasan and Nayyara Noor), Do Saathi (Aise woh sharmaaye — Ghulam Abbas), Jiyo our jeene do, (Pyar karenge pal pal— Mehdi Hasan and Mehnaz), the biggest grosser of all times Aaina (Roothe ho tum by Nayyara Noor — Nigar Award), Amber (Thehra hai samaa — Mehdi Hasan — Nigar Award,Bandish (Sona na chaandi — Akhlaq Amad and Do pyaase dil aik huwe hain — Mehdi Hasan and Mehnaz — Nigar Award), and Dooriyaan khoye ho — Nayyara Noor — Nigar Award).


Robin Ghosh has not been very active since 1985. Only three movies, featuring his music, were released between 1988 and 95 out of which only the last released, Jo dar gaya so mar gaya could be called moderately successful. Having been an ardent admirer of his compositions since the sixties, I had been wanting to meet Robin Ghosh for a long time. I did get a chance to meet him on my recent trip to Lahore where I had the privileged spending almost three hours with him at his Gulberg residence.

My first impression of him,was exactly what his favorite singer (and mine too) Nayyara Noor had told me so many times that Robinda (as he is. fondly called) is no less charming person than as a melody maker.

What he told me about his early life and career during our conversation — he is an excellent conversationalist —- could be summed up as follows.

Born in Baghdad in 1937, to a Bengali father and an Arab mother, Robin Ghosh initially got inspired-by music from Arabic films, particularly by the songs rendered by the famous Arab Singer of that era, Abdul Wahaab. The family moved to Dhaka in the forties and suddenly young Robin found himself in the midst of a highly musical atmosphere. If in the morning he heard the fishermen singing Bhatiali and Bhawaiya, during the day there were' sounds of other folk songs coming from the neighborhood. Inspired by the environment and following the tradition in Bengal, Robin started talking lessons in classical music at a very young age, six to be precise,, In later years he learnt to play the harmonium, die piano and the Spanish guitar. The last instrument he claims to have introduced in film music in Lahore. The musician who initially played in his recordings was Sooraj Mian whom Robin had brought from Dhaka.

A Bachelor of Commerce, Robin Ghosh during his college days started playing as a musician in orchestras, along with his senior (by two years) Moslehuddin. It was actually Moslehuddin Who encouraged Robin Ghosh to take up music professionally. When Moslehuddin, the first Bengali Composer to make a name in Lahore, went back to Dhaka and from there went to Calcutta to record songs in the voices of Hemant Kumar and'Sandhya Mukherji for Shaukat Hashmi's Humsafar, he engaged his friend Robin as his Chief Assistant. It was in fact Robin Ghosh who, because of having earlier spent sometime in Calcutta with maestro Salil Chowdhury's choir group, and having thus developed contacts in musical circles there, was insrruraental in organist the recording and persuading the legendary Hemant Kumar, through a common acquaintance, to render the memorable number Raat suhaani hai for Humsafar.

It is interesting to note that Robin agreed to assist his friend and senior colleague in 1960, though he had himself become a full-fledged music director in  1959 wjth Bengali film Rajdhanir Bookey.

For his' debut film he was lucky to have got the famous Indian singer Talat Mahmood to record a couple of songs. Talat was incidentally visiting East Pakistan to meet his brother who was settled there. One of the song turned out to be an instant hit.By the time he signed his first Urdu film Chanda (1962), Robin Ghosh had and had occome a name to reckon with in East Pakistan, It was during the making of one of these films that he fell in love with its leading lady Jhorna Bashuk, whom he later married. Jhorna, after she was signed as the heroine for Chanda was rechristened Shabnam and soon became one of the top stars of the country. They have a son Rony who instead of becoming a musician or an actor has taken up export as his business.

Like most Bengalis Robin Ghosh too is a diehard admirer of the singing of Hemant Kumar — a cult figure in Bengal and that of S.D. Burrnan and Salil Chowdhary, the other notable Bengali composer of Hindi Cinema.

He is also very appreciative of R.D Burman's work. While elaborating their finger points, he hummed some of his compositions and sounded very much like Hemant Kumar. I wondered why didn't like his spiritual guru take up playback singing alongside music direction.
Among the Pakistani composers, Robin Ghosh is all admiration for Khawaja Khursheed Anwar's style which he feels was unique. He made particular reference to the use of flutes, violins and saxophones in the orchestration of his songs and the background score.

It is indeed sad that the film makers of today have no ear for melody or else a composer of the caliber of Robin Ghosh would not have been without work, which is a loss to lovers of good music. "Where are the movies which give you the opportunity to compose melodious music? he says. And one cannot agree with him more.