Tributes to Naushad Ali, one of the greatest music composers of Indian cinema, on his 11th death anniversary.

Naushad Ali (25 December 1919–5 May 2006) was the foremost music directors for Hindi films and is particularly known for popularizing the use of classical music in films.

His first film as an independent music director was Prem Nagar in 1940. His first musical success film was Rattan (1944), following it up with 35 silver jubilee hits, 12 golden jubilee and 3 diamond jubilee mega successes. Naushad was conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke Award and the Padma Bhushan in 1982 and 1992 respectively for his contribution to the Bollywood film industry.

Naushad was known for his deft adaptation of the classical musical tradition for movies. For some movies like Baiju Bawra, he composed all scores in classical raga modes and arranged for the well-known vocalist Amir Khan to be a music consultant for the film. He could easily work with Western instruments, including the clarinet, the mandolin and the accordion. He could incorporate Western musical idioms in his compositions and compose for Western-style orchestras.

During the early 1940s, recordings were done in quiet parks and gardens after midnight because the studios did not have sound-proof recording rooms. In the gardens there would be no echo and disturbances, unlike the studios where the sound reverberated because of the tin roofs.

For films like ‘Uran Khatola’ and ‘Amar’, he recorded the voice of a particular artiste on a scale of 90, then recorded it on 70, then on 50 and so on. After the complete recording, it was played for the scene and the impact it created was terrific.

He was one of the first to introduce sound mixing and the separate recording of voice and music tracks in playback singing. He was the first to combine the flute and the clarinet, the sitar and mandolin. He also introduced the accordion to Hindi film music and was among the first to concentrate on background music to extend characters’ moods and dialogue through music. But perhaps his greatest contribution was to bring Indian classical music into the film medium. Many of his compositions were inspired by ragas and he even used distinguished classical artistes like Amir Khan and D.V. Paluskar in Baiju Bawra (1952) and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan in Mughal-e-Azam (1960). Baiju Bawra (1952) demonstrated Naushad’s grasp of classical music and his ability to bring it to the masses, for which he won the first Filmfare Best Music Director Award in 1954.

For Aan (1952), he was the first to use a 100-piece orchestra. He was the first composer to have developed the system of western notation in India. The notation for the music of the film ‘Aan’ was published in book form in London.

In Uran Khatola (1955), he recorded an entire song without the use of orchestra, having replaced the sound of musical instruments with choral sound of humming.

For Mughal-e-Azam (1960) song Ae Mohabbat Zindabad, he used a chorus of 100 persons. He asked Lata Mangeshkar to render a part of the song “Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya” in a bathroom that had glazed tiles and then recorded the music to get the echo effect.

For Ganga Jamuna (1961), he used lyrics in chaste Bhojpuri dialect.

He used just six instruments in the title song of Mere Mehboob (1963).

In 2004, a colorized version of the classic Mughal-e-Azam (1960) was released, for which Naushad had the orchestral music specially re-created (in Dolby Digital) by today’s industry musicians, while maintaining all the solo vocals from the original soundtrack. To elaborate, the playback vocals (though not the chorus) recorded four decades ago are mixed with orchestra tracks created in the present millennium.

As Indian film music gradually assumed a Western bend starting in the late 1960s, Naushad came to be considered old-fashioned. Composers who could compose rock-and-roll and disco-inflected music started getting increasingly popular. Naushad was still esteemed as a maestro, but his talents were sought mostly for historical movies where traditional scores were appropriate.