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In memory of the late Robin Ghosh

The musical giant leaves behind an untarnished, unmatchable legacy

In memory of the late Robin Ghosh
The late Robin Ghosh with his better-half Shabnam.

Though he wasn’t a Pakistani, Robin Ghosh was behind some of the most melodious songs created for Pakistani films. He remained an outsider while in Pakistan but never used it as an excuse for shoddy work. In fact, Ghosh used it to his advantage by creating songs that were catchy. As a composer he used an impressive selection of vocalists and sounds that felt new upon every listen.

Ghosh passed away in Dhaka, Bangladesh earlier this month at the age of 76.

Robin Ghosh belonged to the world, not just to any one country. He was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1939 where his father served in the Red Cross. In 1945, his family migrated which earned Ghosh the opportunity to study music in Calcutta, India. His career began in East Pakistan and he moved to Pakistan where his wife Shabnam had a thriving career. His move paid off as he grew into one of the most respected music composers in the country.

Ghosh was also the judge of Pakistan’s first music challenge competition alongside legends Madam Noor Jehan, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his contemporary Nisar Bazmi.

The winner of an astonishing number of awards including several Nigar Awards in Pakistan, Ghosh worked as an assistant to music director Moslehuddin and ended it as composer par excellence two decades ago (with one song in Ghunghat) before returning to his native Bangladesh. Ghosh’s career trajectory was more similar to his contemporary RD Burman (early sixties to mid-nineties) but his music style resonated with the elder Burman, Sachin Dev. Just like Burman senior, Robin belonged to a royal family (in East Pakistan) but took up music as it was his passion and a way of life.

Robin Ghosh’s contribution to Pakistani cinema was huge and he composed songs for two dozen films in his three decades in the industry. His melodies were pure gold, be it the songs of Chakori that launched Nadeem to stardom or the hit numbers of Aaina, Amber and Bandish. Robin Ghosh composed for no one but himself. The director’s influence, the producer’s insistence and the actor’s preference – nothing mattered to him as he was a man with a vision.

When no one believed in the talents of pop stars Alamgir and Mohammad Ali Shyhaki, Robin Ghosh gave the former a chance in Mom Ki Guriya & Aaina and the latter in Anmol Mohabbat. When Pakistan’s film industry was ruled by Madam Noor Jehan, he preferred Runa Laila for his tunes. He never used Naheed Akhtar as a playback singer and instead opted for Nayyara Noor and Mehnaz by using their voices in a way that his songs rose to the level of unparalleled grandeur.

Even in the seventies, he preferred Ikhlaq Ahmed, A. Nayyar and Mehdi Hassan as vocalists over Ahmed Rushdi who used to be his first-choice in the sixties.

Only Robin Ghosh could have given king of ghazal Mehdi Hassan a tune like ‘Kabhi Main Sochta Hoon’. No one else would have dreamed of using Mehnaz and Mehdi Hassan in the sexy ‘Pyaar Karenge’ song from Jiyo Aur Jeenay Do. Only a veteran composer like Ghosh could’ve had the foresight to opt for Ghulam Abbas (in Jo Darr Gaya Woh Marr Gaya) at a time when Waris Baig and Tehseen Javed were the popular voices. It was only Robin Ghosh who could have dared (and succeeded) in using a female vocalist for a) a romantic track and b) a tandem that was filmed on a young girl in the same film (Nayyara Noor in Aaina, Shabnam Majeed in Jo Darr Gaya Woh Marr Gaya). In fact, all three versions of ‘Mujhe Dil Se Na Bhulana’ in Aaina are so distinguished that they feel as if three separate entities. Alamgir and Mehnaz sang the love duet, Mehdi Hassan excelled in the melancholic version and Nayyara Noor – singing for a young boy – sounded as astonishing as ever.

In an era when Pakistani musicians preferred quantity over quality, Robin Ghosh continued to churn out hits after hits. He may not have been the pioneer of using church bells and choir in songs but he made it popular with his songs. He was a Christian by birth who had served in the choir when young and when he became a music composer, he used that influence to stand out amongst contemporaries like Sohail Rana, Nisar Bazmi, M. Ashraf and many others. His death has created a void that can never be filled. His legacy however will remain intact as long as his songs are heard in all corners of the world.

Omair Alavi is afreelance journalist and can be contacted at [email protected]


Selected songs

Kabhi To Tum Ko Yaad Aayengi – Ahmed Rushdi (Chakori, 1967)

Woh Mere Saamne Tasveer Banay Bethe Hain – Mujeeb Alam (Chakori, 1967)

Husn Dekha Jo Tumhara – Ahmed Rushdi (Jahan Tum Wahan Hum, 1967)

Mujhe Talash Thi Jiski – Ahmed Rushdi, Mala (Jahan Tum Wahan Hum, 1967)

Humain Kho Kar Bohat Pachtao Gay – Runa Laila (Ehsaas, 1972)

Saawan Aaye – Ikhlaq Ahmed, Runa Laila (Chahat, 1974)

Pyar Bhare Do Sharmilay Nain – Mehdi Hassan (Chahat, 1974)

Jao Tumhein Pehchan Liya – Runa Laila (Sharafat, 1974)

Tere Bheegay Badan Ki Khushboo Se – Mehdi Hassan (Sharafat, 1974)

Dekho Yeh Kaun Aagaya – Ikhlaq Ahmed (Do Saathi, 1975)

Aise Woh Sharmaye – Ghulam Abbas (Do Saathi, 1975)

Filhaal Pyar Karne Ka – Ikhlaq Ahmed (Mom Ki Gurya, 1976)

Tum Meri Zindagi Ho – Shehnaz Begum, Alamgir (Mom Ki Gurya, 1976)

Pyaar Karenge Pal Pal – Mehdi Hassan, Mehnaz (Geo Aur Jeenay Do, 1976)

Mujhe Dil Se Na Bhulana – Multiple singers (Aaina, 1977)

Waada Karo Saajna – Alamgir, Mehnaz (Aaina, 1977)

Kabhi Main Sochta Hun – Mehdi Hassan (Aaina, 1977)

Roothay Ho Tum – Nayyara Noor (Aaina, 1977)

Milay Do Saathi – A. Nayyar (Amber, 1978)

Thehra Hai Samaa – Mehdi Hassan (Amber, 1978)

Jis Din Se Dekha Hai Tumko Sanam – Mehdi Hassan (Amber, 1978)

Duniya Se Tujhko Churaloon – Mehdi Hassan (Anmol Mohabbat, 1978)

Yeh Samaa Pyaar Ka – Mohammad Ali Shyhaki (Anmol Mohabbat, 1978)

Acha Acha Lago Rey – Nayyara Noor, A. Nayyar (Bandish, 1980)

Sona Na Chandi Na Koi Mahal – Ikhlaq Ahmed (Bandish, 1980)

Do Pyasay Dil Aik Huway Hain – Mehdi Hasan, Mehnaz (Bandish, 1980)

Samaa Woh Khwab Sa Samaa – Ikhlaq Ahmed (Nahin Abhi Nahi, 1981)

Chaman Chaman Kali Kali – Ikhlaq Ahmed, Mehnaz (Aahat, 1983)

Tu Hai Dil Ki Dhadkan – Ghulam Abbas (Jo Darr Gaya Woh Mar Gaya, 1995)

Kaise Jiye Tere Bin – Ikhlaq Ahmed, Fariha Pervez (Ghunghat, 1996)

Omair Alavi

omair alavi
The author is a freelance journalist. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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