The journey of Naushad to Bombay (now Mumbai) was anything but easy. He received his music training in Lucknow, despite his family’s reservations. When it came to choosing a career, there was only one in Naushad’s mind, the thing his family detested the most – music. So, he ran away to Bombay to find work.
After much struggle he got to work with composer Khemchand Prakash, as his assistant. Naushad regards this experience to be the most valuable of all in terms of learning. Naushad’s first break as a music director came in 1940 for the movie “Prem Nagar”. The movie and its music almost went unnoticed, but Naushad continued to get work. The first time he tasted success was for the film “Rattan” in 1944. This film catapulted his fame to such an extent that he could charge Rs. 25,000 per film. His films began to be known for his songs and the public started recognizing his talents as a musician par excellence.
Naushad formed a sought after alliance and close friendship. They made some of the best music in the industry, including those for “Mother India”, “Mughal-e-Azam”, and “Baiju Bawra”. Naushad used a number of singers for his songs. He, in fact also introduced some, like Suraiyya. He also brought classical singers to sing playback, like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan for “Mughal-e-Azam”, and classical vocalist Ustad Amir Khan for “Baiju Bawra”. Among other singers, Naushad’s staples were Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd. Rafi. It is believed that initially he used to get Talat Mehmood to sing most of his songs, but after he found Talat smoking inside the recording studio he ousted him and turned towards Rafi. Mohd. Rafi ended up singing 149 songs for him for 41 films. The last film Naushad ever composed for was “Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story” in 2005.
Naushad’s life had been mostly about composing music. But there is a part of him that is seldom mentioned – his writing skills and flair for poetry. This is what made him so good at knowing whether the lyrics of his songs were working or not.
In his entire career of 62 years, Naushad’s name is associated with music scores of 66 films. Among these 35 were silver jubilee hits, “12 golden jubilee and three diamond jubilee mega successes.” “Baiju Bawra” was his first Filmfare Award win. Many more awards came in the subsequent years. His life’s work was honored with Padma Bhushan, Sangeet Natak Academy Award, and Dadasaheb Phalke Award.