Tributes to Sardul Singh Kwatra, the famed music director from Punjab, on his 14th death anniversary.

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Tributes to Sardul Singh Kwatra, the famed music director from Punjab, on his 14th death anniversary.

Sardul Singh Kwatra, who simplified classical ragas in his songs, was one of those music directors who got far less movies as a music director than what his talent merited. He composed music for more than half a dozen Hindi and about 25 Punjabi films

Sardul was born in 1928 to a Sikh family in Lahore in British Punjab. He was very fond of music since his childhood. Sardul got his initial training in classical music from Avtar Singh of Lahore. Subsequently, he honed his skills as an assistant to maestro Hans Raj Behl. After a brief stint in Amritsar, the Kwatra family moved to Bombay.

Sardul made his debut as a music director with the Punjabi film ‘Posti’, produced by Kwatra family. Posti was released in 1950 and it did well at the box office. Sardul’s music also received critical acclaim. Its songs “Do guttan kar mariyan, Kajle di paaniyan” and “Jaa bhairha Posti” became very popular. In this film, Sardul modified the folk tunes of Punjab. In film Posti, Sardul Kwatra introduced both Asha Bhonsle and Jagjit Kaur as playback singers for Punjabi films. Mohammad Rafi was his obvious choice as a male playback singer. Another female singer Rajkumari, who was introduced to Punjabi films in Kurhmai way back in 1941 by another Lahore-born music director Khurshid Anwar and Sardul used her voice again after eight years in Posti.

Sardul composed music for some Hindi films in the later years. His most popular songs were from films like Goonj, Mirza Sahiban, and Pilpli Sahib.

Sardul was a great admirer of Lahore-born actress-singer Suraiya. Suraiya, after Sardul’s prolonged persuasion, agreed to act and sing in Goonj. Sardul created some memorable tunes for this film.

In 1953, the Kwatra family made Mirza Sahiban in Hindi. Once again, the heroine was Sardul’s first choice Shyama. It had a limited success at the box office, but its numbers, which were sung by Lata Mangeshkar and composed by Sardul Kwatra, became very popular.

The success of Posti in 1950 became the stepping stone for other Kwatra films in Punjabi. In 1953, another Kwatra Production, Kaude Shah became a blockbuster. Shyama was the heroine of this film. The folk tunes in this film became very popular. By this time, Shamshad Begum had established herself as the first lady of playback singing for Punjabi films. Three of her renditions “Mere sajnan di dachi badami rang di”, “Ajj sohne kapde te chunni vi bareek ae” and “Chhad de toon mera dupatta” became popular. For another Punjabi film Vanjara, made in 1954, Lata Mangeshkar sang some solos and some duets for her second stint in Punjabi films after her great years 1948, 1949 and 1950. This film did not do too well, but its music became a hit. Sardul composed music for another Punjabi film Billo during the late 1950s. In his music, Kwatra simplified the classical ragas to portray nuances of subtle romanticism.

During the mid-1970s, Sardul Kwatra moved from Bombay to Chandigarh. For a short period, he established the Chandigarh Film Institute. During this period, he composed music for Punjabi film Shaheed Udham Singh (another name Sarfarosh). The film and its music did fairly well. Sardul Kwatra composed music for half a dozen Hindi films and nearly 25 Punjabi films. After Hans Raj Behl, Sardul was the most prolific music director of Punjabi films. His last assignment was a Punjabi film Ankheeli Mutiar (1979).

In the 1970s he moved from Mumbai to Chandigarh and later to the US, where he died at the age of 77 in 2005.

(Kind courtesy: Shri. Harjap Singh Aujla)

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Celebrating Cinema

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