Top 3 composers of the golden era in Indian film music – part 3

In top 3 composers of the golden era – part 1, I featured Naushad’s immense contribution to the purist style of composition. In top 3 composers of the golden era – part 2, I showcased the soulful and mesmerizing style of Madan mohan.

Roshan is another music director who is cast in the same mould as Naushad and Madan Mohan. Roshan follows a  ‘pure’ style of composition where elements of classical music like mini tones (murkis or vocal curves of classical music, but extremely controlled and adapted for film music), curves and undulations are built into the tune to create graceful wavy contours in the basic melodic lines. His songs feature lovely variations in flow, stress on specific notes and a very pleasant weaving together of notes. Also, like Naushad and Madan Mohan, Roshan does not break up his tunes into smaller bits to make them popular.  His tunes are composed as “lengthy” lines with gradual and graceful movement from one note to another without breaks, jerks or sudden shifts in the octave. Over the years, he stuck to this basic ‘purist’ style of composing songs.

The song Duniya mein aisa kahan sab ka naseeb hai (Devar) is  a fine example of Roshan’s ‘purist’ style of composition.  The antra is basically a lengthy one with the shape of the melodic tune flowing in gentle, wavy and graceful undulations downwards as well as upwards. The stress on the syllables adds an additional touch of beauty to the melody. Listen to the beautiful undulations and the overall wavy effect in the bit (plays for 35 seconds) below.

This single song demonstrates what I mean by purity and length and Roshan’s talent and skill in ‘purist’ style of compositions. You can also experience a similar graceful, wavy contour of the tune in the first two lines of the antras in Lata’s Kabhi to milegi (Aarti).

 Taj mahal

From the early 50s to late 1960s, Roshan has delivered many songs that are sweet, enchanting and extremely pleasant and soothing.  He is now well remembered for very popular songs from Barsaat ki raat, Taj Mahal, Dil hi to hai, Chitralekha, Mamta, Anokhi Raat, Devar, Aarti and many other movies.

His strength was in his melody. He was also well trained in classical music and created truly memorable classical songs in Dil hi to hai, Chitralekha among others. He earned the title “King of Qawwalis” for the beautifully composed and popular qawwalis in Dil hi to hai, Barsaat ki raat, Babar and Taj Mahal. He showed an inclination for instruments that had sweet sounds like the jaltarang, xylophone, flute. In quite a few songs, he excelled in the use of Saarangi.

Enjoy a playlist of 24 songs on the player below. These 24 are among the finest classical, melodious, sweet and romantic songs of the golden era.

If you are based in the USA or Canada, you can also enjoy some of these songs on the player below. The player automatically shuffles songs. Skipping songs is possible but is restricted. Click the play arrow below to enjoy the gems from Roshan.

A tip to enhance your listening pleasure: When listening to the songs in the player, if you want to browse further on this site or another one, open a new window for further browsing. The player will continue to play Roshan’s songs in the current window while you are browsing)



The order of the songs in the above playlists may not be in the same order as in the discussion below.

Sweet Lata


The range and type of songs composed by Naushad, Madan Mohan and Roshan for Lata Mangeshkar make for a fascinating study. Naushad composed many classical and folk based songs and challenged Lata across the entire range of her pitch. Madan Mohan composed truly memorable songs that are perhaps Lata’s best songs of all time. Madan Mohan stretched Lata’s voice across notes of the octave and brought out the best in her.  This type of stretching by Madan mohan made Lata’s  singing  strong and open for most of Madan Mohan’s songs. If Naushad represents classical and Madan Mohan represents strength, then Roshan represents sweetness in Lata songs.  Roshan’s compositions for Lata tended to be in the lower ranges of the octave with a lower pitch. This  style created a special sweetness in Lata’s songs for Roshan.

My personal favorite is Duniya mein aisa kahan sab ka naseeb hai (Devar).  Even the musical prelude is graceful and wavy in this song and is woven beautifully into the opening line. The same wavy undulations flow gracefully till the very end.  The xylophone adds an additional touch of sweetness to Rehen na rehen hum (Mamta). Kabhi to milegi kahin to milegi (Aarti) is cheerfully optimistic and has a lilting touch in this graceful melody where Roshan ventures upwards in the pitch. As noted above, the antra in this song has lovely undulations that are a joy for discerning ears. Apparently Naushad visited the recording studio where Roshan was preparing to record a Lata song. Roshan requested Naushad to record the song. Naushad obliged without changing anything in Roshan’s composition. This Naushad recorded beauty is Sari sari raat teri yaad  (Ajee bas shukriya).  Apart from the sweet voice of Lata in Raat ki mehfil sooni sooni (Noor Jehan), Roshan added short bursts of Saarangi at the end of each line to add charm to the melody. These 5 Lata songs are among the most melodious, graceful and wavy songs of the golden era.

If Lata was so sweet in Roshan’s compositions, can Mohammed Rafi be far behind?

Mellifluous  Rafi


The sweet Rafi equivalents are Zindagi bhar nahin bhulegi (Barsaat ki raat) and Ab kya misaal doon (Aarti). Rafi caresses each note lovingly as only he can, in Zindagi bhar nahin bhulegi. Roshan also adds a sweet ‘rainy’ effect with the Jaltarang. Ab kyaa misaal doon  is Roshan’s typical gentle and melodious style of composing. This song flows beautifully and gracefully like the beauty the poet describes in this song. Mile na phool to kanton se (Anokhi Raat) is a ghazal type composition, with few poetic lines.  Rafi leaves his mark in this song by touching all the notes effortlessly. Dil jo na keh saka (Bheegi raat) is an unsually vigorous Roshan song that touches high tones. Towards the end of this song, it appears that Rafi forgot the lines with the music continuing to play in the background without any vocals. This type of ‘pause’ was required in the visuals in the movie.

Many consider the lyrics of Swapn jhare phool se by Neeraj (Nai umar ki nai fasl) as perhaps the best lyric in Hindi film music. Roshan correctly focuses more on the lyrics and does not add too many musical elements in the tune to distract us from the poetry.  The strong use of violins were needed to make the listeners feel the emotional turmoil in the words sung with great feeling by Rafi. Given the need to enhance the poetic effect, Roshan composed the tune in relatively straight contours. The effect is like reciting poetry, which is in stark contrast to a tune that has lots of musical elements like a classical based song.

Classical heights


Roshan composed classicals in the ‘pure’ form. His pure form of classical compositions ensured that the feeling of the ‘pure’ classical is enhanced many times with skillful use of sargam (singing the seven notes), tarana bols (specific sounds like ta, na, dha and others), minitones and accentuating specific notes, syllables.

The song Laaga chunri mein daag (Dil hi to hai) is a perfect example of a pure style of composition. This song with its many variations brought out the best in Manna Dey, the king of classical film singers. To this day, this song stands for the ‘highest standards of complexity and toughest in terms of difficulty in singing’ and is a benchmark that many strive to attain in singing competitions all over.  Roshan takes us to dizzying heights of ecstasy and total involvement with this wonderful song that has such lovely tarana bols. The song Kahe tarsaye (Chitralekha) is a connoisseur’s delight. Asha Bhonsle and Usha Mangeshkar, the two classically trained singers take us on a ‘double delight’ trip with their flawless rendition of all the classical nuances. It is truly a pleasure to listen to the two sisters singing in tandem.  While these two classical gems featured classical dances, we have the deeply philosophical and introspective Man re tu kahe (Chitralekha). Rafi did full justice with heartfelt feelings and singing. Rafi lingering lovingly over some notes and stretching them is a delight. This song was the #1 favorite of Bollywood artistes in a survey.

If Laaga chunri mein daag touched the heights of classical film music, Roshan’s highest point in his career came from a beautiful adaptation of a classical raag to create the evergreen Jo waada kiya woh (Taj Mahal). The Taj may lose its lustre one day due to pollution, but I am sure this song will live forever to symbolize the eternal love of Shah Jehan and Mumtaz. In typical Roshan style, he showed that you can express romantic feelings softly in understated tones without having to sing in a high pitch. Suman Kalyanpur and Kamal Barot sing beautifully in another pure classical based song – Garjat barsat saawan aayo re (Barsaat ki raat).The notes of the raag and the santoor bring the beauty of raindrops and rain to this song. Singer Mukesh’s own production Malhar also featured Lata singing Garjat barsat saawan aayo. Mukesh chose Roshan as the music director for his own film. All the songs were a hit, creating a strong bond between Mukesh and Roshan.

Resonating Mukesh


Roshan’s tendency to use the lower ranges of the octave with a lower pitch is a perfect fit for Mukesh. His unique resonating and nasal voice sounds deeper and richer with Roshan. Mukesh and Roshan became a popular pair with Bawre nain. Mukesh’s Teri duniya mein was a big hit. In the same movie, Geeta Roy and Mukesh combined to give us Khayalon mein kisi ki. Geeta also sounds richer alongside Mukesh in this song.  After the hits of Malhar and Bawre nain, Mukesh and Roshan combined to produce two other resonating gems in Devar. Baharon ne mera chaman loot kar and Aaya hai phir mujhe yaad feature Mukesh at his wistful best. Roshan had his sweet moments with Mukesh as well with beautiful use of the flute in Bahut diya dene wale ne tujhko (Surat aur Seerat). Anokhi raat proved to be Roshan’s swan song, with Mukesh singing the philosophical Oh re taal mile. All the songs in Anokhi raat were hits, perhaps a fitting tribute to Roshan, the unique composer.

Uniquely Roshan

Roshan Black and White

Roshan’s composing style focused mainly on a limited range of lower tones in the octave and a low pitch. Even within this limited range, you can see Roshan creating different moods. In Bade armanon se (Malhar), he captures the joy, effervescence of a couple finding each other. Lata sounds very sweet and Mukesh is unusually peppy in this delightful tune. And in Paaon choo lene do (Taj Mahal), he produced a song with a gentle, tender romantic feel. Mohd Rafi’s voice is silken smooth and caressing like a flower and complements the sweet voice of Lata beautifully.  And in the same limited range, he produced Aap ne yaad dilaya (Aarti) which captures the yearning, wishes and anxieties of the lead pair with unbelievable sweetness.

The qawwali genre provides a unique opportunity for a talented composer. He can combine romantic fervor, classical notes, varying tempo, lingering notes as well as quick rendition of notes and various types of rhythmic elements into a free flowing song. Roshan was popular as the “King of Qawwalis”. His Na to carvan (Barsaat ki Raat) is a delightful number with all the singers excelling in their rendition of the multi hued song. While Roshan focused mostly on the lower tones of the octave for his romantic numbers and solos, in qawwalis he explored the entire range of singing. Nigahen milane ko ji (Dil hi to hai) sees Asha Bhonsle stretching the sargam beautifully. Roshan was not one to be left behind when it came to extolling the virtues of a mother. If you think Usko nahin dekha hamne kabhi (Daadi Maa) is an O P Nayyar song, you will be mistaken. It has O P Nayyar style rhythm and tempo, but is uniquely Roshan.

Roshan’s songs have enjoyed a longer life than this underrated genius. This composer with a unique composing style will be remembered for being the King of Qawwalis and for the many enchanting and sweet melodies he created. My humble salutations to this purist and sweet genius whose music is evergreen.

Note: This post should be read along with the accompanying post “Top 3 composers of the golden era – rationale & conclusion” for understanding the entire context, rationale supported by examples. You can also enjoy a medley of 18 songs from the top 3, in that post.

The link to parts 1 and 2 of “Top 3 composers of the golden era in Indian film music are at the top of this post and also here – top 3 composers of the golden era – part 1 and top 3 composers of the golden era – part 2

This entry was posted in Classical base in film music, Great music directors - Hindi, Hindi film music, Lata melodies, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Roshan, Top 3 composers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Top 3 composers of the golden era in Indian film music – part 3

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mannadey,Mukesh and even Rafi saab are here due to SJ.

    • rsbaab says:

      Thank you for posting your comments. I wish I could address you with some name instead of anonymous. True, Manna Dey, Mukesh and Rafi have a lot of songs that are remembered thanks to Shankar Jaikishan (SJ). SJ were able to tap the soul in Mukesh’s voice and used it memorably for Raj Kapoor, post Barsaat (1949-50). Similarly, Manna Dey and SJ combination rocked with Chori Chori and Shree 420 (1955-56) and later. And who can forget the Shammi transformation with Rafi and SJ with Junglee (1961)? Post 1961 there was a huge list of Rafi-SJ hits for many heroes. Without a doubt, SJ had a huge role in the success of Mukesh, Rafi and Manna Dey. At the same time, if we consider the singers careers in totality, we find there are other music directors who had a major role to play in the singers careers.

      Mukesh debuted with Anil Biswas in Pehli Nazar in 1945, way before SJ came to the scene. He was then coached by Naushad to form a distinctive Mukesh style and had hits with him with Anokhi Ada, Mela and Andaz before SJ entered the scene with Barsaat and Aah. Similarly, Roshan had big hits with Mukesh in Bawre Nain and Malhar in 1950 and earlier. Thus, Mukesh was already an established singer before SJ came onto the scene. Later, along with SJ, Kalyanji Anandji had a number of hits with Mukesh as well. Kalyanji Anandji and SJ had the maximum number of songs with Mukesh.

      Rafi was an established singer by 1949-50. Throughout the late 40s and 50s, Rafi forged a hugely successful association with Naushad and all other music directors before Rafi turned into Shammi Kapoor’s voice in 1961. The Rafi-Naushad combination is well remembered for the memorable songs and is not insignificant to Rafi-SJ combination. Naushad as well as other music directors including Madan Mohan, S D Burman, Roshan and O P Nayyar had a huge role in Rafi’s success.

      Manna Dey owes a lot of his early success to KC Dey and Anil Biswas from 1942 onwards, where he delivered big hits. S D Burman gave him a huge hit in Mashal in 1950. All of this happened much before SJ-Manna Dey combination rocked in Chori Chori and Shree 420. Salil Chowdary and S D Burman also had memorable songs by Manna Dey in the 50s and 60s.

      My intent is not to list out all the facts which you can get easily from other sources like Wikipedia and others. All the 3 singers were well established and recognized before SJ entered the scene. In my view, while our ‘top of the mind recall’ of Mukesh, Manna Dey and Rafi may have a number of SJ hits, the contribution of other music directors in their careers is also very significant. From a singers perspective, I am sure they will acknowledge a number of other music directors who shaped their careers along with SJ.

      I have noted your other comment as well about the top 3 composers. I am not sure whether you read the concluding part: Top 3 composers of the golden era – conclusion. Please go through it as I have covered the rationale in that post. As I mentioned in that conclusion, my list of top 3 need not be the same as others. After you have gone through the conclusion post, if you have further comments, would love to hear from you. Thanks again for taking the time to review the top 3 composers posts and for sharing your views.

      • Nirmal Nath says:

        A very good articlefor the present generation, most of them haven’t any idea of greatness of the past composers and singers. But a write up on Manna Dey, whom you had mentioned as “King of the classical film music”. As Manna Dey sang many great songs composed by Roshan Sab.

      • RSBAAB Ravi says:

        Thank you Nirmalji.

  2. Sahil Riky says:

    Most wonderful musical analysis of music composers ever done by a critic. People have different choices of songs and their composers. However, if an unbiased analysis is done ever, these three will stand apart at a unique place. There are so many stalwarts who gave great songs and had their unique approach and style.. SD Burman dada who was master of making all kind of tunes, classical, light, dance numbers, saucy and particularly folk music. Khayyam sahab, whose music was more artistic than musical and require artistic genius even among listeners. Jaidev ji, whose very little works made him the great maestro. Ravi saab, a composer of nature.. his tunes always remind the mountains, flowing rivers, valley of flowers. Little known but class apart.. Sajjad Husain, Chitragupt, And then more popular among mass ..Shankar Jaikishan, OP Nayyar and RD Burman. But the finesse seen in the music of the trio you covered is classic. These three never compromise from the quality in music and can be felt in all of their compositions whether popular or not.
    Your article is a feast, a sweat dish for the all who cherished the good music and felt it in their heart and soul.
    Thank you for giving us such a musical treat.

    – Sahil Riky

    • RSBAAB Ravi says:

      Thank you very much Sahil for your kind words. I hope you got a chance to see the Top 3 composers – rationale and conclusion as well.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ohh yes.. the rationale, yardstick you described makes the articles par excellence and make me delighted to comment that the most wonderful analysis of music directors ever come across. I indeed have read all the three articles.. there is no point of missing a single word… I can felt by heart the passion and joy you might have experienced while writing it. Give us some more gems like these..

Please share your thoughts and feedback

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.