Robin Ghosh, the decorated Bangladeshi/Pakistani music director, has sometimes been compared to Madan Mohan.  And indeed, their lives took freakishly similar trajectories.  Both were born in Iraq (though Mohan was several years older). Mohan’s father held a senior position with the Kurdish peshmarga forces as Accountant General. Ghosh’s father, a Hindu who later converted to Christianity, held a senior post with the International Red Cross.   Both boys harbored a deep passion for music and eventually became acclaimed composers for the film industries of India and Pakistan.

Ghosh, who is in the Sunday Sounds spotlight this week, shared one other similarity with his fellow Iraqi-born bhai: both men created music that was characterised by an emphasis on warm melodies, a penchant for the ghazal and an amazing empathy with the human voice.

Ghosh was still a boy when his family returned home to a new country, Pakistan.  After finishing his formal education he found work with Radio Pakistan in Dhaka, where he met a young aspiring actress named Jharna.  They soon married and she changed her name to Shabnam, which unbeknownst to them, marked the beginning of a new era in the history of popular culture.

Ghosh was commissioned to score some of the earliest films made in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), including a popular hit Chanda, in which his new wife starred.  The two would go on over the years to work together on many films, Shabnam in front of the camera, Robin in the studios composing the songs for her to sing.

Kuch Apni Kahiye Kuch Meri Suniye
From Talaash, 1963

An early film used the voice of Bashir Ahmed, who was in those years emerging as the brightest playback singer in the Land of the Pure. The film was well received including this song by Ghosh. Though pretty, the music was still a bit derivative drawing heavily on the styles then popular in India, especially S. D. Burman.

Jane Mujhe Kya Hogaya
From Bhaiya, 1966

Ghosh shared a special artistic relationship with Ahmed Rushdi (the Pakistani Rafi), for whom he composed many songs. In this film, Ghosh reveals his creativity by referencing Rushdi’s first hit song Bandar Road se Kemari in which a clop-clop-clopping tonga takes the listener on a tour of Karachi. That song was a non-film hit, but in this clip Rushdi sings in the voice of tonga-wala in which that former familiar sound of horses hooves can’t help but take the listener back in time.

Kabhi to Tum ko Yaad
From Chakori, 1967

Chakori was a mega hit in Pakistan and this Rushdi-performed song is one of both men’s evergreen contributions to the music of the 1960s.

Bus Ek Tere Siwa Koi Nahi Mera
From Doorian, 1984

Unlike his peers, M. Ashraf and Sohail Rana who were known for their affinity for Western “rock”-tinged scores and, experimental spirit respectively, Ghosh made a virtue of melody.  In this award-winning score, Ghosh draws on some engaging Spanish guitar fills to create a lovely pop setting for the equally stellar voices of Akhlaq Ahmed and Mehnaz.

Tere Bheege Badan ki Khusbu Se
From Sharafat, 1974

A certified classic. Ghosh loved the voice of Mehdi Hassan and together they created some absolutely classy musical memories. The semi-classical ghazal form seemed to suit Ghosh’s musicality perfectly, allowing it to draw out his capacity to create moody atmospheres

Main Shola Hun
From Kiran aur Kali, 1981

Another duet with Ahmed Akhlaq and Mehnaz (a wonderful pairing, every bit as rich as Lata and Rafi) for Kiran aur Kali. An upbeat number that brings in a bit of contemporary electronic keyboarding but never compromises on the melody.

Robin Ghosh won six Nigar Awards, Pakistan’s equivalent of the Filmfare Awards, a number none of his contemporaries were able to better.  Robin and Shabnam live quietly in Dhaka.