Pakistani qawwal singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan became popular among Indian filmgoers in the worst possible way – through a rip-off of one of his many masterful renditions. Viju Shah’s dance number Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast from the blockbuster Mohra (1994) lifts the catchy tune but not the spiritual lyrics from Dum Mast Qalandar Mast Mast. Instead of a group of seated qawaals willing themselves into a state of ecstasy, you get grinding waists and jutting pelvises.
Khan had actually arrived on Indian shores 13 years before Mohra, in the flop movie Nakhuda. Bobby Sing points out in his book Did You Know 51 Interesting Facts About Hindi Cinema that music director Khayyam introduced Khan to Hindi filmgoers with the track Haq Haq Ali in Dilip Naik’s movie about the inter-faith relationship between a young man and his mentor. Khan sang the qawwali along with his relative, Mujahad Ali, and he was credited as Nusrat Ali on the soundtrack, Sing writes. The qawwali appears at the end of the trailer.
Before Nakhuda, Khan had already performed in India, at the sangeet ceremony of the wedding of Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh on January 20, 1980. Kapoor tweeted out the information in response to a fan’s post of a photograph of the occasion.
Nakhuda came the following year, but it took Viju Shah’s grand theft for the great singer to get the stature he deserved in India.