Shaam-e-Sharda: A Memorable Musical Evening in Framingham
By Tahir Ali


Framingham, MA: Siraj Khan received an interesting call from someone who asked, “Is this the real Sharda?” The spontaneous reply was, “The real Titli”

With an impressive resume of resoundingly successful musical events paying tribute to legendary artistes such as music composer O.P. Nayyar and Geeta Dutt, Siraj and his team pulled together yet another such event, this time with the famous Bollywood playback singer, Sharda, a living legend performing live on stage at Shaam-e-Sharda. The very same Sharda who became a household name overnight in 1966 and with the sensational hit number: Titli Udi, Ud jo chali phool ne kaha aaja mere paas, titli kahe mein chali Aaakash from the film " Suraj"

Siraj Khan pays painstaking attention to the sequence of songs, the performing artistes and the stage design. He scripts interesting anecdotes prefacing each song so that the whole performance unfolds seamlessly, usually punctuated by light humor throughout. The proceeds of the show are targeted to helping the displaced and the homeless victims of the floods of 2010 in Pakistan.

The black and white poster that served as the backdrop for the stage set the tone for the evening - an enlarged photograph of Sharda and Mohammad Rafi, in a live concert along with music directors Shankar-Jaikishan. “Siraj ji informed me that 31st July, 2011 was also the 31st d eath anniversary of Mohammad Rafi. He was kind enough, Naa, to ask my permission if he could include some Rafi songs in the show.” Sharda told Siraj. “I’ll sing his part in my own voice - Rafi ki shaan mein.”

Sharda lived up to her promise when she sang Rafi’s songs: Achha hi hua dil toot gaya and Jigar ka dard badhta ja rahahai from the movies “Maan Bahen aur Biwi” and “Street Singer” respectively.

The show began with duets originally sung by Sharda with Mukesh, Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar. Sharda added her distinctive touch using pre-recorded tracks with the actual voices of the male singers, while she sang her own component playing her keyboard. This was a unique arrangement, because according to Sharda, she is at her best when she sings along with the voices of the original singers.
The songs rendered in this manner were from the films “Around the World"– Duniya ki sair karlo, followed by her solo hits from the film “Ek Nari Ek Bharamchari” – Aap ke peeche parr gai mein, and Baat zara hai aapas ki from the film “Jahan Pyar Milay” for which Sharda garnered the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1970.
This unique performance thus gave the audience what they were hoping for: the original touch – the living legend singing along with great legends, though no longer with us but their memories were brought alive in those songs that evening.

As the evening progressed, Sharda got into her groove and spontaneously sang several additional songs. She mesmerized and regaled the audience with her experiences in yesteryear Bollywood. Her spontaneous recall rendition of the classic Ghar aya mera pardesi was from the top drawer. Inviting the audience to call out “Bilkul”, a la Kishore Kumar in the song, she brought alive the song Masti ho jawani ho from the film “Dil Daulat Duniya”. For the song Wo Pari kahan se laoon teri dulhan jisse banaoon several paris- local stars Meena, Shua, Suzana, Nayanika and Shraddha, accompanied her with Salman Dar in the role of Ganga Ram. Salman played Ganga Ram to the hilt- even his inadvertent lapse of memory of some lines lent to the mood of the song and befitted the Ganga Ram ki samaj mein na aye (no pun intended). On Siraj’s suggestion, Sharda sang two ghazals: Aah ko Chahiye and Ye na thi hamari qismat from her own Ghalib album “Andaz-e-Bayan aur” which resonated well with the audience.
When Sharda wasn’t on the stage, she was enjoying the show listening to her songs sung by the local artistes. The song jaane chaman shola badan from Gumnaam sung by Suzana and Vasanth was perhaps the most enjoyable duet. Mujh ko apne gale laga lo from Hamrahi sung by Meena and Salman Dar was nicely sung on Sharda's own request. Meena also joined with Siraj to sing Tum Pyar se dekho - the first song picturized on Hema Malini in the film ‘Sapno ka Saudagar‘ - Nayanika’s upbeat and lively, hello hello sun sun sun re balam from the film “Pyar Mohabbat” received tremendous applause. Salman Dar's song Kaun hai jo sapno mein aaya from "Jhuk gaya aasman" and Vasanth's Yaad na jaye beete dinno ki from the film "Dil Ek Mandir" were sung in Rafi’s memory.

When Sharda sang Dekho Mera dil Machal gaya from the film, “Suraj” - it echoed the mood and sentiment of the audience and underlined unanimous agreement that Sharda’s voice still retained its unique innocent appeal of her younger days. Someone commented, “It was like we are back in the 70‘s.” The highlight of the evening was to follow next...Sharda's own blend of Chale jaana zara tehro intertwined with Sohail Rana's Aaj jaane ki zid na karo, an experiment generously applauded.
The evening could not have ended in better way than with Sharda singing her most popular song Titli udi…. Reportedly the song was tied with Rafi’s song also from the film Suraj: Baharon phool barsao mera mehboob aya hai for Filmfare's best song award for 1966.

A member in the audience who initially planned to go to the Ghulam Ali concert held on the same evening, decided to stay on until the end of the Sharda show. “I became so captivated and engaged that I did not want to leave,” he told Siraj.

A few days later Siraj arranged for a phone interview with Sharda. I enjoyed talking to her. I found her to be very friendly, articulate, humorous and frank in her comments. I have included some of her remarks in the article for your reading pleasure.

“It was Shri Raj Kapoor who offered to give me a voice test in his studio,” and the rest as they say, is history. Sharda was among the few artists who survived the era when the Mangeshaker sisters were at their peak.

I wanted to know how she survived for 20 years in Bollywood under those circumstances: “Every new artist copied Lata Ji“, she said with all due respect, “I tried to be different, I had my own approach, my own style – and that’s why people loved me for my own style they saw a change. But alas - the music industry got crushed, it never got the chance to expand fully, no dimensions were added – and then people ask ‘where is the music headed?’ She answered rhetorically, “Where will it go – it never got another dimension‘”

Sharda was quite candid in her remarks, “There were many artists that could have contributed to the music industry: Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum, Suman Kalyanpur, Mubarak Begum, Sudha Malhotra, Sandhya Mukherjee, to name just a few. These were all worthy artistes, devoted singers and would have introduced different dimensions – but they and others like them got crushed because of the foolishness of producers and politics.” She likened that era as “a house with only one window opened”

Sharda honestly believes that music must pass on, “Always bring music up and give it to the new generation.”

Sharda is not only a singer but also a music composer; she told me that she has composed and recorded nine songs “for an upcoming American movie.” She claimed that nobody has done that in India. The name of the movie is to be announced soon.

Her advice to upcoming and new singers: “Take music courses – take advice from people who have been there. I took advise from Shri Raj Kapoor, received personal training from Shankar and Jaikishan. I took lessons from Nirmaladevi Aroon Devi, Govinda‘s mother.

Sharda believes in “give back“ policy: for this she has formulated the Voice culture workshop “Nad Lehari" (Sound Waves).

She applauds Siraj Khan for his consistent work for the O.P.Nayyar Memorial Trust, helping aging and forgotten musicians and singers in their twilight years, who have given us so much of joy in the past through their many wonderful songs which we hum even today. “It was my turn for payback."

In that respect I called her a payback singer, and she was amused by that remark.

Raj Kapoor had recorded three songs of Sharda for his movie “Mera Naam Joker”, but somehow they were never included in the final print. It would be nice if those are retrievable.

“I plan to be back in USA next year. Siraj and I have talked about doing another concert next year. Currently I am off to Mumbai to work in a documentary in India .”

The “Titli” flew to Mumbai the next day.

[Photos courtesy Swathi Subramanian and Fauzia Sayeed. Siraj Khan  and Nayanika also contributed to the article. ]

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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