People At Large

Khemchandra Prakash

Forgotten Bollywood Music Director
Accumulates Royalty of Fifty Lakhs Rupees

Sandip Hor

Today when we talk about top music directors of Bollywood, the names of A.R Rehaman, Anu Malik and Jatin Lalit comes to our mind. Prior to them, we had Rahul Dev Burman, Kalyanji Anandji, Laxmikant Pyerelal, Shanker Jaikishen and Sachin Dev Burman who dominated the industry in the 60s and 70s. The 50s saw music directors like C. Ramchandra and Salil Chowdhuri. Adding to that list,there were also classical composers like Naushad and Roshan who were renowned for their tunes in true Indian classical ragas.

Probably the memory of today’s time goes back as far as that, till recently there was a news item stating that a huge sum of royalty payment to the tune of rupees fifty lakhs has accumulated for a music composer by the name of Khemchand Prakash.

So who was Khemchand who grew a royalty payment to such an enormous amount in the world of music. Unfortunately the industry may have forgotten him,but he was the uncrowned king of Hindi film music in Bombay in the 40s

An artist of rare genius, he was born in Jaipur and was initially the court singer for the Maharaja of Bikaner. Later on he moved to the royal family of Nepal. While in Nepal he became associated with All India Radio in Calcutta and New Theatres Studio which was then the nerve centre of Indian Cinema.

His musical talent was unmatched in the country at that time. In 1940 he moved to Bombay and very soon established himself as the top music director of Hindi cinema. In a short span of nine years he composed music for 47 films .His first film was Gaji Salauddin followed by Meri Ankhen, Aaj Ki Hindustan and Diwali. However his two films thereafter – Holi and Pagaal gave him the widespread acclamation that put him to the top in Bombay. Then there were superhit films like Pardeshi, Umeed, Shadi and many more. Audience as well as producers started appreciating that good music and good songs can make a film box office hit and commercially successful. Khurshid, a top heroine at that time was also a playback singer. She sang a number of songs composed by Kemchand. Towards late forties he gave a break to two new young artists as playback singers in films Ziddi, Mahal and Rimjhim. Later this two became legends in their own right as playback singers . They were Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar.

However Khemchand’s masterpiece was music for the film Tanshen, based on the life of the 16th century court singer of Mogul emperor Akbar. The film created history and is still considered as a musical milestone in the history of mainstream Indian cinema. Great actor and singer Kundan Lal Saigal played the main role and in his golden voice sang the songs that gave life to the role of Tanshen, the pioneer of classical Indian music. Khemchand’s music using Tanshen created ragas such as Darbari and Mia Malhar were outstanding and songs such as Diya Jalao and Barso Re Barso Re became immortal.

Khemchand died in 1949 and Indian music lost a genius . A royalty of fifty lakhs rupees now seems nothing compared to his talent. Remembering him, his music and songs with respect and appreciation will probably pay the highest royalty to his outstanding talent.