Aar Paar (Around Here) is an Urdu film released in March 1973.
It seems to have been a B-movie going by the name of the leading players: Nisho, Shahid and Husna, a beautiful actress who was never able to break out of her ‘supporting’ roles but who, nevertheless, is fondly remembered for her contribution to the movies.
As is so often the case, the soundtrack of this commercial flop, contains some real jewels. The filmi music scene was dominated, like in India, by a solid core group of superstar music directors (arranger/composers), singers and musicians. So powerful were their perceived abilities that even second and third rate films sought them out. It appears that producers paid big money for these magical names as a kind of insurance policy: the film may end up a flop but if we include a song or two by Noor Jehan or Mehnaz maybe we can move a few lakh (hundred thousand) more tickets.
In 1973 there were no bigger names in Pakistani music than Noor Jehan and Mehdi Hassan. Indeed, if you had to do a quick shortlist of the top 5 singers of Pakistan you would probably list these as Number 1 and 2. [And if you extended that list to take in all of South Asia, most people would have both names in the Top Ten.]
Noor Jehan came up through stage acting and singing. At the time of Partition in 1947 she was an established actress with several major motion pictures to her credit and her singing voice has been deemed ‘the best of all time’ for female playback singers.
Mehdi Hassan emerged out of a different tradition. Born into a traditional Rajasthani musical home, his family moved to Pakistan soon after 1947. Though classically trained Hassan’s professional career started by singing for Rafiq Anwar’s 1956 film Shikaar. For the rest of his career his mellow, burnished voice provided hundreds of films with moments of elegance and grace. In addition to films, Hassan built a reputation as one of the finest proponents of the ghazal and other semi-classical genres like thumri, dadra and geet.
Both singers contributed their formidable talents to Aar Paar but even so the film was unable to make an impression. The musical director was another Big Name, M Ashraf, who in 1973 was just approaching the height of his own powers as a highly inventive and influential musical mind.
In Teri Talash Main Sadiyon Se (I’ve Been Searching for You for Centuries) they play a straight bat. Ashraf eschews flashy fusion of electric guitars and Moogs and avoids wild dance or disco beats. Rather, the maddeningly short piece places Mehdi Hassan’s voice within a gorgeous light melody with traditional subcontinental instruments. As such the song is a throwback to an earlier time before Pakistani films went nuts about experimenting with Western sounds.
Enjoy this gentle, lilting paean to love from one of the greatest of South Asian vocalists.