Sharmilee (Shy) is an Urdu movie released in 1978.
The Indian film of the same name was a massive hit in the early 1970s. Huge, larger-than-life hand painted hoardings of Rakhee, the film’s main star, lined the rainy streets of my hometown for months. Though I never saw the film those posters remain a memory that is lodged forever in my mind.
The Pakistani version of the film starred two of the biggest names in the industry, Nadeem and Mumtaz and did not do too shabbily at the box office, itself. It ran for 26 straight weeks thereby just qualifying for Golden Jubilee status. Nadeem, born in southern India (Vijaywada) was THE male lead throughout the 1970s and 80s, mirroring in many ways the career of Amitabh Bachchan across the border in India. Whereas the Big B exemplified “The Angry Young Man”, Nadeem brought a softer, less fiery but no less charismatic presence to the movies. He is Pakistan’s most awarded male lead with 19 Nigar Awards for Best Actor.
The score for this film was developed by Karim Shahabuddin a musical director about which I’ve found almost nothing other than he was indeed a real person. It appears he was from the Eastern part of Pakistan, which in 1971 became the independent country, Bangladesh.
The singer of today’s selection, Jee Rahe Hain Hum Tunha (I am Living a Lonely Life) is another big name, A Nayyar. Born near Sahiwal (Punjab) into a Christian family, Arthur (he never used his Christian name as an artist) came onto the scene in the early 1970s. This was an era when the likes of Ahmed Rushdi, who seemed to get all the upbeat songs and Mehdi Hassan, the ghazal master who got the nod for most ‘sad’ songs dominated the playback scene. It seemed as if the ceiling was made not of mere glass but brick and mortar.
But Nayyar had a voice that reminded the listening public of Kishore Kumar, the Indian sensation, and after some work in television he was given his chance in movies with Bahisht (1974). The impact was immediate. Music directors and producers pegged him for more and more films, so much so that by the late 1970s his voice was heard almost as frequently as Rushdi’s.
Jee Rahe Hain Hum Tunha was performed first on a television show called Naghma, in which Nayyar sat on center stage surrounded by empty chairs. The atmospherics were deeply emotional and the song was lifted lock-stock-and-barrel for Sharmilee.
It is a lovely, moody song. Shahabuddin composed a melody that sounds as if it is raga based (don’t ask me which one!) and creates a mood of solitude that allows the listener to focus fully on the lyrics and singing. Nayyar demonstrates the influence of Kishore sahib by smoothly letting several falsetto yodels slide throughout the piece, which along with a female chorus, adds emotional depth to the arrangement. For his part the composer inserts brief violin, bansuri and sitar solos that really burnish the overall composition.
A sad song that you’ll listen to a lot.