Like many successful artistes before her, Nazia Hassan faded from public memory once she left the film scene in India. But, 21 years later, listeners have not got over the magic of Aap jaisa koi, her superhit song from Feroz Khan's film Qurbani. Nazia was among those who brought pop music to the subcontinent in the early 1980s. The pretty singer, who was in her mid-30s, died in London on August 13, having suffered a relapse of lung cancer.
Feroz Khan may be described as her mentor, the one who made Nazia Hassan a household name. He says, "I got to know of her death through the newspapers. It wasn't totally unexpected because she had been suffering from lung cancer for the last few years. Of course, this does not make it any less sad."
He first met Nazia at a party hosted by a mutual friend, Aswani, in Mayfair, London. She was studying for her O-level exams. "I had gone to London to scout for a location for Qurbani. Nazia was about 15 or 16 then, a very attractive young girl, I remember. I saw her at this party with her parents. They were nice, dignified people, British citizens originally from Pakistan," Khan remembers. "Well, during the course of the conversation, they said their daughter was a singer. I took this statement with a pinch of salt and casually said I'd listen to her sometime. Composer Biddu was at the party too, and I introduced them."
But it was when Nazia auditioned for Feroz Khan that he knew he had a winner on his hands. "She had this slightly nasal quality to her tone. That is why we double-tracked her voice for Qurbani. Incidentally, this song, which was recorded in London, was the first Hindi film song to be recorded on 24 tracks," says Khan. This was also the beginning of the legendary team of Biddu, Nazia and Zoheb Hassan.
Aap jaisa koi went on to create history. Feroz Khan smiles and says, "She was all keyed up at the recording and said she was sure this song would become a superhit. As for me, I put my money on Laila main Laila. But she was very sure of Aap jaisa koi. Well, it became Nazia's most famous song, something she is still identified with. She followed it up with the Biddu album, Disco Deewane, but not even that could replicate the success of Aap jaisa koi."
Feroz Khan organised premieres of Qurbani in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, and Nazia attended the Mumbai event. "But after some time, we lost touch. The family moved back to Pakistan for some years, and then I heard that Nazia was married."
Unlike other film-makers who would cling on to something that had become so successful, Feroz Khan did not repeat Nazia Hassan in any of his movies. "Well, there is so much talent all over! I made my next film, Janbaaz, a full five years after Qurbani. Here I introduced Sapna Mukherjee in the song Jane jaana. I also introduced Jolly Mukherjee in Dayavan. He happened to be on the sets and I let him try out Chahe meri jaan. So I have consistently given newcomers a chance."
Does he think Aap jaisa koi did a lot for Qurbani? "It was a good song, certainly, but if you think back, all the songs from the film became major hits. There was Laila main Laila, Tujh pe qurban meri jaan, Hum tumhe chahte hain aise and Kya dekhte ho? These were all composed by Kalyanji-Anandji, whereas Biddu composed the tune for Nazia's song."
Nazia had recorded some songs for Pakistan Television (PTV), which are being aired in her memory since last week. The more remarkable ones are Dosti with brother Zoheb, and her solo, Dum dum di di. She also hosted a TV show, Dhanak, for PTV Karachi. Nazia changed the programme's existing format, making sportspersons sing and artistes do things they were not known for. She preferred to do what she did best, though, sing.
Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.