FIROZ DASTUR (30-9-1919 to 9-5-2008) – a forgotten GEM

The other day I overheard a small boy singing a song ‘Khaaliq Tori Najariya’ on the radio. So mesmerized was I by his voice & mastery over classical singing that I promptly sought more information about this kid. To my utter surprise the boy turned out to be good old classical singer Firoz Dastur. He had sung this song as a child actor/ singer back in 1933 for the film ‘Lal-e-Yaman’

Various ‘Gharanas’ of Indian classical music had produced many famous vocalist and ‘Kirana Gharana’ had been the forerunner among them producing gems like Abdul Karim Khan, Sawai Gandharva, Hirabai Barodekar, Gangubai Hangal, Pt .Bhimsen Joshi, Prabha Atre etc. who earned high esteem for themselves as well as for the nation. But one dedicated and equally talented vocalist among them had always kept a low-profile, and it was Firoz Dastur.
For almost five decades, this brilliant vocalist, deservingly headed the Bombay University’s music department and shaped the musical sensibilities of generations of musicians. His disciples remember him for his interpretation of the nuances of the ‘Guru-Shishya Parampara’ – the pillar of Indian ‘Gayaki’.
However, only a few might be aware of Panditji’s contribution to the Hindi films. Way back in 1930s, Wadia Movietone had introduced him as a child actor/singer in Lal-e-Yeman’ (1933). Later he acted/ sang in films like ‘Kala Gulab’ (1933), ‘Baag-e Misar’ (1934), ‘Vaman Avatar’ (1934), ‘ Sunhare Bal'(1938), ‘ Gul-e Bakavali’ (1947) etc. and had he continued, he would certainly have joined the league of great singer- actors of his time like K L Saigal, Surendra Nath. However. Pt. Feroze ji could not resist the call of the ‘Tanpura’ and opted out to become a disciple of legendary Sawai Gandharva and dedicated himself in performing as well as teaching classical music through out his life.
Today, he is almost forgotten as an actor/ singer for films. How many of us know that he had given playback, as recent as in 1977, for the song ‘Ghat Ghat Mein Ram Ramiyya’, in an award winning and Smita Patil’s personal best film, ‘Bhumika’ (1977)? Sadly, his film songs have remained only as an archival importance for film historians, film connoisseurs and maybe for himself too. But one must appreciate, this Zoroastrian Parsi Pandit ji, renounced the lucrative film career and embraced classical music embodying its syncretic spirit till the very end.

His filmography…
Gul-e-Bakavali (1947), Sunhera Bal (1938), Khun-e-Nahaq (1935), Bag-E-Misar (1934),  Vaman Avtar (1934), Kala Gulab (1933) and Lal-e-Yaman (1933).
Thanks to the radio & the song which prompted me to remember this distinguished musician and offer tribute to his memories.
The above song and yet another song, ‘Tasveer-e-gam Bana Hoon Mai’ he had sang as a child artist for the film ‘Lal-e-Yaman’ (1933) can be watched here…

His song from Shyam Benegal’s film ‘Bhumika’ quoted above can be listened here…
https://youtu.be/m-oL04Mofl4

R.B.Tayade
Nagpur

For

Piyush Pande Films

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