Do you recognise this tune? (The clip’s only a few seconds long, so it won’t take much time to listen to it). I’m sure most of you who like old Hindi film music will be able to guess this one.
O P Nayyar’s favourite guitarist was a man named Hazara Singh, but occasionally, he’d let another guitarist play a piece. As in this case. The man who played the guitar here was my father’s cousin, Samuel Naseeruddin ‘Sammy’ Daula.
Sammy Daula was my father’s first cousin—Papa’s father and Sammy Daula’s mother were brother and sister. While Sammy Daula was (as you can hear) a very talented musician, he didn’t take up residence in Bombay like my father’s brother Vernie did. Instead, Sammy Daula lived in Ludhiana, played there at concerts, and only occasionally swung by Bombay. On these infrequent visits to the heart of Hindi filmdom, he’d get some assignments—like this one.
Unfortunately, even my father (who’s my usual source for family-related trivia) doesn’t know about any other songs for which Sammy Daula played. Yeh chand sa roshan chehra, in my opinion, is in itself enough to earn him a place in my lexicon of great musicians!
While I’m on the topic of the Daulas, it’s worth sharing a small (and pretty funny) anecdote about Sammy Daula and his father. ‘Daula’ is actually a Persian title (as in ‘Siraj-ud-Daula’ or ‘Itmad-ud-Daula’) and was bestowed by the Mughals on only the very highest in the land. This implied that Sammy Daula’s family on the paternal side must have included some very illustrious, powerful and wealthy ancestors.
By the time Sammy Daula was born, the Daulas had long converted from Islam to Christianity, but—as was often quite common among North Indian Christians—the names they gave their offspring continued to be a mix of ‘Muslim’ and more Western names. Which is why Alfred Moinuddin Daula named his son Samuel Naseeruddin Daula.
Which would have been all very well, except that Partition happened, and Mr Daula (or Alfred Dada, as I referred to him) realised that it could be dangerous to live in an increasingly anti-Muslim area and have a name so Muslim. So he hurriedly changed his name to Alfred Mahadev Daula, and changed Sammy Uncle’s name to Samuel Narinder Daula—a covering of all bases? People wouldn’t know whether the man in question was Christian or Hindu or Muslim or just plain nutters.
That, therefore, is another introduction to a little-known musician from the family.
And, since this is a shortish post, I may as well devote some space to some hectic and shameless self-promotion. As some of you may already know, my third book has just been released. It’s called My Lawfully Wedded Husband and Other Stories, and is a collection of contemporary black humour short stories, stories always with a twist in the tale.
Edited to add: Since this post was written, I’ve discovered that two other films for which Sammy Daula played include Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon and China Town. Sammy Uncle’s widow, Aunty Caro, mentioned this to my father, but was unable to recall which songs he played for in these films. No matter; both, in my opinion, have great music!
Further edited to add: One more song has been identified as featuring Sammy Daula’s guitar: Baar-baar dekho, from China Town. Another classic!