Preetam Aan Milo
More than fifty years later, Preetam Aan Milo remains an unforgettable classic and an intriguing study in contrast, looking at the contrasting way the careers of its main protagonists progressed and the contrasting way its simplistic, almost naïve old world sentimentality gave way to a flashy and frothy modern musical style in its composer.
Just around the time of Indian Independence, a Lahore-based twenty- something young composer- Omkar Prasad Nayyar (aka O.P.Nayyar aka O.P.) composed tune and his wife Saroj Mohini penned the lyrics of Preetam Aan Milo. O.P. was then heavily influenced by the sentimental and Indian classical- based New Theatre music dominated by that musical colossus of the forties – Kundan Lal Saigal and the tune showed that influence. Saigal was no more then but his almost replica – C.H. Atma was and he was the natural choice as the singer.
Using minimalist orchestration with Tabla, Organ and Sitar, O.P. weaved magic in the song and Atma’s sonorous and sensitive Saigalesque voice made it even more enchanting.
This privately recorded song became one of the greatest hits in post-independence era but for next few years, O.P.Nayyar- the composer remained an unknown entity and everyone just swooned over Atma’s vocal artistry. Then a famous Mumbai-based film producer Dalsukh Pancholi, determined to find this elusive composer of Preetam Aan Milo literally fished O.P. out of obscurity to make him the music director of his next Hindi film – Aasmaan (1952).
The delighted composer repaid the debt of his star singer by composing songs like Is Bewafa Jahan Mein, Raat Suhani and Kuchh Samajh Nahi Aayee for Atma in Aasmaan. But as fate would have it, the music flopped and soon, O.P. had to conceive a totally alien, rhythm-dominated, zany and zingy westernized musical style to just survive in film industry. Still so much in love he was with Preetam Aan Milo that he used it in his first hit soundtrack of Aar Paar (1954), only this time, the abbreviated version was sung by Geeta Dutt. O.P. succeeded in his efforts to revamp his image like few ever did and went on to become a path-breaking music director, an all time legend.
In contrast, C.H.Atma, who had enjoyed the early popularity thanks to his uncanny ability to sound like Saigal, couldn’t really come out of his idol’s shadow. Emergence of new singing talents like Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mehmood and Mukesh and preference for faster, feistier music had taken away Atma’s crooning opportunities. He had his set of die-hard fans – limited but knowledgeable, who cherished his memorable songs like Main Ghee Ka Diya Jalaoon and Rouun Main Saagar Kinare but largely he remained a forgotten artist on side-lines. 1967 film Geet Gaaya Pattharone composed by Ramlal featured Atma’s swansong in Hindi film music – an Omar Khayyam rubaiyat- Ik Pal Jo Mila Hai Tujhko.
Today, Atma is not there in this world but his pensive, pathos-laden rendition of Preetam Aan Milo has still survived the ravages of time!