Sunday, April 29, 2018


                         ( MOHAN LAL AIMA PLAYING THE TUMBAKNAARI )
                                   ( MOHAN LAL AIMA )
                 ( Mohan Lal Aima entertaining European guests in a houseboat. The photo appeared in LIFE  magazine )                                                       

                                  ( With actor OmkarAima ( left ) his real brother )
                   ( Gracious and selfless...  Shanta Ji , wife of Mohan Lal Aima )
( Mohan Lal Aima in Radio Kashmir , Srinagar photo source.. Book... 'Radio Kashmir 'by Pran Kishore Kaul)
                ( Mohan Lal Aima's son Satish Kaul, the well known Punjabi actor  )

    ( Mohan Lal Aima with Mohammad Abdullah Tibbetbaqal) 

 ( Photo of a letter addressed by Mohan Lal Aima  to Poet Dina Nath Nadim...Courtesy..Ahimsa Kaul )                            
( Mohan Lal Aima, recording the popular Naat ' Ya Nabi Gosh Fariyadan Thaav 'inside Radio Kashmir, Srinagar)

( Mohan Lal Aima giving letter of appreciation to Yusuf Bhat )



Mohan Lal Aima was born in a family of ‘Datatreya Kauls ' of Fateh Kadal, Srinagar . This area was across the Jhelum river and close to Syed Ali Akbar locality . His father , Pandit Vedh Lal Aima   had earned  respect and goodwill in the society even with his modest means and simple living. The family got Aima nickname as some elder from this clan was a gifted osteopath (Waatangor) who cured many people with fractures and dislocations.

After completing his LLB, he was to join Bar and establish himself as an advocate,  but contrary to that, he gave a surprise/shock to his family and the conservative Kashmiri Pandit  society ( at that point of time) when he decided to opt music and singing as his career. During those days, it was something like a rebellious act for his middle-class family. And he earned the nickname" Mohan Chhakri ".

I am informed by many elders that he not only composed tune for the song':

"Lehra aye Kashmir key jhanday,

Hal walay dilgeer key jhanday,

Har dam lehra,

Har soo lehra,

Taba qayaamat paiham lehra "

(Flutter high O Flag of Kashmir ,

With the plough' s. sign,

Flutter O dearest Flag,

Ever moment,

In every direction,

Keep fluttering,

Till the day of the judgment.)

But also led a group of boys that sang this song when Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and Sheikh Mohd Abdullah addressed a huge gathering at Palladium cinema Lal chowk Srinagar in November 1947 . This song was written by Maulana Masoodi, a close associate of Sheikh Mohd Abdullah during those days and it used to be played as an anthem song in official functions during 1948 and 1949.

He scored music for first full-length Kashmiri feature film MAENZRAAT. He scored music for Nadim sahib's opera ' Bombur Ta Yemberzal' that was widely appreciated and shown to Russian dignitaries Nikita Khruschev and Nikolai Bulganin. during their visit to Kashmir. It was performed on early December , 1955 at Nedou’s Hotel , Srinagar by a galaxy of Kashmiri artists and singers  . Marshal  Bulganin was reportedly seen taping his foot when the artists sang the Bomburo Bomburo. He also scored music for the Kashmiri version of the movie 'Shaayar e Kashmir' Mehjoor".

His tune for Nadim Sahib's composition" Bomburo Bumburo Shaam Rang Bomburo " became popular in the entire length and breadth of the country after it was used in a Bollywood movie.                            

He scored music for Ezra Mir's 1953 film ..Lotus of Kashmir(Pamposh).It was produced by Ambalal J. Patel. He also scored music for "ROKO" a short telefilm produced for DoorDarshan by M Y Bhat . It was telecast from four metros of the country sometime in1975 or 1976.

He was also commissioned by Muzaffar Ali as a music consultant cum co-composer for his aborted high profile film Zooni  ( Story based on the life of Habba Khatoon ) . The music of the international version was to be done by Oscar winner Japanese composer, Riyuchi Sakamoto, while music for all the songs in Kashmiri was to be scored by Mohan Lal Aima. And the renowned fashion designer, Mary McFadden of New York had been engaged to design the costumes of the film.Muzaffar Ali had to put his project on hold due to widespread militancy in Kashmir. The shooting of this high profile movie with Dimple Kapadia and Vinod Khanna in lead roles had been started during the summer of 1989.

         ( Vala Az Yaaro...A popular Kashmiri Duet composed by Mohan Lal Aima)                            

About Mohan Lal Aima , Film maker Muzaffar Ali says:-

" He provided a great help and support for the project. From him, i heard some of the finest tunes and indigenous music of the valley."

( A song composed by Mohan Lal Aima for 1964 Kashmiri  film MaenzRaat) 

As head of music section Radio Kashmir Srinagar (1949-1964), he is responsible for creating innumerable popular songs based on Kashmiri folk using only Kashmiri instruments . As singer, his soulful Naat 'Ya Nabi Gosh Fariyaadan Thaav' or ' My Prophet , Listen My Prayers' moistens eyes of every listener . This Naat immortalised him.

Veteran  playwright , Padamshri Moti Lal Kemmu writes :-

" Mohan Lal Aima, as the  director and composer of music for the opera (Bombur  Yemberzal)  had to work strenuously with majority of amateur singers. Similarly all the musicians and instrumentalists did not know the notation and had to remember the tunes and pieces by intuition. The opera when produced and performed during Oct.-Nov.-1953, created a stir and the number of audience increased appreciably.

When a song in chorus form in Bombur Yemberzal had to be conceived and written, Nadim Saheb asked for a tune which would be fit, attractive, vigorous and forceful. Many tunes and songs were sung and suggested. Finally, Nadim Saheb liked the Shamas Fakir's song, "Shuniya Gachithay oas meyoan Oalooy--Amay ashq naran zooloyea" which is sung by popular Chakri singers and each line ends with broken Hay Hay Haay. Nadim wrote Bombro Bombro chorus with simple, forceful words and when set to tune by Mohan Lal  Aima Saheb every actor and musician congratulated the director. Nadim had changed Hay Hay Hay with Ho Ho Hao commensurate with the word voice-image of last word of the each line. Bombro Bombro is sung in quicker pace than Chakri artiste's traditional tune, which goes to the credit of Mohan Lal  Aima Saheb, the first and foremost music composer Kashmir had produced.

This type of tune in Chakri style is called Sahrai.  In this style abrupt pauses with short silences are considered embellishments. In olden days there were no transport facilities. After day's toil villagers would go home in each others company. While crossing over the Karevas they would sing their favourite songs. While singing against the flow of winds, some impediment would cause pauses while one began to sing. Therefore a longer Ha will get broken into Ha Ha Ha . So this form of folk singing developed and was named Sahrai.

Aima Saheb gave us an improvised tune of Sahrai. When people would come out of Nedous Hotel, after having seen 'Bombur  Yambarzal' every one would sing and mutter Bombro Bombro. Because of its popularity, it was sung in College entertainment programmes, and on Chakri tune by Kashmiri women.

The only one Rof song in the opera was also tuned after a popular Rof tune which has been forgotten now. The song was led by Mr Rah and all other actors acting as flowers used to sing in two rows of Rof formation. Rest of the songs of the Opera were all composed in music by Aima Saheb with his creative effort and ability. Mr Pushkar Bhan maintained comic-satirical mood of the song Hu Hu Hu of Harud on a time beat. Since Aima Saheb acted Toofan himself, he sang the song of Toofan with wind like movements and the words, "Wah Wah Wah Wah Yam Bar Zal" would echo in the Hall.Aima Saheb, the director of the opera wanted to assign the role of Yambarzal to Miss Zia Durani, a handsome non-Kashmiri speaking enthusiast but the authorities decided the role for Zoona Begum, a popular Chakri singer-dancer.

Every musician has a background of classical semi-classical or folk music which enables him to compose new tunes and melodies. Mohan Lal Aima, as a producer-composer in Radio Kashmir had done Yeoman's service to Kashmiri music from 1949 to 1964. Most of his compositions are reported to have been erased from the tapes but the opera Bombur Yambarzal is said to be in tact. This opera was re-produced with some different cast during the time Kreshchov and Bulganian visited Kashmir. In 1964, I produced its shorter version and the shows were presented in Kerala, Tamil Nadu besides Jammu." 


                                                      ( A composition of Mohan Lal Aima )

Padamshri Pran Kishore Kaul told me this:-

"I have memorable association with Aima sahib. He was  senior to me. In fact when I was in college , he had  completed his MA. He was handsome and  initially started  acting in plays. Music, especially Kashmir's folk music was in his veins. He  was a pioneer in bringing Kashmir''s folk music to Radio. We  stayed together in good old days in Residency quarters . It was ordered by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah ,who ,apart from being prime minister  also happened to be the minister for information and broadcasting that Radio staff should reside close to the station. He created the original tunes for Nadim Sahib's opera Bombur Yemberzal. Many versions were done of this opera but his tunes were retained. The version shown to Russians had orchestration by Varinder Mohan on tunes created by Aima Sahib. While none could match him in respect of his knowledge about Kashmir''s folk music, he did not focus towards Hindustani classical music. He had mastered Kashmiri folk instruments especially Noett and Tumbaknaar. He scored the music of Kashmiri version of Shaayar e Kashmir' Mehjoor . The Urdu version was handled by Prem  Dhawan.  He went on deputation to Kabul, came to Srinagar ,went to Delhi and finally Mumbai. His brother Omkar Ji was also  handsome and talented. He was the hero in the first Kashmiri film MaenzRaat. Omkar Ji also did some roles in Hindi films and was a successful model in Mumbai. " 

Bihari Kak , actor , producer and director  informed me this :-

 “ Whenever he would come to Srinagar , he would  come to my shop located  at Hazuri Bagh  . He was like a father figure . He would appreciate the work I was doing in theatre and television. . He would generally come with G R Santosh . They ate together , fought like children  over small issues and loved each other like real brothers .  Santosh Sahib had a perfect understanding with Aima Sahib.  Aima sahib had a heart of gold. He would get angry if things didn’t  go the way he wanted them to be especially in  fields where he had put his hard work and sincere efforts .In spite of his anger which was always momentary , he was affectionate towards even his foes .  He was helpful to every Kashmiri  in any manner he could do. I met him  in 1979 in his  Saat Bunglow  ( Andheri West ) apartment . Bollywood actress cum dancer Helen also lived in those apartments . I had a group of about 18 persons with me. I had actors , Bhaand artists and some singers notably Ghulam Gassan Sofi . We had come to Mumbai to perform for our theatre . It was Aima Sahib who arranged free accommodation for our team  otherwise  we had no place to stay in Mumbai. I met him again in 1990.  At that time ,  was confined to bed and was suffering from cancer .  I needed a Dejhur  for our shooting . We were shooting Pran Ji's  tele-serial Gul Gulshan Gulfaam. Aima Sahib’s wife readily offered her own Dejhur for the shooting . I had my camera with me . I clicked about twelve photographs of Aima Sahib and he wanted to see them all. Unfortunately all the photographs clicked by me  had missed to capture Aima Sahib and some turned out total blank . When I returned to Jammu, I was informed that Aima Sahib had left for his heavenly abode .  It was a sad news and that meant the  end of an era.“

Though Mohan Lal Aima could play any traditional Kashmiri instrument with perfection, it was a real treat to see him playing the Traditional Nott (Matka) and Tumbhaknaari. He would dazzle his audience with a unique make, twist and turn of Pitch and tempo; a speciality that remains unsurpassed to this day.

He was a pillar of the cultural renaissance in Kashmir that had started taking shape in the early forties of the last century.

Generations of Kashmiris shall remain indebted to him for what he contributed to Kashmiri Music. And a generation of Singers and Musicians was taught and trained by him.

He was the first musician to experiment orchestration of Kashmiri traditional music instruments creating what came to be known as "SAAZINA" . Saazina had so many Rabaabs , Tumbakhnaris, Sarangis, Matkaas( Nott) and Santoors to play popular folk tunes in one go on stage guided by the main conductor. Something like Zubin Mehta's orchestra.
 ( Ya Nabi gosh fariyadan thaav ,a popular Kashmiri Naat  composed and sung  by Mohan Lal Aima )
Before his death, Aima Sahib composed music for some Bhakti songs of saint poetess Bhagyvan Ded of Kashmir . Bhagyvan Ded was a highly realized soul and a resident of Muran. Her spiritual teacher was Swami Govind Kaul Ji . The CD for these Bhakti Leelas was named 'Manpamposh' . Aima sahib also involved well known singers  Rita Koul and Aarti Tiku Kaul in this project . I am told that the Sri Krishen Leela  ' Kochhi Kyath Krishen Murari Chhum ' from this CD has been soulfully sung by Aima Sahib. He was unwell at that period of time and during recording , he was all tears .

( A 
noticeboard  inside Bhagwan Gopinath Ji Ashram, Jammu)

In 2009, when I met Kashmiri melody queen Raj Begum Sahiba in Srinagar. Only mention of Aima sahib's name brought tears in her eyes. Wiping them, she told me:

" Swargus munz assinuss jaai. Me chha sakh khaaer Aima saebun"

" May he be happy in the Swarga( heaven) . I am Indebted to him for his help. "

And when I touched Aima sahib's name, Kashmiri singer Gh Qadir Langoo hugged me saying:

" Tche ma chhukh Aima saebun rishtedaar. teli roz raata assi nishi"

" Are you related to Aima Sahib ? If yes, then Stay for a night as my guest."

Mohan Lal Aima gained immense popularity in Kabul during the period he was on deputation to Radio Afghanistan as its Director-General .Alas! he stands forgotten in his own Kashmir. No reward, no award and no recognition from any quarter. Is it not incumbent upon every Kashmiri to introduce him and his contribution to our younger generation ?


‘ Shiv ka vishpaan tau sunaa hoga, 
Mein bhi aey dost pee gaya aansoo”……….(Firaq Gorakhpuri)


( You must have heard of Shiva’s poison-drinking  feat,
 I too , O friend , was obliged to gulp down my tears .)


( Avtar Mota )
See here also..


( Link to a lullaby sung by Mohan Lal Aima )

CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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