Tribute

Five songs to remember music composers Sonik-Omi by

Om Prakash Sonik, who died on July 7, forged a fruitful partnership with his uncle Master Sonik that produced memorable tunes.

Veteran music director Om Prakash Sonik passed away after a cardiac arrest in Mumbai on July 7. He was 77. Omi, as he was popularly known, was the nephew of the blind music director Master Sonik, and together they formed the noted Sonik-Omi team that provided music in scores of Hindi films for close to three decades. Incidentally, Master Sonik’s 23rd death anniversary falls on July 9.

Om Prakash Verma (he adopted Sonik as a surname later) was born in Sialkot in 1937. In the wake of the Partition, the family migrated to Delhi. There, they were joined by Om’s uncle Manohar Lal Sonik. Manohar Lal, also born in Sialkot, had lost his eyesight when he was only two. But he never let that deter him from his musical ambitions. At the time of the Partition, he was touring with a musical dance party owned by well-known character actor Om Prakash’s brother. In 1948, Manohar Lal decided to move to Bombay to try his luck in the film industry. Eleven-year-old Omi was packed off to take care of his visually-impaired uncle. The age difference between the two was close to 12 years.

In Bombay, Manohar Lal Sonik initially found some work as a singer. He then went on to compose music for a couple of films co-produced by RB Haldia, who had earlier produced Parwana (1947), KL Saigal’s last film. Ishwar Bhakti, where Sonik combined with Girdhar, Haldia’s manager, released in 1951 and Mamta in 1952. Unfortunately, both fared poorly at the box office.

Play
‘Bhor Bhayi’, ‘Mamta’.

The failure of the films seemed to have brought Master Sonik’s career as a music director to a premature end. Characteristically, taking the disappointment in his stride, he started assisting other music directors. He went on to work on a string of musical hits with accomplished composers such as Madan Mohan (Woh Kaun Thi, Haqeeqat, Mera Saaya) and Roshan (Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, Aarti, Taj Mahal), and also newbies like Usha Khanna (Dil Deke Dekho). Intriguingly, in the Nasir Husain-directed Dil Deke Dekho, where Master Sonik is credited with the background score, the opening credits say Sonik, the blind musician.

The perceptive Master Sonik used to compose on a peti (or harmonium) while an assistant, the violinist Alfie D’Costa, took down the notation and communicated it to the musicians. Meanwhile, Omi, after several abortive attempts to succeed as a singer, had started assisting his uncle. In the Raj Kapoor-Nutan starrer Dil Hi To Hai, we see Sonik-Omi credited for the first time. Impressed with their work, the producers of the film, the Rawals, gave them their first break as a music director duo. The title song of the Dharmendra-Nutan starrer Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya (1966) became a huge hit and is a staple at ‘Tribute to Rafi’ programmes even today.

Play
‘Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya’.

After Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya, the duo did two more films with the Rawals – Aabroo (1969) and Ladki Pasand Hai (1971). In between, they tasted major commercial success in the shape of Sawan Bhadon, a film that marked the Hindi debut of Rekha and also introduced Navin Nischol. However, the most remembered Sonik-Omi songs from that period would be an epic Rafi tearjerker from Mahua (1969)...

Play
‘Dono Ne Kiya Tha Pyar’, ‘Mahua’.

…and this all-time classic qawwali from Dharma (1973).

Play
‘Raaz Ki Baat’, ‘Dharma’.

Despite delivering a massive hit like “Raaz Ki Baat”, Sonik-Omi never made it to the big league. Through the 1970s and ’80s, the duo composed music for a string of low-budget and forgettable films with titles like Ram Kasam, Agent 009, Jwala Daku, Pyasa Shaitaan and Chambal Ka Badshah. Buried deep within those listless films are some intriguing background scores and curiosities such as “Kahin Ho Na Mohalle Mein Halla” (a mujra number sung by none other than Shobha Gurtu for Chowki No 11) and this one from Teen Eekay featuring the voice of Omi, the failed singer.

Play
‘Ree Baba Ree Baba’, ‘Teen Eekay’.

Master Sonik passed away on July 9, 1993, after a long illness. After his death, a few films that that been delayed released periodically. Lady Killer (1995), Hind Ki Beti (1996) and Biwi No 2 (2000) disappeared without a trace.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

Play

During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.