For sometime Khan Athar was part of Abid Aur Dedh Matwale and Hangama, the comic shows of Hamid Kamal and Munawar Ali.
Those who wish to sing, always find an occasion. You can say this about Khan Athar, Hyderabad’s well-known singer, who passed away the other day. He had only one passion, singing. And he indulged in it till the very last. His ailing heart didn’t stop him from regaling audience with a beautiful ‘Naat’ at the Urdu Maskan just two days ago.
Not a day passed without some organisation or the other inviting him to sing. And Khan Athar wouldn’t refuse despite his failing health. For him anything better than singing was more singing. He just grew with it and dominated the cultural scene in Hyderabad for decades. An abashed fan of Mohd Rafi, he paid tributes to the maestro every year on July 31 by organising the ‘Yaad-e-Rafi’ show. Only this year he couldn’t hold the programme on account of the Covid pandemic.
He sang all types of songs – filmi numbers, geet and bhajans. But he is best known as a ghazal singer. He shot to fame through his stage performances and ghazal programmes on All India Radio. His larynx had an enormous range, depth and malleability. Khan Athar’s shows at Gandhi Bhavan and Ravindra Bharati were a sell out, offering entertainment with style and sparks. Those visiting the annual Numaish looked forward to his musical concerts.
For sometime Khan Athar was part of Abid Aur Dedh Matwale and Hangama, the comic shows of Hamid Kamal and Munawar Ali. He had a lucky break when film producer, Lekh Tandon, chose him to sing for the TV serial, Farman. Later he also sang for Jeelani Bano’s TV programme, Manzilen Pyar Ki. He gained international repute when he performed at Doha and Jeddah to mark the 400 years of Hyderabad formation. Not many know that Khan Athar also sang the mythological dance ballet, Sri Krishna Parijatam and Bhamsura, in Hindi.
He was a bubbly four year when he gave his first performance at the Nizam College. The silver cup bagged by him still occupies the pride of place at his home. It was his uncle, Mirza Ataullah Baig, who inspired him to sing. But his father was opposed to the idea of his son taking up singing as a career. However, Khan Athar was determined and created a niche for himself.
But later he learnt that organising musical shows was not a profitable venture. “You can’t live on wah-wahs alone” he used to say, his voice betraying a touch of bitterness. Nonetheless he gave break to upcoming singers in his Jawan Dil Cultural Troupe and at the same time advised them not to depend on art alone for survival.
Of late the master singer was upset at the dwindling patronage for ghazal singers although the government talked of promoting art and culture. He gave expression to his disappointment thus:
Kis ko ghazal sunayen ghazal aashna hai kaun
Shehre ghazal bata ke yehan reh gaya hai kaun
(To whom should ghazal be sung, who’s conversant
Oh city of ghazal tell who is left here)
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