Soon after his initial appearance as a vocalist and song writer, he attained enormous recognition as a composer and music director. Some of his the songs with him in the vocals, such as “Chokh je moner kotha bolay”, “Ami chandke bolechhi aaj rate”, and “Dunoyon voray joto dekhi” are just as popular today as it was back then.
The most significant feature of his music composition is the originality evolved from his scholarly command of the art of music, vast knowledge on cultural heritage, and blending modernity with the traditional musical elements of four distinctly different geographical territories of India—Assam, Tripura, and the two Bengals.
Music composition in the vast majority of our film songs before his intervention were practically Bangla replicas of popular songs created in Hindi, Tamil-Telegu, Nepalese and Sri Lankan languages. Many of our music directors earned 'undue' fame through this piracy or plagiarism. There were many instances when Khandaker Nurul Alam cancelled his agreements with film directors in case they insisted on such dishonest acts.
Khandaker Nurul Alam was born to a respectable family in 17th August, 1936 at Dhubrhi in the Assam province of India. He lost his mother Fatema Khatun when he was still just a boy. After the 1947 Division of India, his father Nesaruddin Khandaker, a high ranking official of the Government, migrated with his family to the then East Pakistan.
While studying Philosophy at the University of Dhaka, he met a number of friends who were madly devoted to the pursuit of music, either as lyrics writer or singer. They included Mohammad Maniruzzaman, Anwaruddin Khan, Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal, Mostafa Zaman Abbasi, Kazi Anwar Hossain, Rahat Khan, and Zia Haider. Along with his song offerings in various programmes organized in the campus, he started music composition for lyrics that his friends had written. Everyone was surprised at the melody and skilful scanning of the prosodic feet. He also had a friend named Anisuzzaman whose father, Ashrafuzzaman, happened to be a high ranking official at the Dhaka Station of Radio Pakistan. In 1962, at the initiative of Mr. Ashrafuzzaman, Khandaker Nurul Alam was enlisted in radio as a music composer. A few years later, he joined the radio as a Music Producer. He also used television as a medium since its inception in the country for disseminating his musical outputs. It took no time to draw attention of the Gramophone Company (His Master's Voice) and film makers of repute to expand his talent to a wider horizon.
At the beginning of his career as a music director of films, he worked for three Urdu films titled “Ish Dhorti Por”, “Thikana”, and “Uljhan”. The Bangla films that he worked for include “Ontorongo”, “Je agune purhi”, “Ora egaro jon”, “Jolchhobi”, “Jibontrishna”, “Songram”, “Chokher Jolay”, “Shotru”, “Pinjor”, “Kajol Lota”, “Smuggler”, “Debdas”, “Chandranath”, “Andhare Alo”, “Shuvoda”, “Biraj bou”, “Biroho byetha”, “Ajker protibad”, “Padma Meghna Jamuna”, and “Shonkhoneel Karagar”. It's worth noting that most of these films were based on stories selected from classic Bangla literature and were produced by educated producers with good taste.
The list of national and international awards and honours that he received for his great contributions in the world of music is quite long. These include, Three National Film Awards (1984, 1986, and 1991), Three Bangladesh Film Journalists Association (Samity) Awards (1982, 1984, and 1986), Two Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) International Awards (1983 and 1984), Hosubanka International Award and reception by the In-house Artistes Organization of Bangladesh Betar in 1986, Sequence Award in 1988, Film Producers Association (Samity) Award in 1991, Raja Hossain Khan Memorial Medal in 1994, Sargam Lolitokola Academy Medal in 2003, Ekushey Padak (one of the highest state honours) in 2008, and Lifetime Achievement Award from Celebrating Life in 2011.
He was extremely careful and meticulous in choosing the lyrics for his works. In an interview with the Janakantha Supplement published on 16 September 1993, he said, “I fail to compose music in lyrics that are not perfectly written--this is my limitation…from the beginning I am fortunate to have lyrics from many famous writers whose inputs are rich in poetic expression; They include Ahsan Habib, Habibur Rahman, Sikander Abu Zafor, Shamsur Rahman, Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal, Mohammad Maniruzzaman, Mohammad Rafiquzzaman, and Abid Anwar.”
Khandaker Nurul Alam strongly held the Tagorean belief that the heart of a Bangla song lies in its lyrics, and he used the instruments appropriately so as to not subdue the textual message in the song. It takes time for a song to be popular if it is rich in rhetorical expression, and popularity is not always a marker of quality. He composed such songs that are based on lyrics rich in poetic expressions but many of these gained instant popularity also. A few examples are “Chokh je moner kotha bolay”, “Paharher kanna dekhe”, “Aamar mon pakhita”, “Smriti jholmol suneel mather kachhe”, “Fosoler mathe meghnar tiray”, “Nodir majhi bolay”, “Tumi nei bolo kar sathe kori sanjher alor tulona”, “Nirobota shudhu dheke roy jeno”, “Baul koi baul koi boila”, “Aamar baul moner ektarata”, “Porha chokh keno tui ondho thakis na”, “Ami joler kachhe proshno kori”, “Nodir dhare path”, “Onek borho ghoronio”, “Amra duronto ekjhank roudrer ujjwolota”, “Jodi moroner poray keu proshno koray”, “Tumi esechho bohudin por ami kandlam”, “Aha kangkhe kolosi”, “Koto hajar bosor dhore”, “Akashta to neel chithi noy”, “Jonom jonom dhore”, “Eto sukh soibo kemon kore”, “Tumi emoni jal petechho songsare”, “Tumi Jodi bolay ditay”, “Nirob prithhibee doare tomar”, “Ek boroshar brishtite vije”, “Eki monihar ene dilay”, “E andhar kokhono jabe na muchhe”, “Tomar e upohar ami chirodin”, “kath purhle koyla hoy”, “Ekta phoolay hoy na torha”, “Phooler arhalay chhilo bishkanta”, “Ami sonar horin dhorte giye onek korechhi fondi”, “Shudhu roudro ki paray rangate rongdhonu”, “Kantar aghat lagbe jenei”, and many others. Listing of all songs created by Khandaker Nurul Alam would be the task of a long research.
A close look into the list above will reveal that most of the valuable songs were based on the lyrics by Mohammad Rafiquzzaman. Appearance of this highly-talented lyricist in the mid-sixties had impacted the interest of Khandaker Nurul Alam in more of his works.
Khandaker Nurul Alam will always be remembered for his creations so long the audience of Bangla songs exists on earth.
The writer is a poet, essayist and lyricist