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ELUSIVE fortune

Singer-composer Bombay S. Kamal walks down memory lane.


A BY-LANE from the Aristo junction at Thampanoor leads you to a slum in the heart of the city. It is here that the 70 something singer-composer of yesteryear, Sheik Kamaluddin aka Bombay S. Kamal, has been residing for nearly four decades.

Poverty is what music has gifted Kamal for having given the Malayalis some soulful melodies.

Kamal's claustrophobic, tin roofed house stands amidst a workshop and a shop selling firewood. Born in 1932 at Mumbai, Kamal, lost his parents at the age of seven. He was brought up by Hindustani vocalist, Moideen Khan, who took Kamal under his wing.

Kamal trained in Hindustani music under Khan and went on to perform programmes by the time he was 18. He regaled audiences with his music - light, folk, qawwali and Hindi film songs. Mohammed Rafi was his role model. "I loved Rafi more than life itself," says Kamal. He was at his best whenever he rendered Rafi's songs. A few years later, Kamal left for Chennai. There, he joined the choral group at Gemini Studio.

His acquaintance with Baburaj, the late music composer, proved to be the turning point of Kamal's life. Baburaj, who had been in Mumbai, had chanced to hear Kamal sing. Baburaj invited him over to Kozhikode to join his music club, Everest Music Home. Soon, Kamal began to hone his skills at rendering Moplah songs.

"Babukka taught me how to bring life into lyrics," says Kamal. It was the late composer who taught Kamal the finer aspects of composing. In 1965, Kamal settled down at Thiruvananthapuram after his marriage. Kamal has scored the music for over a dozen films such as `Adukkala', `Aksharatham', `Shantinilayam', `Sheershakam', `Shantiteerangal', `Police Diary', `Hello City Police', `Penkuthira', `Nananju Chirakulla Pakshi', `Illilam Kaadu', `Chitrashalabhangalude Koodaram', `Alayunna Atmavu' and `Vellaram Kilikal'. Following the success of his songs, offers began to pour in. His album, `Sharatkala Puspangal', a collection of light songs brought out by Tarangini became a big hit. Apart from films, Kamal has also worked for drama productions. He has composed music for as many as 12 serials including `Vetta', `Kumilakal', `Lubdan Lukose', `Morchari', and `Amavasi'.

Bored with singing at music programmes and urged by his need to earn more, Kamal donned the grease paint. He has done minor roles in films such as `Moonumasangalkku Munbe' and `T. P. Balagopalan M. A.' So, what has pushed him to the brink of poverty? He has no definite answer as to why his career in music failed to take off. "Many producers have cheated me. Recently, a producer of a devotional cassette disappeared from the scene after paying me just 25 per cent of the amount stipulated in the contract," says Kamal. "I am quite bad at demanding my money and making use of opportunity," he adds. What keeps this singer-composer going these days is his passion for music.

K. C. ASOK

Photo: S. Gopakumar

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