Arguably the most famous music director in the history of Pakistan, Sohail Rana has composed countless unforgettable tunes for the country. From his contribution to film music to songs for children, to patriotic anthems, he’s done it all. Today, on his 82nd birthday, let’s recall some of his finest achievements.
Son of poet Rana Akbar Abadi, Sohail Rana achieved success very early in his career when he composed the music for the film Arman. The film, iconic in every sense of the word, was made even more memorable thanks to its music. Sohail Rana received his first and only Nigar Award for his work which included the somber “Jab Pyaar Mein Do Dil Milte Hain”, the peppy “Betaab Ho Udhar Tum”, and the hauntingly beautiful “Akele Na Jaana”.
The entire film saw such masters of their craft come together that it became a box office and critical hit. Director Pervaiz Malik was behind the camera, Waheed Murad and Zeba were the leading pair, Ahmed Rushdi and Mala lent their powerful voices, and Masroor Anwar wrote the lyrics. Orchestrating it all was Sohail Rana. In fact, the music holds the key to the climax of the film, which wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful if not for the thunderous orchestra in the background.
His short, but illustrious career in films spanned the 1960s. He produced beautiful tunes like “Tumhain Kaise Bata Doon” and “Aaj Jaanay Ki Zid Na Karo”. He also produced the soundtrack to “Beyond the Last Mountain”, Javed Jabbar’s first film and Pakistan’s first English language film.
After more than 25 films, Sohail Rana quit the film business and turned his talents to television in the 70s. He once said in an interview that he grew disillusioned with the obsession of money over craft in the industry and so he simply left. However, his success didn’t falter. He became the manager of the National Orchestra for PTV and got his own show called “Kaliyon Ki Mala”. The show produced such talents as Afshan Ahmed, Nazia and Zoheb Hassan, the Benjamin Sisters, and Mehnaz Begum. The program featured songs for children including “Dosti Aisa Naata”, and “Morni o Morni”, and “”
During this time, he also composed some of the most well known patriotic anthems in the country’s history. These include “Sohni Dharti Allah Rakhe” which he orchestrated during Independence Day 1973 as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto clapped alongside him, “Jeevay Pakistan”, and “Main Bhi Pakistan Hoon”. A little known fact is that he also composed a patriotic song “Himmat Se Har Qadam Uthana” back in 1963 in a film called “Jab Se Dekha Hai Tumhein”.
During the Islamic Summit Conference in 1974, he even composed a special anthem for it called “Ham Mustafavi Hain”. It was sung by Mehdi Zaheer and written by poet Jamiluddin Aali.
Sohail Rana also created a beautiful instrumental album called Khyber Mail in 1970. It’s available on nearly all streaming platforms and chronicles the journey of the train Khyber Mail throughout Pakistan. It includes several different sounds of the sea, the harvest, the moonlight night, and solemn sounds of nostalgia.
The maestro was invited back to Pakistan from his abode in Canada in 2009 for a special program. If you look up footage of that special, every single film and TV star in attendance is swaying with pure joy. It is music that powerful that echoes through centuries.