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Sarodia Zarin Daruwala Sharma and Film Music

Posted on Trivia- The Spice of Life on 24/12/2022

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[ Here’s wishing all the readers Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!]

Think of the sarod and the names that come to mind at once are – Ustaad Allauddin Khan, Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan and the living legend Ustaad Amjad Ali Khan. As in the case of all other musical instruments, Sarod is no exception as far the negligible number of female exponents associated with it is concerned. It is however important to know that there were two female SarodiasSharan Rani Backliwal and Zarin Daruwala Sharma- who left a mark. This post dwells on the latter who successfully straddled both worlds – the world of Hindustani Classical music and that of Hindi film music.

Before appreciating Zarin’s talent, it would be pertinent to know a little about the sarod. The sarod is a stringed instrument, used in Hindustani music. It is known for a deep, weighty, introspective sound, in contrast with the sweet, overtone-rich texture of the sitar; aided by sympathetic strings, it has a resonant, reverberant quality. A fretless instrument, it can produce the continuous slides between notes known as meend, which is important in Indian music. The word sarod comes from the Persian sorūd meaning “song”, “melody”, “hymn”; the Persian verb sorūdan correspondingly means “to sing”, “to play a musical instrument”, and also “to compose”. The sarod is believed to have descended from the Afghan rubab. It is made of coconut shell, tun wood, drone, shikri, and ivory. Its strings are plucked by a coconut shell plectrum held in the right hand.

The sarod in film music is usually not the mainstay. It has been used in the prelude and/or the interludes. It complements the sitar beautifully; thus it has been used alongside the sitar in many a song/title music.

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Zarin Daruwala Sharma (06/10/1946 to 20/12/2014)

Zarin Daruwala Sharma was a musical genius. Her father Sorabji Dinshawji Daruwala was fortunate to have a daughter whose dream was the same as his. Belonging to a traditional Parsi family, Sorabji was not allowed to pursue Hindustani music by his father. He found that his daughter cherished music just like him. Thus, he started her training at a very young age. She started playing the harmonium at the age of four and even performed at the Sur Singar Sansad at the age of 6, in 1952. The same night that she performed, she witnessed two doyens playing – Pandit Ravi Shankar on the sitar and Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan on the sarod. She decided that she would master the sarod. Since the instrument is heavy, her father waited for her to turn ten to start her formal training. In the meantime, she started learning vocal Hindustani music, which she realised was not her strength. As she learnt playing the sarod from several gurus, – Pandit Haripada Ghosh, Pandit Bhishmadev Vedi, Pandit Laxmanprasad Jaipurwale, Pandit V G Jog, Dr S C R Bhat and Dr S N Ratanjankar – her talent got direction and purpose. She brought the lyrical effect of the sitar into the sarod, which she felt was missing in it. She did this by perseveringly listening to the records of Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Around 1964, when one doyenne of Hindustani classical music – Kishori Amonkar – dabbled with singing in films and hastily withdrew, began the journey of another – Zarin Daruwala Sharma – whose association with film music was continuous and quite fruitful even as she excelled in the classical rendition of the sarod. Her official innings in film music began in 1964; she was just 18 when she played the title and background music of Chitralekha for Roshan. I must say here that the sitar-sarod jugalbandi has been a favourite of many a music director. In fact, in the movie Ferry(1954) there is a fairly long sitar-sarod jugalbandi in Raag Pilu played on screen by Geeta Bali and Dev Anand. The real artistes who played the respective instruments were Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan (sarod)and Pandit Nikhil Banerji (sitar).

Her favourite music directors were Shankar Jaikishan who also used her talent in many a movie. She worked with all top music directors of her times. And while she played for films, she was equally dedicated to classical music. She beautifully balanced the two genres and did not let one affect the other. She was the only female sarodia who played for films with no other woman stepping into this arena during her times. She understood that perfection, spontaneity and sharpness were required while playing for films as an entire orchestra would perform. Someone else would dictate what was to be played and one had to toe the line, instantly exhibiting one’s skills.

She married Pandit Ashok Sharma, the son of musician Bhagatram Sharma of the famous Husnlal-Bhagatram duo. She was an artiste with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. She loved to challenge herself. She played the sarod not to earn her livelihood but because she was madly in love with it. She was a fast learner with a keen and observant eye. No wonder ‘the Parsi Girl‘ as she was referred to in the film industry scaled indomitable heights. Her simplicity, humility and thirst for knowledge leaves one floored.

Here is a list of ten songs/pieces that she played. The list has different music directors /duos. This goes to show how popular, talented and affable she was. Perhaps her best work was for R.D.Burman who himself played the sarod very well.

1) Title music of Chitralekha (1964) – Sarod – Sitar Jugalbandi. Imrat Khan played the sitar and Zarin played the sarod. In fact, it was Imrat Khan, who had heard Zarin playing in classical music concerts, who recommended her name to Roshan for the title music. Roshan was very impressed with the deftness with which Zarin understood exactly what he wanted and played it with great aplomb. The piece in Raag Pahadi (?)is so vibrant and the blend is so melodious.

Audio Courtesy :

2) Sajanwa Bairi Ho Gaye HamaarTeesri Kasam (1966) Shailendra – Shankar Jaikishan-Mukesh. This movie proved to be a flop at the box office which shattered Shailendra – the lyricist cum producer – to the extent that its failure caused his death. However, the critics acclaimed the movie and it is today considered to be a masterpiece. Each song was made beautifully. This bullock cart song echoes the emptiness of the life of the female protagonist. The sarod is played after the mukhda is sung the first time. There are wonderful pieces of the sarod followed by the sitar and also played simultaneously in the interludes. Zarin’s magic with the sarod comes to the fore in the song.

3) Tere Naina Talaash Kare JiseTalaash(1969) – Majrooh Sultanpuri – S.D.Burman- Manna Dey. Based on Raag Chhayanat, this was the first song for which Zarin played the sarod for S.D.Burman. She worked with him only on two more occasions after this. This song is one of the best raaga based dance songs. The entire ensemble of musicians (including the sarodias) playing as the dancer Madhumati performs spiritedly, enlivens the atmosphere. The on screen singer is Shahu Modak (playing the swarmandal or harp) known for his roles in mythological movies. There are lovely pieces of the sarod interspersed in the song, played by Zarin.

4) Badi Sooni Sooni Hain Mili (1975) – Yogesh – S.D.Burman – Kishore Kumar. This was incidentally the swan song of S.D.Burman and the third and last occasion when Zarin played for S.D.Burman. There is a certain melancholy in the song that is brought out very well by the strings of the sarod just before the first antara begins.

5) Tumko To Karodon Saal HueSambandh(1969) – Kavi Pradeep- O.P.Nayyar-Hemant Kumar/Asha Bhosle. This song is not a typical O.P.Nayyar composition though Kavi Pradeep has penned it in his quintessential style. It is slow and has a strong classical touch. The sarod piece played by Zarin comes is in the interludes.

6) Bole Re PapiharaGuddi (1971) – Gulzar- Vasant Desai -Vani Jayaram. This is a wonderful song based on Raag Miyan ki Malhaar, composed by the music director Vasant Desai whose knowledge of classical music was unparalleled. The sarod pieces played by Zarin are a part of the interludes though played substantially along with other instruments like the sitar. The piece also gets slightly modified in each interlude.

7) Meethe Bol BoleKinara(1977) – Gulzar – R.D.Burman – Bhupinder Singh/Lata Mangeshkar/Sapan Chakraborty. This masterpiece showcases the ingenuity of R.D.Burman with musical instruments. The use of the tabla, sarangi and sarod are outstanding. Sapan Chakraborty sings the taal notations (for Shriram Lagoo on screen) where as Lata and Bhupinder sing for Hema Malini and Jeetendra respectively. R.D.Burman’s guru Pandit Samtaprasad has played the tabla. On the sarod is Zarin who works magic in the interludes which are required because Hema Malini needs to take a break after some vigorous footwork. It must be mentioned here that R.D.Burman himself was an accomplished sarod player having been a disciple of Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan. He knew how to get the best out of the instrument. This gem based on Raag Bhairavi brings out the best of classical dance and music in films.

Here is the same Raag Bhairavi being played in a concert by Zarin.

Incidentally, another song of Kinara which used the sarod very innovatively was Naam Gum Jaayega. There is a part where Jeetendra gets down a flight of stairs in the ruins of Mandu. This action of alighting is very well synced with the strings of the sarod (from 2:18 to 2:21 in the video link below).

8) Dil Mein Tujhe BithakarFakira (1976) – Ravindra Jain – Ravindra Jain – Lata Mangeshkar. This wonderful song composed and written by Ravindra Jain (though some words of the song reek of subservience) has the sarod in the prelude quite prominently. Zarin had a long association with Ravindra Jain whom she held in high regard. She started off with playing the background music of Saudagar (1973) for Ravindra Jain and never looked back after that. Be it Chitchor or Sunaina, Zarin played wonderful pieces in several songs of these movies.

9) Chhod De Saari DuniyaSaraswati Chandra (1968) – Indeevar – Kalyanji Anandji- Lata Mangeshkar. Here is a song where the sarod is played along with the sitar to enhance the melody of the song in the interludes. Zarin worked with this leading musician duo as well.

10) Khilona Jaankar Tum To Khilona(1970) – Anand Bakshi – Laxmikant Pyarelal – Md.Rafi. Zarin worked with this duo as well. In this song where Rafi sings for Sanjeev Kumar, the beauty of the sarod played by Zarin is brought out in the BINGO nursery rhyme style (as I call it) where a part of the line of the song is sung and the rest is played on the instrument (2:50 to 3:00 in the video link below). Zarin fondly remembers the song from MajboorDekh Sakta Hun Main – composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal which has elaborate sarod pieces.

This post was meant to be published on 20th December, 2022 – the death anniversary of Zarin Daruwala Sharma. However, other commitments kept me occupied. It is a pity that we do not know of several talented artistes who worked behind the scenes to enrich film music. This post has been a humble effort to showcase some of Zarin Sharma Daruwla’s exemplary pieces in film music.

For the Hindustani classical music fans, below are some YouTube links to appreciate her prowess as a sarodia in classical music concerts.


1) Guftagoo with Irfan This interview was recorded six months before she passed away.

2) Vidushi Zarin Daruwala Sharma – String It On

3) Swaraalap

4) Swarganga

Disclaimer claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube, Dailymotion and other platforms only to make the post audio visual. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

4 thoughts on “Sarodia Zarin Daruwala Sharma and Film Music

  1. Anita,
    This is a wonderful post and throws light on the classical instrumental musicians playing their instruments in film songs. I knew Zarin Daruwala as a classical musician. Her name was taken next to Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Good to hear about her contribution in film music.

    Many readers are looking for information on background musicians and arrangers. Though it would be disrespectful to call Zarin a background musician, you have made a very nice beginning. I am looking for more articles in the series,



    1. Thanks a lot for appreciating the effort. Posts like these can be written only if there are good interviews of the artist. In fact in her interview she refers to many an arranger and player like Sebastian, Imrat Khan, her husband Pt.Sharma. The acknowledgements mention the sources which you may be interested in.


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