One fine morning in 1954, people were listening a song from radio Pakistan Karachi’s station: The message of the song was unique, the voice was clear and forceful and the lyrics were "Bunder Road say Keamari". Little did the listeners realized that the boy who was singing then, is going to become the part and parcel of the golden era of Pakistan film industry for the next twenty nine years, and in the transaction he would leave two thousand assorted songs.
In fact, he wanted to become an actor but ended up as a playback singer.
Ahmed Rushdi was born in 1938 in a middle class, respectable family in Hyderabad Deccan, India. He migrated to Pakistan soon after independence. First he appeared in Radio Pakistan’s "Bacchon ki duniya" in the early 1950"s.
The first step in his professional career was a song for Karachi’s film "Karnama" in 1954. He familiarized the public in Karachi with his attractive voice for many years.
In 1959, he was invited to Lahore and few songs were recorded for film "Raaz". One of the songs "Chalak rahi hain mustiyan" a duet with Zubeida Khanum became very popular. What ever the secret (Raaz) was it did opened the doors of the Lahore film industry for Rushdi. After this came "Saperun, in which his memorable song, "Chand sa mukhra, gora badan" (Nigar award) ranked him amongst the three great singers of those times.
In 1960, actor Kamal’s "Jokar" was released and a song by Rushdi "Shauq -e-awargi,aaj is sheher mein" was an instant success. Then came "Mehtab" in 1961 and it brought "Goal guppay wala" (Nigar award). Essentially, Rushdi’s goal guppa reached almost each and every home in Pakistan. In fact, 1964 proved to be a milestone in Rushdi’s career: What happened was that an extremely sad song had to be recorded for the movie "Aanchal", since Saleem Raza was the last word in tragic songs, so the music director Khalil Ahmed was expected to go ahead with the assignment. However, Khalil had selected Rushdi. The producer/director could not afford to take any chances in the realm of the song, therefore, they insisted on Saleem Raza. Khalil, in turn, argued that he knows better whose voice is conducive for his particular music. To cut the long story short, Khalil was given the green signal to go ahead.
The future of two persons were at stake: Khalil’s, as well as Rushdi’s, for, if the song had not clicked, then both of them would have lost their credibility. Khalil, on his part, left no stone unturned regarding the composition of the song, as for Rushdi, he picked every fiber of pathos and pain which his head and heart could muster, which he dipped deeply in Khalil’s music. Result: "Kisi chaman mein raho tum"_ to this day, this song is relegated amongst the three greatest super hits of Rushdi’s twenty nine year singing career.
The 1960’s were the decade of challenges for Rushdi, since apart from Saleem Raza, he was in direct competition with highly talented singer like Mehdi Hasan (who is now considered as one of the greatest playback/ghazal singers of all time),S.B. John, Mujeeb Alam, Masood Rana, Bashir Ahmed and the list goes on and on.
However, with his God-gifted, well balanced, romantic-tragic renditions, he faced all challenges with courage and patience. All most all music directors in general and Sohail Rana in particular reaped Rushdi’s enormous talents for various situations in movies. Rushdi had that amazing quality which made him feel quite snug in a variety of audiences: Here is a man, who is going to bring cheers for millions with "Mil gaye hum ko pyar ki ye manzil (Ik nagina) and tears with "Jab pyar mein" (Armaan")
All film experts are unanimous that Rushdi’s voice best suited on the great Waheed Murad. In fact, Rushdi’s songs had a tremendous impact on the success of those movies. I personally feel that no write -up on Rushdi’s art will ever be considered comprehensive without "Aye abr-e-karam" (Naseeb apna apna). His romantic voice which mixed with the rainy/stormy midnight and the ease with which he sang on top of the thunder storm and lightning shows the true caliber of Rushdi. "Abr-e-karam" brings in my mind the sincere suggestion of Dr.Noor-ul-ain Aqeel , an avid admirer of Rushdi, who asserts that the word ‘dar’ is the theme of this song.
The 1970’s brought new faces like Alamgir, Mohammed Ali Shayki, Asad Amanat, Ghulam Abbas, A.Nayyar etc. Thanks to Rushdi’s flexibility, he survived. The 1980’s happened to be the period of tragedies for Rushdi. He had not been feeling well, the tide had turned against him. Intelligent enough, he soon realized that the time was running out for him.
Hence, at the first flickering of ill-health and before the final fretful moments he wanted to fulfil his ardent desire, which was to present his farewell distinctive gift to his myriad lovers: The greatest favor an artist can do to the society. He unleashed all his faculties and came out in flying colors with "Aanay walo suno"(Not recorded for film).
His last recorded song was a duet with Mehnaz for "Badalti rahein".
He had suffered two heart attacks which left him very weak. Doctors had advised him to abstain from singing. On the night of April 11,1983, he suffered a third heart attack which took his life. He was 45. The journey which Rushdi had started from Mehdi Zaheer’s "Bunder Road" in 1954 had ended at Azar Hafiz’s "Aanay walo suno" in 1983. The wistful voice of Rushdi, which had mesmerized millions for two generations is silenced for ever. Ahmed Rushdi is gone. As for his memory, it is like the blowing wind, that will touch and shake the strings of our hearts to keep us awake for years to come.