Roshanlal Nagrath, known only as Roshan, was born in Gujranwala in modern-day Pakistan into a family of businessmen. From a young age, he developed a liking for Urdu literature and poetry. He received his early training in music from Pandit Ratanjankar, Ustad Allauddin Khan and to a large extent from Pandit Manohar Barve.
He started his career playing the dilruba on All India Radio (AIR). His mentor in AIR, Khwaja Khurshid Anwar, went on to become a popular music director and invited Roshan to Mumbai to serve as his assitant. Soon after he assisted Anwar for the film “Singhar” (1948), Roshan got a break as solo composer in Kidar Nath Sharma’s “Neki Aur Badi” (1949). Though the film did not do well, Roshan was noticed. The following year, he composed for the film “Bawre Nain” (1950). The film and its songs, “Khayalon Mein Kisike”, “Sun Bairi Balam” and “Teri Duniya Mein Dil Lagta Nahin” among others, became very popular.
Throughout the 50s Roshan proved his proficiency in various genres and musical instruments. His ability with qawallis deserves special mention as he is widely credited with giving this genre a platform in Hindi films. Despite the appreciation he got from his peers, hits eluded him and he had to wait till “Barsaat Ki Raat” (1960) to earn the hits he deserved. With this film, started the best phase of Roshan’s career.
Throughout the 60s he composed several gems - “Ab Misaal Doon Main” (“Aarti”, 1962), “Laga Chunri Mein Daag” (“Dil Hi To Hai”, 1963), “Man Re Tu Kahe Na Dheer Dhare” (“Chitralekha”, 1964), “Rahen Na Rahen Hum” (“Mamta”, 1966), “Duniya Kare Sawal To Hum” (“Bahu Begum”, 1967) and “O Re Taal Mile Nadi Ke Jal Mein” (“Anokhi Raat”, 1968), to name a few. However, his most celebrated work remains “Taj Mahal” (1963). Songs like “Jo Wada Kiya Wo Nibhana Padega”, “Jo Baat Tujhme Hai” and “Paon Chhoo Lene Do” won him his only Filmfare Award.
Sadly, he passed away when he was still at his peak, succumbing to long-standing heart problems on November 16, 1967 at the young age of fifty. Roshan’s legacy in Hindi films continues through his sons, music director Rajesh Roshan and actor-director Rakesh Roshan, and grandson, actor Hrithik Roshan.