A commercial for Cadbury chocolate featuring a saas-bahu pair gate-crashing a wedding procession with their wicked dance to the tune of the 1990s hit Saat Samundar Paar begs the question: is it time to give music composer Viju Shah his due?
The number of views for this video clip on YouTube titled ‘Amazing Dance by Desi Lady on Saat Samundar Paar’ attests to the popularity of the song and the actress, Divya Bharati, in Rajiv Rai’s Vishwatma (1992).
Two things that are immediately evident: Viju Shah’s meteoric rise and fall, and the song’s wilful sorcery that can make anyone go cuckoo. Salman Khan takes it one step further when he flops about for Randeep Hooda in this video clip from Kick (2014), wearing a tee-shirt that reads ‘Loser’. After all, you do not need choreographed dance moves for Viju Shah. Two left feet will do just fine.
Born in June 1959, to Virji Kalyanji Shah, one half of the famous Kalyanji-Anandji music duo, Viju Shah started as a music arranger for Rajiv Rai’s multi-starrer Tridev (1989). The main score was composed by Kalyanji-Anandji. Rai deserves the credit for launching Shah’s career. In 1992, Shah got his first break as composer for Vishwatma. Saat Samundar was inspired by the Pet Shop Boys song Heart, featuring Ian McKellen as a coquettish vampire seducing a bride.
Saat Samundar was a chartbuster, and Viju Shah’s synthesized sound was a hit. He followed it with chartbusters in Mohra (1994), Gupt (1997) and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998). And then he faded out of the Hindi film music scene with mediocre work.
Could it be because his music was limited by how much he could plagiarize? Was he ever original? Or when he was sincerely producing his own work, it wasn’t worth an ear?
Listen to Oye Oye from Tridev.
And here is the original, Rhythm is gonna get you by Gloria Estefan.
The song without which no monsoon is complete, Tip tip barsa paani from Mohra.
The song unfortunately owes its catchiness to Dr Alban and Roll down di rubber man.
Bobby Deol’s cool Casanova moves in Duniya haseeno ka mela in Gupt...
... are borrowed from Kitaro’s Matsuri.
Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast was famously lifted from the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan standard. There are several such instances in Shah’s work for films which weren’t even worth the theft. In 2007, Shah took a break from film music to focus on stage performances after he composed the music of Victoria No 203, which tanked. Earlier this year, Shah returned to music for the Gujarati film Aa Te Kevi Dunniya.
Speaking of his new work, Shah said, ‘‘I was offered a lot of Gujarati films earlier, but I was unsure about taking them up at that point of time. But this time, the director of Aa Te Kevi Dunniya - Tejas Padiaa was constantly in touch with me and was persistent that I should do this film. He also showed me his previous zero budget film Lo Ho Gai Party. There were many filmmakers who speak to me but then don’t follow up. But Tejas’ enthusiasm was excellent, which made me say yes to the film.’’
This track, O My Janu, sounds fresh and original for now – until further notice!