Kalyanji-Anandji were nothing if not risk-takers. In the 1950s, the composing duo introduced the electronic instrument clavioline to the Hindi film industry shortly after it was invented in France. Over four decades, they worked with freshly minted filmmakers (Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra, Manoj Kumar, Subhash Ghai, Feroz Khan, Chandra Barot) and first-time lyricists (Gulshan Bawra and MG Hashmat). They introduced new singers (Kumar Sanu, Anuradha Paudwal, Alka Yagnik, Sadhana Sargam, Udit Narayan, Sunidhi Chauhan).
The musical range in their soundtracks between the 1950s and 1990s exemplifies their enthusiasm for charting new territories. Kalyanji-Anandji produced the National Film Award-winning semi-classical melodies of Saraswatichandra (1968) as well as the funky tunes of Don (1978). They were at home with folksy songs for Manoj Kumar’s son-of-the-soil movies and electropop numbers for the action films of Feroz Khan.
Kalyanji Virji Shah, the older of the brothers, died in 2000. Anandji Virji Shah was a riot in the MX Player series Times of Music’s episode on June 20, in which he regaled host Vishal Dadlani and composers Ajay-Atul with one funny anecdote after another.
As per the format of the series, Anandji and Ajay-Atul reworked each other’s song. With sweeping strings and a choir group, Ajay-Atul’s take on Zindagi Ka Safar (Safar, 1970) was an attempt to transcend the song’s interiority. Anandji’s major contribution to his rearrangement of Abhi Mujhme Kahi (Agneepath, 2012) were a bunch of magnificent interludes.
In an interview with Scroll.in, the 87-year-old Anandji discussed some of his albums, working with Manoj Kumar and Feroz Khan, and the changes he has witnessed in Hindi film music over the years.
What do you make of the evolution of Hindi film music?
In the early years, it was [composers] Raichand Boral and Saraswati Devi’s time. The songs were slow. After Partition, musicians migrated from undivided Punjab to Bombay, and the songs became high-pitched.
Slowly, the world came closer. Communication got faster. Western music blended with our music. Family got separated. Music branched into different styles. Life became fast, and so did our music.
Back in the day, we listened to the entire narration of the screenplay. Music discussions would go on for days and nights. We would style our music on the basis of location. We couldn’t use, say, santoor and matka in Kashmir, where our film Jab Jab Phool Khile was set. The heroine was a modern girl, so her song Yeh Sama, Sama Hai Ye Pyar Ka had a Westernised soul.
You, your brother Babla Shah, and nephew, composer Viju Shah, were quite the trailblazers.
Some of our innovations just happened without us realising we did something new, like when we used the clavioline for Hemant [Kumar] da’s song Man Dole Mera Tan Dole in Nagin. Even today, here and outside India, the groom gets off the horse and dances to that tune.
Babla was amazing with rhythms. He brought the tumba and rototoms from the West. Viju bhai brought the synthesiser, with which you could play brass, orchestra, the smallest instruments.
What was your relationship with your contemporaries, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and RD Burman?
We did a lot of work together with love. Laxmikant-Pyarelal were our assistants. Kalyanji played the clavioline for [RD] Burman da. There was no ego. We often worked simultaneously in the same studios.
Let’s talk about some of your soundtracks. ‘Chandan Sa Badan’ from ‘Saraswatichandra’ is still so popular.
The story was a 100 years old, set in the 19th century. So our director, Govind Saraiya, was stubborn about making the film in black-and-white, but everyone was shooting in colour by then. He didn’t want people to see stars like Jeetendra or Shammi Kapoor in the hero’s role, so he chose a new boy from Bengal [Manish]. He said, we’ll fix his lines during dubbing. And we both should score because we are Gujarati. He said, make Gujarati music in Hindi.
The two of us weren’t convinced the film would work, thinking it’s in black-and-white. But in the end, we agreed, thinking even a colour picture can flop. We worked hard on the music, and imagine, it gave us our first National [Film] Award.
‘Kora Kagaz’ brought you your first and only Filmfare Award for Music Direction.
It was a remake of a Bengali film [Saat Paanke Baandha]. The director, Anil Ganguly, was also Bengali. So we had to keep a Bengali touch in the music. It had just three songs, and the film was in production for a long time. A bit would get shot, then shooting would stop, then begin months later.
So, again, we didn’t have much confidence in the movie, but look, we got our first Filmfare Award for it, and Lata [Mangeshkar] ji got a National Award [Best Female Playback Singer category, for Roothe Roothe Piya]. The idea that only high-profile films will work, and small films will flop, is wrong.
‘Johny Mera Naam’ had a fun soundtrack.
It had all kinds of colour: bhajan, disco, romantic. It had an emotional song like Babul Pyaare, a devotional song, Govind Bolo Hari Gopal Bolo, and something light like Pal Bhar Ke Liye Koi Hume Pyar Lar Le. Such soundtracks are challenging but exciting to do.
You composed for a bunch of Manoj Kumar’s hit movies.
Manoj Kumar was connected to the Indian soil. He wanted a desi colour in his films and music. What’s necessary to form a professional bond that lasts long is understanding and trust. That’s how we got to work with both Manoj Kumar and Feroz Khan.
For Upkar, Manoj ji wanted the song Kasme Vade Pyar Wafa Ka right before the interval. Now it was a slow, sad song, and that too sung by Pran, the most famous villain actor at the the time. So, again, we were scared, thinking the film is pretty long, and if this song comes during interval, audience will run away, seeing a villain singing a philosophical song.
But Manoj ji insisted, and it worked. That’s how trust develops. In those days, we hung around all the time, discussing music every opportunity we could get, as if we were discussing the latest love in our life.
And what about Feroz Khan?
Usually, if a director wants something, the producer often comes in the way, or the actor and director may not be on the same page. Feroz ji was actor-director-producer, so he never compromised on his vision. He was fond of whatever new was happening in music at the time, especially Arabic music, and that’s what we delivered.
You need to study and be knowledgeable about all kinds of music,to compose for Hindi films, for you never know what you will be asked to deliver.