In the days before relentless marketing made stars of one-hit wonders, there were legends like Kalyanji-Anandji pioneering live concerts all over the world, scoring thousands of hit songs in over 250 films, giving breaks to lyricists like Anand Bakshi, Gulshan Bawra, Qamar Jalalabadi, Anjaan, Verma Malik and M G Hashmat, and launching the careers of singers like Manhar Udhas, Kumar Sanu, Alka Yagnik, Sadhna Sargam, Sapna Mukherjee, Udit Narayan, Sunidhi Chauhan and many others. While Kalyanji Virji Shah passed away in 2000, Anandji Virji Shah is still doing what the duo did best — making timeless music. On Sunday, the Padma Shree awardee will be in Bengaluru for a retro ‘Kalyanji Anandji Nite’, organised by Rotary Bangalore, Indiranagar.
The composer, in his eighties now, still has a sharp memory, an unerring understanding of music and a deep, almost spiritual insight into life. His anecdotes span almost all the important decades of film music. The brothers made their film debut with Samrat Chandragupta in 1959 and went on to redefine thematic scores in the 70s and 80s with films like Don and Qurbani, made crossover albums with foreign DJs who rediscovered their funk, influenced tracks in the 90s and were even copied by The Black Eyed Peas. Excerpts from a telephonic chat with Anandji:
On pioneering charity concerts
Our father asked us in the initial years of our career just what it was apart from money that we were earning through our music. This was in the 1950s when we were just making a name for ourselves. When we could not answer him, he asked us to measure our success in terms of the blessings we got from people. The only way to earn goodwill was through charity. Kalyanji bhai played an instrument called the Clavioline for the Hemant Kumar-hit Nagin (1954) and the sound came to be known as the ‘nagin beat’. We came into the limelight because of this and started an orchestral group called Kalyanji Virji and Party, which organised musical charity shows. We grew from strength to strength. Later in our career, we performed with some of the biggest names in the business, including Dilip Kumar, Rekha, Vinod Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi and many more. During those times, we did not run after money. We worked for causes, for colleagues we admired. We shared a lot more than what people do today.
We worked with so many singers, young and established, but never had tiffs with them. It is because the general environment was of cooperation, not conflict. I remember Lataji was running a high fever when she was to record Ruthe Ruthe Piya from Kora Kaagaz. She came and recorded the song within minutes and left, and still ended up winning an award for it! Hum kaam ke peeche bhagte the, naam ke nahin (we chased work, not fame). If after 35 years, you can still recall the theme music of Haath Ki Safai, what other reward can I want?
Timelessly modern music
I wanted to be an actor at some point and would hang around studios but my height refused to keep up with my ambition so I ended up learning and observing many things by default. I was interested in technology, so I learnt about sound, about mixing. Later, our NRI friends would send us records of new experimental albums from abroad and that is why all our influences defined the sounds that people remember today, be it from Don, Qurbani or Laawaris. We made sure the recording was crystal clear and not cacophonic. Don’s theme music has been remixed many times but people still remember the original.
Scoring background music is a thankless job but we invested so much thought into it. A theme score was about expressing the inexpressible. About what cannot be expressed through words, gesture, acting or location. That is why we studied the context, the geographical location of a scene before tuning for it. In Purab Aur Paschim, the emotional shift of Saira Banu was conveyed by a saxophone solo. Today, no one bothers with context. Any sound goes with any scene. That is why you don’t remember them. Today, even a devotional song is tuned like an item number.
A lot of music today is about suvidha (convenience), not melody. Situational songs have been replaced by item numbers. We never wanted to cheat the listeners with an inauthentic song. The composition of a song like Jab Zero Diya Mere Bharat Ne had the requisite gravitas and in the same film, you heard hippie sounds, a devotional aarti, folk songs, all rooted in their context. We saw the idealism in India before
Independence. I still have it and that has seeped into everything I do. In music and in life, you must have clarity and balance. You must work for passion and then the real maza (joy) comes. I lead a simple life and still try to walk in the shoes of everyone I meet. My philosophy in life? Samjhauta ghamon se kar lo. Make peace with loss.
The tickets for ‘Kalyanji Anandji Nite’, to be held at Chowdiah Memorial Hall at 6 pm on Sunday, are priced at `2,000, `1,800, `1,500, `1,000 and `800. They are available at Bookmyshow.com and Indianstage.in.
Reema Moudgil works for The New Indian Express, is the author of Perfect Eight, the editor of Chicken Soup for the Soul-Indian Women, a translator who recently interpreted Dominican poet Josefina Baez’s book Comrade Bliss Ain’t Playing in Hindi, an artist, a former Urdu RJ and a mother. She won an award for her writing/book from the Public Relations Council of India in association with Bangalore University, has written for a host of national and international magazines since 1994 on cinema, theatre, music, art, architecture and more, has exhibited her art in India and the US…and hopes to travel more and to grow more dimensions as a person. And to be restful, and alive in equal measure.