Happy Birthday Kalyanji: An ode to the music Kalyanji-Anandji treated us to

The duo had a fine flair for regional folk music, catchy dance numbers, soulful devotional songs, children’s songs – you name it.

 |  9-minute read |   30-06-2020
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I have a question for people who grew up listening to Hindi music in the 1960s, particularly those who played antakshari. Please answer honestly. Which song did you sing when you got the letter ‘D’ (pronounced as in Delhi)? “Dum dum diga diga” (Chhalia, 1960)? And which song came straight out of your mouth when you got ‘N’? “Na na kar ke pyaar tumhi se kar baithe” (Jab Jab Phool Khile, 1965)? Who composed these songs?

The entire country loves the song “Man dole mera tan dole” from Nagin (1954) composed by Hemant Kumar, who achieved a meteoric rise in popularity because of the film. But the main attraction which has made the song iconic is the been. The melody of the been is deeply entrenched in our national consciousness. It has been the anthem of the snake charmers (now an almost extinct breed). If snakes could hear, they would have loved it and swayed from side to side even if their handler sat still. However, the dhun was not played on the been but on the clay violin (an early version of the synthesiser). Who played the instrument?

Who composed one the greatest patriotic songs – “Mere desh ki dharti” in Upkar (1967), earning Manoj Kumar the tag of Mr Bharat? And while on the song, who can forget the seamless slide of the interlude music from the nightclub to the rustic when showing the different trajectories of Manoj Kumar and his younger brother Prem Chopra!

Who composed the song “Kasme vaade pyar wafa sab” (Upkar) that changed the image of Pran, and fetched him the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor, not as a villain but for his first positive character role?

Who can forget the song “She’s very pretty; pretty pretty Priya” (Priya, 1970)? One of the first Hindi songs with the mukhra entirely in English and with such a catchy tune. Composer?

Which music director gave us Shammi Kapoor singing not in one, not in two but in four voices (including female) in Bluff Master (1963)?

Which music director gave us “Govinda ala re” (Bluff Master) – a must-play song during the Dahi-Handi festivities?

Who got actors to sing at least one song in their films - Nanda (“Ek tha gul aur ek thi bulbul”, Jab Jab Phool Khile, 1965); Hema Malini (“Peene wale ko peene ka bahana chahiye”, Haath Ki Safai, 1974); Nutan (“Boli sawan ki raat badi paawan hai baat”, Yaadgaar, 1970); Mehmood (“Yeh duniya motorgadi...puncture”, Kangan, 1972); Amitabh Bachchan (“Mere angane mein”, Lawaris, 1981), Mala Sinha (“Mere mehboob”, Lalkaar, 1972)?

The answer to all the above is Kalyanji-Anandji (KA).

kalyanji-690_062920072952.jpgKalyanji (R) and Anandji (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Kalyanji Virji Shah and Anandji Virji Shah hailed from the traditional trading community of the Kutchis. They started their career by way of film orchestras and conducting live bands. Kalyanji was Hemant Kumar’s assistant. Later, he turned independent and his first composing assignment was Chandragupta (1955). In 1958, he had his first hit with Hemant-Lata in “Neend na mujhko aaye” (Post Box 999). Then he teamed up with his brother Anandji to create another Hemant-Lata melody “Tumhe yaad hoga” (Satta Bazaar, 1959).

Their first hit film was Chhalia with memorable songs such as “Dum dum diga diga", “Mere tute hue dil se koi toh aaj ye puchhe", "Chhalia mera naam", "Baje payal chham chham hoke beqaraar" and "Teri rahon mein khade hai dil tham ke" (this song also featured in the Pakistani play Humsafar starring Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan). Incidentally, the word ‘chhaliya’ (cheat) used in the title song of Chhaliya was disapproved by the Censor Board. The phrase ‘chhalna mera kaam’ had to be replaced with ‘chhaliya mera naam’.

Some films that followed were Dulha Dulhan (1964); Himalaya Ki God Mein (1965) – songs such as “Main toh ek khwaab hoon” and “Chand si mehbooba ho meri” (winning the duo the Cine Music Directors Association Award for best musical score); Jab Jab Phool Khile with songs such as “Ek tha gul aur ek thi bulbul”, “Pardesiyon se na ankhiyan milana", "Yahan main ajnabi hoon", "Ye samaa, samaa hai ye pyaar ka", "Na na karte pyaar tumhi se kar baithe”; Upkar; Raaz (1967).

With Saraswatichandra (1968), they reached their zenith – “Chandan sa badan”, “Main toh bhool chali babul ka des”, “Chhod de saari duniya kisi ke liye”, "Phool tumhe bheja hai khat mein". They deservingly won the National Award – the first music directors in Hindi cinema.

The year 1970 saw Johny Mera Naam – “Pal bhar ke liye koi humen pyar karle”, “O mere raja”. In Safar – with songs such as “Zindagi ka safar” and “Jeevan se bhari", they brought out the serious singer in Kishore Kumar, a facet under-utilised in his career. Then Purab Aur Paschim“Koi jab tumhara hriday tod de”.

The 1970s saw Zanjeer (1973) – “Yaari hai imaan mera”; Blackmail (1973) – “Pal pal dil ke pass”; Kora Kagaz (1974) – “Mera jeevan kora kaagaz” (which fetched them their only Filmfare Award); Don (1978) – “Khaike paan Banaraswala”; Muqaddar Ka Sikander (1979) – “O saathi re”.

The 1980s began with a bang – Qurbani (1980) – “Laila o Laila” (they took the inclusion of Nazia Hassan’s “Aap jaisa koi” composed by Biddu in their stride though hurt they certainly were); Vidhaata (1982), Laawaris (1982), Jaanbaaz (1986). By the end of the decade, they realised their time was over.

They innovated with rhythms to create rhythmic interest. Say, ”Nafrat karnewalon se” (Johnny Mera Naam). Here the stanza is recited or spoken before it is rendered as a song. This breaks the mechanical progression of the fast pace and makes the song textured and interesting. Similarly, in “Na na na karte" (Jab Jab Phool Khile), there is recourse to conversational interjections in between the fast tempo.

The sedate rhythms, soothing mix of strings, santoor, piano, guitar, saxophone in the slower compositions was their forte. Their use of simple tunes and basic rhythms were often mistaken for lack of musical intricacy, but their songs had an extraordinary mood-building ability.

It was in Mukesh’s voice that Kalyanji-Anandji would find their identity. The true range and depth of Mukesh as a singer came in their compositions. The songs Mukesh sang for them rank among their best compositions. Kalyanji-Anandji were gracious enough to acknowledge that Mukesh was their ladder of success and recognition in the 1960s.

They were the finest exponents of the tandem/twin song genre. For example, Lata’s version of Mukesh’s “Mujhko is raat ki tanhai mein" (Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere, 1960) and “Humne tujhko pyar kiya hai itna" (Dulha Dulhan); or Rafi’s “Dil beqaraar sa hai” (Ishara, 1964) and “Pardesiyon se na akhiyaan milana" (Jab Jab Phool Khile).

Sometimes the same singer would sing the happy and sad versions. Lata sang both versions of the “Mehendi lagi mere haath" title song (1962). Sometimes they pitted a romantic duet version against a sentimental solo version: Rafi-Lata’s romantic “Mere mitwa mere geet re” (Geet, 1970) against Rafi’s sentimental solo version.

Sometimes they presented two versions with different refrains and totally opposite lyrical themes – Lata’s joyous “Ik tu jo mila sari duniya mili” and her emotional “Ek tu na mila sari duniya mile bhi to kya hai” (Himalaya Ki God Mein).

They remained well-versed with changing musical trends. Their understanding of traditional forms of Indian music was exceptional. They had a fine flair for regional folk music, catchy dance numbers, soulful devotional songs, children’s songs – you name it.

Yet, they were not trend-setters, never demanded their listener’s attention nor shocked them into a new musical consciousness. They created simple tunes that appealed to everyone. No complex melodies or rhythms. Lot of importance to words and making music appropriate to the situation in the film. Their songs became very popular, good hummable tunes.

They composed from 1959 to 1991, a total of about 260 films. Their best work happened between 1960 and 1970. However, during the 1980s, when mainstream film music hit an all-time low, Kalyanji-Anandji, like others, succumbed to the Bappi Lahiri phenomenon, churning out banalities like “Saath saheliyan khadi khadi” (Vidhata, 1982).

Their success during the three decades they were active came without resorting to any manipulative tactics. They had their heads on their shoulders, winning them respect and affection from the film industry. They were also recipient of the Lata Mangeshkar Award and were conferred with the Padma Shri.

They introduced many new singers - Manhar, Udit Narayan, Anuradha Paudwal, Sadhna Sargam, Alka Yagnik, Kanchan, Sunidhi Chauhan.

Kalyanji-Anandji were the first music directors to organise stage shows in India and abroad from the 1970s onwards. They conducted thousands of successful shows in which the who’s who of Bollywood participated. Later, after the ill health of Kalyanji, Anandji would conduct the orchestra. In the 1990s, Anandji began Little Stars - a platform for talented youngsters.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, their work was introduced to a young Western audience by three albums - Bombay the Hard Way: Guns, Cars and Sitars (in which their songs were given a funky re-mix); Bollywood Funk (which, among other music directors, also had six of their tracks); and The Beginners Guide To Bollywood (which had some of their tracks). Their composition "Pal bhar ke liye" was used in an episode of The Simpsons.

On August 24, 2000, Kalyanji breathed his last. A chowk in Malabar Hill called Kalyanji Virji Shah Chowk, named in his honour, is not very far from where I lived when I was in Mumbai. I had the good fortune of meeting Anandji at his Peddar Road residence. Sadhna Sargam was also present, and it was fascinating to discuss his glorious stint in the Hindi film industry and the work he was doing regarding Little Stars.

On June 30, we celebrate the birthday of Kalyanji.

“Aaja tujhko pukare mere geet re” goes one of their popular songs. The outstanding oeuvre that the brothers have given to the country will ensure just that!

Also Read: What makes the Bollywood title song eternal 


Ajay Mankotia Ajay Mankotia @ajaymankotia

The writer is an author, former revenue official and a music aficionado.

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