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Down Melody Lane With Shravan

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Suddenly, those songs were everywhere. In August 1990, when the world was stunned by Iraq’s sudden invasion of Kuwait, a new film’s soundtrack had begun providing welcome respite from tension-filled news. Songs like Nazar Ke Saamne, Main Duniya Bhula Doonga, Tu Meri Zindagi Hai, and Dheere Dheere Se were played everywhere on radio and cassette players.

Though music directors Nadeem Saifi and Shravan Rathod had been doing Hindi films for over eight years and had earlier done the 1975 Bhojpuri film Dangal, Aashiqui was their first major hit. With the news of Shravan’s death on April 22, that soundtrack immediately came to mind. In the first half of the 1990s, Nadeem-Shravan were the most successful music directors in Hindi films. Though A.R. Rahman had big hits in Roja (1992) and Bombay (1994), the duo ruled till 1997, when Nadeem move to London.

Shravan’s death has come as a huge loss, and many listeners flashed back to the time when Nadeem-Shravan ruled. Over time, Aashiqui became the largest selling Hindi film soundtrack ever, with figures crossing 20 million units. While the music directors attained overnight fame, others to benefit were singers Kumar Sanu and Anuradha Paudwal, and lyricist Sameer, who wrote nine of the 12 songs. There were also accusations that some songs were ripped off from Pakistani hits, but that didn’t stop audiences from playing them on loop.

At one time, the media described the Aashiqui success as the return of melody – pronounced ‘malady’ by some innocent industry watchers. After the ghazal wave, the second half of the 1980s had seen a drop in the overall quality of music. Signs of a revival began with Anand-Milind’s Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s Tezaab in 1988, and Raam-Laxman’s Maine Pyar Kiya the following year. But Aashiqui’s performance was unprecedented.

Rise of Nadeem-Shravan

For Nadeem-Shravan, the Rahul Roy-Anu Aggarwal film just happened by chance. Gulshan Kumar of T-Series had planned to release it as a ghazal album called Chaahat, but when Mahesh Bhatt heard the songs, he wanted to use them in his film. The rest, as they say, is history. Aashiqui was not only a success in its own right but also overshadowed Anand-Milind’s music in Dil, released a few weeks before.

Suddenly, the duo was in demand. In 1991, they had four hits – Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin, Saajan, Phool Aur Kaante and Sadak. With lyrics by Sameer and Faaiz Anwaar, Saajan had some great songs filmed on Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt, and Salman Khan, with Alka Yagnik’s Tu Shaayar Hai becoming a rage. The film used the voices of Sanu and S.P. Balasubramaniam successfully, with Pankaj Udhas singing the popular Jiye To Jiye Kaise.

Nadeem-Shravan received the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director in three consecutive years for Aashiqui, Saajan, and Deewana, which had songs by Sanu, Alka, Sadhna Sargam, and Shravan’s brother Vinod Rathod. However, 1992 had its share of flops too, as many of their films bombed at the box office.

Overall, the Hindi film scenario was abuzz with good music. While Nadeem-Shravan had another huge hit in the 1993 film Hum Hai Rahi Pyaar Ke, the success of Rahman and Jatin-Lalit (with Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar in 1992) added to the variety. After a lackluster phase and allegations of plagiarism, Anu Malik returned in a big way with Baazigar (1993). And in 1994, R.D. Burman had a hit with 1942: A Love Story, a few months after his untimely death.

The Nadeem-Shravan streak continued till 1997 and included mega-hits like Raja, Raja Hindustani, and Pardes. Later, working in remote coordination with Nadeem in London, they had successful songs in Sirf Tum, Dhadkan, Dil Hai Tumhara, and Raaz, but could not match the form of the early 1990s. Rahman had taken over, Anu Malik and Jatin-Lalit had produced big hits, and newer music directors were arriving on the scene. The duo finally announced its split after the 2005 film Dosti: Friends Friends.

What made Nadeem-Shravan click for those seven or eight years? The first factor was that they composed simple melodies, which used Indian instruments like sitar, bansuri, santoor, and shehnai, and blended them with guitars and string arrangements. In an interview with this writer in the late 1990s, Shravan had said both he and Nadeem never wanted to use anything complex.

“Most listeners want to relax with music and hum along. They also relate to Indian melodies, especially in the smaller towns. We kept that in mind,” he said.

Most of Nadeem-Shravan’s most popular songs were written by Sameer, who again had a penchant for simplicity. Songs like Mera Dil Bhi Kitna Pagal Hai (Saajan), O Mere Sapnon Ke Saudagar (Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin), Pardesi Pardesi Jaana Nahin (Raja Hindustani) and Tum Dil Ki Dhadkan Mein (Dhadkan) were easy to relate to and remember.

Most of Nadeem-Shravan’s biggest hits were released with the cassette and VHS industries were at their peak. With more and more people buying automobiles, car stereos became a popular means of listening. And most people preferred to have the latest film hits, which would invariably include Nadeem-Shravan. Likewise, with the boom in home video entertainment in the early 1990s, special compilations of their songs were created for VHS cassettes and later VCDs. In the mid-1990s, cable TV channels joined DD Metro’s Superhit Muqabla in playing songs in countdown shows.

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Even 25 or 30 years later, some Nadeem-Shravan songs are heard on radio or streaming platforms, or performed by young contestants on TV reality shows. Those who knew Shravan will remember him for his warm smile and generous hospitality. This writer had visited his Andheri residence twice, and he would sit in his room, and begin talking of the latest developments in the industry, requesting the house help to get tea and munchies.

A large keyboard was kept in one corner.

“Sometimes, a tune suddenly comes to mind. So before I forget it, I will play the basic structure and record it, making a note of what kind of scene or situation I will use it in,” he said. On both occasions, a bottle of aftershave suddenly landed in his hands, and he said, “Keep this. It smells good.”

Like his music, his generosity was simple, natural, and heartfelt.

Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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