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Interview of The Week- Anandji Virji Shah

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I took a deep breath and allowed myself to realize my presence at Anandji Virji Shah’s residence. The lovely ambience smelled the same way a holy place would.

I was welcomed with warm greetings. A formal introduction took place with Anandji bhai along with a company he had for himself. We weren’t even seated when Anandji bhai asked me to be comfortable.

The meeting was fixed a week ago and I had an appointment for this. The trepidation was palpable. Soon, Mrs Anandji bhai made a visit followed by the clatter of cups and saucers in the background. Awkwardly, I asked if I had made my appearance at a rather unconventional time. On the contrary, Anandji bhai said that it was the correct time.

I heaved a sigh of relief and went back to recapitulating how Anandji bhai and his elder brother, Kalyanji bhai were not meant to become professional musicians but destiny had its own way, and made them the legendary music composer duo, Kalyanji-Anandji.

The movies they have composed music for might be countable, some I knew of, some I had watched, but how could I assimilate all the knowledge and information, Anandji bhai could bestow on me?

Seated at the dining table, our conversation began in the most unprecedented way. I gulped my tea in disarray. I could not make my mind if I should ask him an anecdote of singers whose names I did not know I would be taking, like Asha Bhosle or Kishore Kumar or I should go with my callous gut? Nonetheless, I asked the most clichéd thing,

 

How did Kalyanji-Anandji make music?

“Usually, both of us composed songs in our own styles and sat down together to make one final song. It was never like one composed and one arranged or vice-versa. Anandji-Kalyanji both made music together with equal contribution. You know, there are different ways of making music. Some compose by sitting with instruments or chords, but the chords wouldn’t have modulations. Some sat with raags or rhythm. Us on the other hand, never touched instruments while composing. Staying alert and keeping a keen eye on daily life with a tinge of creativity is all that was needed”

 

The brothers had learned playing various instruments while growing up. They even played in the orchestra of the legendary, Shankar-Jaikishan. However, with no prior experience of composing, Subash Desai’s film, Samrat Chandragupta became the debut for Kalyanji bhai as the composer, where Anandji bhai assisted him. Kalyanji composed for several movies as an independent composer with Anandji as an assistant.

Madari, a not so famous movie in 1959 brought both the brothers together as the composer duo, Kalyanji-Anandji.

Born into a Gujarati family, it was expected of them to innately become businessmen while music was just considered a hobby.

“We had shops and were business people. Gujaratis were inherently supposed to do business. A Gujarati that too in music was a peculiar combination,” said Anandji bhai while gracing me over a cup of tea and snacks. While Mrs Anandji bhai kept serving me more snacks.

 

In 1968, you received the National Award for the movie, Saraswati Chandra, could you tell me more on the use of metaphor in the song, Chandan Sa Badan? 

 

“The director of Saraswati Chandra, Govind Saraiya, just asked us to do it, plain and simple. Aap ko karna padega were his words. Then both of us started working with Indeveer (lyricist).

The first song that came from Saraswati Chandra was picturised on a girl. The era the movie was set in could not demand lyrics that spoke directly of the girl’s beauty, her eyes or her smile. So Chandan Sa Badan is symbolic. It embodies the woman as sandalwood whose true mettle comes out in trials. Basically, the more you rub a piece of sandalwood, the more it smells. A true woman always endures and thrives in life. That was the language we considered. And for the National Award, we did not know we would become recipients. We just did our work”

 

Not only a National Award, but Kalyanji-Anandji have also been conferred with a Padmashree for Outstanding Contribution. There have been many other awards to honour them but their true virtue lies in the singers they took under their wings and made them the gems they are now.

 

For the female version of Mere Angne Mein from Lawaris, you used Alka Yagnik’s voice. At that time, no one knew her too well, but you chose her anyway. Why?

 

“That’s what we exactly wanted. We wanted a voice that was raw. During that time, Lata and Asha were very popular, singing almost every song. Alka’s voice was not very mature then. In the beginning, one can sing but to sing on the mic needs technique. And that’s what we taught”

 

 

“He had worked with 66 directors for their debut movies. Manoj Kumar, Subhash Ghai, Feroz Khan, Prakash Mehra are just some of them,” added Anandji bhai’s company, a renowned journalist himself.


“Back then, nobody wanted to work with new talent. But we took it as a challenge. We worked around them like a teacher but very cleverly. Sadhna Sargam, Sapna Mukherjee, Hemlata, Anuradha Paudwal, Shreya Ghoshal all began their careers with us,”
continued Anandji bhai.

By the end of 1960, Kalyanji-Anandji had composed music for more than thirty films. It was just within a year of their arrival as the composer duo. When the ’70s began, the cinema scape had evolved into a more dramatic, romantic and poetic era.

Kora Kagaz, Black Mail, Saccha Jhoota, Muqaddar ka Sikandar, Zanjeer, Don, Apradh, Dharmatma, were a handful of the super-hit movies from that decade with reigning music albums.

Moving into how the essence of emotion was drawn into the music, I asked,


How did the transformation of lyrics into emotions come about?

If someone told you, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, Tum Rehti Ho, how would you imagine it to sound? Biting? No, right? It needs to have a certain delicacy, isn’t it? Take the same tune and add expressions to it. Location has a huge effect in making music. Appropriate cultural representation, observation, the need to adapt with changing time is all necessary. There has to be flavour. I’ll give you an example. Imagine a girl,”

Now the table had turned and Anandji bhai was asking me questions to answer my question. Oblivious to what I was walking into, I went with the drill.

“Where is she, indoors or outdoors?”

“Indoors,” I replied.

“What is the time, is it day or night?”

“Day,”

“How is her mood?”

“Chirpy”

“What’s her age?”

“21-22,”

“So, she must go to college?”

“Probably”

“Where does she live?”

“In a city”

“So, she must be educated and modern?”

“Assumable,”

Returning to the answer, Anandji bhai continued,

“So, we’ve asked all these questions. Built the character and decoded her. This is when we make the song and set its tune. All these details add value. Also, if it was based on an outdoor location the sound would be different, with respect to the surroundings of the characters. The picturisation of the song, helps us emote the song. This isn’t our job per se, but we do it”

 

How did you draw inspiration for your compositions?

 “Inspiration could come from anywhere. You might have met boys in your life, sometimes you might have had to say no to them, and sometimes you might have fallen in love inspite of saying no as well? It is natural. That’s Na Na Karte Pyar Tumhi Se Kar Baithe for you.

That is how the mukhda happened. Once you crack the mukhda, it becomes easier for the writers to develop songs further.

Similarly, when we were composing Main Tujhse Milne Ayi mandir jane ke bahane, my daughter had just turned 16. I was noticing that she was returning home late very often. When asked she would always said that she was at the temple. That is where I found another inspiration.

Another one I can tell you is from the time we were returning from Delhi after a show. The plane was star-studded with Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and more.
All of us had crowded one corner of the plane, having a gala time. Soon, the airhostess approached and asked us to return to our seats.

While all of us were seated, the noise slowly faded, and everyone shifted to a mode of introspection. Our flight was hitting an area of turbulence so there was substantial tension in the cabin. The moment bellowed, Sukh Ke Sab Sathi, Dukh Mein Na Koi. The mukhda happened then and the song, eventually”

 

During our conversation, there were plenty of guests who made in and out appearances. Anandji bhai introduced me to each one of them and calmly sat down and continued enlightening me.

Meanwhile, Mrs Anandji bhai had joined our conversation and was seated diagonally to Anandji bhai. Looking at them, one could feel, they were hardly apart from one another.

Just then Anandji bhai mentioned that they had been married for 64 years.

“We go everywhere, together. I don’t know if we are going to be together in our next lifetime so, this is all we have. I often tell her that we are like a thread and needle; together we build and repair, without each other, futile”

The room was teeming with sentimentalism. But then again, another recapitulation struck. In 1972, Kalyanji-Anandji introduced the influx of Western influence in the form of Disco through Apradh. The genre’s advent brought with it glamour that was new to the Indian audience.

 

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The song Ae Naujawan from Apradh was way ahead of time for the Indian audience. What was the idea?”

It happened right here! Feroz Khan was directing the movie and he wanted a fresh sound. So, we decided to create a Disco number but with a Sitar. We said we would use the instrument throughout the song. A Disco song with Sitar was totally a new concept. Nobody knew what would come out of this. Fortunately, it worked out well.

Shakespeare was right when he said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” But if he were alive today, he would agree that I was talking to someone who was an amalgamation of all three.

From the 1950s to 2019, Anandji bhai has been witnessing all the on-going changes in the musical dimension.

Anandji bhai’s keen eye to detail has really helped create eternal songs. For I was assured when he didn’t miss to notice the neckline of my kurta which was a Galabandh; my hairstyle, which was one plate, and my first greeting, Namaste. He mentioned everything in our conversation which made me want to know,

 

How does the changeover in music make you feel today?

“We were technically immersed as musicians. I was very intrigued by Television and audio-visual representation. There is a calculation involved in synchronising audio and video. For example, the count of frames per second or per minute. We learned and got into this profession as a hobby but the art of filmmaking, the need for background music, understanding the purpose of music in films was very intriguing. 

Today most of the work is done by a computer. There are softwares that have exceeded human skills. Abhi har admi ko kuch naya karna hai. Sabko dikhana hai

 

“People know him as a music composer, but he is equally good at editing and directing. V. Shantaram offered him a film to direct,” added Anandji bhai’s company who remained constant support throughout the conversation.

In 1980, Qurbani made its debut, becoming one of the most successful albums of the year.  The music from the film was a revolution in its own. However, a relay of remakes followed with a song like Laila O Laila. Hence,

Whether it is songs from Don, Lawaris or Apradh, the relay of remakes seems to be never-ending. What is your opinion on them?

“Yes, our songs have been remade so many times that I have lost count, for example, Govinda Ala Re from Bluffmaster. Remakes do not come out of creativity but commercial interests.”

It had been almost two hours since I stepped foot into Anandji bhai’s residence. We talked about music, current topics of transitions and fashion, and everything under the sun. The clock had started hinting that it was time for me to leave. But before that, Anandji bhai left me with a piece of advice. He said, “Nothing is right or wrong in this world. It all depends on the situation. Life is nothing but a compromise.” Feeling wiser, I moved on.

 

 

Aakanksha Sharma

Author: Aakanksha Sharma

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