The news came as a shock to followers of Hindi film music. Wajid Khan, one half of the Sajid-Wajid duo of music directors, had passed away at 42. Tributes flowed from musicians, film personalities and well-wishers, talking of his songs, his appearance on TV reality shows, his simplicity and warmth, his constant smile and his love for food.
Sajid-Wajid have been on the scene for 22 years now. The sons of tabla exponent Sharafat Ali Khan, they were exposed to classical music, Sufi, ghazals and film songs from an early age. They got a break in the 1998 Salman Khan-starrer Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, where their Sufiana number ‘Teri Jawani’ was picturised on Arbaaz Khan.
But with the other songs being composed by Jatin-Lalit and Himesh Reshammiya, they received limited recognition.
Interestingly, their first big hit came through a non-film album – Sonu Nigam’s ‘Deewana’, which had lyrics by Faaiz Anwaar. The 1999 record, which had the songs ‘Deewana Tera’ and ‘Ab Mujhe Raat Din’, sold really well. However, buoyed by the success of their song ‘Hata Sawan Ki Ghata’ in the movie Hello Brother, the duo decided to focus on films, and released only a couple of private albums, including Khoya Khoya Chand with Babul Supriyo and Alka Yagnik.
The next few years were a struggle. A new crop of music directors had arrived on the scene, the big names being Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Himesh Reshammiya and Vishal-Shekhar initially, and later, Pritam and Salim-Sulaiman. The competition was tough. As was the trend, films often had multiple music directors, and Sajid-Wajid found themselves sharing credits with contemporaries. For instance, in Tere Naam, Reshammiya got all the main songs, and the work of the brothers went largely unnoticed. Likewise, in Welcome, Anand Raaj Anand and Reshammiya got more songs.
For their part, Sajid-Wajid did interesting projects like Shararat (2002) and Chori Chori (2003). In both these films, they reworked traditional songs, with Talat Aziz marvellously singing Mushtar Khairabadi’s ghazal ‘Na Kisi Ki Aankh Ka Noor Hoon’ in the former and Afroz Bano and Fareeda Khan presenting Amir Khusro’s ‘Amma Mere’ in the latter. However, while both these soundtracks did reasonably well, what they needed was a major commercial hit.
The brothers shared a close bond with Salman Khan and his brothers Arbaaz and Sohail, and over the years, have worked together on a string of films. The music of the Salman starrers Mujhse Shaadi Karoge and Wanted did moderately but it was the 2010 blockbuster Dabangg that gave them their biggest hit, with the songs ‘Tere Mast Mast Do Nain’ and ‘Hud Hud Dabangg’ (where Wajid joined Sukhwinder Singh on vocals) becoming a craze. The other hit, ‘Munni Badnaam Hui’, was composed by Lalit Pandit.
Sajid-Wajid did the two additional parts of the Dabangg franchise. While Dabangg 2 had the hits ‘Dagabaaz Re’ and ‘Fevicol Se’, the third instalment released last December never really took off, despite the brilliant ‘Awara’ sung effortlessly by youngster Salman Ali.
As a singer, Wajid got good reviews with ‘Mashallah’, his duet with Shreya Ghoshal in the 2012 Salman-Katrina Kaif film Ek Tha Tiger, and ‘Chinta Ta Chita Chita’ with Mika Singh in Rowdy Rathore. In 2018, his Sufiana song ‘Tajdar-e-Haram’ from the John Abraham movie Satyamev Jayate was successful.
There was plenty of music left in Wajid. Sadly, his health began having issues, and his untimely death has stunned the industry. His associates and fans will miss him.