Girgaum to the Grammys, Kalyanji-Anandji’s melodies are unforgettable

Farhana Farook
·8-min read
Girgaum to the Grammys, Kalyanji-Anandji’s melodies are unforgettable

They symbolise the long and short of Hindi music exploring every genre from folk to funk. On Anandji’s 88th birthday we share nuggets from Kalyanji-Anandji’s melodious career.

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  • They were path-breakers having many firsts to their name.

  • They were the first to organise music shows.

  • First to deploy the clavioline to play the nagin been.

  • First to introduce rap in Hindi songs with Tumko humpe pyaar aaya (Jab Jab Phool Khile).

  • First to include the azaan (Muslim call for prayer) in a Hindi film (Himalaya Se Ooncha).

  • They also got actors to sing in their films. Like Nanda in Jab Jab Phool Khile (Ek tha gul aur ek thi bulbul), Hema Malini in Haath Ki Safai (Peene wale ko peene ka bahana chahiye) and Amitabh Bachchan in Lawaris (Mere angane mein)…

  • Dubbed ‘lucky’ for debutants, Kalyanji-Anandji worked with first-time directors including Manmohan Desai (Chhalia), Prakash Mehra (Hasina Maan Jayegi), Manoj Kumar (Upkar), Sultan Ahmed (Heera,), Feroz Khan (Apradh), Subhash Ghai (Kalicharan) and Chandra Barot (Don)…. giving hit albums.

  • They synergized with new lyricists like Gulshan Bawra (Zanjeer) and MG Hashmat (Kora Kagaz) and created chartbusters.

  • They mentored singers like Kumar Sanu, Alka Yagnik, Sadhna Sargam and Sunidhi Chauhan. In fact, they gave the name Kumar Sanu to Kedranath Bhattachraya and Sadhana Sargam to Sadhna Ganekar.

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While Kalyanji was tall and charismatic, Anandji was a great entertainer given his penchant for mimicry. While Kalyanji familiarized the electronic synthesiser, Anandji relied on folk music. “Initially, Kalyanji was shy on stage. Later he opened up; his witty one-liners were a rage,” gushed Anandji about his late brother in a throwback Filmfare interview.

In fact, when their father warned them of ego creeping in between them, Anandji’s witty retort was, “Ek suraj banega, ek chand!

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“Earlier music had navras (nine emotions). Today there’s only bibast (vulgar) ras. We composed item numbers like Mere angnein mein (Laawaris) and Saat saheliyan (Vidhaata) but it was a one-off thing… Today, technology has come in. Agar aatma ka nichor nahin (if there’s no soul), then there’s no beauty in music!” he was quoted saying.

Brought up in old world Girgaum, 11-year-old Anandji became part of the chorus in Devika Rani’s Meghdoot (1944).

Kalyanji, older by five years, enjoyed playing the violin and the guitar. The two would participate in the Sarvajanik Utsav, Navratri and Ganpati celebrations.

The brothers, who hail from a family of Kutchi traders, pioneered the trend of orchestral groups, naming it Kalyanji Virji and Party and held musical shows. Soon, Kalyanji got hold of a new electronic instrument called the clavioline – an electronic keyboard invented in France.

With this instrument they played the hypnotic been (the music to entice snakes) for a snake sequence in the film Nag Panchami (1953), the music of which was scored by Chitragupt. People came to the theatres just to listen to this music.

The duo played the been once again for Hemant Kumar’s composition Man dole mera tan dole in Nagin (1954). Th cult tune continues to be played in mandirs, during navratri and even baaraats!

They later composed for Samrat Chandragupta (1958, Chahe paas ho), Post Box 999 (1956 – Naina hai jadoo bhare) and Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere (1960 - Mujhko is raat ki tanhai). The credits, however, had the name Kalyanji Virjee Shah. Producer Subhash Desai, who was introducing his brother Manmohan Desai in Chhalia (1961), suggested that he’d introduce the duo as Kalyanji-Anandji.

Though Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965) was set in Kashmir, they couldn’t use the ethnic santoor and the matka. The heroine was a modern girl, so the song Yeh sama, sama hai yeh pyaar ka had a Western rhythm.

After mainstream melodies in Haseena Man Jayegi, they did a volte face with their classical score for Saraswatichandra in the same year, 1968. To popularise the songs of Govind Saraiya’s offbeat film, they were publicised before the film released. Phool tumhe bheja hai, Chandan sa badan, Hamne apna sab kuch khoya, Chodh de sari duniya... were raag-based and dense in bhaav. It won them a National Award.

Kalyanji-Anandji’s synergy with Manoj Kumar created soaked-in-the-soil numbers. In Upkar (1967), the grim Kasme vaade was to appear before the interval.

The brothers feared bored audiences would leave the theatre half way, more so because it was to filmed on Pran, a villain. But when they attended the premiere in Delhi, the audience went rapturous and began clapping hard on the song.

Manoj Kumar’s Purab Aur Pashcim (1970) was a cross-continent chronicle. Koi jab tumhara was filmed in London but the hero being an Indian, the rabab was used to convey his melancholy.

Vijay Anand’s Johny Mera Naam (1970) was a celebration of their versatility with the emotional Babul pyaare, the devotional Govind bolo Hari Gopal bolo, the fun Pal bhar ke liye and the sensuous Husn ke laakh rang.

Mention must be made of the catchy song, She’s very pretty; pretty pretty Priya, from an obscure starrer Priya (1970). The rare song with the mukhda in English was a party favourite. “We’re sons of a trader, humko har maal rakhna padhta tha,” once said Anandji about their ability to reinvent.

The soulful songs of Safar (1970) are classics. Zindagi ka safar and Jeevan se bhari unravelled Kishore Kumar’s sensitive artistry. Zindagi ka safar, being a reflective song, Kishoreda was asked to sing keeping a distance from the mike. “He sang it so beautifully that I pulled his cheeks in appreciation (something which Kishoreda was known to do)!” shared Anandji with Filmfare.

Kalyanji-Anandji could easily adapt to the pace of Feroz Khan’s stylised films be it Apradh, Dharmatma, Qurbani or Janbaaz (between the ’70s – ’80s). “Ferozji liked both a Western and Arabian touch in his songs. He was keen to try new singers. He never bothered about money; he didn’t mind how much more time was taken to record a song,” Anandji was quoted saying.

Their younger brother Babla (of Babla-Kanchan fame), who also worked with them, introduced the roto-drums (Laila main Laila in Qurbani), the congo and other Latin beats in film music. While Kalyanji’s son, Viju Shah, brought in the synthesiser.

Kora Kagaz (1974) was the only film for which the duo won the Filmfare Award. The title song Mera jeevan kora kagaz is sung in a male voice (Kishore Kumar) but filmed on a female character (Jaya Bhaduri). Kishore suggested that the song should include a happy verse too, “Kolyonji-Anondji better add that antara now. If you call me to sing it again, you’ll have to pay me again,” Anandji was quoted saying. That’s how the lines, “Dukh ke andar, sukh ki jyoti…” came about.

There was another real-life inspiration behind a beautiful composition. Anandji’s elder daughter Rita, who lives in London, called Anandji and his wife there for her delivery. But Anandji declined the invitation saying he was tied up. It left his daughter hurt.

Soon after they had to record the bidaai song Babul ka yeh ghar behna for Daata (1989). When it was being recorded the atmosphere automatically turned emotional. Alka Yagnik, who was soon to get married, was in tears. Kishore Kumar too turned misty-eyed along with the chorus singers and so did Anandji, who’d hit a raw nerve. “We retained the first take, because we’d have never got that emotion again,” once revealed Anandji.

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Almost 10 years before Kalyanji passed away (24 August 2000), the duo had quit the music scene. Soon after Tridev (1989), Kalyanjis son Viju Shah had begun making a name for himself. After having done more than 250 films, the brothers retired at their peak. They followed their father's dictum - 'When the shadows grow long it’s sunset time!'

In 2005, the group Black Eyed Peas won the Grammy Best Rap Performance for their song Don’t Phunk With My Heart (Monkey Business). Interestingly, the track put together Kalyanji-Anandji’s Yeh mera dil pyar ka diwana (Don) and Ae naujawaan (Apradh). Anandji was felicitated by BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc) in 2006, several years after their retirement.

“I miss Kalyanji Bhai dearly whenever I’m honoured with awards. After all, we worked together. I am emotional, I cry easily. All comedians in the world are emotional. Bob Hope, Mehmood, IS Johar, Kishore Kumar... all,” Anandji once observed.

From Girgaum to the Grammys… it’s truly been a high octave journey for the brothers.

Unravelling the world of classic Bollywood cinema - here’s more from Farhana Farook.