On 24th August 2000, Padma Shri Kalyanji Shah left for his heavenly abode, leaving behind a legacy of timeless melodies. Today, after 12 years, lets recall the legendary music director and his vast contribution to shaping Bollywood’s musical journey.
In the Golden age of Indian film music, Kalyanji enriched the firmament of music with his innovative compositions. Going down the melody lane, one remembers this legendary music director as someone who lived and breathed music. For him, life was not music alone; it was God's gift to be lived in harmony with other human beings and in resonance with Nature and Destiny.
Born in 1928, Kalyanji had a flair for music right from his childhood days. A proficient been (claviolin) player, he came into limelight with Filmistan’s Nagin under the music-direction of Hemant Kumar. He commenced his career as a solo composer with Subhash Desai’s Samrat Chandragupta. He then teamed up with his brother Anandji for Satta Bazaar. But their first triumph came with Chhalia, whose songs Chhalia Mera Naam and Dum Dum Diga Diga became very famous, setting a firm foothold for the duo in the industry.
Kalyanji Anandji's arrival in the Bombay Film Industry as music composers was a turning point. When the likes of S.D Burman, Hemant Kumar, Madan Mohan, Naushad, Shankar Jaikishan and Ravi were ruling the music world in Hindi films, in the Golden Era, it was difficult for the duo to carve a niche amidst the greats. In the end, they were victorious. In their career spanning three decades, the two composed music for over 250 Hindi and 5 Gujarati films. Some of their notable films are Satta Bazaar, Zanjeer, Safar, Chhalia, Bluff Master, Saraswati Chandra, Upkaar, Hasina Maan Jayegi, Bandhan, Johny Mera Naam, Sachcha Jhootha, Sultanat, Kora Kagaz, Tridev, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Qurbani.
Kalyanji steered clear of the influence of western music as most of his tunes were original classical Indian melodies with a hint of folk music. His traditional tunes in Saraswati Chandra were a craze and fetched him the National Award for Music in 1968. He stressed on the importance of riyaaz to reach the perfect swara in playback singing. Anandji fondly recalled the old times as he quoted in an interview years ago, "Unlike me, Kalyanjibhai had this habit of being up by 6 a.m. or so and walking down to the music room to sit and compose all by himself. He would often experiment with compositions and with raags and come out with something completely unusual. Many times, this kind of music would be so high in classical caliber that it would have been impossible to use in films, which are popular art.” It was Kalyanji who was responsible for either the debut or chiseling of a formidable list that includes Laxmikant Pyarelal, Alka Yagnik, Sunidhi Chauhan, Jaspinder Narula, Sudesh Bhosle, Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan, Sadhana Sargam, Johny Lever, Sonali Bajpai, Aditya Narayan, Manhar Udhas, Anuradha Paudwal and lyricist Gulshan Bawra. He also founded a training school, the Kala-Vir Academy, and his show, Little Wonders, was a pioneering effort at an all-kids performing show. It showcased immense talent and was a rage all over the globe.
For Kalyanji, music was only one of the facets of life. He was a natural philosopher and was one of the closest aides of Osho. Kalyanji's belief in the philosophy of simple living and high thinking dictated the look of his home and the warm, open atmosphere it radiated. It is said that an old-world generosity graced his home. His mature nature made him handle people and problems easily. His formidable wit was a powerful aid because of his strong presence of mind. During one of his shows, a journalist asked him what according to him were the best moments of his life. And she couldn't have possibly expected the reply he gave. He said, “There are 3000 people watching me. My wife is sitting in the first row. And I have a pretty girl asking me a question. This is definitely one of the best moments of my life!”
Today Kalyanji is no longer amidst us, but his memories remain alive, as much for his phenomenal body of work, as his self-effacing genial nature and his globally-famous sense of humor. His magic endures even today as we hum those soulful melodies.