Composer Anandji is 90 going on 19!

Anandji with wife Shantaben. Photo: Anandji Shah 

Easily one of the youngest-at-heart music composers ever in Hindi cinema, as part of the Kalyanji-Anandji duo that composed music for around 250 films (a few in Gujarati), Anandji touches a young 90 on March 2. Yes, he is on Facebook, and in a post on this date, he placed a picture from his youth and stated, “Thank you for all your warm wishes. I’m blessed that at my age, I still have friends.”

On phone a few days ago, Anandjibhai, as he is popularly known, told me, “It is God’s blessings that I am still active and working at this age.” The composer, though the winner of the Padma Shri in 1992 and the National award for Best Music (for Saraswatichandra in 1968), is completely grounded and lives a middle-class, very simple life in his apartment on Mumbai’s Peddar Road.

“I attribute my good health to my wife, Shantaben, an ideal partner who looks after home and family and has infinite patience, my lack of a fiercely-competitive attitude in life and career (he shares this with his elder brother Kalyanji) and a regular lifestyle with a simple diet. I avoid worrying, take life as it comes and enjoy everything I get to do.”

Adds the composer: “I also have very good children who have also raised their offspring well.” A dark spot is his loving daughter Rita’s demise a few years ago. “She was a great motivating force for me!” says the composer.

Anandji also adds, “At work, we never had this approach that we should grab every film. We became music composers by chance, as we hailed from a Kutchi family and are known to be a business community. Had we not become composers, we would probably have been in the business of doing shows with singers, at which we were the pioneers in the late 1950s. We then became assistants to Hemant Kumar, and Subhash Desai, Manmohan Desai’s elder brother, gave us our first break with Samrat Chandragupta (1958), wherein I assisted my elder brother, who scored the music as Kalyanji Virji Shah.”

Kalyanji-Anandji remain among the most popular and prolific music duos of Hindi cinema. Photo: Anandji Shah

The two became a duo after first tasting success and joined forces for Chandrasena and Satta Bazaar a year later. Their last film was the delayed Ulfat Ki Nayi Manzilein, released in 1994, though they also scored music for the unreleased Masoom Gawah in 1995. Nothing specific is known about whether the music of Dilip Kumar’s directorial debut, Kalinga, which also remains unreleased, was completed.

Among the humongous musical hits of K-A were Himalay Ki God Mein, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Upkar, Saraswatichandra, Haseena Maan Jayegi, Saccha Jhutha, Safar, Johny Mera Naam, Purab Aur Pacchim, Victoria No. 203, Zanjeer, Blackmail, Dharmatma, Don, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Qurbani, Laawaris and Tridev (jointly with Kalyanji’s son Viju Shah).

A rare honor for Anandji was also his felicitation by the international copyright organization BMI because the Amercian Black group, The Black-Eyed Peas, won the Grammy for their song Don’t phunk with my heart, which was made up almost entirely of two K-A compositions, Ae naujawan hai sab kuch yahaan (Apradh/1972) and Yeh mera dil (Don/ 1978). The band had credited the duo and lyricist Indeevar for these two songs that they adopted.

As Anandji put it, “We continued doing shows after we became composers, especially for social and charitable causes. We never restricted the songs on our shows to our own compositions but gave the people whatever they wanted. We then decided that we got our success because of the great singers nurtured by earlier composers. So Kalyanjibhai and I decide to train and introduce new talent.”

The plethora of singers in this category include Anuradha Paudwal, Alka Yagnik, Sadhana Sargam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal, Kanchan, Sapna Mukherjee, Akriti Kakar, Sonali Vajpayee, Manhar Udhas, Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan, Sudesh Bhosle and Javed Ali as also composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Kalyanji’s and Anandji’s brother Babla (who continued as their assistant) and Kalyanji’s son Viju Shah. Among on-screen names, they also mentored future greats like Tabassum and Johny Lever.

A home for sheer talent, the duo also mentored lyricist Anand Bakshi and Gulshan Bawra and rejuvenated the struggling careers of Indeevar, Anjaan, Verma Malik and Qamar Jalalabadi, all four of whom were their seniors. For good measure, they were also the lucky mascots of first-time filmmakers Manmohan Desai, Arjun Hingorani (their loyalist till the end), Manoj Kumar, Prakash Mehra, Feroz Khan, Subhash Ghai, Gulshan Rai and Rajiv Rai.

Among the duo, Anandji was known as the man who had an affinity for Western music and thus was said to have a major share in the background score as well. Known to be a voracious reader, Anandji has this fanatical inclination for learning everything new or traditional, from the latest in medicine to the origins of languages and dialects.

Anandji, after Kalyanji’s demise, also trained students in music and had shows called “Little Stars”. He also composed non-film music in Hindi and Gujarati and also released spiritual and religious albums for NRI children who had to be initiated into Hinduism, Jainism and Indian culture. “In the ‘90s, Kalyanjibhai told me that music has changed and we cannot follow the modern trends. It is not necessary that we remain composers all the time. So we stopped doing film music!” Anandji stated.

Full of beans and mischievous wit, he is a treasury of endless anecdotes on music, life, and his favorite associates that include Feroz Khan, Shashi Kapoor, Prakash Mehra and Kishore Kumar. And Anandji was the man who literally compelled me to meet (and also arranged the first meetings!) with names from Indeevar, Gulshan Bawra, Qamar Jalalabadi and younger brother Babla to Sunidhi Chauhan.

In short, in multiple ways, Anandji himself remains a treasure not just to his associates and to Hindi cinema but also, personally, to me.




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