Madan Mohan, Kalyanji & R.D. Burman—all born within a week!

Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle and R.D. Burman, Mumbai in 1986. R.D. Burman’s 84th birth anniversary falls on June 27. Photo: Publicity Photo

Three stalwart composers in Hindi cinema—Madan Mohan, Kalyanji (of Kalyanji-Anandji) and Rahul Dev Burman—have all been born in the last week of June! Each of them has enriched film music in their own variegated way.

This year, Madan Mohan’s 99th birth anniversary was celebrated on June 25. Kalyanji’s 95th birth anniversary falls on June 30, while R.D. Burman’s 84th birth anniversary falls today, June 27. It is another matter that overenthusiastic R.D. fans celebrate each and every anniversary of the composer, whereas the others, all composers big and small, are unfortunately remembered widely only on round-figure anniversaries!

The fact remains that each of these composers had their special points, as human beings as well as creative artistes and we cannot really compare one with the other, even if Kalyanji (with brother Anandji) and Pancham (as RD was named by Ashok Kumar) were at their peak in the same era. Madan Mohan was a strict persona, Kalyanji known for his exceptional humor and sharpness, and R.D. Burman for his quirks and affability.

Madan Mohan

Madan Mohan’s 99th birth anniversary fell on June 25. Photo: Publicity Photo

Madan Mohan Kohli was born in Baghdad, where his father, Rai Bahadur Chunilal Kohli, was working as an Accountant-General with the Iraqi police forces. He studied the basics of classical music on return to India, and when he moved to Mumbai, at the age of 11 years, he started performing in children’s programs with All-India Radio. He then joined the Army as a Second Lieutenant and served until the end of World War II. In 1946, he joined the All-India Radio (AIR), Lucknow, as Program Assistant, where he came in contact with Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Begum Akhtar and Talat Mahmood, who were to shape his melodies. He would also compose music for AIR programs. In 1947, he got his first chance to record two ghazals. In 1948, he got his first opportunity to sing two film duets, Pinjre mein bulbul bole and Mera chhotasa dil dole with Lata Mangeshkar under Ghulam Haider for Shaheed, though they were not used in the film. Between 1946 and 1948, he assisted S.D. Burman and Shyam Sundar

He made his debut with Aankhen (1950). His last release was Sahib Bahadur in 1980.  However, Yash Chopra, who had access to his unused tunes, thanks to associate Sanjeev Kohli (Madan’s son), used them to fashion the complete music score of the 2004 Veer-Zaara. This happened 29 years after his death on July 14, 1975.

Madan Mohan has won the National Best Music award for Dastak. He is known to have mastered the ghazal and Lata Mangeshkar held him in high esteem and would tie a rakhi to him.

Anandji, Kishore Kumar and Kalyanji (right) being felicitated after a show. Kalyanji’s 95th birth anniversary falls on June 30. Photo: Publicity Photo

Kalyanji (with Anandji)

Kalyanji Virji Shah and his brother Anandji Virji Shah have been recipients of the Padma Shri (1992), India’s fourth-highest civilian honor, in 1992.

Born on June 30, 1928 in Kundrodi, Cutch State, British India, he passed away on August 24, 2000. Kalyanji was the son of Virji Shah, a Kutchi businessman who migrated from Kutch to Mumbai to start a provision store. The two brothers began to learn music from a teacher who taught them in lieu of paying his bills to their father. Kalyanji’s breakthrough was with the thematic been music in composer Hemant Kumar’s Nagin (1954), which he played on the clavioline, specially imported from abroad and said to be the first electronic instrument.

Besides assisting Hemant Kumar, Kalyanji and his brother Anandji began doing music shows as Kalyanji Virji & Party. The first break came when Subhash Desai, brother of Manmohan Desai, assigned Kalyanji for the music of Samrat Chandragupta in 1958. Kalyanji-bhai did 5 more films alone (with Anandji as assistant), before forming the Kalyanji-Anandji duo in 1959 with Satta Bazar. Major awards they have won included the Cine Music Directors’ Association (CMDA) award for Himalay Ki God Mein, the first National award in music for Saraswatichandra (1968) and the Filmfare Award for Kora Kagaz.

In the 1990s, they voluntarily quit films, preferring to groom new talent for films and live events. Kalyanji was also editor of Osho Times, a magazine brought out by the famed Acharya Rajneesh. Their last film to release was the delayed-by-20-years Ulfat Ke Nayee Manzilein in 1994, while their last audio was of the unreleased film, Masoom Gawah (1995). K-A also did some Gujarati films.

Their Qurbani score was trans-created into a record 9 languages, and K-A’s star-studded shows, usually for social and charitable causes, became big events since the 1960s. They continue to be the highest-selling Hindi film composers in the UK even today, including in compilation albums of their background scores, which are specially curated for the international market.

The new talents they have mentored and even introduced is a very long list, including Kalyanji’s composer-son Viju Shah, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Anuradha Paudwal, Alka Yagnik, Sadhana Sargam, Sonali Bajpai, Sapna Mukerji, Sunidhi Chauhan, Akriti Kakar, Manhar Udhas, Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu, Javed Ali and artistes Tabassum and Johny Lever.

R.D. Burman

Born to composer-singer S.D. Burman and Bengali singer-lyricist Meera Dev Burman in 1939 in Kolkata, Rahul Dev Burman composed his first song, Aye meri topi palat ke aa at 17, a tune that his father used in Funtoosh (1956). The tune of the song Sar jo tera chakraaye was also composed by him as a child, and his father included it in Pyaasa (1957). He is also said to have composed Tu kahaan yeh bataa in Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (1963).

RD was trained by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (sarod) and Samta Prasad (tabla) and assisted his father in many films such as Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958) and even after he turned independent composer. He was also a master at playing the harmonica. Hindi film comedian Mehmood introduced him as composer in Chhote Nawab (1961) and later also gave him his first film as a character artiste and singer in Bhoot Bungla (1965).

RD’s first wife was Rita Patel, who he married in 1966 and divorced in 1971. He married Asha Bhosle in 1980. But the relationship between them was strained for some years before his death in 1994.

He also experimented with different musical sounds produced from methods such as rubbing sandpaper, knocking bamboo sticks together, blowing into beer bottles, rubbing a comb and using an automobile differential to produce various effects in songs and background scores.

Pancham was also famous for making music in regional cinema (especially film and non-film Bengali). RD also made an international music album that not many know about: the Latin-American-Indian Pantera, in 1987, was a radio chartbuster in New York Hit Parade. He also collaborated with Boy George. He passed away on January 4, 1994. In the same year, his film, 1942—A Love Story, swept all the main Best Music awards and topped music sales.

Quick Glances:

Madan Mohan: (90-plus films besides Veer-Zaara)

Most Famous Films: Adalat, Anpadh, Aap Ki Parchhaiyan, Haqeeqat, Jahan Ara, Woh Kaun Thi?, Mera Saaya, Heer Ranjha, Dastak & Mausam

Favourite Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi & Talat Mahmood

Favourite Lyricists: Rajendra Krishan, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan & Kaifi Azmi

Favourite Filmmakers: Chetan Anand & Naresh Saigal

Kalyanji-Anandji (250-plus films)

Most Famous Films: Himalay Ki God Mein, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Upkar, Saraswatichandra, Haseena Maan Jayegi, Mahal, Geet, Johny Mera Naam, Saccha Jhutha, Safar, Purab Aur Pacchim, Zanjeer, Blackmail, Kora Kagaz, Dharmatma, Don, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Qurbani, Laawaris & Tridev (with Viju Shah)

Favourite Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh & Mohammed Rafi

Favourite Lyricists: Indeevar, Anjaan, Verma Malik, Gulshan Bawra, Rajendra Krishan, Qamar Jalalabadi & Anand Bakshi

Favourite Filmmakers: Prakash Mehra, Brij, Arjun Hingorani, Gulshan Rai, Vijay Bhatt, Feroz Khan, Suraj Prakash & Anil Ganguly

R.D. Burman (330-plus films)

Most Famous Films: Teesri Manzil, Pyar Ka Mausam, The Train, Kati Patang, Caravan, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Amar Prem (with one song by S.D. Burman), Jawani Diwani, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Yaadon Ki Baraat, Aap Ki Kasam, Manoranjan, Aandhi, Khel Khel Mein, Sholay, Mehbooba, Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, Shaan, Love Story, Kudrat, Betaab, Saagar & 1942—A Love Story

Favourite Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle & Kishore Kumar

Favourite Lyricists: Anand Bakshi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Gulshan Bawra & Gulzar

Favourite Filmmakers: Nasir Husain, Shakti Samanta, Ramesh Behl, Mehmood, Ramesh Sippy, Gulzar, Rahul Rawail & Raj N. Sippy





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