'No one could take away our naseeb'
What set Kalyanji Anandji apart from their contemporaries
Dr Rajiv Vijayakar
They were in an altogether different league. In their long, consistently successful career, Kalyanji and Anandji's approach to music was more like a hobby than a profession. Never self-centred or egoistic, they were far from the aggressive go-getters that one would expect from men whose origins lay in the hardcore Kutchi business community.
Two years ago, August 24, 2000, Kalyanji passed away. But his memories remain alive as much for their phenomenal body of work as his self-effacing genial nature and his globally-famous sense of humour.
Always known to put back what they earned in terms of name, fame and fortune back into the industry, Kalyanji Anandji spent a lifetime serving social and charitable causes, discovering and tirelessly grooming new talent and setting a distinctly individualistic work ethic in a milieu where everyone was overtly or subtly self-centred.
The two spiritually inclined brothers should have been born misfits in the Bollywood jungle. Their shows --- K-A virtually were the first names to make top-grade singers and stars take to the stage --- were full of songs composed by others: a unique feature in egoistical Bollywood where contemporaries were to be bitched about and put down.
K-A also watched so many fickle filmmakers --- for whom they had done excellent work and helped kick-start their careers --- succumb to market pressures and manipulations and shift loyalties away from them, and smiled when singers they had groomed belittled K-A's contribution to their art and forgot a small word called 'gratitude'.
Recalls Anandji placidly, "When Prakash Mehra hit big time after Zanjeer, Haath Ki Safai, Hera Pheri and Muqaddar Ka Sikander in a row, we suggested that he should begin to do every second film with another music composer as that would lend freshness to his movies. Mehra called us insane for saying that, adding that others tried every trick in the book to prevent the entry of a rival. But we meant it. Our father --- an uneducated but very wise man --- had inculcated some values in us. We knew that no one could take away even an iota of what was in our naseeb, neither could we do it to anyone else."
Today, Padmashris Kalyanji and Anandji are names that are respected. Says Anandji, "We always knew that behind our success were so many factors apart from our talent and hard work. My brother is not here today to express his views, but on his second death anniversary, it is perhaps befitting that I, speaking on behalf of both of us, should remember those people who contributed to our music probably a little more than anyone else did."
Anandji recalls the late Mukesh as the man they were close to as a real artiste, a man who worshipped Saraswati rather than wealth. "His bass voice was his asset and led to the misconception that his range was narrow. But what he put into his songs was his soul, and that explained the fact that over 900 of his 990 recorded songs were hits. Incidentally, he has sung 91 songs for us, which is more than for anyone else. Beginning with Naina hai jadoo bhare (Bedard Zamana Kya Jaane), he sang a virtual hit parade of solos and duets for us, besides some evergreen Gujarati numbers and a timeless Jain bhajan. We always tried to compose songs with syllables that heightened the appeal of his nasal voice, like Chandan sa badan (Saraswatichandra) and Main to ek khwab hoon (Himalay Ki God Mein). He was also our first choice for fresh faces and small artistes, for his presence guaranteed a hit."
The duo always regretted not being able to work extensively with the man and mentor they adored --- Hemant Kumar --- because changed trends made his unique voice unfashionable. Says Anandji. "It was from Hemant Kumar's Nagin that Kalyanji achieved fame by playing the been or snakecharmer's instrument on the clavioline."
Hemant Kumar helped hone their talents as well, and Anandji is happy that the few songs that Hemantda did sing for them, like O neend na mujhko aaye (Post Box 999) and Tumhein yaad hoga (Satta Bazaar), were hits.
The rapport that Kalyanji and Anandji struck with every singer was as much personal as professional. Lata Mangeshkar was a regular at Kalyanji's place for Kutchi home-cooked food, while Asha Bhosle would frequently invite them over. "Once there was this major Kalyanji -Anandji Night lined up with Kishore Kumar in Mumbai, and he suddenly took ill. Asha Bhosle and R D Burman called us up at that critical hour and, without accepting any money, performed at our show all evening, even belting out our hits like Khaike paan Banaraswala from Don. Shortly after they called, we also had got a call from Lataji, offering to come for the same show."
Anandji recalls how Asha began to sing late for them as one of their earlier producers had unwittingly caused a misunderstanding. "But since then, she was with us right till the end of our composing careers in films. Yeh mera dil from Don is almost compulsory when she sings live. In the late 1970s, she was virtually branded as a swinging singer when we came up with the sad solo O saathi re tere bina bhi kya jeena from Muqaddar Ka Sikander.
As for Lata, she was always supportive, and K-A are proud that all their award-winning films (Himalay Ki God Mein, Saraswatichandra, Kora Kagaz), were dominated by her and that she won her first National Award for their Roothe roothe piya from Kora Kagaz.
K-A's variety-studded music is replete with some of the topmost songs of all singers and genres, and two of their cult songs are Mere desh ki dharti (Upkar) and Yaari hai imaan mera (Zanjeer) by Mahendra Kapoor and Manna Dey respectively.
"Kapoor," notes Anandji, "is phenomenal for his range and unique voice. Has anyone ever heard of a Mahendra Kapoor clone? Manna Dey, a refined, highly educated gentleman, was known to us from the time when we were not even music directors, but musicians who cajoled top singers to shed their stage fright and take to the stage."
After Mukesh, K-A's closest rapport was with Kishore Kumar, and their joint oeuvre spans everything from fun songs (Jai Govindam jai Gopalam from Aansoo Aur Muskan) to folk (Khaike paan from Don), classical (Priye praneshwari from Hum Tum Aur Woh), romantic (Pal pal dil ke paas from Blackmail) to pathos-filled paeans (Mera jeevan kora kagaz from Kora Kagaz).
"We were very close, and the only party he [Kishore Kumar] ever threw in his house was in our honour after our award for Kora Kagaz," recalls Anandji. "He even fixed up a jhoola (swing) in his house because Kalyanjibhai loved them and ensured that strict vegetarian food was served. We did a barrage of shows together. Being an actor, he would mimick the actor's style in the song he sang for a star. Contrary to what many thought, he was a spiritual man. He would call us Maharaj. He was so sentimental that once when we were performing with his son Amit Kumar in London he came there all the way to wish him on his birthday. But he sat in the car and never entered the auditorium, saying that if he did, we would make him sing on stage and not pay him."
Another K-A favorite was Mohammed Rafi, whom Anandji remembers as "a versatile, technically perfect singer who was devoted to work and to perfection."
"He could sing every kind of song," recollects Anandji about their work together on evergreen songs like Sukh ke sab saathi (Gopi), and Pardesiyon se na (Jab Jab Phool Khile). "But he was very fastidious about doing rehearsals. He would sing from the naabhi (navel) which gave his singing a depth and punch without being loud. This is where his clones failed --- they would shout while imitating a song like Yahoo! Personally, I always felt that O P Nayyar made the best use of his art!"
Moving towards the third leg of their musical stool, Anandji says that while they helped introduce or give career defining breaks to lyricists like Anand Bakshi, Gulshan Bawra, Anjaan, Verma Malik and M G Hashmat, they held them all in high esteem as invaluable contributors to their music, along with Rajendra Krishan, Indeevar and Qamar Jalalabadi, all veterans.
"It takes a while for perfect understanding and tuning to develop," says Anandji. "And all of us need to keep the filmmakers' preferences in mind, like Feroz Khan's preference for middle Eastern music and new female voices. But by and large the lyricists who worked with us usually got full freedom as we rarely made them write to a tune, but encouraged good poetry."
Rewinding to Indeevar, their most frequent lyricist, Anandji considers him an all-time genius whose master strokes are evident in his versatile work in an array fo films too numerous to be mentioned here except for the creme de la creme --- Saraswatichandra, Safar, Johny Mera Naam, Saccha Jhutha, Samjhauta, Dharmatma and Qurbani. "He was very flexible, yet very rigid."
Indeevar, notes Anandji, was prone to take months in his pursuit of perfection, while Bakshi, Verma Malik and Rajendra Krishan were "very fast." "Bakshi was very musical, very professional, and Rajendra Krishan being a script and dialogue writer, maintained the tenor of the character extraordinarily well in his lyrical vocabulary," says the veteran. "Verma Malik's first hit with us was Ek taara bole (Yaadgar), which rather branded him as a writer of satirical or comic songs. And so he mainly wrote hits like Do bechare (Victoria No 203), and Hum bolega
to bologe (Kasauti) for us."
Talking about other prominent lyricisists they worked with, Anandji says, "Gulshan Bawra was a very emotional man, and that surfaced in his intense lyrics like Mere desh ki dharti (Upkar), Waada kar le saajna (Haath Ki Safai), Chandi ki deewaar (Vishwas), and Yaari hai imaan (Zanjeer). Hashmat-saab was a professor, and his songs, though of every genre in the limited work he did with us, illuminated this culture and richness. As for Anjaan, he was a brilliant writer and a simple man whose work also had an earthy flavour."
"Those were great times, when work was more important than making money or churning hits. We would work as a team, helping each other even as were competing professionally. Laxmikant and Pyarelal were groomed by us, and yet when Manoj Kumar shifted to them after Purab Aur Paschim, we attended the first recording for Shor. After that everyone had lunch at our house.
"Pyarelal had a standing offer that he would leave his own recording and come to us if we ever needed an arranger. Dada Burman (S D Burman) would ask us to convey something to his son Pancham when he felt hesitant to say it himself! We would even adjust recordings so that key musicians needed urgently by others could go there while we worked on pieces for which they were not needed."
It was a different era. And Kalyanji Anandji were unique even then.