July 25, 2002 
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Shravan and Shanker
A lonesome melody
What happens when one of a music composer duo turns solo?

Dr Rajiv Vijayakar

Traditionally, Hindi film music has been inundated with composing duos, right from the days of Husnlal-Bhagatram to the latest in the line, Sajid-Wajid.

Such partnerships have been formed as frequently out of friends (Shanker-Jaikishan, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Nadeem-Shravan and Nikhil-Vinay) as from brothers (Husnlal-Bhagatram, Kalyanji-Anandji, Anand-Milind, Jatin-Lalit, Sajid-Wajid, Sanjeev-Darshan). In two cases, they have also been formed by uncle and nephew (Sonik-Omi and Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen).

Irrespective of what brings them together, what keeps them clicking as musical entities --- apart from the all-important success record - is the way their minds work as one. Setting aside individual attributes and of course egos, they formed a perfectly complementary partnership where the entity is everything and the individual is of as much import as an element that forms a part of a chemical compound - undoubtedly present but completely coalesced into a homogenous union.

Their work ethics differ of course. In the case of Shanker and Jaikishan, both would compose and record individually, with Jai doing the background score. Laxmikant and Pyarelal would both compose, while Pyarelal would supervise the recording and background score and Laxmikant handle the business angle. Later, due to immense pressure of work, Pyarelal left the composing and rehearsing of singers almost completely to his partner.

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Nadeem is the spontaneous tunemaker of the team. Today, he even conducts the scratch recording from London. Shravan, the musically trained half, does the ornamentation and the final recording. The rest do the job together, but there remains a subtle emphasis on one aspect, like Anandji on the rhythm and Westernised songs, Milind and Sameer Sen on orchestration, Wajid on the business angle and so on.

Quite naturally, years of fruitful partnership leads to a complete interdependence, which can be very unsettling if one of the partners suddenly becomes unavailable. Among the successful duos of Hindi film music, only Shanker and Jaikishan split professionally, the rest went alone only after one partner died. Let us look at how the surviving partners fared, or are faring.


Shanker-Jaikishan Unlike the later duos like Basu-Manohari, Mahesh-Kishore, Amar-Utpal et al who split because they could not be successful, S-J parted ways --- rather acrimoniously because of too much success. Vested interests drove a wedge between them (this was tried but could not succeed with LP) and since 1965-1966, they worked on their own, though for choice producers and banners, both would come in.

But the parting left Jai shattered, and despite his continued success, he lost his life to alcohol in 1971. After his death, with most producers attuned mentally to Jai moving on to others, Shanker found the battle tougher, and along with his obsession with singer Sharda and Lata Mangeshkar's refusal to sing for him, Shanker went awry, despite a rare success like Lal Patthar and Sanyasi (his belated patch-up with Lata), he never could hold on to the titanic position.

Towards the end, Shanker had to score for the rare, pathetic film that came his way, and even perform that platform for strugglers and has-beens on television, Aarohi.



"This is exactly what I wanted to avoid," avers Pyarelal. "I never wanted to cling on doing insignificant work just to keep going. After a lifetime of working with the cream of composers, I preferred to sit at home creating projects that I could do if the right circumstances arose. I did get offers to compose the background score for major films, but they did not agree with the price I asked. Luckily for me, the patience has paid off."

Pyarelal, a complete composer on his own steam, officially returned to the recording rooms in May. He has been signed for the songs of Mukesh Khanna's mega serial Aryamaan -- Brahmaand Ka Yodha (the costliest Indian television series ever), Dheeraj Kumar's maiden feature film under the Creative Eye (one of the topmost television software houses) banner, and is working on a few albums of a variegated kind. After all, variety was the name of the LP game too.

    Duos that never made it
Suman-Jagdish (Not Jagdish of Uttam Singh    fame)
Amar Utpal
Jugal Kishore-Tilak Raj
Mandhir-Jatin (Jatin clicked with second brother    Lalit)

Kalyanji-Anandji too wanted to avoid the kind of sorry end seen by Shanker. Long before Kalyanji passed away, the two brothers were working separately. "We were a duo only for films," notes Anandjibhai. "When we realised that we could not adapt to trends in the early 1990s, we called it a day and stopped doing film music with our reputation still intact."

Kalyanji continued with his Academy, training new talent and having shows. For years now, Anandji has also been composing albums, produced and released abroad, for the NRIs to expose their children to Indian culture and religion. These are worded and composed to appeal to them in English, Hindi and Gujarati. Among his forthcoming projects (which include a Times Music project) is also an anthology of ragas.

Uttam Singh:

Uttam Singh Not many are aware that Uttam Singh began with a partner, Jagdish Khanna, as a Manoj Kumar discovery in Painter Babu. His partner's death and an indifferent success record compelled Uttam to go back to his first love --- arranging music for composers from Naushad to Ilayaraja --- till Yash Chopra brought him back with Dil To Pagal Hai. But being more of an arranger than a composer, Uttam has enjoyed only limited success, as in Gadar -- Ek Prem Katha.


As in Uttam's case, there is Raamlaxman, who actually began as Raam-Laxman. Raam died after a brief innings in Marathi films, just after signing their first Hindi film, Agent Vinod, in 1976.

Vijay Patil (Laxman's real name) continued with the name in both Marathi and Hindi cinema, and when he hit a transient high in the early 1990s with Maine Pyaar Kiya, eliminated the hyphen from the name. With no great follow-ups outside Sooraj Barjatya, Raamlaxman continues to do the odd Marathi and small Hindi film.


Shravan Shravan is mentioned here only to spotlight his activity during Nadeem's professional hibernation. He managed to complete the assignments the two had signed --- with spectacularly mediocre results --- but did not sign any new films. His inability to deliver was masked under the sanctimonious claim of unflinching loyalty to his partner!

    Famous Other Duos
Anil (Mohile) - Arun (Paudwal) : assistants to S    D Burman and Bappi Lahiri and successful    composers in Marathi cinema. Composed    separately only for Hindi films.
Salim-Javed --- Writers
Abbas-Mustan --- Directors
Oscar-Vijay --- Choreographers

Omi and Sapan:

Omi (of Sonik Omi) continues to do the odd television serial under his real name Om Prakash Sharma, and Sapan Jagmohan were doing an average job of television serials (like Amanat) and an occasional album till Jagmohan's death a couple of years ago.

Today Sapan continues working for the sporadic television serial.


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