They are the best-known teams of composer and lyricist, and their contribution to music in films is immense. The films may click or tumble, may be junked over the years or treasured, but the soundtracks they created usually live on. In this series, we are looking at six great teams from the ’40s till today and exploring their work, bonding and approaches. In this part, we zoom to the youngest famous team – Nadeem-Shravan and Sameer.
Nadeem-Shravan: Nadeem Saifi and Shravan Rathod met each other at a musical function in the early ’70s. They struck a rapport and finally decided to form a duo where Nadeem, a spontaneous and prolific tunesmith, would make the tunes, teach them to the singers, and Shravan, the son of musician Pt.Chaturbhuj Rathod, would look after the orchestration.
They began their careers with the 1979 Bhojpuri film Dangal, and in 1981 they got their debut Hindi film Maine Jeena Seekh Liya. But though Dangal was a musical hit, they had to struggle through the ’80s with B-graders till Ilaaka (1989), a multi-star film. The film was a modest success, so was Baap Numberi Beta Dus Numberi (1990) but it was Gulshan Kumar-Mahesh Bhatt‘s musical Aashiqui (1990), a script written around 11 songs N-S made, that finally drew attention to them. From 1991’s Saajan to 1997’s Pardes, in which they stepped into Subhash Ghai’s banner, they had a dream run despite the advent of A.R.Rahman and Jatin-Lalit and the resurgence of Anu Malik.
Nadeem, who had gone to London in 1997 for his wife’s medical problems, never could return as Gulshan Kumar was gunned down and Nadeem was declared the alleged prime suspect. Shravan completed a few assignments that did not lead anywhere.
However, after he won an extradition case against the Indian government in London, Nadeem began working from there and the duo made a comeback with Dhadkan (2000), with music sittings done in London and his directing the recordings in Mumbai (where Shravan held fort) over the telephone or through the Internet.
But despite major hits, the duo fizzled out after 2005 and parted ways, to do separate activities. In 2009, the duo came back together to sign three films, but only Do Knot Disturb (2009) was completed and the film and music both flopped. Nadeem now shuttles between London and Dubai and Shravan is in Mumbai.
Sameer: Son of the veteran lyricist Anjaan, Sameer has been Hindi cinema’s most prolific lyricist after Anand Bakshi. He was introduced in 1982 by composer Usha Khanna in Bekhabar. After initially getting some tepid successes with Anand-Milind and Laxmikant-Pyarelal, he really hit it big only after Dil (the biggest hit of 1990) with Anand-Milind and Aashiqui (1990), the biggest musical of that year. Though he has done many more films with A-M than with N-S, the latter team had bigger commercial and musical hits and also lasted more. Subsequently, Sameer attempted to form hit teams with other music directors, but none quite reached that level. But on an individual note, Sameer is still among the busiest writers with recent hits like Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore, Bol Bachchan and OMG Oh My God! .
Aashiqui alone would never have made NS-Sameer a hit team. In quick succession in 1991 came Saajan, Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin, Phool Aur Kaante and Sadak, golden jubilee blockbusters all with chartbusting music scores. ‘Nazar Ke Saamne‘ (Aashiqui) led an all-hit list (Sameer wrote almost all the songs of all these films) along with ‘Mera Dil Bhi Kitna Pagal Hai‘ (Saajan) and ‘Tumhe Apna Banane Ki‘ (Sadak).
In 1992, the team notched up Deewana, Shah Rukh Khan‘s debut film, with chartbusters like ‘Aisi Deewangi‘, and in 1993, when the team seemed to go a shade jaded they still dished out hit singles like ‘Ghunghat Ki Adh Se‘ (Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke). ‘Amma Dekh‘ (Stuntman) was their biggest chartbuster in 1994, with other popular numbers in Dilwale, Salaami and Aatish, and in 1995, their biggest highs were Raja and Barsaat. A new burst of glory came in 1996 when four of the few hits of the year went to them – Raja Hindustani (with the cult ‘Pardesi Pardesi Jaana Nahin‘), Agnisakshi, Jeet and Saajan Chale Sasural.
The next three years were dull, but the team faced resurgence with ‘Tum Dil Ki Dhadkan Mein‘ (Dhadkan), Kasoor and Raaz in the 2000-2002 phase. However, though they had hit films later in Andaz, Qayamat and Hungama, the music was mediocre. N-S-Sameer collaborated all the way till Do Knot Disturb.
The Special Bond
Nadeem, as the composing half of the duo, was completely enamoured by Sameer and his range and ability to write to diverse tunes including slow, melodious numbers (his forte) as well as the peppy ones. Asked why he almost exclusively worked with him but for a fling or two with Anand Bakshi and other small-timers, Nadeem loyally stated that for him, Sameer was a mix of all the greats.
Expecting complete loyalty in return, Nadeem disallowed Sameer from working with nearest rival Anu Malik, but after Nadeem’s legal troubles, Sameer reasoned out that he needed work and Anu was asking him to collaborate, and Nadeem relented.
From Sameer’s side, the admiration was strong too, and the lyricist lauded Nadeem’s dynamic persona and “positive insecurity” of being aware of and studying the competition so that he remained ahead. The admiration- and need-based combo did come in for flak for their derived work and lyrical and musical triteness, but with the support of the music Czars that controlled the biggest labels (T-Series till Gulshan Kumar’s death, Venus and Tips) they held sway. N-S also wrote history by being the first composers to end the reign of Laxmikant-Pyarelal that had been on since the late ’60s, a feat Nadeem feels would have been impossible minus Sameer.
Though their most successful collaborations were with Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt, Raj Kanwar and Dharmesh Darshan, their loyalists also included T-Series, Venus and Tips (in their own productions), Suneel Darshan, Lawrence D’Souza and others and besides home productions of Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit, they worked with big-names like G.P.Sippy, B.R.Chopra, J.Om Prakash, Anurag Basu, David Dhawan, Priyadarshan and Indra Kumar.
Nadeem was not a formally-trained musician and Sameer was not into writing deep poetry. Their joint simplicity won the day and they connected big-time with the masses. Even today, many of their songs and soundtracks continue to be heard everyday throughout the country and are considered evergreen sellers in Northern, Central and Western India in particular.