A.R. Rahman reminding Gulzar of Lord Krishna to composers changing their names numerologically, here are some fun facts this month about Bollywood music!
Vishal and She(y)khar still rule the listener’s hearts
The music of Vikram Vedha has music by Vishal and Sheykhar rather than Vishal-Shekhar. Yes, that is the new numerological spelling of Vishal Dadlani’s partner She(y)khar Ravjiani, who is also a singer. This brings us to a look at composers who have changed spellings, numerology-driven or otherwise. Like A.R. Rahman billed as A.R. Rehman (for example, in the posters of Rangeela, his first original Hindi film). Or Aadesh and Adesh Shrivastava being spellings that kept changing for that late composer’s name, and Khayyam going for a while as Khaiyyaam, which was actually correct phonetically! Then there was Ilayaraja, who was spelt ‘Ilaiyaraaja’ as well, at least in Hindi films.
Changing names numerologically since decades
Of course, Shankar-Jaikishan would often be spelt Shanker-Jaikishan at the whim of filmmakers, and ‘Chowdhury’ would be spelt in so many ways for the late Salil-da. But the really amusing case was of the South genius, M.M. Keeravani (the name is a popular Indian classical raag) being named M.M. Kreem for his Hindi films. Said the composer, “I wanted a fancy name!”
A.R. Rahman reminded Gulzar of a young Lord Krishna!
Lyricist Gulzar once let on a secret about A.R. Rahman’s work-ethic at the time of their first collaboration in Dil Se… (1998). He told me, “The moment his singer stands in front of the microphone, Rahman lights a candle outside. And that candle burns on for hours. So whenever I want to ask him when he is planning to start the recording, I jokingly asked him, ‘Mombatti kab jalaaoge (When are you going to light the candle)?’ The atmosphere is very pious. You have seen how Bal Krishna looks—dark and with long tresses, and Rahman reminded me in those days of some chhota bhagwan with that child-like innocence. Now of course he keeps his hair short, but the innocence remains!”
Many facets of M.M. Kreem
That said, M.M. Kreem remains the only composer from South India who always had distinctively different styles for his Hindi and South Indian films. His Telugu songs never had a Hindi flavour and his Hindi songs never went South-wards, except for the bilingual Bahubali franchise and RRR in all of which he also struck a balance. Explained the composer, “Yes, I made sure of this in my songs. I would listen since a young age to Binaca Geet Mala (India’s first countdown in Hindi film music), and I especially loved Lata Mangeshkar and Madan Mohan.”
The SLB Magic never fails for the listeners!
Sanjay Leela Bhansali loved to talk about the importance of a composer’s dedication to creating musical excellence. “Ismail Darbar made me hear the tune of ‘Aankhon Ki Gustakhiyaan’ from Hum Dil…, over the phone, and I loved it. I told him I was coming over immediately to his house to finalize the song. But by the time I reached there in half an hour, Ismail had completely changed the song to a far better one by working only on the nuances.” The hit song was sung by Kavita Krishnamurthi Subramaniam and Kumar Sanu.
Shammi Kapoor’s active interest in music
Shammi Kapoor, it is well-known, would take an active part in his music from early on. He would even suggest Western tunes to his composers, like ‘Sugar In The Morning’ as the title-track for Dil Deke Dekho to Usha Khanna. But, ironically, the reverse happened with his China Town hit, ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ composed by Ravi. In 1962, a West Indies band took permission and rights from the composer to use his tune for a song in their language. Though Greece and certain Scandinavian countries often adapted tunes from Hindi films regularly, this was the first official one!
Jab We Met and the two composers
Now it can be told! Imtiaz Ali wanted Pritam and Sandesh Shandilya to do three songs each for Jab We Met. But after Sandesh recorded ‘Aaoge Jab Tum Saajana’ with Ustad Rashid Khan, he became very busy with Rang Rasiya. Sandesh told the director not to wait. “In fact, Pritam called me up and I told him to go ahead,” said the composer.
Sohail Sen’s breakthrough
A little-known fact about composer Sohail Sen’s breakthrough film, What’s Your Raashee? is that the composer’s father, music director Dilip Sen(-Sameer Sen) and Ashutosh Gowariker are old friends. When he requested the filmmaker to come and listen to his son’s tunes, the director, who had never looked beyond Rahman after Lagaan, did so. He even liked the youngster’s songs and told him that he was on for the 13 songs he needed for his new film. The amusing part was that none of the ‘stock’ tunes that Ashutosh listened to made it into the film in which Priyanka Chopra (Jonas) had 9 roles!
Phir Hera Pheri director Neeraj Vora and brother Uttank were also composers
Speaking of Ashutosh Gowariker, his first film, Pehla Nasha (1993), had catchy songs (largely sung by Asha Bhosle) composed by a duo called Neeraj-Uttank that was never heard of again. They were brothers whose father was Pandit Vinayak Rai Nanalal Vora, a classical musician and a proponent of Tar-Shehnai, and had popularized it as a solo instrument in classical music. Over a decade later, Uttank Vora, alone, composed the background music for Waqt—The Race Against Time and songs for Priyadarshan’s Malamaal Weekly, though he remained busy on TV and in Gujarati cinema. And Neeraj became a hit writer-director and actor, known best for films like Phir Hera Pheri (director), Hera Pheri (co-writer) and Bol Bachchan (actor)!
Welcome movie welcomed its title song after its background score was composed
A small tidbit here about the highly popular title-song from Welcome that was composed by Sajid-Wajid. “We scored the title-track and the background score,” the late Wajid had revealed. “The title-track of Welcome was recorded after the background score was done, and background scores are composed only when a film is not just complete but also edited! Firoz Nadiadwala spent Rs 3.5 crore on the song, with big stars like Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar willingly allotting 5 days at short notice and Akshay saying, ‘This song is the real music of the film!’ Today, we are happy that the film’s music is primarily remembered by our song!”
Also Read: A.R. Rahman unveils the first look of Sandeep Singh’s Safed at Cannes 2022
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