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Last Updated 05.04.2020 | 10:24 PM IST
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India’s first music composer Anthony Gonsalves

Shrikant Joshi

India's first music arranger and the man behind many memorable old songs, comes alive in a documentary that premiered recently Pyarelal's association with Gonsalves came much later. This brilliant musician is credited as the first music arranger of India apart from being a conductor and composer – Shrikant Joshi

Midway through Manmohan Desai's classic, Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), a cocky Amitabh Bachchan leapt out of a giant egg, to announce, My Name is Anthony Gonsalves. The song stuck in our heads, as a generation romancing the coloured cinema, swayed to the interludes and cross lines of an amusing, yet, unusual song.

Little did they know that it was actually a tribute by music composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal to the latter's guru, Anthony Gonsalves, a Goan musician, who taught him how to play the violin. The song still echoes, but the man has been forgotten. "Pyarelal's association with Gonsalves came much later. This brilliant musician is credited as the first music arranger of India apart from being a conductor and composer," says Shrikant Joshi, who recently produced a documentary titled, Anthony Gonsalves: The Music Legend. The film attempts to catalogue the life and musical journey of Gonsalves, now 83-year-old, who was a former star of Bombay Talkies. Now he lives a quiet life in Goa while dealing with illnesses, and without much money to fend for himself. The 58-minute film recently premiered at International Film Festival of India (IFFI), and will travel the country for screenings.

Joshi had to search hard to trace the man, largely forgotten even in Goa. He roped in his friend and National Award-winning filmmaker Ashok Rane to direct the film. "Goa is a small place where everybody knows everybody. I live there and it was shocking when I had a tough time locating Mr Gonsalves, the man, whose contribution to Indian Bollywood music is pivotal by way of so many interesting music pieces in over a thousand songs," says Joshi. Gonsalves can't walk now, because of a recently fractured leg, and suffers from slurry speech. But his memory isn't failing and he has shared a slew of anecdotes.

The film opens with Gonsalves' childhood in Goa, where he was trained by his father, a choir master in a church. It then meanders through his musical journey as a violinist, which began when Gonsalves was only 16. "The entire narration was shot at Anthony's ancestral home in Goa and actors were used to create his childhood," says Rane. The violinist's training in Western music played a significant role later but he knocked on the doors of some of the most renowned Indian classical musicians such as Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Ustad Allah Rakkha to learn Indian classical music. He was a fixture in the orchestras of musicians of the likes of Pankaj Mullick, SD Burman, Khyyam, Khemchand Prakash, Madan Mohan and many more, where he merged the symphonies of his Goan heritage with Hindustani music. His notable arrangement is in Hum aapki aankhon mein in Guru Dutt's Pyaasa and Ayega aaanewala in Mahal is vividly remembered by music connoisseurs.

The film comprises interviews of musicians such as Kercy Lord, Khyyam and Anil Mohile, who talk about Gonsalves, a forgotten era and the times in which he played those lilting melodies. Joshi says that Gonsalves would actually sit down with stalwarts like Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi and rehearse a song infinite times before it was actually recorded. "Those were different days when it was all about good music, not so much about technology," says Joshi.

Screen India

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