Laxmikant-Pyarelal – The Inimitable Composing Duo
Pandolin pays an ode to the career of one of the most prolific music director duos of the Hindi film industry, the inimitable Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
In 1980, Subhash Ghai spurned a revenge drama of passion and incomparable emotion. In the classic tale of pure reel pleasure, debatably impossible in real life, Rishi Kapoor returns as musician Monty, the reincarnation of the betrayed lover, Ravi Verma, to avenge his murder and his family’s fall from grandeur. The constant aid by his side? Music. Gloriously fused pop-disco anthems, with one ably composed for the anti-climatic reveal, the soundtrack of Karz was enthused with sensational glory. But the success of that album and its endurance came as no surprise to the listeners of that time who had, by then, become used to eternal compositions of the magical duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
The story of the pair’s rise to prominence is as distinguished as their magnificently composed tunes. Their more than three decade long career might have responsibly plastered their names as one of the most successful Hindi music composers of all time, but they rose from less than humble backgrounds. The composers who met at an early age at the Mangeshkar Family run ‘Sureel Kala Kendra’ discovered soon that they had an ability to work in tandem. This synchronized partnership led them to become assistants to the then very popular duo Kalyanji-Anandji, as well as music arrangers for S D Burman, and then later on for his son, R D Burman, before they score their big break in 1963.
Under the tutelage of Kalyanji-Anandji’s unmistakable Hindustani music, and the overpowering Shankar-Jaikishan tunes of the time, the music of Laxmikant-Pyarelal too bore individualistic, acoustic Indian tunes, with great classical music bearing. On winning the Filmfare Award for Best Music for their first musical hit Dosti, the pair had cemented themselves as composers worth reckoning. The film would also be notable on establishing a legendary musical partnership between Laxmikant-Pyarelal and singer Mohammed Rafi with their song ‘Chahunga Main Tujhe Saanj Savere’ becoming an everlasting cult. Interestingly, the pair would reuse the same song in a playful movie-music medley in their own soundtrack for Mr. India, two decades later.
It was perhaps the musicians’ great love for music, and nothing more, that helped them foster meaningful relationships with several co-musicians and directors in the industry. In their early career, one of their most consequential partnerships was with the director Raj Kapoor who oscillated between Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Shankar-Jaikishan for most of his movies. The pair worked on the music of five of the master’s movies, with the soundtracks for Prem Rog, Bobby, Satyam Shivam Sundaram and Naseeb becoming chart busters of the time, with their tracks remaining contemporary to even this day.
Another verifiably brilliant work partnership was fostered between the duo and Hindi cinema’s ‘Showman’, Subhash Ghai. Laxmikant-Pyarelal composed music for ten of Ghai’s movies, before the former retired from composing and the latter discovered newer avenues with the experimental ‘kids’ of the time – Nadeem-Shravan and A R Rahman. The list of the duo’s collaboration with Ghai includes the illustrious Karz, the musically passionate Hero, a basher of a hit Ram-Lakhan and the infamously popular Khalnayak.
What was worth noting was the pair’s unquenching desire to learn on field. In their 35 years of career, they produced music for over 635 movies, including soundtracks for Tamil and Telugu films. The pair were credited with diving deep into a movie’s story and characters, rendering music that would do justice to the film’s central theme. Whether it was Amar Akbar Anthony, where Pyaarelal paid an ode to his violin teacher Anthony Gonsalves with a Goan-like, Hinglish anthem that achieved mass popularity, or Haathi Mere Saathi, the music of which sensitively portrayed a beautiful relationship between a man and his pet elephant, the result of which scaled new heights of popularity among the fans of the movie, most of which were children.
Lata Mangeshkar continued to be a guiding force in the pair’s musical career, having recommended them as arrangers to Kalyanji-Anandji, who they assisted for a while before chalking their own individual path. Lataji also graciously took up vocals for a number of their films, howsoever low-budget they may have been, and sang almost 700 songs for the prolific duo. The result was that the composers were also responsible for some of the most sublime music the nightingale ever gave her voice to. Her stature never stopped her from taking the mic for their first movie, Parasmani considered B-grade by many, which incidentally also gave her the qawwali-esque hit ‘Hasta hua noorani chehra’.
While the pair held the singer in high regards for the many opportunities that came their way with their association to her name, it was a musical partnership that was as mutually beneficial as one could be. Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s music lent Lata Mangeshkar several opportunities to express her voracious classical music appetite as their songs invoked Hindustani framework while retaining popular music sensibility. The songs ranged from Bindiya Chamkegi from Do Raaste, or Dafliwaale from Sargam (also reused in the pair’s Mr. India) to Ishwar Satya Hai from Satyam Shivam Sundaram or Tere Mere Beech Mein from Ek Duuje Ke Liye.
Similar to this was the pair’s unrelenting love for Mohammed Rafi’s voice, a respect that led to the duo composing the most number of songs for the crooner. On most movie soundtracks composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Rafi remained a fixture, from singing most to sometimes all the songs in the album as he did in Sargam. Like Lataji, Rafi too encouraged the composers with his presence when they were starting out. An interesting anecdote from the time states that when he sang the song ‘Tere pyaar ne mujhe gham diya’, the first song for the singer by the pair for the movie Chaila Babu in 1961 (the movie only saw release in 1967), the pair offered him a meagre sum of 1000 rupees, which was all they could afford at that time, a small amount otherwise for the stalwart. He, instead of accepting, presented them 500 rupees each, a token to a long, fruitful relationship.
The pair would be exemplarily praised for their method of creating seamless melodies from simple note and percussion based rhythms. Pyarelal’s unmatchable skill on the violin, that earned him the reputation of being India’s finest violinist, was a frequent ubiety in all their compositions giving their soundtracks a symphony like arrangement. Laxmikant, on the other hand, was a master at playing the mandolin, having impressed Lata Mangeshkar when he played as part of her concert, when he was all of 10. One of the more interesting anecdotes from their partnership was when Laxmikant insisted Pyarelal stay in India and compose soundtracks with him when the violinist had the opportunity to visit England’s Trinity College of Music. A decision, the pair bemused, that made Raj Kapoor thankful to the very end of their beautiful friendship.
Pyarelal retired from actively composing music after the untimely demise of his partner in 1998, giving credence to the fact that there truly exists a special bond that makes musical relationships work. He did notably return to arrange the track, ‘Dhoom Tana’ for the Vishal-Shekhar composed Om Shanti Om, verifying the idea that the pair truly did understand Hindi music arrangement in their most retrogressive grandness. Pyarelal also took part in the World Music Programme, Absolute India, as a part of 20 Indian and Western musicians where he helped compose and arrange the music. He also helped compose and arrange Indian film hits for French artist Pascal for his project, Pascal in India.
In a strangely romantic manner, after the demise of his partner Laxmikant, Pyarelal was indeed taking their elevated love of composition to the world.
Note: Pandolin does not own these videos
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this POV/BLOG are the personal opinions of the author. PANDOLIN is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing on the POV/BLOG do not reflect the views of PANDOLIN and PANDOLIN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.