Sunday, June 1, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Anil Biswas dead

New Delhi, May 31
Music composer Anil Biswas, who introduced great playback singers Mukesh and Talat Mehmood and the concept of orchestra into the Indian celluloid world, passed away after a brief chest ailment here this morning. He was 89 and is survived by two sons and a daughter. The cremation would take place tomorrow, his daughter, Shikha Vohra said. PTI


Anilda — the soul of melody

Bollywood went through the motion of mourning the death of Anil Biswas. But how many among the motley group of mourners, particularly those who have made their fortune by selling noise as music, had ever sought out Anilda for learning from him the secret of turning verse into melody?

Anilda in his own words was the “uncle” of Indian film music, “if R. C. Boral was its father”. He had grown up in a small village in Barisal, now in Bangladesh, listening to the folk songs of the fishermen — bhatiyali. Yes, S. D. Burman’s famous “sun merey bandhu ray” was an honest rendition of the melody that the fishermen of Bengal instinctively produce as children of the water gods. At home it was his mother’s sweet and melodious voice that aroused in young Anil an interest for music — particularly bhajans.

The Bengal of the early 20s had a robust cultural ambience. Anil’s dream of singing the praise of the Creator took him to the various gurus. However, Mahatma Gandhi’s movement for freeing India from British rule made him give up music. As a young freedom fighter he was forced to flee home because of his anti-British activities. A term in jail made him give up the dream of dedicating his life to the freedom struggle.

As a failed freedom fighter he found his way to Calcutta, now Kolkata, the hub of professional Bengali art, theatre and music. Like most great men his career as the “uncle” of Indian film music began from the pavements of The City of Joy. Hunger and want saw him do the rounds of the recording studios for a possible opening as a singer or a tabla player. Lady luck took him to the Hindustan Recording Company where Kundan Lal Saigal and Sachin Dev Burman had already established themselves as musicians. They took a fancy to the famished young boy with the voice of a koel.

However, Bombay was way ahead of other centres of culture like Calcutta, Lahore and Delhi as the City of Dreams. For any one wanting to arrive Bombay was the right address. Anilda, like most young people with big dreams but small means, too decided to try his luck in what is still the most happening city of India. After a short period of struggle he was able to establish himself as the king of melody of Indian cinema.

Mehboob Khan and Devika Rani were among the first to recognise his exceptional talent. When he joined Devika Rani’s Bombay Talkies he could not claim credit for the musical score of National Studio’s “Basant” to avoid contractual complications. The credits showed Pannalal Gosh, the legendary flute-player, as having scored the music for this film. Incidentally, Pannalal was married to Anilda’s sister Parul, who too had a good voice like their mother. She sang a number of songs for Anilda. The success of “Kismat” in 1943 saw Anilda’s popularity reach the zenith of his career. The film that ran for over three years in a single cinema house in Calcutta, broke records and established Ashok Kumar as the first evergreen hero of Indian cinema. The three-plus-year record-run was broken by “Sholay” in the seventies. But that was because of the gripping tale and not the music.

Anil Biswas could claim to have launched the careers of many a superstar of his era. The music for “Juar Bhaata”, Dilip Kumar’s first film, was done by him. In 1945 he established Mukesh as a front-rank playback singer. Indeed, who can forget the soulful rendition of “dil jalta hai to jalney dey” by Mukesh in “Pehli Nazar”? By giving a break to Talat Mahmood in “Arzoo”, 1949, he gifted to the Indian film industry a truly golden voice — about which it could be said that “music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory”.

“Ai dil mujhe aisi jagha ley chal jahan koi na ho” turned Talat Mahmood into an icon. The tune had come from the soul of Anilda. Somehow, he could never relate to the commercial dominance of aesthetics and culture. He literally gave it all up at the peak of his glory in the Hindi film industry and accepted a low profile job in All India Radio, Delhi. He wanted lead a quiet faceless life away from the cacophony that is today applauded as music. A place in this world “jahan koi na ho”.

— L.H. NaqviBack

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