Music composer Pyarelal on organising a symphony orchestra fest in India, the changing sound of Bollywood and his return to films.
He made his music debut in 1963 with a film called Parasmani and there was no looking back for music composer duo, Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Their successful partnership gave Bollywood some of its most memorable tunes in the ’70s and the ’80s, in films like Karz (1980), Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Bobby (1973). However, in the mid-’90s, the duo stopped composing for films due to Laxmikant’s illness and eventual death. Their last project together was Trimurti (1995).
Now, after a hiatus of 18 years, the other half of the partnership — 73-year-old Pyarelal — is set to make a comeback. In this conversation, he talks about his musical journey, companions in the industry and comeback plans.
On their first break “I have always received a lot of love in India and abroad. I started playing the violin for the Bombay Symphony Orchestra at the age of 13. Today, it’s known as the Symphony Orchestra of India. Laxmikant and I got our big break with ‘Mere mehboob qayamat hogi’ from the film, Mr. X in Bombay (1964). That’s how the journey began. We are the only Indian music composers, to have won four back-to-back Filmfare Awards for Amar Akbar Anthony, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Sargam (1979), and Karz.”
On their retreat from Bollywood music “We stopped composing for films in the mid-’90s because we didn’t want to compromise on the quality of our work. We had created great music in the past, but had started becoming sceptical about the changing trend in the music industry. We got really disappointed after composing the music for Trimurti. After we composed the tunes, it was taken abroad for the final dubbing. There everything went haywire. This caused problems between us and (producer) Subhash Ghai. But it didn’t affect our bond with him. After taking a break for almost a decade, I started touring as part of a western orchestra in 2004.”
On Bollywood’s present music scene “There’s a clear difference in the tastes of the older generation and the youth of today. I don’t think I have the right to dislike anything because change is constant. I might not be appreciative of a song like ‘Udd udd dabangg’, but when I see my children enjoying the same track, I realise the difference. Indian film music went through a bad patch in early 2000s, but things are better now. The kind of words used in some songs today upset me. Composers need to remember that it’s simple to make a complex melody, but extremely difficult to make something simple.”
On his current and future projects “Last year, I made a comeback into music with an album titled, Aawaaz Dil Se, which was put together by singer-musician Pankaj Chaturvedi. I would love to return and compose for films. Currently my focus is on promoting symphony orchestra and world music. I’m planning to organise a full-fledged symphony orchestra music festival this October. It will feature 150 musicians.”
On their bond with Lata Mangeshkar, "Lataji’s contribution to our music has been huge. I have known her for long as I have known Hridaynathji (Mangeshkar). Her voice is magical and I owe a lot of what we’ve achieved to her. Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar were also close to us. I share a great bond with (Amitabh) Bachchan saab. He is a big star, but a humble man. We visit each other’s homes frequently.”