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His name is Anthony Gonsalves

The man who lent his name to the song was a pioneering musician. This week he was felicitated - at long last. Shalini Singh writes.

music Updated: Dec 04, 2010 23:56 IST
Shalini Singh

Listening to a contemporary Amitabh Bachchan song on the radio seemed ironic. I was recalling the 1977 classic My name is Anthony Gonsalves on the way to meet the man on whom the title was based - Anthony Prabhu Gonsalves.

The legendary Goan musician credited with pioneering the orchestra and fusing Goan music with Hindustani in Bollywood.

Gonsalves is also a mentor to the late Rahul Dev Burman and Pyarelal of the Lakshmikant-Pyarelal team - stalwarts of the golden age of Hindi film songs in the 50s-70s. At 83, Gonsalves who was awarded the Karmaveer Puraskar, a national people's award, last week at the 41st International Film Festival of India in Panaji, Goa's capital, lives a largely anonymous life in his south Goa village.

Locating his home in Majorda, known for its bread bakers, isn't tough. His daughter, Lakshmi, is the sarpanch. When the aging musician appears, he offers his hand.

"I'm Anthony Gonsalves," he says, drawing a spontaneous smile from the audience.

The hearing has diminished, speech is slow but the memories seem sharp. Gonsalves was born to the choirmaster of the village church and took to strumming the violin at three. By five, young Gonsalves was teaching music theory to people older to him.

"I was a kid, and teaching all these big boys," he smiles shyly.

At 16, besotted with the film world, he went against his father's wishes to Bombay. At the recommendation of his uncle who worked with Naushad, Gonsalves got a meeting the music director.

"Naushad heard me play and said, bada surr mein baja raha ha, naukri karega? (Your sense of tune is good, want to work?) I joined him. I would get to meet Devika Rani often. She was a nice looking girl and affectionate towards me," he says.

As his work became popular, Gonsalves started working with Shyam Sundar and Sachin Dev Burman in films like Dholak and Mahal. From Majorda to the big world of Bombay Talkies, the young musician had come a long way.

"Burman's son, RD [Rahul Dev] was a mischievous fellow, who didn't listen to anyone," says the old teacher.

Life had other things in store. After spending more than two decades in the film industry, Gonsalves left for the US on a teaching grant at Syracruse University in New York. He returned in the mid-70s but didn't go back to composing for films.

"They were ungrateful people. I didn't want to be squeezed anymore," he says.

Gonsalves has been considered ahead of his time, for the ideas of fusion he brought to film music.

"Goan and Marathi folk are close to Hindustani music," he says, haltingly breaking into a melody to explain his point.

His daughter Lakshmi calls him a "tough disciplinarian".

Composer Pyarelal says he learnt his violin bowing technique from the master but curiously doesn't wish to say more. No doubt, the rigour has stood the stalwarts in good stead.