The legendary music directors duo of Laxmikant – Pyarelal is a synonym to Bollywood film music, more so to it’s popular and hit music.. With hundreds of hit songs to their credit, these music directors were at one time the uncrowned kings of Indian film music industry.
Here’s by far the best and a comprehensive interview with Sri Pyarelal, conducted by an unknown music fan, who if am correct, is a foreigner.. I have read this interview on the web, a couple of years ago..
I very honestly confess today that this interviewer by himself is a maverick music enthusiast and had really gathered great information from Sri Pyarelal by putting some many tough and interesting questions to him..
For the convenience of the readers, am just presenting the interview in it’s original form, as was conducted by the amazing interviewer.
Now, please go through the interview in the words of the interviewer..
This interview took place over a period of three and a half hours in an informal setting in Pyarelal’s Bandra home in Mumbai. Comments in brackets with an asterisk are my own.
Pyarelalji’s entire family is musically inclined. His brother Ganesh was a music director in his own right, and another brother Gorakh was L-P’s long-time assistant and an ace guitarist (Ganesh died about 18months ago).
Their father Ram Prasad Sharma was a brilliant musician who loved to teach and encourage musically inclined young people, sometimes even picking them off railway platforms if he thought them talented enough.
Pyarelal was often made to dress up neatly and sit in recording studio waiting rooms, with instructions rise and ‘salaam’ if any prominent music director like S.D. Burman walked past.
Pyarelal’s forte was the violin, and was already proficient on the instrument by age 12 (his debut was for a song in “Jogan” for Bulo C. Rani). He counts himself along with Oscar Pereira, Michael Martin, Alexander D’Souza and Siloo Panthaki as being the five finest violinists
of his generation.
Q. Did you always know you would make it in films as a composer?
A. No, my plans were to train at Vienna to become a (western) classical violinist. I was 12, and Laxmi was my boyhood friend (he was 15). We were doing the rounds of the studios as musicians and fooling around (he played the mandolin), and it was he who had this dream that we would make it big as a team one day in Hindi movies – so on that hunch I
Q. Who was your biggest inspiration?
A. Definitely Shankar-Jaikishan. We loved their music and I still do.. Laxmi was so much a fan that for many years he would mimic Jaikishan with an upturned collar and wearing a his metal watch-strap loose.
Q. I’ve heard that it was Laxmikant who played the introduction mandolin piece for “Ghar aaya mera pardesi” from “Aawara”.
A. No, it was another musician named David who played that… But Laxmi was definitely the more superior of the two.
Q. Can you give me a song in which your solo violin is clearly heard?
A. Oh, so many. There was Rafi’s song “Main ye soch kar uske dar se utha tha” from “Haqeeqat” under Madan Mohan in which almost every alternate line is my solo violin.
Q. Anandji always speaks highly of you when he talks of the days you assisted him… He says you continued to assist even after Laxmikant-Pyarelal had become an established pair.
A. We did what we could until our own assignments began to build up and we became too busy.
Q. I particularly liked the chord progression for the second interlude music pieces in “Main to ek khwab hun” from Himalay Ki God Mein, and “Waqt karta jo wafa” from Dil Ne Pukara.
A. That was done to stress on the dramatic tension building up in the scene on screen. By the way, we used a French horn – not very common in Hindi music – for the intro and second interludes of “Main to ek khwab hun”.
Q. Who played it?
A. A man named Moraes, also now no more.
Q. Laxmikant had said that you had other offers before “Parasmani” which were shelved.
A. We had recorded the songs for “Chhaila Babu” earlier but that was released after “Parasmani”. Two canned films were “Hum, Tum aur Woh” and “Piya Log Kya Kahenge”. Does this sound familiar? (*sings “Piya log, kya kahenge” to the tune of “Aawaaz main na doonga” from “Chahunga main tujhe saanjh savere”)
Q. You caused quite an upset when “Dosti” won the Filmfare awards over
A. We were the most surprised of all. I thought the music in “Sangam” was so rich and beautiful, and that we were no match since our black-and-white movie with unknown actors was pitted against this technicolor one of Raj Kapoor. I believe it all to be the blessings of Saraswati maata (*pointing upwards) – we just did our job.
Q. Any recollections of R.D. Burman doing the mouth organ pieces for “Dosti”?
A. R.D. Burman was easily the finest mouth organ player in the industry. Also one of the most stylish of our composers. Our careers all began at about the same time, and we indulged in healthy competition while staying the best of friends. Nobody could have composed “Padosan”, “Kati Patang”, “Mehbooba” or “Teesri Manzil” but him. I challenge anyone to top those scores.
Q. Did he play for all the “Dosti” songs”?
A. Yes, and for the background we had another good harmonica player called Milan, who was also self-taught like RD.
Q. I’ve always been impressed by the arrangements for the stanzas of “Chahunga main tujhe” – the chord moves from G to B7 in the repetition, and after the high note “mitwaa” you’ve made unusual but effective use of an A-flat note in the background – how did this occur to you?
A. (smiling) Laxmi and I put it in not because the producer or director asked me to, but because I knew that 37 years later a fan like you would come calling on me and ask me about it.
Q. “Mr X in Bombay” was one of your first movies with Kishore Kumar.
A. I remember us going to Kishore’s house with the tune of “Mere mehboob qayamat hogi”. He liked the tune so much that he excitedly rounded up all the household staff – the watchman, driver and gurkha, everyone – and said “Arre dekh, ye bacche log ne kitna accha tune banaya hai mere liye”.
Q. And “Sati Savithri”?
A. Lata had named “Jeevan dor tumhi sang baandhi” as one of her ten best songs ever. The song in raag Kalavati “Kabhi to miloge jeevan saathi” came about because ever since Laxmi and I had heard Ravi Shankar’s wonderful “Haaye re woh din kyun na aaye” in “Anuradha” we
had also wanted to do a Kalavati for Lata. There is also a Kalavati in our “Harishchandra Taramati” – “Meghwa gagan”. Did you know the last note of the line “Pawan gungunaake” ends on a madhyam, which is not in the raag? But Lata liked it and so we let it be.
Q. In “Hum Sab Ustad Hain” Kishore’s “Ajnabi” is best-known but I equally liked
the fast Lata version. Using a different note for “bhi” at the end of the stanzas in the line “phir bhi jaane kyun” was a nice touch.
A. Yes I remember using many strings, accordion and what-not for that one. And a fast cha-cha beat.
Q. Wasn’t the intro music of “Pyaar baant-the chalo” taken from a western tune?
(*It is from Ron Goodwin’s theme music of the black-and-white Miss Marple
A. Yes, it was.
Q. And “Raat se kaho ruke zara” from “Lootera”? (*Based on “Misirlou”, heard over the main credit titles of “Pulp Fiction”)
A. (laughs) That was Laxmi’s chaar-sau-beesi! He said it was his own tune. Later I met Shammi Kapoor who casually asked me if the tune was lifted, and I rose to Laxmi’s defence and argued about it. Later Laxmi sheepishly admitted that he had taken it from a western tune.
Q. Still, I think it “Lootera” is one of your best soundtracks. The dholak in “Neend nigahon se” with its roll going over two bars at the end of the stanzas just before “mohabbat, mohabbat” is amazing. Another example is “Dushman”s “Balma sipaia”, where the dholak matches the “dhak dhak” words note for note. Were L-P always overly fond of the dholak?
A. Well, we tried to use it in as many innovative ways as we could… Once again Shankar-Jaikishan were our insipration. Laxmi and I were intrigued by the way Abdul Karim played dholak for their song “O mora naadan baalma” from “Ujala”, especially using only the right hand for the entire line from “Na jaane dil ki baat ho” to the pick-up for the main line.
For “One two ka four” from “Ram Lakhan” we used a chorus, hardly any melody instruments, and more than 82 percussionists! For a dance sequence in “Prem” I used almost as many assorted drums, and split a 9-matra taal into halves of 4 and a half (*claps hands and sings the count which I found impossible to keep track of).
There are other counts too. Come on, clap your hands. (*Makes me clap at about one beat a
second, and intersperse his own clapping in bizarre timings of 9/4, 11/4 and 19/4 and smiles when it throws me and I can’t maintain the tempo any longer).
Q. Moving on to “Shriman Funtoosh”, Kishore’s “Ye dard bhara afsana” has some lovely accordion interludes. Who was the player?
A. Sumeet Mitra. After that it was mostly Kersi Lord who played (*Pyarelal confirmed that Lord had played for “Sheesha ho ya dil ho” (“Aasha”), “Dil ki baatein” (“Roop Tera Mastana”), the title song of “Amar, Akbar Anthony” and “John Johnny Janardhan” (“Naseeb”)).
Q. In “Aasra” Lata Mangeshkar’s voice seems to have been given a special ‘soft touch’ treatment in “Neend kabhi rehti thi”, and you seem to have done it for her in other songs like “Kaise jeete hai bhala” (“Dost”) and “Krishna krishna” (“Naya Din Nayi Raat”) where the orchestra becomes almost muted when she sings. Does this show your fondness for Lata?
A. No, that’s not the reason. We would do it for any singer if the scene called for it – for example Kishore in “Ye jeevan hai” (“Piya Ka Ghar”) or Rafi in “Akela hoom main humsafar dhoondta hoon” (“Jaal”).
Q. “Aaye Din Bahaar Ke”‘s “Suno sajna” is another great composition. I read once that the convoluted and captivating flute piece at the end of the first interlude was played by a Sumanraj. Can you confirm?
A. I think Sumanraj had passed on by then. No, it was definitely Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Q. You scored a top Binaca hit for Usha Mangeshkar in “Kabootar kabootar” from “Dillagi”.
A. That was Laxmi’s way of teasing O.P. Ralhan who was known in inner circles as kabootar! Yes, the song became a big hit.
Q. Who was the harmonium player for “Paayal ki jhankaar raste raste” from “Mere Lal”?
A. Sonik, who was then Madan Mohan’s assistant and later became a full-fledged music director with partner Omi.
Q. For the album “Haunting Melodies of Lata Mangeshkar”, L-P is represented by “Ye raat bhi jaa rahi hai” from “Sau Saal Baad”. In my opinion a better choice would have been “Mere sanam” from “Naag Mandir”. It’s more beautiful and haunting.
A. Many factors influence these compilations and also the content of stage programmes – all of them non-musical.
Q. “Sau Saal Baad” had the song “Ek ritu aaye” in four raags. Do you recall what the raags were?
A. I only know the second to be abhogi. Sorry. Can’t remember the others.
Q. Coming to “Anita”, you composed “Main dekhun kis or” which was like “Naina barse” or the “Mera Saaya” title song in that it appeared in parts throughout the film. Was it director Raj Khosla’s suggestion?
A. Yes, he was a man who sometimes drew on his previous successes. In “Haye sharmaun” from “Mera Gaon Mera Desh” the dancer warns the hero of villains present around him, just as Waheeda Rehman did with “Kahin pe nigahen kahin pe nishaana” in his “C.I.D.” It was also at his saying so that we adapted Amir Khusro’s “Chhaap tilak” in “Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki” but we made sure that it was duly credited.
Q. How much credit does Jeetendra give you for his ‘Jumping Jack’ image? After all, it was your “Mast bahaaron ka main aashiq” that established it first of all.
A. A lot! Jeetendra is a good friend. He and Amitabh were two actors who were very interested in songs to be filmed on them and dropped in on recordings whenever they could.
Q. One of my favourite movies is “Jaal”, which had Lata’s catching and rhythmic “Dhadka hai dil mein”. Another song in the movie “Meri zindagi ka chirag ho” is very much like a Madan Mohan composition. Any comment?
A. Lata Mangeshkar casually asked if we could tune that song in MM style and so we did! Another one in that style was “Ye daaman” from “Baharon Ki Manzil”.
Q. “Milan” was one of your major hits. Whose idea was it to use Mukesh’s voice
for Sunil Dutt?
A. Laxmi’s. For Mukesh a composition needed to fit into his limited octave range. When he first attempted “Mubarak ho sab ko.main to deewana” he couldn’t hit the high notes, and the film’s director and other walked out in disapproval. But Laxmi had a gut feeling that only Mukesh would suit those songs, and wouldn’t change. See how he was proved right?
Q. Wasn’t it in “Night in London” and not “Inteqam” that Lata sang her first ‘cabaret’ number – “Aur mera naam hai Jameela” – for you?
A. That’s right. We even travelled to London to get a feel of the place, and that helped in setting the music for “Nazar na lag jaae”.
Q. Another great track was “Patthar Ke Sanam”. “Koi nahin hai phir bhi hai mujhko” has one of the most original rhythms – but you never used it
A. That’s L-P. We believed in constantly trying out new styles in rhythms and other aspects of music.
Q. Even Asha’s “Ae dushman jaa” has some real good arrangements.
A. There’s a story to that. While on a trip to Lebanon Laxmi and I met Fairouz, the famous Arabic singer, and her husband and his brother who composed her songs. We thought her guttural style was appealing, and tried to get Asha to do it at the end of the word “Allah” – A-haaa.
Q. Any thoughts on “Jab jab bahaar aayi” from “Taqdeer”? You had three versions – Lata and chorus, Rafi, and one more with Mahendra Kapoor, Usha Mangeshkar and Usha Timothy.
A. My memory of the song is linked to something more personal. My prospective mother-in-law came to meet and ‘see’ me for the first time while I was doing that song!
Q. You must also be the only ones to have recorded Lata and Sulakshana Pandit
singing together – “Saat samundar paar” from the same movie.
A. Sulakshana wasn’t really a full-fledged singer then. She, Padmini and Shivangi Kolhapure were our stock bunch of chorus singers, nothing more.
Q. I have a general question relating to “Izzat”‘s “Ye dil tum bin kahin lagta nahin”. How much of a song’s ‘murkis’ and innovations are done or suggested by your singers?
A. None at all. Be it Lata Mangeshkar, Rafi or whoever, the song would be fully designed and presented to them for singing. After all this if they improvised during the actual take, and if we liked it, we would let it stay. By the way, “Jaagi badan mein jwala” (*from the same movie) was another rhythm that we never used again.
Q. “Spy in Rome” came somewhat late in your career for you to be still doing a stunt film. Any comment?
A. Well, the producer held an important post in the industry at the time so we agreed. This time too Laxmi and I tried to con our way for a free trip to Rome saying we would have to visit the place to get local inspiration, but it didn’t work!
Q. We now come to “Inteqam” and “Aa jaane ja”. Firstly, why Lata, and why not Asha who would seem to be the obvious choice?
A. We needed a softer touch to go with that situation. Helen represented a pure character outside a cage with a beast inside. Even if the line “O la la la la la la la” were overemphasised, cabaret-style, the effect would have been lost. (*sings “Bindiya chamkegi”) See how Lata sang that upturned bit “gi” of “chamkegi”? Prolong or shorten it even slightly and what happens? Flat. Also, Lata’s slow fade-in for the main line “Aa..” before
“jaane ja”, is inimitable, I think.
Q. You had some really rich orchestration there. Who played that jazz flute?
A. Manohari Singh.
Q. What notes do the chimes follow in the second interlude? It’s difficult to follow them.
A. (laughing) No fixed notes! We just asked the musician to play anything to fit those bars.
Q. And whose was the voice of the beast?
A. The voice, the choreography, and the overall supervision and concept of the entire song was that of P.L. Raj.
Q. “Humjoli” had that three generation song “Ye kaisa aaya zamaana” in which Mehmood mimicked the Kapoor family. Were there any repercussions?
A. None for us, but Daboo was out to hammer Mehmood, and Raj saab banned him from ever shooting at RK studios. Anyway, it was all resolved in a friendly way with an apology from Mehmood.
Q. But what did Mukesh have to say about it?
A. (Eyes twinkling) We didn’t tell him the song situation in advance. I suppose to that extent we were also in it.
Q. In “Aap Aaye Bahaar Aayi” comes another first – Kishore Kumar singing for Rajendra Kumar in “Tum ko bhi to aisa bhi kucch” – whose idea was this?
A. Again, Laxmikant’s There was no real reason here, he just felt KK was best suited for the song, that’s all.
Q. What was it like working with V.Shantaram for “Jal Bin Macchli Nritya Bin Bijli”?
A. It was a fantastic experience, and we enjoyed working for him. That film has one of our best music, with no two songs alike.
Q. It was also the first ever Hindi film track to be recorded in stereo, isn’t it? It that technology was available, why were later LPs done in mono and electronically reprocessed for stereo?
A. I think only the title song was recorded in full stereo, with the others in mono for later reprocessing. (*Here I must say I disagree because I went back and listened to my JBM album and all the songs are in full stereo)
Q. Talat Mehmood’s only song for LP – “Mohabbat ki kahaaniyan” – was in “Who Din Yaad Karo”. Why didn’t you use him more often?
A. Talat’s voice didn’t suit the trend of music that had developed by the time we were prominent. I remember even Kalyanji and Anandji used him only once while we assisted, in “Milke bhi hum” for “Sunehri Nagin”.
Q. By the mid-70s’ you had worked with virtually all big names but the only major flop was B.R. Chopra’s “Dastaan”. What went wrong?
A. Everything! From the start we didn’t have cordial relations, and there was gross interference in our composing with people unrelated to the recording (or even to music in general) insisting on sitting in on the recording and throwing in their suggestions. We have always enjoyed complete freedom, but “Dastaan” finally came to a point when we just
wanted to finish the assignment somehow and get out – something that has happened never before and never since. Still I think that the title song by Rafi is a great composition.
Q. Any recollections of using Hemant’s daughter Ranu Mukerjee in “Ek Bechara”?
She sang “Naach haseena naach” with Mukesh.
A. Ranu was a frequent visitor home those days – you know that we had worked with her father in the past. She requested us for a break, and L-P has always been looking for something new.
Q. And Anand Bakshi singing in “Mome ki Gudiya”?
A. After “Baagon mein bahar aayi” the producer suffered a tremendous loss, the new hero’s career nosedived, and his engagement broke off… Poor Anand Bakshi thought he was the jinx! Much later when he sang “Aaja teri yaad aa gayi” in “Charas” many religious icons were included in the filming to combat the evil eye!
Q. What was the feeling when you did “Roop Tera Mastana”, your 100th film?
A. Was it really? I only know it now.
Q. You used a Hawaiian guitar in “Aakash pe do taare” – played by?
A. Charanjit Singh. You hear him also in “Hai hai ye majboori” (*Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan)
Q. Did you play the violin yourself in “Ek pyar ka nagma hai” (*Shor)?
A. No, that was Jerry Fernandes. I was so busy then! I saw neither sunrise nor sunset, and my wife gets all the credit for our son’s upbringing.
Q. The chorus for the third interlude sounds really rich. How many singers were
A. About 46.
Q. Any other examples of large orchestration?
A. I’ve told you about percussion in “Ram Lakhan” and “Prem”. Let’s see. There were 70-75 violins alone in “Chanchal sheetal” and the title song of “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”, 18 sitars in “Ram Lakhan”‘s “Bada dukh deena”, 16 shehnais for a dream sequence in “Karma”, and 15 flutes in… now I can’t remember the flute song.
Q. Coming to “Anhonee” you made use of a bass guitar for “Hungama ho gaya” which is similar to “Bobby”‘s “Ae phasa”. Who played it?
A. My brother Gorakh.
Q. “Dafli waale” in “Sargam” and “Hum tum ek kamre” in “Bobby” had some splendid strumming on an acoustic guitar.
A. That was also Gorakh! He’s a superb musician. Once we had a pompous guitarist who came on somebody’s ‘sifarish’ for a job. I only asked Gorakh to play a piece on his guitar and the man was so dazzled he fled. Sometimes you have to take people down a peg or two.
Q. Did you not have any problem getting Lata Mangeshkar to sing “Buddhu pad gaya palle”, knowing her reservations about such songs?
A. None at all. She may have found “Buddha mil gaya” suggestive but this was okay.
Q. It is said that Mukesh was very keen for his son Nitin to become established
as Rishi Kapoor’s voice for “Bobby”. Were you under any pressure because of
A. That was between Raj saab and him. Many hopefuls were tried out but Shailendra Singh’s speaking voice came closest to Rishi’s in the auditions. The line that clinched it was “Mujhe kuchh kehna hai”.
Q. Moving on to “Daag” – you used yet another unusual beat for the Lata-Minoo
Purshottam duet “Ni main yaar manana ni” – any memories related to it?
A. Initially the dholak was not meant to be so prominent. They wanted to adapt a folk dance with the same 1-2-3 rhythm in which the dancer would hit her forehead, her bosom and end with a hand clap in that time. But Yashji felt it would be too vulgar so we provided the beat on a dholak instead and the dance movements too were accordingly toned down.
Q. There was a catchy Asha song in “Sweekar” – “Angadayiya le le lar…kahin
pyar ho na jaaye” – also the title song of “Naatak”.
A. Both Laxmi tunes. What I remember of “Sweekar” is using only piano music for the background of a rape sequence. What a lot of calls I got from fellow musicians! They found it effective and very original. In another movie called “Bidaai” I let the musicians know the length of the footage in minutes and let them play spontaneously, without a written score.
Q. You’re credited with assisting Jaidev in a 1974 film called “Faasla”. Any
A. No, not at all! Must be a mistake. I’ve never assisted Jaidev, but I’ve played as a musician under him – even in “Allah tero naam”.
Q. The slower version of “Ruk jaana nahin” from “Imtihan” has a great trumpet
introduction. Do you remember the artiste?
A. His name was George.
Q. And the ‘been’ in “Nagina”‘s “Main teri dushman” – what instrument was it
A. The claviolin! Arun Paudwal was the player.
Q. In the introduction piece of “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”‘s title song there are
some strains of a stringed instrument that doesn’t sound like a sitar. Is it a
A. No, we used a veena. There’s a story there too. Raj saab received a request to use a certain veena player and he asked Laxmi and me to check him out. He arrived, imposing looking and dressed in a flashy sherwani, veena and all.
But he could only play one little ‘meend’! When Raj saab heard him and understood his limitations, he was already commited to use him for some reason. So we discreetly incorporated that little ‘meend’ into the song – you hear it just before the strings begin to swell and Lata starts her “Eeshwar satya hai” aalaap.
Talking of sitars – probably the most prominent one you hear in Hindi film music is of Rais Khan. When I first approached him I had my reservations but he produced an entire octave with a single ‘meend’! That won me over completely.
Q. Mukesh’s last song, and later Rafi’s last (*in “Aas Paas”) were under the L-P
baton. Do you feel privileged in some way about this?
A. I must tell you that while at the time both were very sad events and the deaths were great losses, for some time we had a problem getting recordings done, because the word going around was – sing for L-P only if you want that to
be your last song!
Q. One more query about “Sargam” – did you use a real ‘dafli’? Were there no
A. You mean ‘daflis’! No, tuning wasn’t a problem but we needed to heat them sometimes to restore tone, whenever studio air-conditioning brought it down. By the way I must tell you that “Sargam” was completely a Laxmikant affair. Except for a few arrangements I did nothing.
Q. Dilip Dholakia is listed as assistant – is he the same who was Chitragupt’s
A. The same. Gorakh would signal the musicians with a time count, and Dilip would signal to the singers.
Q. What was it like working with Rajan-Sajan Mishra on “Sur Sangam”?
A. Fantastic. We won that film outbeating such great names as Pandit Ravi Shankar and I’m really proud of our work. And K.Vishwanath is not an easy man to
Q. Did the classical singers have a problem singing in a fixed time recording?
I mean, being used to free time aalaaps and so on?
A. No, they didn’t. In fact they found it a rich experience singing with a full orchestra.
Q. Finally, a question on “Khuda Gawah”. In the intro to the title song you’ve
used what sounds like thalis (metal plates). What are they?
A. They are thalis! At that point I luckily found some Afghan musicians and invited them home to play the thalis – which they did, while I noted the manner and rhythms they used.
Q. Are they made to be actual musical instruments, or they are just eating thalis?
A. No, they are eating thalis!
Q. Again, won’t you have problems of tuning?
A. Thalis are available in plenty, so you just have to pick and choose ones with the tone you want.
Q. You seem have used musicians from everywhere.
A. True. I’ve nabbed them from everywhere – off the streets, from bands playing in clubs and hotels, and from visiting symphony orchestras. Of course, for our regular use we had the pick of the best – Kersi Lord, Shivkumar Sharma,Hariprasad Chaurasia, Gorakh, Arun Paudwal, Ramlal (*a shehnai player also a MD in his own right), Ram Narayan and Sultan Khan (*sarangi)… it’s a long list.
Q. And life after Laxmikant?
A. Nobody lived life to the full the way Laxmi did, and in that context his death should not be regretted. As for me, I was a simple man before and during the days I made it big; and I remain simple today after it’s over. Nothing’s changed, really.
Source Of Interview : Unknown
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