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Phalke award: Musical legend Anil Biswas 'wasn't rated high' by Indian babudom

By Indraneel Mukherjee* 

It is not long ago that we lost him to time on May 31, 2003. I used to be with Dada Anil Biswas at his South Extension residence in New Delhi, where he led a recluses’ life for a long time after he left Bombay in 1965 after Motilal’s last film “Choti Choti Baatein”, never to return to the tinsel town, which gave him so much, yet, as it happens mostly to good Godly persons, one often gets cheated, and he was no exception…
In his case there were other Gods and Goddesses who were in the fray who cheated him! Dada was a kind of a Guru to Lata Mangeshkar (besides Mukesh, Talat, and even Manna Da acknowledged it!). Anilda taught Lata to steal breath while singing so that there were no unnecessary punctuations because of lack of breath in a song line...
This could be one hell of an education in singing, as anyone who was someone as a singer those days had a great voice. But this technique is what a Guru is all about, and Lata was a lucky chosen one who mastered the Master’s technique. Everyone knows what a singer she was, but few know that Dada Anil Biswas was a prolific singer himself (of course amongst the few who knew what Faiz Ahmed Faiz once said … “Kaash meray kalaam ko milay ik Anil ki aawaaz”)!
Coming back to Guru’s Gods and Goddesses. Dada was certainly 25 years elder to the girl he met on the sets, when he was already married once, with a few children, but lost to complaints and intrigues in his personal life, and an estranged wife Ashalata Biswas (close to Lata as a friend).
But Meena Kapoor, a stunning looker, a Lotus (as Dada told me in as it meant purity)... and he was ruling the roost at the time, he met her, and the man’s heart was lost yet once again, and they married with the song from “Anokha Pyaar” (1948), a Dilip Kumar-Nargis starrer, ‘Yaad rakhna chaand taaron, iss suhaani raat ko’ playing in the mind’s background!
Meena ji, like many others during that time, in fact all lady singers got drowned in the fierce competition of Lata craftsmanship! However, this swan pair left with bags and baggages and bade goodbye to the dream city once ‘n for all, for some love was missing from the Goddess Lata Mangeshkar!
Everyone knows after that Dada became a cog in the wheel of the bureaucracy of the Government of India’s I&B Ministry where till his retirement he was the Chief Music Producer, and Emeritus later, and that’s how my fate was lucky, to be sitting at his feet to absorb filmy gossip and great musical subjects of timeless proportions!
I have always felt tremendously sad about great music directors, lyricists and some great studio musicians who were born at that time, creating endless masterpieces which we call Golden era melodies … and how not everyone ever remembers any song by the name of these great composers. If ever the listeners ever remember anything, it is the singers’ name, when a singer is only third in the row for the creation.
In a masterpiece the basic soul is that of the poet and the composer, who actually provide the words with wings and teach the singer to make it fly, and essentially it is the composer’s soul which you find in a musical score! Then why does only a Lata, Rafi, Kishore, Mukesh and a Talat get their names, while composers are forgotten, they are often not known at all?
He left with bags and baggages and bade goodbye to the dream city once and for all, for some love was missing from the Goddess Lata Mangeshkar
Anil Biswas remained in this world for 88 years. But what to talk of this generation, amongst the previous generation very few handful can recollect about such a great genius in our midst; he was essentially a lost musical note from our seven music notes! Lost Anil Biswas was, but some deliberately saw to it that he was lost.
He did just about 100 movies during the 30 years of his Bombay life (Naushad did around 50 and the same with Sachin Dev Burman), including “Tarana”, “Laajawaab”, “Roti”, “Aarzoo”, “Kismat” (which held a world record of running at Roxy cinema in Calcutta for three-and-a-half years!), “Angulimaal”, “Sautela Bhai”, Hamdard (who can forget ‘Ritu aye ritu jaaye’, the Lata-Manna da duet!) “Jwar Bhaanta”, “Jeet”, “Laadli, Beqasoor”, “Pardesi”, “Aasra”, “Bahen”, “Nai Roshni”, “Apna Paraya”, “Gareeb”, “Jawaani”, “Vijay”, “Hamaari Baat”, “Char Ankhen”, “Pehli Nazar”, “Milan, Bhookh”, Naiya etc. (to name just few which came to mind without pressurizing it too much).
But he was meant to be lost… he never was considered by the great Indian bureaucratic selectors to get the Dada Sahab Phalke Award from the Indian government, which perhaps he deserved the most; but fellow composer Naushaad Ali got it, even when he told the audience that Anilda was his Rehbar and Guru, “humein ungli pakad kar chalnaa sikhaayaa”; or a Bhupen Hazarika got it, composing for a handful Hindi movies -- he may not have reached double figures, what to talk of 100 movies by a certain Anil Biswas!
Anilda was my God, and he used to say, “Even if my music has touched the life of or moved one person, my work is rewarded/paid off”. But make no mistakes, he was not lost here at all, he was the most loved composer musician as I found out on daily endless gossip sessions. The amount of women fan followings he had … and what not he had… I just can’t mention in this small a blog post…
Anil Biswas’ music meant sheer magic to me. I always said that Sur, Taal, Laya, Voice, Talaffuz or Expressions are definite parts of a great song, and Anilda had it in him, and he never ever lost that … infinite control over ‘ras’ which I call … sheer magic which was what he had, the final element which every singer craves for.
I could keep writing on my God, but I will invoke melancholy over myself, and I don’t want to weep anymore, even when I know immortal men are never lost … yes, he is always with me … in fact he once told me that I was his counter ego -- I remained blessed ever after at heart!
---
*Veteran musician and singer based in Delhi

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