‘What is my fate compared to Beethoven’s?

Over a 35-year career, the duo of Laxmikant-Pyarelal scored music for 635 films. Such evergreen hits as Awara hoon, Main shayar to nahin, Achcha to hum chalte hain, Pardah hai pardah, My name is Antony Gonsalves, Ek do teen, and Choli ke peeche kya hai, bear their stamp.

They dropped off the horizon in the mid-1990s, then Laxmikant passed, but the memories of the music linger. In The Pioneer, Delhi, editor-in-chief Chandan Mitra has an excellent interview with Pyarelal, an interview which gives a lovely snapshot of what has vanished from Bollywood: innocence, warmth, decency.


On working with Laxmikant: “Laxmi and I lived like brothers for well over 50 years—waking, breathing, eating, walking and travelling together except Sundays, our respective family days. We met in 1952 and were together till he passed away. We never fought. And Laxmi never said “no” to Pyare. Even if I went wrong with a note anytime, he would nod and say, “Aa jayegaa“… Whenever I am lost in my compositions these days, I unconsciously seek his approbation aloud: “Laxmi, kaisa tha?

On Majrooh Sultanpuri: “I learnt a lot from Duke Ellington, the greatest dance music composer then. He worked with a 26-piece orchestra. We (L-P, as studio interns) worked with about 12 big composers and picked up intricacies like where the singer should breathe. Majrooh Sultanpuri once told us, ‘Tum zyada padhe likhe nahi ho, tum zyada likhe padhe ho‘ (You don’t know how to read and write, you know how to write and read).”

On Raj Kapoor: “I remember the day I cancelled my Vienna trip at the eleventh hour. We were having kebabs at Shete Hotel near Shivaji Park (the name has been changed now), when Laxmiji convinced me that we could move the industry with our music and therefore I shouldn’t leave the country. Raj Kapoor once told Zubin Mehta: ‘The only good thing Laxmi has done is to hold Pyaralel back’.”

On R.D. Burman: “I remember we were doing Farz, and RD was doing Jewel Thief. At that time, both of us got inspired by the James Bond theme. As most of our musicians were the same, one of them told Pancham that we were incorporating some notes from the Bond movies for Farz. It was then that he called us to find out how much we had done. We said we had completed seven reels,, he said he had finished three. He withdrew from using the Bond motif in Jewel Thief in our favour, saying he had done lesser work.”

On the general impression that Laxmikant was the composer and Pyarelal was the arranger: “The truth will be told by Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey and Asha Bhonsle. They know how we worked as a team. I am not going to give anyone the satisfaction of  counting how many times he arranged or how many times I composed beyond our core strengths. Kuch to log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna.”

On his name being left out of the credits of Om Shanti Om for Dhoom tana tanana: “What is my fate compared to Beethoven‘s? Whenever he went through a low phase, he would play the piano continuously, noting down new tunes, then chucking them, losing all track of time. He would be in a trance for months. His attendants would pick up the discarded scraps of notations and sell them for food. Fame doesn’t bother me.”

Read the full article: It’s time to revive the L-P brand

Also read: My name is Antony Gonsalves. Do you know…?

‘Accuse me please… My name is Ramalinga Razoo’