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Aashiqui: The film born out of an album

A film is usually the product of its producer or director or, in rare cases, the writer. But Aashiqui has the unique reputation of being the product of its music composers, Nadeem-Shravan. This is how it came to be.

Shriram Iyengar

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Laureate economist, remarked once that the 90s were the most stable years of the 21st century. His observations stemmed from the increase in the standards of living across the United States and Europe and the rise of Asia as a new market for consumer products. If he were Indian, he could have added the steady rise in the hits produced by Bollywood as another piece of evidence. While the world was waking up to the potential of the Indian market, the Indian film industry was undergoing a musical revolution. Music directors like Anu Malik, Jatin-Lalit, Anand-Milind, and the evergreen boss of them all, RD Burman found their peaks during this decade. Yet, it was the album of Aashiqui, whose mania surpassed all other film compositions and set the tone for the90s.

Gulshan Kumar's greatest contribution to films may well be his ability to identify music that matches the popular taste. A music mogul, his discerning ear was open to new sounds that matched the changing trends of the audience's taste. It drove him to give an unknown duo, Nadeem Saifi and Shravan Rathod, a chance at a new album. Nadeem and Shravan had then only composed for Bhojpuri and Gujarati films. It was Mithun Chakraborty, the actor, who introduced the duo to the music mogul. Sitting down for a tune recording, they composed the basic tune for 'Jaane jigar jaaneman' for Gulshan Kumar to listen. The music was so good, that the producer decided cutting an album would simply not do.

The phenomenon of Aashiqui is an inexplicable one in Indian cinema. Till the 90s, Indian film music was mired in the confusion. RD Burman had taken a hiatus. His hits were infrequent and few in between.  Anand-Milind was still an unestablished name. Between the 80s and the 90s, film music had no themes and were confusing mix and matches of random melodies and bad lyrics. The decline had begun with the invasion of disco and rap, which was transfused directly into Indian films without any context. During this time, a struggling young duo, Nadeem Saifi and Shravan Rathod, were recommended to Gulshan Kumar by Mithun Chakraborty.  The duo had been in and around the industry for almost a decade since 1979 but had never found their breakthrough. Gulshan Kumar decided to cut an album to help them out. But as Nadeem-Shravan played out the tunes for their debut album, as it was planned, Gulshan Kumar was blown away. Soon, he was speaking to Bharat Shah about creating a film around this music. As his son Bhushan Kumar, would later say, ""My father had got music director duo Nadeem-Shravan to compose the music first. Then he had taken the album to financier Bharat Shah and proposed a film incorporating the songs." The film planned was to be directed by Mahesh Bhatt called Aashiqui. The score became the definitive 90s album. Every teenager had a cassette tape hidden away to listen to in their walkman (another 90s phenomenon).

Rahul Roy and Anu Aggarwal beneath the coat became the new symbol of brave lovers. Nadeem-Shravan won the first of their three Filmfare awards for the score. In a time when films would reap in revenues in the excess of lakhs, Aashiqui's music revenue topped 1.5 crores. Decades now, the music of the film still remains the strongest memory of the decade for a generation that is burdened by life's worries. For the music composers, it brought fame and immediate success.  Nadeem-Shravan followed up Aashiqui with hits like Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin, Saajan,Phool Aur Kaante, and Deewana. For the next decade, they would reign over Bollywood like their idols, Shankar-Jaikishan.