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Sadhana Sargam shares her memories of composer Kalyanji Shah

The gifted singer takes a turn down memory lane for the famed composer’s 88th birth anniversary.

Sonal Pandya

The brothers Kalyanji and Anandji Shah rose from modest beginnings to become one of the top music composers in the business. During the 1970s and 1980s, they dominated Hindi films with their memorable tunes. Kalyanji-Anandji created all sorts of filmi music, timeless classics like their National Award-winning Saraswatichandra (1968) to chartbusters like ‘Khaike Pan Banaraswala and ‘Yeh Mera Dil’ from Don (1978).

They were also instrumental in introducing a lot of new talent to Hindi film music. Singers like Manhar Udhas, Alka Yagnik, Sapna Mukherjee, Kumar Sanu and Sunidhi Chauhan all worked with the legendary composers at the start of their careers. Sadhana Sargam was one such voice that they brought into the industry. The accomplished singer recalled her first meeting with the duo and spoke about their guiding hand in her musical career.

“I met Kalyanji-Anandji through Anil Mohile, their music arranger, when they were recording for the film Trishna (1978) in Tardeo, Mumbai. I was around 20 and it was my first time at a recording studio and I got to hear Kishore Kumar singing. Prior to that, I had classical background in singing. I learnt music under Pandit Jasraj.”

Sargam gave them credit for supporting a newcomer in the competitive world of playback singing. “They gave me immense guidance, lots of practical experience in playback singing, which sur, which expression to use. I’m Marathi so they asked me to brush up in Urdu. I took lessons under a moulvi (a Muslim religious scholar) and began learning Urdu. There was a lot of practical advice.”

“I’m very fortunate that I got to sing and learn from them, even from my guru, Pandit Jasraj. I got the opportunity to sing lots of songs. They gave a new voice a break. There were no reality shows at that time, that you could watch and say, ‘Okay, this guy’s good, let’s get him.’”

Sargam’s first solo song, ‘Door Nahin Rehna’ with Kalyanj Anandji was in Dara Singh’s Rustom (1982). It was the first of many notable soundtracks. “I sung for films like Vidhaata (1982), Nastik (1983) and Pighalta Aasman (1985). In many films, I became the voice of Rati Agnihotri. My career, my musical journey started through them.”

When asked about some of the unforgettable songs she sang for them, she mentioned, “I sang ‘Har Kisi Ko Nahi Milta Yahan Pyaar Zindagi Mein’ with Manhar Udhas from Janbaaz (1986). The song was recorded in London. It was a big deal at the time. Another great song, ‘More Ghar Aaye Sajanwa Dar Dar Kuke Koyaliya’ from Imaandar (1987), it has a classical base. I sung it along with Alka Yagnik and Suresh Wadkar.”

Kalyanji passed away in August 2000 and Sadhana Sargam has great memories of the big-hearted music composer. “He was a nice human being, a very good musician. He always created a great mehfil around him. He loved to be surrounded by music and humour. This was very important to him. Other singers like Sonali Bajpayee and Alka Yagnik, we used to go to and hang out [at these sessions]. Besides learning music, there was lots to listen. Since he loved humour, they’d also be a lot of comedians around him.”