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Birth anniversary special: Remembering C Ramchandra


Reviewing the life and career of one of Hindi cinema's most accomplished composers on his 99th birth anniversary today (12 January).

Sonal Pandya

Born on 12 January 1918, C Ramchandra rose to great heights in Indian film and non-film music. He is especially remembered as the man who set Pradeep's immortal work 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon' to music.

Ramchandra was born in Puntambe, Maharashtra, as the son of a stationmaster. He learnt music as a boy from Pandit Vinayakbua Patwardhan. From Ramchandra Narhar Chitalkar, he changed his name to C Ramchandra when he became a music director though he had a side career as Chitalkar the singer.

Ramchandra reached Kolhapur, the heartland of the Marathi film industry in those days, and became an extra in several films. He was the main lead in YV Rao's Naganand (1935) which didn't do well. But he managed to land a couple of roles in Sohrab Modi's Saeed-e-Hawas (1936) and Atma Tarang (1937). Ramchandra ended up getting the axe as an actor, but he convinced Minerva Movietone boss Modi to let him become a harmonium player instead and became an assistant to composers Habib Khan and Meer Saheb.

His apprenticeship under Meer Saheb brought him a couple of assignments to score music for Tamil films. He scored the music for his first Hindi film, Sukhi Jeewan (1942), with the song 'Hindustan Hamara Hai, Humko Jaan Se Pyara Hai'. The song was well received and set the stage for Ramchandra's later patriotic hits which captured the mood of an entire nation.

Ramchandra had a long-standing relationship with Filmistan Studios, producing hit music for films like Shehnai (1947), Anarkali (1953) and Nastik (1954). While he was known for nationalistic songs, he also composed crowd-pleasing tunes like 'Aana meri jaan, meri jaan, Sunday ke Sunday ' in Shehnai starring Rehana and Nasir Khan.

It was during his work on this film that Ramchandra noticed a young girl named Lata Mangeshkar who sang along with him and Geeta Dutt in the song 'Jawani Ki Rail Chali Jaaye'. He and Mangeshkar went on to collaborate on nearly 300 songs in 63 films. From duets 'Gore Gore O Baake Chore' in Samadhi (1950) to the Westernised 'Shola Jo Bhadke' in Albela (1951), their early partnership was very fruitful.

At one point, Ramchandra and actor Om Prakash opened their own production company, New Sai Productions, and made films like Jhanjar (1953), Lahren (1953), and Duniya Gol Hai (1955). Despite all these pursuits, Ramchandra was a competitive and in-demand composer. He completed the music for SMS Naidu's Azaad (1955) in less than one month when Naushad turned down Naidu.

From 1958 to 1963, due to the strained relationship between them, Mangeshkar and Ramchandra rarely featured together on film soundtracks, the composer choosing singers like Suman Kalyanpur and Asha Bhosle instead. Mangeshkar sang a few songs in Bahu Rani (1963) and reunited for Pradeep's 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon' which was presented in front of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The song famously moved Nehru to tears.

After the mid-1960s, however, Ramchandra could not recreate the success he had enjoyed till then. He moved on to producing and composing music for regional cinema and later opened a music institution which trained singers like Kavita Krishnamurthy. Ramchandra finished his autobiography, Mere Jeevan Ki Sargam, in 1977. He passed away at Breach Candy Hospital in Bombay on 5 January 1982.