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10 superhit songs from Kalyanji Virji Shah – 90th birth anniversary special

Along with younger brother Anandji, Kalyanji composed music for over 250 films. On what would have been his 90th birthday (30 June), we list some of his first-rate musical numbers from Samrat Chandragupta (1958) to Jaanbaaz (1986).

Sonal Pandya

Kalyanji Virji Shah, one half of the popular sibling composer duo Kalyanji-Anandji, was a band conductor prior to joining the film industry. He played music in the orchestras of music directors SN Tripathi and Hemant Kumar before branching out on his own as an independent music composer.

Kalyanji's younger brother Anandji Virji Shah joined him as a partner in Madari (1959) after assisting him on other projects.

Sons of a grain merchant in Kundrodi, Gujarat, the brothers went against the family to take up careers in music. Their faith and talent saw them through the early struggles and they went on to cement their place in Hindi film history with hit songs in films like Saraswatichandra (1968), Don (1978) and Laawaris (1981).

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Kalyanji-Anandji joined the ranks of other composer duos like Shankar-Jaikishan and Laxmikant-Pyarelal in the annals of Hindi film music. On Kalyanji’s 90th birth anniversary today (he was born on 30 June 1928), we list some of his finest hits, beginning with his first film as a solo music composer, Samrat Chandragupta (1958).

1. ‘Chahe Paas Ho’ — Samrat Chandragupta (1958)

Kalyanji struck gold with his very first effort as an independent music composer for Babubhai Mistry's film. The success of the historical drama, starring Bharat Bhushan and Nirupa Roy, was aided by Kalyanji’s score. With lyrics by Bharat Vyas, the romantic duet sung by Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar became an instant classic. The song alternates between Bharat Bhushan’s Chandragupt and Roy’s princess Helena as they are separated from one another.

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2. ‘Dum Dum Diga Diga’ — Chhalia (1960)

Raj Kapoor and the rains — the showman had several memorable hits picturized with an umbrella. In 1960, the Qamar Jalalabadi-penned ‘Dum Dum Diga Diga’ joined the list. The folksy tune from Kalyanji-Anandji and Mukesh’s easy rendition took the song into an unparalleled category. Filmmaker Manmohan Desai, who was only 24 then, also filmed the song with a cheerful, carefree vibe.

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3. ‘Yeh Sama, Sama Hai Yeh Pyar Ka’ — Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965)

This romantic drama starring Shashi Kapoor and Nanda was one of the early blockbusters in Kalyanji-Anandji’s career. The soundtrack includes several hit songs like ‘Na Na Karte Pyar Tumhi Se’ and ‘Pardesiyon Se Na Ankhiyan Milana’, but ‘Yeh Sama, Sama Hai Yeh Pyar Ka’, a solo by Lata Mangeshkar, remains exceptional. Written by Anand Bakshi, the seductive number picturized on Nanda is soulful and melodic.

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4. ‘Phool Tumhe Bheja Hai Khat Mein’ — Saraswatichandra (1968)

Kalyanji-Anandji's score for the Govind Saraiya film Saraswatichandra, starring Nutan and Manish, fetched the brothers their only National award for Best Music Direction. The film’s music and Nutan’s performance are recalled even today and surpass the melodramatic story of the film, which was an adaptation of a beloved Gujarati novel of the same name.

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When Saraswatichandra came out in 1968, the songs penned by Indivar, like ‘Chandan Sa Badan’ and ‘Main To Bhool Chali Babul Ka Des’, quickly became household numbers. The Lata Mangeshkar-Mukesh duet ‘Phool Tumhe Bheja Hai Khat Main’ is old-fashioned and enduringly romantic.

5. ‘Zindagi Ka Safar’ — Safar (1970)

The album for Asit Sen’s Safar has only five songs but can be considered one of the best in Kalyanji-Anandji’s oeuvre. Particularly, the poignant ballad written by Indivar, ‘Zindagi Ka Safar’, sung beautifully by Kishore Kumar. In the film, Rajesh Khanna’s Avinash is a cancer patient reflecting on his lot in life and all that he has to lose.

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Out of the context of the film, the brothers’ score, with splendid orchestration and piano accompaniment, takes on a larger meaning.

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6. ‘Pal Bhar Ke Liye’ — Johny Mera Naam (1970)

The playful 'Pal Bhar Ke Liye' from Johny Mera Naam brought alive a completely different tone from Kalyanji-Anandji. The popular song incorporated the on-screen avatar of actor Dev Anand in the crime thriller. Once again teaming up with lyricist Indivar on the film, Kalyanji-Anandji used Kishore Kumar’s voice for Dev Anand with singer and music composer Usha Khanna accompanying him on the number.

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7. ‘Mera Jeevan Kora Kagaz’ — Kora Kagaz (1974)

In their long and storied career, Kalyanji-Anandji only won the Filmfare award once. Anil Ganguly's National award-winning film Kora Kagaz, a marital drama starring Vijay Anand and Jaya Bhaduri, highlighted their musical mastery even though the film had just three songs. The simple yet meaningfully composed ‘Mera Jeevan Kora Kagaz’, sung by Kishore Kumar, was written by MG Hasmat.

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8. ‘O Saathi Re’ — Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978)

Kalyanji-Anandji were associated with several Amitabh Bachchan blockbusters in the 1970s, including Prakash Mehra’s Muqaddar Ka Sikandar. The emotional drama featured a strong star cast of Bachchan, Rakhee, Vinod Khanna and Rekha. The heartrending ‘O Saathi Re’, written by Anjaan, brings back the childhood of Bachchan and Rakhee’s characters when they had promised to be part of each other's lives forever. As usual, Kishore Kumar’s vocals match the mood of the song perfectly.

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9. ‘Yeh Mera Dil’ — Don (1978)

A cult classic, Don was remade in 2006 by Farhan Akhtar. The original film’s iconic songs were recreated as well. The American pop group The Black Eyed Peas sampled scores of this song and another from Kalyanji-Anandji’s Apradh (1972) in their chart-busting song ‘Don’t Phunk With My Heart’.

But whoever tried to make their own version could never compete with the original composition picturized on Helen and Amitabh Bachchan. ‘Yeh Mera Dil’, written by Indivar, fetched Asha Bhosle her seventh Filmfare award for Best Female Playback Singer.

10. ‘Tera Saath Hai Kitna Pyara’ — Jaanbaaz (1986)

By the 1980s, Kalyanji-Anandji moulded their music to the changing times. Kalyanji’s son, Viju Shah, often assisted his father and uncle and arranged the music on their films. The veteran composers were big proponents of giving new singers a chance, as is evidenced on the song ‘Tera Saath Hai Kitna Pyara’, written by Indivar. Singer Sapna Mukherjee got a chance to sing the duet with Kishore Kumar.