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Shravan Kumar Rathod (1954–2021): Revived melody with Nadeem and dominated Hindi film music in the 1990s

Nadeem-Shravan understood the sensibilities of Indian music lovers and delivered some of the most memorable film songs of the 1990s.

Suyog Zore

Hindi cinema music is incomplete without a mention of Nadeem-Shravan. The popular music composer duo ruled the 1990s with their memorable tunes that are still on the playlist of every film music lover.

Shravan Kumar Rathod,  who died yesterday, gave us some of the most memorable songs of Hindi cinema along with his professional partner Nadeem Saifi. The duo understood well the sensibilities of the quintessential Indian music lover and ruled the hearts of the masses through the decade.

Born on 13 November 1954 in Rajasthan, Shravan Rathod inherited his love for music from his father, Pt Chaturbhuj Rathod, a well-known classical singer. After moving to Mumbai with his father, he began his professional training in music. Shravan always had an inclination for Indian classical music and Indian instruments, which was to later become evident in the songs he and Nadeem composed. The flute, the tabla and the sitar were some of his favourite instruments. Shravan's younger brothers Roop Kumar Rathod and Vinod Rathod also followed their father into singing.

Shravan met Nadeem during a college festival where Nadeem was playing the conga and thus began the team of Nadeem-Shravan which lasted till 2009.

After working in the Bhojpuri film industry for a few years, the duo made their debut in Hindi with Maine Jeena Seekh Liya in 1981. The film was a flop and so was the music. Thereafter, the duo also composed jingles and musical scores for advertisements.

From 1981 to 1990, Nadeem-Shravan composed songs for 27 Hindi films, but none of the films or the songs became hits. Recalling this tough period, Shravan revealed in one of his interviews that he and Nadeem even thought seriously of quitting the music scene. "We felt we had wasted 16 years of our lives," he said. "Nadeem even started a part-time garments business."

The long wait for success finally came to an end, however, with Baap Numbri Beta Dus Numbri (1990), starring Jackie Shroff and Farha. The film did good business and the music was received well.

The turning point in their careers came after they associated with T-Series founder Gulshan Kumar. He gave them their breakthrough film Aashiqui (1990). The film's album became so popular that it sold 20 million units, making it the bestselling Hindi movie album of all time.

Shravan revealed in the interview that they had not wanted to compose for movies any more after the endless streak of flops and had told Gulshan Kumar that they would compose for his label only if he promised not to use the songs in films. But when filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt heard the album, he persuaded Gulshan Kumar and Nadeem-Shravan to let him use them in his upcoming movie, Aashiqui (1990).

Bhatt chose six songs from the album and persuaded Nadeem-Shravan to compose two new songs for the film. These were 'Saanson Ki Zarurat Hai Jaise' and 'Ab Tere Bin Jee Lenge Hum'.

The duo's stagnating career took off, and how. Starting the very next year came a string of big hits like Saajan (1991), Phool Aur Kaante (1991), Sadak (1991), Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahi (1991), Deewana (1992), Damini (1993), Rang (1993), Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (1993), Raja (1995), Zamaana Deewana (1995), Agni Sakshi (1996), Jeet (1996), Raja Hindustani (1996), Pardes (1997) and Judaai (1997).

Although the Nadeem-Shravan era ended in the 2000s, their music still rules the hearts of millions of music lovers. At a time when Hindi film music was increasingly being influenced by Western music, they came as a breath of fresh air with their Indian classical-inspired compositions. The influence of classical music was also evident in their arrangements, with instruments like the sitar, tabla, violin and flute used regularly.

Nadeem-Shravan are also among only four composers in Hindi cinema to win three or more consecutive Filmfare awards. They achieved this feat from 1991 to 1993 for Aashiqui, Saajan and Deewana. In all, they won four Filmfare awards out of 10 nominations.

They were also quite famous for their frequent collaboration with lyricist Sameer and singer Kumar Sanu. In fact, the quartet delivered some of the most memorable songs from the 1990s. 

In 1997, Nadeem-Shravan stopped composing temporarily after Nadeem Saifi was accused of having plotted the murder of Gulshan Kumar owing to a personal dispute and fled to London to evade arrest.

The duo made a comeback with the hugely popular album for Dharmesh Darshan's hit Dhadkan (2000) and went on to compose a few more memorable albums like Raaz (2003), Qayamat (2003), Hungama (2003), Bewafa (2005) and Tumsa Nahin Dekha (2005).

The duo finally split permanently in 2009 after Do Knot Disturb (2009). It was their last movie together. After the split, Shravan quit composing. Nadeem went on to compose the music for two more films — Ishq Forever (2016) and  Ek Haseena Thi Ek Deewana Tha (2017). But the magic was gone.