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Interview Hindi Marathi

Saw my father struggle and achieve fame, says Raam Laxman aka Vijay Patil’s son Amar

Read in: Marathi

Amar Patil recounts his father's journey from penury to musical success.

Alka Yagnik, Vijay Patil and Sooraj Barjatya (All photos courtesy of Amar Patil)

Keyur Seta

Music composer Vijay Patil aka Laxman of the popular duo Raam Laxman died on 22 May at the age of 78 in his native Nagpur. Patil had teamed up with composer Surendra Hendre in the mid-1970s to form the Raam-Laxman pairing which first tasted popularity in Marathi cinema with Dada Kondke and later in Hindi cinema with Deepak Bahry and Sooraj Barjatya's films.

Patil's was the classic rags-to-riches story. He came to Mumbai as a young man without any godfather and made it big through sheer talent, dedication and hard work. After getting his initial training in music from father Kashinath and uncle Pralhad, he had gone on to learn classical music at the Bhatkhande School of Music, Nagpur.

After scoring the music for some super-hit films of actor-filmmaker Kondke like Pandu Hawaldar (1975), Tumcha Aamcha Jamla (1976) and Ram Ram Gangaram (1977), Raam Laxman got their first break in Hindi with Rajshri Productions’ Agent Vinod (1977), starring Mahendra Sandhu. Soon after signing this film, Hendre died. Patil, however, continued to compose music for films under the Raam-Laxman name in honour of his partner and friend.

Amar Patil and Vijay Patil

In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, Laxman's son Amar Patil looked back at his father’s career and shared some of what he has learnt from him about life. Excerpts:

How would you describe your father and his talent?

He was a simple human being with few needs. He was a pious, god-loving man. He had a lot of love for people around him and used to take good care of them. He was humble and came from a simple family in Nagpur. Since childhood, he had always wanted to be a music director.

He came to Mumbai in 1962-63 at the tender age of 20 or 21. He struggled initially and made a name for himself by god’s grace. In his later years, we took him back to his roots in Nagpur. Generally, it is said that once a person goes away from his roots, he never comes back. But because of god’s grace he was able to come back.

Anuradha Paudwal, Rajkumar Barjatya, Sooraj Barjatya and Vijay Patil aka Laxman

How was it growing up as Laxman's son?

I have observed my father very closely. When I was a kid, he used to take me with him to his music sessions. Sometimes people used to come [home] for music sessions and I used to observe them. I started learning the practical part of music, how to deal with producers and directors, how comfortable he used to make the singers feel, how much love he had for the lyricists and his colleagues. I observed such small things that have helped me a lot. He was more like a friend. Just by observing him, I imbibed all those good characteristics.

I was also fortunate to see my father getting those awards and recognition. As a son, your hero is there with you. I cherish every moment of that. I saw him struggle, then achieve fame and then serenity. First thing my father told me is that I need to become a good human being.

Vijay Patil at a performance

Tell us about his bonding with Surendra Hendre. How did they meet and take up the nicknames of Raam and Laxman?

After coming to Mumbai, my father used to perform at small functions and gatherings. At one such gathering he happened to meet Surendra uncle. He later became Raam and my father became Laxman. The names were given by Dada Kondke. The camaraderie between them started growing and they became fond of each other. They were practically of the same wavelength. Surendra uncle also wanted to become a music director.

But it was for a short time as Surendra uncle expired after they recorded a song for Agent Vinod (1977). After their first Marathi film and first Hindi film, whatever music has been made under the name of Raam Laxman was done only by my father. And he continued the legacy of Raam Laxman.

It was very thoughtful and touching of him to continue to score music under the name of Raam Laxman.

Basically, we are all loving people and have respect for our elders. In our culture, Laxman cannot be without Ram. That is the love and respect my father always carried. It wouldn’t have been good on my father’s part to continue to give music just by the name of Laxman. If the name ‘Ram’ is also used, it feels more complete. Though he was not present physically, he was always there with my father.

So how did Dada Kondke spot them and offer Pandu Hawaldar?

It was somewhere around 1974. A musical programme was taking place at the Shanmukhananda Hall [in central Mumbai] by Madhumatiji and her husband Manohar Deepak. My father was a leading musician in that show. For some reason, the singers couldn’t reach the venue on time. The audience was getting restless as the programme was getting delayed. Madhumatiji asked my father to start the programme. He said he would do so but wanted to sing his own compositions with her permission. She agreed.

My father took over and presented his compositions. Fortunately, the great Dada Kondke was sitting in the first few rows. He observed my father and in the interval asked him and Surendra uncle to meet him the next day. That was when Dada Kondke offered them the film Pandu Hawaldar. He said he had been working with the top music directors of that time in Marathi cinema but he wanted them to be a part of his production.

This is how they got their first Dada Kondke film and he gave them the name Raam Laxman. From Pandu Hawaldar till Dada Kondke’s death in 1998, they had a beautiful relationship which was not just about a producer and his music director. They became more of friends and family. My father scored the music in all Dada Kondke films from 1974 to 1998, which was 25 films, except one movie when my father wasn’t keeping well.

Vijay Patil, Udit Narayan and Sooraj Barjatya

Your father also had a long-standing relationship with Rajshri Productions.

My father has done more than 15 films with Rajshri. When he did the first musical sitting in Rajshri, many leading directors of that time were sitting in that hall, along with the great Tarachand Barjatyaji and Rajkumar Barjatyaji. It went on for more than five or six hours. They were all mesmerized.

Over there, there was the very young director Deepak Bahry who wanted to make a very different film. It was an action film, a James Bond kind of film. He went and told Tarachand Barjatya that he would like to work with Raam Laxman. That is how my father got his first film with Rajshri, Agent Vinod, and his association with the banner started. He then did Tarana (1979), Hum Se Badhkar Kaun (1981), Ustadi Ustad Se (1982), Hum Se Hai Zamana (1983), etc. There were 10 films with the same director and all musical hits.

Vijay Patil aka Laxman with Kumar Sanu and Sooraj Barjatya

How did his association with Sooraj Barjatya come about?

Sooraj Barjatya’s Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) started a different chapter in his life. My father had seen Sooraj-ji growing up. The understanding between Sooraj-ji and father was more like between friends and also like a father and son. He had seen my father since childhood, so he knew the kind of music Raam Laxman gave. It was because of this relationship that beautiful musical films like Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994) and Hum Saath-Saath Hain (1999) were made.

Raam Laxman was such a music director that those who understood him could take out as much as they wanted. He had the pulse of understanding what kind of music people liked. The only thing is that the right person should be there to tap it. Those who could do that were able to do good work [with him].

Your father also had an orchestra with the name Amar-Vijay. How was that formed?

I was quite young when it happened. This was before my father became a music director. It continued later also. Being a musician, my father used to perform all over Maharashtra, central India and even in the South. My mother was also a part of it. She was a famous classical dancer. She worked with the great Mukeshji, Manna-da [Dey], etc. My father and mother started this orchestra. They named if after me and my father — Amar-Vijay.

Your father worked with a lot of singers over the years. Did he have any favourites?

He used to be comfortable with all the singers. He had a different thought process altogether. He used to get good performances from singers quite easily. He knew exactly what he wanted. He wasn’t greedy, like asking a singer to do many more takes to get it even better. He never had any problem with any singer.

Shankar Mahadevan with Vijay Patil

He worked with the greats like [Mohammed] Rafi saheb, Kishore-da [Kumar], Lata-didi [Mangeshkar], Asha Bhosle, Usha Mangeshkar, Suresh Wadkarji, Shailendra Singh, Bhupinder Singh, SP Balasubramanian, Yesudas, Chitra, Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu, Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Anuradha Paudwal, Kunal Ganjawala, Shaan, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shankar Mahadevan, etc.

When my father was not keeping well, daily after dinner we used to cherish the music he had done for an hour and a half. He used to have tears in his eyes. I used to tell him that whenever his songs would be played and people would know they are by Raam Laxman, that would be his biggest achievement.

Correction, 19:10pm IST: An earlier version of the interview quoted Amar Patil as saying his mother had worked with Manhar Udhas. He had actually said Manna-da, referring to the late Manna Dey, which was misheard as Manhar-da.