Of the two perfectly complementary talents, Laxmikant would compose the melody, rehearse singers and look after the commercial aspects – while Pyarelal would package and record the songs
The story of a disciple surpassing his master may be rare but is not unheard of. It truly unfurled with this music duo who were instrumentalists under their mentors Kalyanji Anandji. Laxmikant Pyarelal, affectionately called LP, have many feats to their credits: they gave music for the most number of films, crossing over 500, while Lata Mangeshkar sang the most solos for them.
Laxmikant Sakharam Kudalkar was born in Gujarat to an economically weak family. Displaying early interest in music, he learned to play the mandolin by himself and started performing at concerts. He was a diehard fan of Shankar Jaikishan. Pyarelal was born in Gorakhpur and his father was a renowned trumpet player, popularly known as Babaji. He taught his son the basics of music, giving him lessons in violin. Later, Pyarelal made Anthony Gonslaves his guru. The music duo paid tribute to Pyaralal's guru in a song in Amar Akbar Anthony: My name is Anthony Gonsalves.
Laxmikant and Pyarelal met at a recording and soon became friends. Laxmikant was older than Pyare by three years. When Lata Mangeshkar heard Laxmikant playing in Kolaba, she was compelled to compliment him. Later, when Lata came to know of their financial hardships, she recommended them to S D Burman, Naushad and C Ramchandra.
When they became independent composers, Lata sang many memorable solos for them. LP still had to struggle – despite offers to play the mandolin and violin, they were eluded of independent films. They even tried their luck in the south, but failed. At one stage, Pyarelal was so frustrated that he wanted to leave India and play for a symphony orchestra in Venice. Laxmikant pursued him to stay back.
In the early 1960's, they joined Kalyanji Anandji and began arranging music for their films Madari, Satta Bazar, Chhaliya, Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere and Himalaya ki God Mein. They got their first break in a Bhojpuri film which was shelved. In 1963, director Babu Bhai Mistry gave them their first break as independent composers in the film Parasmani. All songs were chartbusters that year. Sensational duets Hansta hua nurani chehra (Lata/Kamal Barot), Wo jab yaad aaye (Rafi/Lata), solos Ui maa ye kya ho gaya (Lata/chorus) and Rafi's Roshan tumhi se duniya were the most popular. With their first film, they entered Binaka Geet Mala.
They got their first big banner film in Dosti (1964). It broke all records that year. LP, Majrooh and Rafi were at their best and in perfect sync. They got their first Filmfare Award for Dosti against their favorite Shankar Jaikishan for Sangam. Dosti brought LP to the front row of composers. The duo showed their mastery over classical music in Sant Gyaneswar. Jot se jot in two versions in Mukesh and Lata's voices set in Bhairavi and another solo of Lata in Raag Shiv Ranjani, Khabar mori na leeni, became super hits. They also made classical-based compositions in Sati Savitri.
LP always remain indebted to Lata; she not only recommended their names to top composers of that era but also sang 600 solos for them. She had a soft corner for them and they gracefully acknowledged her vital presence. Lata sang her only cabaret number Aa jaan-e-jaan in Intaqam for LP.
LP had played as instrumentalists for all major composers accept their ideal Shankar Jaikishan and O P Nayyar, who had nicknamed them Lallu-Panju. Yet, LP retained their own identity and originality.
In the 1970's, the music scenario was fast changing. S D Burman and Madan Mohan had passed away. After the death of Jaikishan, Shankar didn't possess the same magic. LP were flooded with offers. They worked with all big banners and movie moguls – Rajshri, Prasad Productions, Raj Kapoor, Subhash Ghai, J Om Prakash and Manmohan Desai to mention a few.
1967 proved to be the luckiest year in LP's career. Three of their films celebrated jubilees. Farz, a low-budget movie starring Jitendra and Babita, became a musical hit. LP gave magical numbers like Mast baharon ka mein aashiq (Rafi). All songs of Milan created musical history. Super hit numbers of the film were folk-based numbers Sawan ka mahina pawan kare sor (Mukesh/Lata), Kafi-based Hum tum yug yug se geet milan ke (Mukesh/Lata), the lullaby, Ram kare aisa ho jaye, and Mubarak ho sabko sama ye suhana (Mukesh).
Subodh Mukharjee's Shagird provided yet another milestone. This jubilee hit film had naughty numbers Bade miya deewane (Rafi), Lata's Dil vil pyaar vyar and classical-based Ruk ja o ruk ja, Kanha aan padi mein tere dwar (Lata), and the dulcet soft romantic number Wo hain zara khafa khafa (Rafi/Lata). Shagird's Dil vil pyaar vyar reached the top slot of Binaka Geet Mala.
Binaka Geet Mala was the most popular programme of film songs presented by legendary Ameen Sayani. Binaka Geet Mala helped LP popularise their music. LP dominated Geet Mala for four consecutive years. One or two songs of LP always featured in Geet Mala. They were at their best in Geet Mala when they captured the first three top slots and were fifth and seventh in the same programme.
LP were the most sought after composer duo in the seventies and eighties. In two decades, they composed music for 250 films. They had 45 golden and silver jubilees to their credit. In the 70's, R D Burman emerged and Bappi Lahiri in the 80's gave stiff composition to LP, but yet they remained numero uno.
LP got the best out of their singers. Lata sang her most iconic numbers under their baton. Kishore sang his most memorable number for them in 1964, Mere mehboob qayamat hogi, in Mr. X in Bombay. He had to wait for five long years to sing in Do Raste: Mere naseeb mein ae dost tera pyaar nahi.
Rafi sang his golden nuggets in Dosti, yet he was replaced in Bobby by Shailendra Singh to playback for Rishi Kapoor, Main shayar to nahi, Hum tum ek kamre mein band hon and Na mangu sona chandi with Lata. Still, Rafi sang the maximum number of solos for them. His numbers in Amar Akbar Anthony: Tayyab Ali pyaar ka dushman and iconic qawwali number Parda hai parda hai have etched a permanent mark. Rafi also sang his popular number in Khilona, Khilona jaan kar mera dil and Aye din bahaar ke with Lata, in Aaaya sawan jhoom ke, the title number with Lata, in Dharamveer: Mehbooba O meri Mehbooba. Incidentally, Rafi recorded his last song Shaam phir kyun udaas hai dost in Aas Pass a day before he died.
LP had divided their work, to avoid ego problems as was visible in Shankar Jaikishan. Laxmikant used to compose tunes, while orchestration and music arrangements were Pyarelal's responsibility. Laxmikant described Pyarelal as the only complete music man in the industry. He could read and write Indian and Western notations, and do both compose and record songs. He didn't hesitate in calling him the Mozart of India.
What Shailendra and Hasrat were to Shankar Jaikishan, Majhrooh and Anand Bakshi were to LP. They worked for them for more than two decades. As Anand Bakshi hailed from Punjab, he used Punjabi folk and dialect in his songs, which were faithfully tuned by LP.
In the 1990's, new generation duos Anand Miland, Nadeem Sharvan and Jatin Lalit arrived. LP were criticised by music lovers that they had compromised quality to compose songs like Ek do teen chaar in Tezaab, One two ka four in Ram Lakhan, Choli ke peechhe in Khalnayak, Jumma Chumma in Hum and Ye illu illu kya hai in Saudagar.
In the mid-90's Laxmikant's health started deteriorating; he finally succumbed to a kidney ailment on May 25, 1998. Pyarelal was left alone and stopped taking films, despite many offers from producers. When Laxmikant passed away, they were providing music for TV serials also. Pyarelal completed the music of these serials including Girish Karnad's Swarajnama.
LP was the most loved duo of the industry. Though they had stiff competition with Shankar Jaikishan, they acknowledged that the latter were their true inspiration. Laxmikant Pyarelal got their first HMV golden disk for Sargam and subsequently got it for films Asha, Karz and Kranti. They were the recipients of seven Filmfare Awards: Dosti (1965) Milan (1968), Jeene Ki Raah (1970), Amar Akbar Anthony (1978), Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1979), Sargam (1980) and Karz (1981).
These days Pyarelal can be seen in several music reality shows dedicated to the duo's music. Recently, he was seen playing the violin for their iconic song from Shor: Ek pyaar ka nagma hai,maujo ki rawani hai, zindgi kuch bhi nahi teri meri kahani hai – this aptly sums up the philosophy of Laxmikant Pyarelal's music.