Laxmikant – Pyarelal: Hindi Film Industry’s Most Prolific Music Directors

[This post originally appeared here.]

Laxmikant – Pyarelal are easily the most prolific of Hindi film music directors. Their career spanned almost four decades, during which they worked for around 500 films and composed 2500+ songs. Other than the quality of their music, they owed their long careers to their relationships in the industry, their reputation of producing music that sold and the clear division of labour amongst the two – Laxmikant composed the tunes and Pyarelal arranged and orchestrated them. While Laxmikant was an accomplished mandolin player, Pyarelal was a violin virtuoso. Madan Mohan’s classic “Main Yeh Soch Kar Uske Dar Se Utha Tha” (“Haqeeqat”, 1964) is a fine example of what Pyarelal was capable of with the violin. Pyarelal, whose birthday comes up on September 3, is one of the last living composers from his generation of music directors.

Given their large body of work, I put one limiting condition to pick songs from their 10 best film albums – a cutoff year of 1985.

Dosti (1964)

Laxmikant – Pyarelal started their career assisting Kalyanji – Anandji. Their debut as music director was “Parasmani” (1963), a competent album with the standout ghazal duet “Woh Jab Yaad Aaye” and the hit song “Hansta Hua Noorani Chehra”. If “Parasmani” got them noticed, “Dosti” (1964) signaled that they had arrived. “Dosti” became a sleeper hit despite an obscure cast, thanks in part to its stellar music for which Laxmikant – Pyarelal won their first Filmfare Award for Best Music Director. The music of “Dosti” and Rafi saab’s phenomenal singing in it grows on me every time I listen to it. My pick from the film is the song that won Mohammed Rafi the Filmfare Award for Best Playback Singer – “Chahoonga Main Tujhe Sanjh Savere”.

Milan (1967)

In “Milan”, Laxmikant decided to use Mukesh’s voice for Sunil Dutt. Despite the director’s trepidations about Mukesh’s ability to hit high notes, the duo persisted with him and produced their most substantial score with the singer. The film won Laxmikant – Pyarelal their second Filmfare Award and helped boost Anand Bakshi’s career. My pick from the film is the folksy, Mukesh – Lata duet “Sawan Ka Mahina Pawan Kare Sor”, a hummable tune and a fine example of Anand Bakshi’s conversational lyrics.

Mere Hamdam Mere Dost (1968) 

“Mere Hamdam Mere Dost” had a soundtrack that had something for everybody and starred three actors at their eye candy best – Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore and Mumtaz. I particularly like “Na Ja Kahin Ab Na Ja” a mellow, feel-good Rafi solo, “Chalo Sajna Jahan Tak Ghata Chale” a pretty Lata solo, “Allah Ye Ada” a qawwali-based, multi-tempoed song with some very cool harkats by Lata Mangeshkar, Rafi’s “druken” solo “Chhalka Yeh Jaam” and my pick, the S.D. Burman flavoured Rafi ghazal “Hui Shaam Unka Khayal Aa Gaya”. One of my favorite things about this album was the by and large subtle arrangement used in the songs. Unfortunately, with each passing year, I found arrangements in L-P’s songs a tad overdone for my taste.

Do Raaste (1969)

With the spectacular success of “Aradhana” released just a month ago, Rajesh Khanna’s new-found superstardom gave “Do Raaste” a powerful jump start and ensured that the film and its music became a blockbuster hit. This despite the fact that Rajesh Khanna’s role was part of romantic sub-plot in what was essentially a family drama with an ensemble cast. Laxmikant – Pyarelal and Anand Bakshi created simple songs that the masses identified with and helped bring big turnouts at the box office. Interestingly, Kishore Kumar was yet to emerge as Rajesh Khanna’s voice and two of the three songs filmed on Rajesh Khanna were sung by Mohammed Rafi. My pick, however, is the Kishore Kumar song, “Mere Naseeb Mein Ae Dost Tera Pyar Nahin”.

Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971)

In the 1960s, 1970s, no music director’s career was complete without a film belonging to that quaint genre called the Muslim social. For Laxmikant – Pyarelal, that film was “Mehboob Ki Mehndi”. Although weighed down by a sketchy plot and Leena Chandavarkar’s limited acting talent, the film did well thanks to Rajesh Khanna’s star power, some crackling dialogues by Gulzar and of course, Laxmikant – Pyarelal’s ghazal and qawwali infused music. My pick from the film is “Jaane Kyun Log Mohabbat Kiya Karte Hain” a song about heartbreak with an uncharacteristically upbeat arrangement. The contrast between the perky rhythm and the pathos in Lata’s singing and the lyrics is quite interesting.

Daag (1973) 

“Daag” was one of the six films in which Laxmikant – Pyarelal worked with Sahir Ludhianvi and easily the most successful. A couple of things strike me about “Daag”. One, it appeared to me that Laxmikant – Pyarelal tried to emulate R.D. Burman in a couple of songs, “Hum Aur Tum Tum Aur Hum” and “Hawa Chale Aise”. Two, the film seemed to mark a period in L-P’s career when they started favouring fairly heavy, dholak-laden arrangements. My opinion does not matter of course, as this seemed to work very well with filmgoers and music listeners of the time. My favorite song from the film is the Lata solo “Hawa Chale Kaise” and it’s underlying melody. I also like how the song’s mood changes from one of hope to one of unbridled joy as the tempo picks up and a chorus comes in.

Anurodh (1977) 

“Anurodh” again saw Laxmikant – Pyarelal giving music in the mould of R.D. Burman’s. This time it was based on the brief given by director Shakti Samanta, who apparently did not want to deviate from the Rajesh Khanna – R.D. Burman formula he had perfected with “Kati Patang” (1970), “Amar Prem” (1971), “Ajanabee” (1974) and “Mehbooba” (1976) but couldn’t get R.D. Burman for the film for some reason. My favourite from the film is the Raag Yaman based, “Aap Ke Anurodh Pe” with a nice sitar, santoor, sarod, tabla arrangement. The song is one of the few occasions in which L-P and Kishore Kumar forayed in the semi-classical space.

Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) 

Laxmikant – Pyarelal pulled a coup of sorts with “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”. Raj Kapoor had initially planned to use Hridayanath Mangeshkar for the film’s music but later decided to employ L-P. A miffed Lata Mangeshkar decided to walk out of the film and agreed to come back on board on her brother’s advice. One suspects that her decision was made easier because it was L-P and not some other music director who was replacing her brother. My pick is the spectacular title song, a bhajan based on Raag Darbari Kanada. Lata Mangeshkar’s brilliant rendition, Pandit Narendra Sharma’s lyrics and Zeenat Aman’s smouldering sexuality onscreen are a potent combination.

Karz (1980)

“Karz” was another instance of a director, Subhash Ghai this time, asking Laxmikant – Pyarelal specifically to produce the Pancham brand of music. Although one wonders what may have been if Pancham himself had composed the music for “Karz”, it must be said that L-P more than delivered and produced a cracker of a soundtrack. My favorite song from the film is “Om Shanti Om” and I would have picked it for this post, had it not been for the fact that the song is a pretty faithful reproduction of a song with the same hook line by the calypso artist Lord Shorty. My next favorite song from the film is the only Rafi song in the film “Dard-E-Dil Dard-E-Jigar”. This is a specially complex Laxmikant composition and Pyarelal’s elaborate, meandering arrangement is a work of art.

Utsav (1984)

The 1980s wasn’t a great time for music in Hindi films and it could be argued that Laxmikant – Pyarelal were past their prime. At a time like this, the music of “Utsav” came like a breath of fresh air and we saw a side of L-P that we unfortunately did not see very often. The duo delivered an extremely melodic score steeped in classical music with simple, tasteful arrangements. My pick from the film is the lovely “Saanjh Dhale Gagan Tale” with some very pretty lyrics by Vasant Dev and rendered brilliantly by Suresh Wadkar. I wish we had seen more of this L-P in the years to come.

A 10 film/10 song pick from a discography as large as Laxmikant – Pyarelal’s is bound to be contentious so I’ll leave you with a much bigger L-P selection to dig through and explore.

PS: When the original post was published, a reader pointed out the glaring omission of “Bobby” (1973) in this list. My rationale for omitting “Bobby”? It was said that the songs for the film were from a song bank of tunes composed by Shankar – Jaikishan for Raj Kapoor and that Laxmikant – Pyarelal only arranged the songs. Given this, I decided to play safe and leave “Bobby” out.