Many who follow Hindi film music describe Viju Shah as a techno maverick but the fact is that the composer has been as versatile as one could be. He has composed songs of different genres and moods and when you go through his discography, you will realize it’s impossible to put him in a box. Apart from being a prolific composer, Viju Shah has also been known to be one of the most imaginative arrangers or music producers in the history of Hindi cinema.
On his birthday, the maverick composer talks about ten of his most special melodies and the interesting stories behind them.
Main Teri Mohabbat Mein Paagal Ho Jaunga – Tridev
Being my first composition for a film, ‘Main Teri Mohabbat Mein Paagal Ho Jaaunga’ will always remain a special to me. I first worked with Rajiv (Rai) on his debut film ‘Yudh’. Kalyanji-Anandji were the composers on the film and Rajiv and I used to sit for hours working on the orchestration of the songs. This was the first ever song that I attempted as a composer for a film. My father (Kalyanji) and Anandji were the composers on this film as well and I was assisting them. I had become quite close to Rajiv as we were similar-aged and had worked earlier on ‘Yudh’. One day, when we were having a sitting for ‘Tridev’, Rajiv suggested me to try my hand at creating a tune. I created the tune and we made it listen to daddy. He made some minor changes but was happy with the song.
Saat Samundar – Vishwatma
I have a soft corner for the song as even today – 29 years after its release – it is played everywhere. So many DJs have told me that the parties or events they perform in are incomplete without playing this song. It has been used in many films like ‘Kick’. Last year, Cadbury used it in one of their commercials. Rajiv have always preferred getting the tune ready first and then, the lyrics being written but in the case of ‘Saat Samundar’, the lyrics came first. Bakshi sahab had used the word ‘saat samundar’ in an older film called ‘Taqdeer’ (the song was titled ‘Saat Samundar Paar Se’) which had music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. He told me that heroine is going to Nairobi in search of the hero, so using the phrase ‘saat samundar’ here would be quite appropriate.
Tip Tip Barsa Paani – Mohra
When Anand Bakshi sahab heard the tune, he found it to be too long. I told Bakshi sahab to forget the tune and write the mukhda the way he wished to. I had consecutive sittings with Rajiv over a period of 2-3 days and he was happy with the tune. I explained to Bakshi sahab that when I played a shorter tune, Rajiv insisted on making it a little elaborate. I hoped Bakshi sahab would get used to the tune in some time and he did. It took him a while to come up with the first line but once he did, he managed to finish writing the rest of the song in 15-20 minutes.
Kuch Mere Dil Ne Kaha – Tere Mere Sapne
They call me a techno wizard but I have always worked according to the director’s vision. Joy was very happy with the kind of music I made for this film. As far as this song is concerned, I had 2-3 options for both the male and female singer. I suggested Hariharan’s name to Joy and he welcomed the idea. It was the first time Hariharan had sung for me. The female vocalist was Sadhana Sargam. It had a modern rhythm but was largely an Indian melody with instruments like the Indian flute, solo violin and acoustic guitar. The music of the film was very different from what a lot of people would have expected from me. 3-4 songs were finalized in the first sitting itself. ‘Aankh Maare’ was a song I had made for a film that Dharmesh Darshan was planning in the year 1995. That film ever got made and I ended up using it here. Years later, the song was recreated for ‘Simmba’ and got a huge response all over again.
Mere Sanam – Gupt
It was one of my favourite songs from Gupt. When Rajiv heard the tune for the first time, he liked it but asked me if I could do anything more to it. The next day, I made the rhythm and made him listen to the same song. He was very impressed this time. A lot of times when you make people listen to just the tune, they find it difficult to judge it as it is just a skeleton of the song. It’s the same as presenting a bunch of vegetables as salad versus decorating them in a thoughtful manner and then, serving it to the guests. Orchestration makes a world of a difference to a song.
Title Track – Tujhe Meri Kasam
The director of the film, K. Vijaya Bhaskar, was very musical. Mehboob sahab had written some wonderful lyrics for the title song. While Udit Narayan was the main singer on the track, the aalaap portions rendered by Sadhana Sargam added to the beauty of the composition. Vijaya was a big fan of ‘Yunhi Tum Mujhse Baat Karti Ho’ (‘Sachaa Jhutha’) which was composed by daddy and suggested if I can create something similar to that. The aalaap that Sadhana Sargam sang was inspired from that. It was quite different from that song but it had a similar feel to it. The director was extremely moved when he heard the aalaap and said the only thing heroine will sing in this song is this aalaap.
Man Chahe Sanam – Aar Ya Paar
This song was written by Indeevar ji. I remember Champak Jain from Venus was with us during the music sittings. He liked the tune very much. I made him listen to the composition in Indian rhythm. He asked me if the arrangements could have a different flavour as the rhythm I played the song in was the kind most composers were using at that time. He wanted a modern and upbeat rhythm. I made the changes according to his preference. I had two male singers in mind while making the song. Abhijeet recorded it finally and sung it brilliantly.
Kho Diye – Vinashak
Personally, I feel it’s one of my most underrated songs. The lyrics were written first and then, I composed the tune. Deepak Chaudhary had written some truly really beautiful lines. It was sung very nicely by Sadhana Sargam and Roop Kumar Rathod. The song was perhaps, not used in the film. Even at the time of recording, the producers were not sure that they would be able to use in the film. At that time, it was necessary for a certain number of songs to be there in the audio cassette. Music companies used to believe that cassettes need to have eight or more number of songs so that they could sell. So, sometimes songs like these would be a part of the cassette despite not being there in the film.
Chand Ho – Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat
‘Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat’ had some of the best songs for a Rajiv Rai film and this was my favourite song from the album. It was a very peppy number steeped in romance and had some fine poetry by Anand Bakshi sahab. When Bakshi sahab heard the songs, he told me that if Rajiv manages to make a good film, the music will be a huge success. Even I didn’t expect the music to shape up so well. Unfortunately, when a film doesn’t do well, the music also suffers. The music did fairly well but didn’t become as big a success as a ‘Mohra’ or ‘Gupt’ as the film didn’t work. ‘Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat’ is one album I will always be proud of.
Kisi Disco Mein Jaayein – Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan
This was my first film with David Dhawan. David ji, Sameer and I used to have music sittings from 9 a.m to 10:30 a.m every day. The sittings were short but very productive. David ji wouldn’t take a lot of time to decide his opinion on a tune. I used to play the tunes along with the rhythm and he used to tell me immediately whether he liked it or not. Sameer ji wrote the lines “chalo ishq ladaayein”, so I ended up creating a tune out of it first. The hook-line was made first and then, the rest of the song was made. There is a peculiar sound effect in ‘Kisi Disco Mein Jaayein’ that comes after the lines “….kahin ghoom ke aayein hum”. There is a reason why I incorporated that in the song. Amit ji (Amitabh Bachchan) was playing Raveena Tandon’s brother and in this song, he was supposed to be present wherever Govinda and Raveena went to. For example, if they were in a bus, he would appear as a bus conductor and if they visited a restaurant, he would make an appearance as a waiter. The song was picturized a little differently though. In the final version, Amit ji appears only once towards the end.