March 11, 2010 (Calcutta Tube): Bollywood’s renowned music director, composer Pyarelal shares his thoughts, memories, future plans in an intimate interview. Read the interview at CalcuttaTube.
We were shown into a tastefully done hall with a great sea view that boasted of very comfortable sofas, a big piano and of course 7 Filmfare awards resting on a showcase. Fragrant and auspicious fumes of dhoop indicated that a pooja was on and soon we had the musical virtuoso Pyarelalji entering the hall in a neatly pressed kurta- pyjama with a smile on his face that immediately gave the impression of a happy man at peace with himself. Next three hours were absolutely spell- binding as he narrated several stories from his childhood, learning years, illustrious career as well as personal life all of which he holds very close to his heart. One of them was how his father Pandit Ramprasad Sharma (known as Babaji in the industry), a renowned trumpeter created hundreds of musicians out of people from very ordinary backgrounds – son of a driver, a gate- keeper, or a studio watchman- all were given education in music. One interesting story is once when he was admitted in a hospital, he taught music to the hospital staff and nurses. While narrating this story Pyarelalji’s eyes gleamed with pride and he added that such dedication and selfless service is rare to find nowadays.
What has been your association with classical music?
My own knowledge of Hindustani Classical music is limited. Latabai ( Lata Mangeshkar) often tells me – “the best thing about you is you are not too much into Hindustani Classical music”…(laughs) In our early days, Laxmiji (Laxmikant) and I used to go to Mehfils that used to have all the greats of Indian Classical music and being the new-bies we used to attend the discussions and renditions religiously. One of the most memorable instances was when I went to meet Rais Khan, the great Sitar player in a hotel where he was staying. I was already an established music composer by then. As I entered the room, Khansaab asked me to hand over his Sitar that was resting against a wall. Although I felt slightly odd, I gave it to him. Then he played it for a while.. “Unhone Sa se lekar dhaivat take ek hee baar me meend nikala. Jis tarah se unhone us din saaz chheda maine socha – is ke liye agar woh hazaar baar bhi poochhenge to main sitar uthaake dene ko tayaar hoon”. Ram Narayanji (the great Sarangi player) is a great friend of mine. When we recorded “Bada dukh deena” for Ram Lakhan we used 19 sitars and 3 veenas. You can feel the great impact when you listen to the song.
(I interrupt) The way you have used Raag Shivranjini in “Tere mere beech mein” in the movie Ek Duje ke liye is mindblowing and also the way the flute was used in this song as well as in the movie Hero. I must congratulate you for that.
We have used Hariji’s ( Hariprasad Cahurasia) flute in a good number of compositions….including this song. When we were composing music in Mehboob studio for Hero, one day we worked on the tune for almost one hour and we were still not satisfied with the product. That is when Hariji entered the hall. The moment I looked at him, I composed the tune in next 10 minutes. It went on to become very popular.
How was the beginning of a great music career?
We started our career as arrangers, and then music conductors and then composers. There were days when we used to have a morning shifts as arrangers, afternoons as music conductors and then evenings as composers. We did it all with equal passion. A musician is a complete arranger, conductor and a composer – all in himself. This I realized later. Look at Mozart! A great arranger, a great conductor and a great great composer and all at an age of four !!!
You have worked with almost everybody in the movie industry!!
Yes… Do you know that we have given music to movies of all the stars? It’s a rare achievement and not many people are aware of it. We have worked with all great directors too, most of whom had a very good knowledge of music. Raj Kapoor, Subhash Ghai…. They were all great fans of music but everyone had his own style and expectations. Raj-ji even walked and showed us the Satyam Shivam Sundaram scene how he wanted to picturize Zeenat Aman’s walk and what kind of rhythm suited it the best. When we used to present 5 to 6 tunes of one song to producer – director L V Prasad and used to ask him to select the one he liked, he used to ask us in return .. “ Aap ko kaunsa pasand hai?….woh finalize kijiye”
How was it to work with different music directors?
We worked with all the music directors except Shankar – Jaikishan and O P Nayyar. Our maximum association was with Kalyanji- Anandji, Chhaliya being the first movie. When our own composition Dosti got released, and we became independent composers, we told Kalyanjibhai- “Agar aagey kabhee bhee hamari zaroorat padegi toh yaad keejiye”. And we continued to work with them till Himalay ki god mein. Such was the trust between us.
Do you like western music?
Yes, very much. I have been a great fan of symphonies of Mozart and Tchaikovsky right from my early days. Even the new age western music I enjoy to a great extent. Some of them are so good (..says some rhythms orally..) that I feel like dancing to those beats.
What is your opinion on Michael Jackson?
He had a natural voice…. Original! And he had a great range.
How was the beginning of second innings with Om Shanti Om?
I feel very happy. My original suggestion was not to have any vocals but finally we decided to go ahead with it and included vocals. The song came up very well and it was also liked by the audience ; but the best thing was that the song was played in Beijing Olympics too. Compared to your times, the music of current generation has changed a lot! The emergence of technology as a mainstay in music has its own advantages too. Many tasks have become simpler now because of that and one needs to be flexible enough to adapt to newer conditions.
Which is the current project you are working upon?
“Om Shivam” is a symphony in ‘A’ minor that I composed in year 2005. It is one of the big steps that I have undertaken where I am experimenting with certain things – instrumentwise and rhythmwise. For example the ghungroo that breaks the silence (– Pyarelalji acted it out by moving his hands, the sound as well as the effect it is bound to have on the audience.) – a rare thing in symphonies.
I’m also planning to start a music academy. It will be a 9 months course during which a person will be taught about everything of music – the intricacies, logistics, conduction and performance. Currently we are planning its overall structure and details. On weekends, it will include related activities like outdoor exercises, yoga and meditation too. On completion, the participants will get certificates and they will be recommended to producers and production houses. This dream is the result of inspiration drawn from my father’s selfless service to the world of music.
In the last twenty minutes of our interaction, he showed us how the musical notations are written and how they are to be interpreted while playing music. Then he opened his grand piano and played some musical notes – simple, augmented and then some very complex and one leading to another of LP compositions. This was one of the most memorable parts of the interview. It was such a great display of sheer passion for music and a manifestation of his love for passing on the musical baton to the next generation.
The ambitious academy is another experiment or an innovative exercise which is something that the brand LP is always known for and all of which they have always brought to successful conclusion. We wish Pyarelalji a great success in this venture too.
-Rajeev Chitguppi/ Sampurn Wire