From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian

# RMIM Archives.
# Subject: Meeting with Anil Biswas
# Posted by: Kalyan (
# Author: Kalyan Kolachala (Dec 9 1996)

Meeting with Anil Biswas

By Kalyan

Finally the workload has eased off for me to be able to write the long delayed report of my meeting with Anil Biswas. Because of the delay I might not remember a lot of the details. All that I remember later will be mailed later. I've also mailed a copy of the report to Atul Gupta, who was with me at the meeting, so that he could make additions/corrections.

Once again thanks to Malini for getting Anil Biswas' phone number that started off the whole thing. I called him up to set up an appointment and he agreed to meet me on the 10th of Nov. On reaching Delhi I called him up and he remembered the appointment (and surprisingly my name) but he mentioned it was Diwali and he had guests etc and so it would be impossible to meet me. I asked him about the 11th and he said at most he could give me 15 minutes as he would be busy on 11th as well. And here was the worse part. He said he won't tell me to leave after 15 minutes and I should leave on my own. He specified 9:30 AM as the time. It sounded great. 15 min. was better than nothing. It however meant that I had to stay one more day in Delhi. The IA flight to Raipur had been cancelled and I had other things to do so I decided to stay one more day.

For my part I had prepared by reading articles by Vish and Ashok and listening to all of his songs that I could get hold of. I had a list of questions of my own and those of others. Snehal had mailed me a list of about 50 questions. And there was a gift - the commemorative cassette on "Rare classical songs from films" from the RMIMmeet in the west coast. Thanks to Chetan for mailing me the cassette despite the short notice. Besides making a nice gift it also gave me an opportunity to talk about RMIM and the following he has in it. I went to his place with Atul, ex- colleague, friend, RJGK partner and my host in Delhi.

Enough of peripheral stuff and onto the main topic. I had noted the address wrong leading to a delay of about 15 min in reaching his place. In a way my time was over! In any case after running around in south ex for a while I was there standing in front of the great man.

Despite his age (82 years) he is still in fine form. His voice is clear and crisp. He remarked that I had already run out of my time and he let us in. He regretted he couldn't give us more time as he was involved in too many things. We introduced ourselves and talked in brief about RMIM, the websites, email discussions and the following and regard we have for him in RMIM. He is aware of the internet etc so it wasn't difficult explaining all that. He seems fully in touch with the present and leads an active life. Having demonstrated to him that I represent a number of RMIMers and that we are fairly knowledgable about his music (my homework came in handy) I retreated into the background and let him reminisce. This approach was somewhat forced as I had run out of my time and any hopes of an extended conversation rested on talking on topics that interested him. Thus I dropped the question and answer idea and it was more of a chat where he was doing most of the talking. I was dropping in topics whenever I had the chance to. Fortunately after a while he got animated enough and the meeting lasted about an hour and a half and at the end he regretted he couldn't give us more time. Following are some of notes from the meeting in no particular order. I'll add more info when I remember it. Some of the notes are my paraphrasing of what he told me or my inferences from what he talked. Sorry for the disconnected narrative. Also due to the delay some of the details are hazy and added to it a deterioration in my skills in framing even simple sentences.

  • He mentioned that he was the seniormost person alive in the music industry. He felt that at 82 he may not have much time left so he wants to share all the memories. (This was while talking about his memoirs to be published soon and repeated a number of times while talking of fans meeting him etc).

  • I started off in Hindi and he has a faint Bangla accent. When it was clear that he's more comfortable in English I switched over to English. His English is very good. As mentioned earlier his voice is very good, clear and crisp. You can see that he was a singer once.

  • In the beginning I mentioned that in addition to his excellent music we regard him highly for his pioneering work in the industry (such as the first orchestra, first playback etc) and also being the mentor of several MDs and singers. I hoped he would talk about the mentoring but he simply nodded to it and didn't add to it. Since it wasn't a question and answer format I didn't push further. He did reminisce about the "pioneering part". In that context he also talked of his close friendship with SD Burman and Sehgal. Those days he was the composer and SDB and KLS were singers. Those days Meena Kapoor was a small girl and used to play in Sehgal's lap. That suggests AB's acquintance with Meena Kapoor was earlier than we thought.

  • He is in touch with what's happening around both in contemporary music as well as with personalities from the past. Also he hasn't been really forgotton. He has people meeting him and he goes to lots of events/functions as the chief guest etc. He leads a fairly active life and he mentioned he has a fairly hectic schedule. Both he and Meena Kapoor no longer sing, Meena Kapoor stopped only recently. He has a very clear memory of his films/songs and the music of that era and he corrected me a couple of times. I guess one reason he stays in Delhi (despite the pollution etc) is because he still leads an active life. He mentioned that he doesn't spend the winters in Delhi as he can't stand the cold.

  • Meena Kapoor was out with some relatives (AFAIR) so we couldn't meet her.

  • Probably the most important info I got was about his autobiography/memoirs that is going to be published soon. I mentioned about Vish's articles and his interest in a biography and asked him if any such thing has been published. He then talked about the book being written by Sharad Dutt. It isn't really an autobiography - he said "I can't dare to do that. In an autobiography you have to be truthful about everything you did and I can't report everything honestly". The words aren't exactly his. He mentioned it'll be in an "as told to" format. He mentioned that there have already been about 40 sessions and the author is compiling the info from the 40 odd tapes. He mentioned that some more sessions are needed and that keeps him very busy. Details of the book: Author: Sharad Dutt, Publisher: Saaransh - owned by Mr. Mohan Gupta. Title: "Ritu aaye, ritu jaaye". A Manna song I think in one of his films. He mentioned he alongwith Manna Dey was invited to a function somewhere in Maharashtra (Pune?) and some schoolchildren sang this song on stage in what was a moving performance.
    Sharad Dutt is also the producer/director of some serial in doordarshan. He is a big fan of Anilda and Hindi music. Anilda mentioned that Sharad Dutt corrects him whenever something he mentions is wrong or reminds him if he cannot remember a name/song etc. So we should expect a fairly exhaustive and in-depth book. Atul said he'll try to get in touch with Sharad Dutt and find out more.

  • Anilda is a mild-mannered and an intense man. He mentioned that he leads a simple life. He mentioned that he doesn't worry too much and think ill of others and that is one of the reasons he's in good health even today. He mentioned he had an operation on his lungs(?) and has some other minor problems.

  • Looking at his house and the location (South Extension II) it's clear that he's doing well. The living room was neat and mostly empty except for a sofa set, two paintings and a clock. Which reminds me - he was looking at the clock every now and then. When he went in for a short while, Atul mentioned that maybe he wanted us to leave as he might have other things to do. When he was back I mentioned that and told him that though I very much wanted to talk to him for hours but I didn't want him from other things. He said he could spend some more time with us and he would let us know when it was time.

  • That was a relief. I mentioned I had some questions and started off with the on Rafi. Why did he have so few songs with Rafi? I mentioned the films as Heer, Sanskaar and Beqasoor, the list courtesy Snehal. He corrected me saying that as far as he remembers it's only Heer. The Rafi songs in Beqasoor are by Hansraj Behl. (the Beqasoor CD credits a Rafi/GM Durrani duet to AB). As for not using Rafi he said it was simply because he didn't suit his style.

  • While on this I asked him about his work with other MD's like Beqasoor with Hansraj Behl. While on this I used the term "Co- MD". He felt very strongly about that and said he never co-MDed with any MD like SJ combination etc. There were two instances he said of his having shared a film with another MD, one each with HB and CR. In both the cases he left the film midway because of differences with the producer and the other MD took over. The only case of partnership with somebody was in the case of Pardesi with the MD on the Russian side, who had been an assistant of Tchaikovsky (sp?) or something like that. While on that he mentioned his only sources of inspiration have been Indian classical music and folk music of India. He mentioned that early on in his career he had toured India and learned a lot about folk music. He added he hadn't even remotely copied from anybody in India or abroad.

  • I mentioned I like his songs with Suraiya in Gajre, Jeet, Do sitare, waris etc a lot. He talked about Suraiya and said though she's a reclusive person she makes it a point to meet him whenever he's in Bombay.

  • I mentioned it must have been great working Qazi Nazrul Islam and asked him if he had any met Gurudev Tagore. He didn't talk much about Qazi Nazrul but he talked about his relationship with Tagore. He mentioned that he was fortunate to have touched Gurudev's feet and being blessed by him. He mentioned that he had composed music for Gurudev's work in a format that wasn't done earlier (here he used some terms and references in classical music that I did not understand and do not remember). Gurudev was very pleased with his work, thought highly of him and underlined some of the lines from Anilda's work. Anilda mentioned that a copy of that would be used in the inside cover of the book to be published.

  • I asked him about his work after leaving Hindi films. He said though "Choti choti baatein" was released in 1965, work was completed in 1963 and that was the year he joined AIR and shifted to Delhi. In addition to Hum Log he mentioned two other serials Baisakhi and "Phir wohi talaash" by Lekh Tandon. He said there were some more but that he left many of those serials midway because of interference from the producers.

  • He mentioned that he keeps getting a lot of fan mail both from India and abroad and requests for autographed photograph. I added that this was great because it was inspite of HMV not releasing most of his songs and that we fans can only access most of his songs by recording from friends or video cassettes. He regretted that HMV had most of Hindi film music heritage and was letting it die. He said RPG and others' nowadays are interested in crores and old and rare music has no place in their scheme of things. I mentioned that prescence of Sanjeev Kohli might help things. He informed me that because of what Sanjeev was doing he has been banished to London to an ineffective position. He mentioned the first thing SK did on joining HMV was release the CD titled "Evergreen Anil Biswas" and mailed him a complimentary copy. Anilda is also in touch with many others like Harminder Singh "Hamraaz" and recently released a volume of the "Geet Kosh" at a function.

  • I told him about the RMIM meets and our meeting with Pt. Batish. He said "Oh S.D Batish! Do you know that I discovered him!" He went on to discuss the "Laadli" song. He didn't know Pt. SDB was in the US. I updated him briefly about Pt. SDB and the institute. Anilda mentioned he had been in the US sometime back and had been in LA among other places. He said he would be willing to come of the US if there would be a musical function/event/competetion etc and if he were invited. More on this later.

  • He mentioned that he was the guest in the final of "TVS Sa re ga ma". It is to be telecast sometime in April. He was very impressed with the one he judged the winner (someone named Sanjeev, could it be Sanjeev Rambhadran?). The show was specially recorded in Delhi (instead of Bombay) so as to have Anilda. While on that he said he was very much impressed with singing talent available nowadays. He mentioned that in his days (I guess he meant early days) film industry wasn't considered respectable and he had to make do with the likes of Amirbai and Shamshad Begum. He said if he had access to talent as is available today he could have produced much better music.

  • You might have noticed that there isn't that much of info in the report so far, not many specific answers. One reason is that Anilda spent a significant part of the chat talking in an abstract and philosophical manner, talking less about specifics and looking back at the bigger picture. While all that he said was great stuff it is difficult to report and is best to listen to him in his own words. My big regret is that I didn't record the conversation. On hindsight I feel he would have agreed to it.

  • He talked at length about his contribution but mostly in general terms. He mentioned that people like Naushad, OPN etc have called him their gurus. He mentioned that in a function where lots of legends of Marathi music had assembled, legends like Sudhir Phadke, Datta G (who he mentioned gave Lata her first song) etc while on stage referred to him as their guru.

  • While on OPN he called O.P. Nayyar the "Proudest man in the industry". He said "Lata didn't sing for him and despite that look what he achieved." I wish Vish was there. He felt OPN calling him his guru is an honour for him as their styles are very different.

That's pretty much what I remember at the moment. Both I and Atul had a photograph taken with him and before leaving touched his feet and took his blessings. He again regretted that he couldn't give us more time. There was too much left unasked and undiscussed but I guess that was to expected in such a short meeting with someone who has contributed so much to Hindi film music. For those interested in writing to him or asking him questions his address is K 11-12, South extension II, New Delhi.

One thing he alluded to repeatedly was that he would come to the US if he was invited for some function/event etc. Wouldn't it be great to have the great man with us for a few days? And it wouldn't be all that expensive. Most people I've talked to feel it's unpractical. I hope not. There are so many functions organized all around the year by Indian organizations and Anilda is fairly well known so I feel something might come through. Stranger things have happened.

During the chat I voiced Vish's opinion that "Raahi" was his best and most original effort. He agreed with that and fondly remembered some of the songs including the holi song "Holi khele nandlala" and the sequence when the English girl get coloured. I mentioned about about the extensive collection of his music that Vish and others have. I also referred to some rare photographs. I talked about the one where many great MD's have assembled at Anilda's place and also the one where Lata was in Anilda's kitchen. He remembered the latter and mentioned that in that picture he was cooking during the lunch time. He mentioned that Lata had been through tough times and used to have lunch at his place in her early days. He also talked about "Anokha pyaar" and how Lata had recorded some songs for the LP versions and Meena Kapoor for the film version. I mentioned that the CD has both versions.

He mentioned that he was the head of the Music DIrectors Association till he left the industry.

Overall he was modest about his achievements and that was one reason I couldn't get much specific info about his music. I would speak highly about his achievement or some aspect of his music and he really wouldn't respond to it. But he spoke with great pride of what the other MD's thought of him. I guess praise from one's peers is the highest honor for an artist.

There have been some encouraging responses to the idea of inviting Anil Biswas to the US. Let me elaborate on what was discussed. It all came up when I referred that his fans would love to meet him and to that he said he would come to the US if he were invited. Wouldn't it be great to have Anilda with us for a few days. Here is a man who been active in the industry for about 3 decades (mid 30's to mid 60's), did a lot of pioneering work, been mentor to a number of great MD's and singers and above all gave us great music. In addition he is very articulate and has a vivid memory of those days. And he's among a few of the musical legends we have left.

One possibility I envision (however impractical it may be) is that of a grand RMIM meet (of RMIMers from all over US) spanning more than a day with Anil Biswas as the chief guest. It could be preferably in a long weekend. The main expense is plane tickets for two. I hope it's not dismissed as "irrational exuberance" :)



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