Remembering Anil Biswas: A Disciple’s Memoirs
Indraneel Mukherjee is a Delhi based singer-composer and derives streams of musical inspiration from his guru, the great maestro Anil Biswas. He has twenty albums to his credit and is an exponent of devotional, semi classical and regional music, especially bangla. Indraneel has shared stage with Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar, Ghulam Ali, Jagjit Singh, Hema Malini, Dilip Kumar, Udit Narayan, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Nitin Mukesh and many others. He runs the Vintage Heritage Music Institute through which he is making efforts to revive interest in the music of the past. This article was penned in 2009.
For 6 years going now…..(in the year 2009) not long ago that we lost him to time on 31st May 2003; I used to be with Dada Anil Biswas at his South Extension residence in New Delhi where he led a recluses’ life for a long time after he left Bombay in 1965 after Motilal’s last film “Choti Choti Baatein” never to return to the tinsel town which gave him so much yet, as happens mostly to good Godly persons one often get cheated and he was no exception … in his case there were other Gods and Goddesses who were in the fray who cheated on him!
Dada was a kind of a Guru to Lata Mangeshkar (besides – Mukesh, Talat and even Manna Da acknowledged it!) Anilda taught Lata to steal breath while singing so that there were no unnecessary punctuations because of lack of breath in a song line … this could be one hell of an education in singing, as anyone who was someone as a singer those days had a great voice … but this technique is what a Guru is all about and Lata was a lucky chosen one who mastered the Master’s technique and everyone knows what a singer she was, but few know that Dada Anil Biswas was a prolific singer himself (of course amongst the few who knew was a Faiz Ahmed Faiz who once said … Kaash meray kalaam ko milay ik Anil ki aawaaz!)
Coming back to guru’s, Gods and Goddesses’; Dada was certainly 25 years elder to the girl he met on the sets when he was already married once with a few children, but lost to complaints and intrigues in his personal life and an estranged wife Ashalata Biswas (close to Lata as a friend) … but Meena Kapoor a stunning looker, a Lotus (as Dada told me in as it meant purity) and he was ruling the roost at the time, she met her and the man’s heart was lost yet once again and they married with the song from Anokha Pyaar 1948 Dilip Kumar / Nargis starrer ‘Yaad rakhna chaand taaron , iss suhaani raat ko’ playing in the mind’s background ! Meena ji like many others during that time … all lady singers got drowned in the fierce competition of Lata craftsmanship! However this swan pair left with bags and baggage’s and bade goodbye to the dream city once ‘n for all, for some love was missing from the Goddess Lata Mangeshkar ! Everyone knows after that Dada became a cog in the wheel of the bureaucracy of the Govt. of India’s I&B Ministry where till his retirement he was the Chief Music Producer and Emeritus later and that’s how my fate was lucky, to be sitting at his feet to absorb filmy gossip and great musical subjects between the pair divine of music giants of timeless proportions!
I have always felt tremendously sad about great music directors, lyricists and some great studio musicians who were born at that time creating endless masterpieces which we call Golden era melodies … and how not everyone ever remember any song by the name of these great composers and if ever the listeners ever remember anything it is the singers’ name, when a singer is only 3rd in the row for the creation; in a masterpiece the basic soul being that of the poet and the composer who actually provides the words with wings and teaches the singer to make it fly, but essentially it is the composers soul which you find in a musical score ! …. Then why does only a Lata, Rafi, Kishore, Mukesh and a Talat get their names and composers are all forgotten, not known at all !
Yes, barring a few, Anil Biswas remained in this world for 88 years … but what to talk of this generation … amongst previous generation very few handful can recollect about such a great genius in our midst but was essentially a lost musical note from our seven music notes! Lost Anil Biswas was ….. some deliberately saw to it that he was lost, as he did just about 100 movies during the 30 years of his Bombay life (Naushad did around 50 and same with Sachin Dev Burman) when he scored for …. Tarana, Laajawaab, Roti, Aarzoo, Kismat (everyone knows that the film held a world record of running at Roxy cinema in Calcutta for 3 and a half years!) Angulimaal, Sautela Bhai, Hamdard-(who can forget ‘Ritu aye ritu jaaye’ –the Lata – Manna da duet!) Jwar Bhata, Jeet, Laadli, Beqasoor, Pardesi, Aasra, Bahen, Nai Roshni, Apna Paraya, Gareeb, Jawaani, Vijay, Hamaari Baat, Char Ankhen, Pehli Nazar, Milan, Bhookh, Naiya etc. (to name few which came to mind without pressurizing it too much) but he was meant to be lost ….
As he never was considered by the great Indian bureaucratic selectors to get the Dada Sahab Phalke Award from the Indian Govt. which perhaps he deserved the most; but fellow composer Naushaad Ali got it even when he told the audience of Sa Re Ga Ma … that Anilda was his Rehbar & Guru, “humein ungli pakad kar chalnaa sikhaayaa”, or a Bhupen Hazarika got it composing for a handful Hindi movies and may not have reached double figures what to talk of 100 movies by a certain Anil Biswas!! Anilda was my God and he used to say even if my music has touched the life of or moved one person … my work is rewarded /paid off … but make no mistakes … he was not lost here at all, he was the most loved composer musician as I found out on daily endless gossip sessions … the amount of women fan followings he had … and what not he had I just can’t mention in this small article …
Anil Biswas’ music meant sheer magic to me .. I always said that Sur, Taal, Laya, Voice, Talaffuz or Expressions are definite parts of a great song but Anilda had it in him and he never ever lost that … infinite control over ‘ras’ which I call … sheer magic which was what he had the final element which every singer craves. I could write keep writing on my God but I will invoke melancholy over myself and I don’t want to weep anymore even when I know immortal men are never lost … yes, he is always with me … in fact he once told me that I was his counter ego – I remained blessed ever after at heart !!