“What?!!!! This is composed by Anu Malik? Really?”
This is a statement I hear on a weekly basis. The very same comment is not uncommon on YouTube videos of several of the composer’s songs. What I can’t fathom is the audacity behind this disbelief. Having completed 40 years in the music industry, Anu Malik has sustained an innings that very few composers would match.
Part of this distrust can be attributed to the composer’s boisterous (but honest, nevertheless) persona on television reality shows. The rest of the blame can obviously go to the infamous plagiarism charges. For once, the composer himself doesn’t bail himself out of it. I remember Anu Malik stating in an interview how several producers demanded him to recreate Hindi versions of certain popular western singles. And the result? Anu Malik ended up making two versions of Macarena – in Dhaal and Auzaar respectively. Although at the cost of what might sound like a defence, Anu Malik (often) improvised beautifully on the western originals as opposed to his peers Rajesh Roshan, Nadeem-Shravan, Bappi Lahiri, Anand-Milind, Pritam and the likes whose blatant lifts were never made for my taste buds.
Today, on his birthday, let’s keep all the baseless chatter aside and concentrate on a few of this maverick composer’s finest tunes from the late ’70s till today:
25. Sambhala Hai Maine (Naaraz)
One that is particularly notable for its excellent orchestration, Sambhala Hai Maine begins with a sweet whistle characteristic of the ’90s. This haunting composition remains fresh to date and is easily one of Kumar Sanu’s career best. My favourite bit in the song? The classic Anu Malik piano strain that appears between the mukhda and the antara.
24. Agle Janam Mohe (Umrao Jaan)
Personally, it isn’t an easy task to pick a favourite from Anu Malik’s soundtrack for Umrao Jaan (2006). There’s the mystique of Pehle Pehel, the anguish in Main Na Mil Sakoon Jo Tumse and the exquisite beauty of Salaam competing with this heartbreaking number.
Agle Janam Mohe with its powerful rendition (Richa Sharma) and heartrending lyrics comes with minimal instrumentation and it is Anu Malik’s music that deserves the biggest applause.
The young version of the same number by Anmol Malik is equally tear-jerking. A clear case where a gem of a soundtrack comes in a film that doesn’t do half the justice to the musician’s efforts.
23. Naghmein Hain (Yaadein)
In another gorgeous soundtrack where each track gleams with a temperament of its own, it is Hariharan’s shimmering Naghmein Hain that stands out. It is the simple, no-nonsense melody by Anu Malik that sells the whole thing to you. Later with the sargam interludes, the recitation and the appearance of more singers, the song ups its grandeur quotient. This only works in favour of the film as the song appear in the opening credits.
Another favourite from the soundtrack is Asha Bhosle, Udit Narayan and Sukhwinder Singh’s Jab Dil Mile Mile – a song that stuns you with its technical brilliance than the core melody.
22. Main Kahin Bhi Rahoon (LOC-Kargil)
Anu Malik seems to have a natural propensity for long compositions. Many a time, the music director broke his own records and set new benchmarks. Presently touted as the longest song in Hindi cinema (just ahead of Roshan’s Na To Karwan Ki Talaash Ho), this song has to be applauded for not giving a single dull moment. Malik keeps the pace and rhythm in place even as the lyrics assume newer contours. My favourite bit? Sukhwinder Singh’s background vocals and Udit Narayan’s dulcet portions.
21. Banke Nazar Dil Ki Zubaan (Aasman)
A lesser-heard gem from 1984-flick Aasman, this Kishore Kumar number radiates the classic Anu Malik feel. With the sweet melody being the USP, it is also remarkable to notice the young Malik slowly setting a style of his own. Note the brilliant instrument pieces that separate the mukhda from the antara and the charan.
20. Bepanaah Pyaar Hai Aaja (Krishna Cottage)
One of Shreya Ghoshal’s most memorable songs from her early days, Bepanaah Pyaar Hai Aaja was the highlight of Krishna Cottage. A song of longing and unrequited love, this one still finds plenty of takers. Only if they found it fashionable enough to credit the composer.
19. Aaja Mahiya (Fiza)
Gulzar. The wordsmith who spins magic from everyday words has had a fruitful association with Anu Malik over the years. With each of their compositions being of gold standards, it is a loss for the music industry that the duo hasn’t worked together for the past 10 years.
This glistening romantic number from Fiza has a feel akin to the first shower of the monsoons. Dew-fresh and syrupy to dazzling measures, Aaja Mahiya is pitch-perfect in all departments. And how gorgeous do Hrithik Roshan and Shabana Raza look together!
18. Chamakte Chand Ko (Aawargi)
A Ghulam Ali ghazal. Hear it to believe it.
17. Kya Pyaar Karoge Mujhse (Kucch To Hai)
It is interesting how Anu Malik delivers brilliant material in films that come out as croppers at the box office. This Tusshar Kapoor-Esha Deol starrer had a soundtrack to die for. This mellow romantic track by Sonu Nigam, Sadhana Sargam and Alka Yagnik stand out for being the elaborate composition it is.
Another killer track from the album is the retro-tinged Yeh Mera Dil which has got some slick moves to boot.
16. Humko Maloom Hai (Jaan-e-man)
Not simple or simplistic, Anu Malik’s signature number from Jaan-e-man comes with a definite Broadway feel. With the elaborate orchestra and throaty singing very much in place, it is exciting how the song changes tenors in its playtime and tells a heartrending story all by itself. Gulzar’s everyday lyrics and fantastic singing by Sadhana Sargam and Sonu Nigam smoothly aid Malik in constructing this difficult composition that runs for close to 9 minutes.
15. Mohabbat Rang Layegi (Poonam)
Mohammed Rafi anyone? From Poonam released in 1981, Anu Malik’s composition is very much in sync with the supple melodies of the era while emanating the composer’s characteristic style in bits and pieces.
14. Tumse Milke Dil Ka (Main Hoon Na)
A disco-qawwali that doesn’t cringe. Farah Khan knew what she was doing when she vested the musical duties of her debut film with Anu Malik. With this splendid fusion number by Sonu Nigam, Sabri Brothers and Malik himself, the composer proves his versatility yet again. Add to Amrita Rao’s dreamy presence and Shahrukh Khan-Sushmita Sen’s electric chemistry, and there’s no way the song couldn’t have been a chartbuster.
The charan bit where the music smoothly slows down reminds me of Virasat’s Dhol Bajne Laga – another stellar track from Malik’s anvil.
13. Kathai Aankhonwali Ek Ladki (Duplicate)
You got to hand it to Kumar Sanu when it comes to holding himself in solos. Also notable in this classic Anu Malik romantic ditty is the flute piece that appears intermittently. Add to it Javed Akhtar’s shimmering poetry and some terrific camaraderie on screen courtesy of Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla, the song is a welcome refresher in the comedy caper Duplicate.
12. O Ajnabi (Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon)
All you ought to do is to shut your eyes and assimilate the nuances of this heartfelt love long. Shut your eyes only so that you don’t have to see the severely overdone antics of the actors in the video.
Rendered with immaculate precision by K S Chithra with able support by KK, O Ajnabi is one for the lovelorn. A soundtrack that is stellar from the word go, one only wonders how different their fate would have been if appeared in a better film.
11. Taare Hain Baarati (Virasat)
“Saaton phere honge ab, haathon mein leke haath… jeevan saathi hum, diya aur baati hum,”
Javed Akhtar wrote on matrimony and we sang along. What is not to be missed is Anu Malik’s magnificent composition that appeals particularly to its vivid progressions. Singers Kumar Sanu and Jaspinder Narula forge a delightful chemistry that translates well on screen as Anil Kapoor and Pooja Batra emote. My favourite bit? The flute piece appears right before the antara and charan.
10. Moh Moh Ke Dhaage (Dum Laga Ke Haisha)
One song from contemporary times to have won maximum hearts awards et al – Moh Moh Ke Dhaage is like manna from heaven in times of absolute cacophony. Crooned with equal precision by Monali Thakur and Papon, the song is gentle and emotional in its own unique ways.
Amplified by terrific orchestration and a long, astounding flute piece towards the end, Anu Malik justifies every bit of Varun Grover’s thoughtful words.
9. Shabke Jaage Hue (Tamanna)
Alka Yagnik in this slow, doleful ballad is an absolute treat to the ears. Add to it Nida Fazli’s poetry that is not the usual Bollywood variety, Shabke Jaague Hue is one wholesome Anu Malik composition that’s indeed for keeps.
Though the male version by Kumar Sanu is powerful enough, I prefer the former by Yagnik.
8. Seena Pada (Saaya)
Underrated as anything, Saaya has to be one of the finest Anu Malik soundtracks from the early 2000s. Filled with one brilliant track after other, it is with much scrutiny that I shortlist Seena Pada by Udit Narayan. Also present in the album as a solo by Shreya Ghoshal, the song maintains its depth and pathos throughout. Sayeed Quadri pens lyrics that underline life’s unsaid miseries adding great beautiful layers to a conventionally staged scene in the film.
7. Filhaal (Filhaal)
Asha Bhosle, Anu Malik and Gulzar. Now with a winning trio as this, it is unlikely that the result will be anywhere close to ordinary. Having said that, the beauty of Filhaal lies in its inherent simplicity – be it in the rhythm design, minimal background pieces and reflective lyrics.
6. Tum Juda Hokar Hamein (Kareeb)
For starters, this number invited wrath from poet Syed Mohammed Hasan Imam for the undue usage of his lyrics. Now that was about the words and I really hope the dispute was solved amicably but carefully listen to this fantastic composition!
A film that introduced us to Sanjeevani’s honey-soaked vocals, Kareeb had hit songs in abundance with ‘Chori Chori Jab Nazrein’ and ‘Churalo Na Dil Mera’ finding precedence over the others. My personal favourite remains ‘Tum Juda Hokar Hamein’ for its sheer poignancy and rhythm that is tremendously easy to our senses.
5. Yeh Raat (Aks)
If anyone makes a list of the greatest soundtracks of Hindi cinema, I fear that the list-makers are bound to overlook the tremendous soundtrack of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Aks. For a director who knows his music better than most others, Mehra extracted the very best from Anu Malik as the OST offers a handful of songs that were truly ahead of their times.
On top of it would be the chart-busting ‘Yeh Raat’ by Anupama Deshpande which was a semi-rage around the film’s release. Wait, can we have the film and its music to get re-released in cinemas?
4. Tere Dar Par Sanam (Phir Teri Kahaani Yaad Aayee)
An album that is widely considered his best, Phir Teri Kahaani Yaad Aayee is known for its music more than anything else. With each song displaying a texture different to the other, Anu Malik exercised his versatility to the T here.
The most memorable/striking number from the album is the iconic Tere Dar Par Sanam which comes as solos by Kumar Sanu and Sadhana Sargam respectively. While the rest of the departments are efficient and on point, it is Anu Malik’s mellifluous melody that takes the cake and the whole bakery in this lovely track.
3. Mere Humsafar (Refugee)
Anu Malik’s National Award-winning soundtrack, Refugee is considered ageless for all the right reasons. With a bunch of songs seeped in the roots of Indian classical music, the OST gives us a tough time singling out one song.
A personal favourite – Mere Humsafar – stands out for its sparkling rendition (Alka Yagnik, Sonu Nigam) and spectacular instrumentation (the tabla beats take my breath away, every single time) and the delectable rhythm pattern. This is one song that will have you tap your feet despite having a semi-classical base. Not to mention Javed Akhtar’s mushy yet simple lyrics that go along the lines of…
“Hamein jaana hai dil ke nagar, mere paas aa, mere paas aa…”
2. Raat Ka Nasha (Asoka)
Anu Malik’s research on the instruments and the era stands unparalleled in the soundtrack of Asoka – one that ranks amongst his best works. This very fact makes it hard to pick a favourite from the OST. However, I will go for Raat Na Nasha for its unexplainable quality of being surreal and quixotic. Essentially a period number, Anu Malik weaves sheer magic into Gulzar’s sensuous lyrics that talk about physical and emotional proximity with your beloved. K S Chithra delivers this number with a certain hypnotic precision that you associate only with her.
Can we have the trio once again, please?
1. Sandese Aate Hain (Border)
There are filmy patriotic songs. Then there is Sandese Aate Hain. This is one song that each one of us must have hummed at some point in our lives.
Having said that, is there a single patriotic song from our times that resonates with the feeling of nationalism as beautifully as this song did and still does? I would say that the magic lies purely in the wholesomeness of the song where the eclectic composition balances with the moving lyrics inducing a rare kind of goosebumps. Not to mention the emotional, deeply felt rendition by Sonu Nigam, Roop Kumar Rathod, Hariharan and the chorus in a song that runs for more than 10 minutes.
Honourable Mentions: Har Dil Jo Pyaar Karega (Har Dil Jo Pyaar Karega), Mere Khayalon Ki Mallika (Josh), Sohni Meri Sohni (Sohni Mahiwal), Chamma Chamma (China Gate), Mann Tera Mera Mann (Aaghaz), Dhalne Lagi Hai Raat (Inteha), Rabba Rabba (Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai), Hua Salaam Dil Ka (Kuch Tum Kaho, Kuch Hum Kahein)