As a fan of Bollywood music, it’s impossible to be unaware of the songs of Laxmikant-Pyarelal, and the impact that their music has had. Even for younger listeners, their music is everywhere, even when you’re unaware that it’s them. They’ve worked on some of the greatest movies of all times — Karz, Bobby, Mr. India — to name just some. They were active in the industry from 1963 to 2004 when their last film released after a long delay, and they composed music for over 750 movies. That’s right — there’s no way you’ve not heard (and loved) their songs.
As a fan, I was super excited to read the new biography on their lives and works: Music by Laxmikant Pyarelal: The Incredibly Melodious Journey by Rajiv Vijayakar. Vijayakar has written extensively on Indian films — his works include The History of Indian Film Music: A Showcase of the Very Best in Hindi Cinema; Dharmendra: Not Just a He-Man; and Main Shayar Toh Nahin: The Book of Hindi Film Lyricists. Yet, despite his extensive work on the subject, he fails to deliver much insight.
My biggest grouse against the book is the first part, titled An Epic Saga Begins. Vijayakar spends almost 100 pages doing nothing but listing the movies that have music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. There’s hardly any insight into the music, the films, or even the Hindi film and music industry in general. The problem with having this list in the beginning is that, as a reader, you’re almost immediately put off, and it’s difficult to keep concentrating, hoping something will come up later.
The second part of the book, The Rhythm of Laxmikant-Pyarelal, includes a short biography of Laxmikant and a shorter biography of Pyarelal, who is so private that the author doesn’t want to write much about his personal life. It also explores their working relationship, camaraderie, and collaboration with lyricist Anand Bakshi.
While this section was more interesting and free-flowing than the first, it still had shortcomings. The author mentions that he is not just a fan of Laxmikant and Pyarelal but has had the opportunity to meet and interview them many times. However, there are no personal anecdotes or even his own opinions on the duo.
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The book’s final segment, called Memories and Impressions, has renowned singers, lyricists, musicians, film directors, and actors talking about Laxmikant and Pyarelal. This part is actually the most insightful. Right from Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor to Shreya Ghoshal and Sonu Nigam, musicians who had worked with Laxmikant-Pyarelal, including Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, even their recording engineers and personal assistants feature here — many through interviews they had earlier given. Several share stories of their experience working on songs, what set ‘LP’ apart from other music composers, and even what happened while recording famous songs. Boney Kapoor shares how the tune for Kaate Nahin Kat Te, one of the most popular songs of Mr. India, was originally composed for a movie by K. Bhagyaraj, starring Anil Kapoor, but that didn’t work out. However, Boney Kapoor remembered the tune and he got Laxmiji (as industry insiders call him) to hum it to Javed Akhtar. Akhtar instantly came up with the first few lines. The song became so popular, says Kapoor, that “I would carry a cassette of it to parties, as there would be a great demand for it.”
The section even includes the thoughts of contemporary singers, music directors, and filmmakers who describe the impact that the music of L-P had on them growing up. This list features Ranveer Singh, Ayushmann Khurrana, and Karan Johar, amongst several others. This section — also flows seamlessly — ironically, is the only segment where the author’s voice is absent entirely.
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I understand that it’s challenging to write a biography of musicians, especially ones as famous and as beloved as LP. However, I feel what makes a biography work is essentially the story. Our hero (or, this is case heroes) needs to have an arc; the characters need to grow. You have to root for them. Like any good story, there has to be passion and emotion. Unfortunately, this is missing from this book. In fact, other than a few stories (few and far between), there’s hardly any information here that’s not already available on the internet.
However, this book might be a good place to start for fans of the music director duo, who know absolutely nothing of their lives. Remember to skip Part One, though.
Title: Music by Laxmikant Pyarelal: The Incredibly Melodious Journey
Author: Rajiv Vijayakar
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Price: Rs 595
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