EXCLUSIVE: 'Someone of Rajesh Roshan's calibre doesn’t care whether he’s underrated or overrated' - Lucky Ali
On composer Rajesh Roshan’s birthday, balladeer Lucky Ali recalls his days with his ‘buddy’.
Ikk pal ka jeena, phir to hai jaana
Tohfa kya leke jaayenge, dil yeh bataana,
Khaali haath aaye the hum
Khaali haath jaayenge…
It’s a rare cinematic moment when the score, the singer, and the star come together in seamless harmony. Lucky Ali’s husky rendition tuned by Rajesh Roshan and performed by Hrithik Roshan with his signature moves in Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai… is now a club anthem.
Part-philosophic-part-celebratory, the party rocker, a shout-out to love, also cautions about the transience of life. What makes the number special for Lucky Ali, apart from it winning him the Filmfare Award for Best Playback, is the fact that the first four lines penned by him, ring out his stirrings, his search. Moreover, it’s been composed by Rajesh Roshan, whom he endearingly addresses as ‘Raju Bhai’.
Lucky’s relationship with Rajesh Roshan has been a longstanding one. His father, the legendary Mehmood, gave Rajesh his first break in Kunwara Baap, while a young Lucky harnessed his musical talent assisting Rajesh in the early ’80s. Since then, both have marched to their own rhythm. Lucky’s albums Sunoh (with the blockbuster O sanam), Sifar, Aks…, and his film renderings including Sur are now part of music lore. Even as his latest video single Intezar, a collaboration with producer/ composer Mikey McMcleary, is moving up the graph, Lucky looks back with affection at where it all started… with maestro Rajesh Roshan.
In Lucky Ali’s own words…
Daddy and Raju Bhai
Our connection goes a long way back. Being the son of the legendary composer Roshan saab, Raju Bhai (Rajesh Roshan) has inherited his flair for music. Dad (the late Mehmood) had heard Raju Bhai play percussion at Laxmiknat-Pyarelal’s recordings. He was impressed by his tunes. That’s why he gave Raju Bhai a break in his directorial Kunwara Baap (1974). Raju Bhai’s compositions Saj rahi gali meri ma (sung with 15 eunuchs) and the lorie Aa ri aa jaa are still remembered. In fact, the Kishore Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar lorie was inspired by the song Que Sera Sera, from the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). Dad loved it and would often hum it. Raju Bhai used that influence in Aa ri aa jaa. My father loved the melody so much that he would often sing it for my mother. In fact, every time he sang the number on stage, he turned emotional.
Later, Raju Bhai also composed the music for Dad’s Ginny Aur Johnny (1976) and Ek Baap Chhe Bete (1978). Incidentally, I sang the numbers Buddhe teri chaal buddhe and Walking and I’m walking all alone. Though they were not my kind of songs, I didn’t have a say. It was Dad’s film. Dad never took me seriously nor did I. As a youngster, I just did what he asked me to. In Janta Hawaldar (1979), directed by Dad, Raju Bhai based the mellow Teri aankhon ki chahat mein sung by Anwar on Roshan saab’s old composition Tamanna hai ke roshan ho teri duniya teri mehfil. It’s an unforgettable melody.
My Buddy, my friend
Raju Bhai looked up to dad and strived hard to give his best. Dad was demanding and a tough taskmaster when the music sittings were on. But once Dad left the room, Raju Bhai and I would have fun. When I reached my teens, Dad wanted me to be financially independent. He wanted me to hang around doing nothing. He said, “Jaao apna kamaao!” Being musically inclined, I started attending Raju Bhai’s recordings. He was most welcoming and said, “Lucky aaja!” He’d come to pick me up and take me for the sitting sessions in his studio at Santacruz on his scooter. Raju Bhai is a religious God-fearing person. On the way, he’d stop at mandirs and do pranam. The most frequented one was the mandir at the Bandra Talao.
I enjoyed Raju Bhai’s sittings, the music space, the way he functioned, his energy and dedication. I fondly remember Balwant, Nirmal, Amar, and Arvind… talented musicians and part of his team, who became my friends too. Johny Jairaj, his music coordinator, is still my friend. So was the late Tarun Dutt, Guru Dutt’s son. We were part of one group. Raju Bhai’s friends Pachpach and Raju Pandya would also hang around. They were all loving and kind-hearted people. As an assistant, I earned some money, which made me feel good. During the break, we’d have samosas in the canteen.
Raju Bhai was a cool guy, with a firm sense of discipline. He came around 10 am to the music room and worked till 1 pm. He returned at 5 pm and continued the session till 8 pm. He was passionate about his work and the one thing that would irritate him was the theka (rhythm) going wrong.
I considered myself a C-grade musician. I was not a trained one. As a trainee with Raju bhai, I might have played a couple of riffs on the guitar here and there during Man Pasand, Mr. Natwarlal, and other films. I went through the motions trying to absorb how it all functioned – be it recording or putting songs together. The drill helped me when I composed my own albums later. I value those years with Raju Bhai as an enriching experience.
Then I shifted to Bangalore. My career changed. I took to acting. I assisted Shyam Babu (Benegal) for academic reasons. It is a university where cinema is concerned. I did Shyam Babu’s Trikaal (1985) and the television series Bharat Ek Khoj (1988). Gradually, my private albums Sunoh (1996), Sifar (1998), Gori Teri Aankhen... (2001) came by.
Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai
Rakesh Roshanji was making Kaho Naa… Pyar Hai (2001) to launch his son, Hrithik Roshan. He called Daddy and said, “Bhaijaan it’s my son’s film.” I brought along my whole band, including my main guitarist Kalyan Baruha, to be part of Raju Bhai’s music team.
For Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai, I sang two numbers. The soft Na tum jaano na hum, beginning with the refrain 'Hey aate ho, we lost the way, was written by Ibrahim Ashq and sung by Ramaya and myself. The other was the party track of which the initial four lines, Ikk pal ka jeena, phir toh hai jaana, tohfa kya leke jaayenge, dil yeh batana… were contributed by me. Lyricist Vijay Akela developed on that. The hook guitar riff was created for my album Gori Teri Aankhen. I picked that up for the song.
On a lighter note, the song has the lines- Ek chehra khaas hai, milne ki aas hai. I had an issue with the word ‘aas’ (read as a**e). I called up Hrithik and said, “Imagine you are going to be on the screen singing that line. It’s your debut film.” He ran to Rakeshji and said, “I don’t want to sing those lines…” Raju Bhai saw no reason to drop the word and the lines were retained. The song has plenty of vocal nuances, which happened spontaneously along the way. It took almost a fortnight to record it. You know something? I haven’t watched the film or the song yet… not because of any reason. It just didn’t happen.
Looking back at my journey, two things I greatly appreciate are RD Burmanda’s friendliness and Raju Bhai’s brotherliness. In fact, there’s definitely a Burmanesque influence in my number Tum hi se from Suno. Whether Rajesh Roshan is underrated? I don’t think he even cares. Musicians of his calibre don’t bother about ratings. They do it for the love of it. Artists, who receive so much love from the audiences, don’t care whether they are rated, underrated or overrated. Raju Bhai’s basically a shy guy. He likes to stay in the background. He simply concentrates on his craft. That’s what makes him a unique musician.
I am glad to have been acquainted with him during my growing years though we’ve had our individual journeys. I have lots of love and gratitude for the go-to friend, the buddy, who was with me during the tough and consuming years of my life. He is a cherished co-traveler, who walked a certain mile with me.
ALSO READ: Lucky Ali pays tribute to late singer Lata Mangeshkar: Left an emotional and moral gap which is hard to fill
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