The Sculptors of Film Songs – 2- Anthony Gonsalves

   Originally in Gujarati, by Piyush M Pandya

Translated by Ashok M Vaishnav

Even a very keen follower of film music would it find it very difficult to list the music arrangers and instrument players beyond a few, more by luck than design, handpicked popular names. When radio was the major source of listening to the film songs, one possible reason that music arrangers and instrument players hardly got any mention when the song was played was that for each song such a list would probably take more time than possibly the actual paying time of song, typically recorded on one side of a 78-RPM shellac record. By the time FM radio listening generation came in, this genre of supporting music was confined to pre-programmed database of ‘digitally generated’ sounds of digital or electronic instruments. So, when the music director himself was becoming more of an assembler, it would be only surprising if any other support sources would have got some mention.

However, the film music in general, and keen followers like us in particular, are indeed very fortunate that at every stage of evolution of the film music, there always were some music lovers who always scraped up bits and pieces of some valuable information regarding many known and even more unknown artists associated with different elements of making of a song.

It is to the credit of such pains of those followers that we have some very interesting, and key, pieces of information of two epochal songs – Aayega aanewala … (Mahal, 1949; Lata Mangeshkar; Lyrics: Nakshab Jarachvi; Music: Khemchand Prakash) and Tere bina aag ye chandani …..Ghar aaya mera pardesi (Aawara, 1951; Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey and Chorus; Lyrics: Shailendra; Music: Shankar Jaikishan).

In order not to digress from our main subject for the day, we will sidestep good deal of information, like these songs started the future trends like haunting melody or a dream sequence or that if one song went on to launch Lata Mangeshkar into higher orbits, the other song laid foundation for many non-traditional styles of song composition or song recording or even the rhythm and orchestrion arrangements.

However, let us put on our headphones and listen to the preludes of both songs –

Aayega Ayega Aanewala – The prelude- or rather intro – running up to 3.42 is basically composed of short opening lines (Saakhi – साखी), interspersed with short pieces of violin,) is supported by soft counter melody accompaniment of piano.

Tere Bina Aag Ye Chandani – Listen to the solo violin pieces at 1.26 to 1.35 and then from 1.36 to 1.39.

Many keen listeners would have noticed these nuances of orchestration of the two songs. However, hardly a few would perhaps know that the piano in Aayega aanewala or the second violin piece of just three seconds in Tere bina ye are played by the same player whom we know as Anthony Gonsalves – one of the pioneering music arrangers of Hind Film Music of Golden Era.

Aside Trivia:

During the first stage rehearsal Raj Kapoor did not appreciate the above solo violin pieces in the prelude of Tere bina aag ye chandani and passed some disparaging remark, The two violin players immediately walked out of the recording room. However Shankar and the music arranger Sonny Catalino knew the true worth of these violinists – Peter Dorado and Anthony Gonsalves. They somehow pacified these two players and managed to bring them back to the recording. And as it is said, the rest is history.

Anthony Gonsalves – born on 12 June 1927, at Majorda in South Goa – had started imbibing the sense of music from the very childhood from his father Jose Gonsalves, who had his own band and was the choir master at the Church, and the other family members who regularly participated as part of the choir at the Church. Anthony Gonsalves’s father also used to teach music to village boys. By the age of six, Anthony had started assisting his father in these music lessons. When Anthony was sixteen, he managed to escape to Bombay, much against his father’s wish.

At Bombay, Anthony Gonsalves got exposure to Indian classical music. He would play violin with leading bands in the day and attend music classes to learn playing raags, sargam, harmony and such elements on traditional instruments of Indian classical music. He also took up learning reading and writing Devnagari script. In the due course, he developed the writing of the Indian classical music in staff notations and harmonize them with western music pieces.

In the ‘30s, during the period of greats like R C Boral or Pankaj Mallik, music directors would explain the tune to all instrumentalists and the instrumentalists would convert these instructions into playing their respective instruments. Then came a period when the strong influence of North Indian and Punjabi music traditions pervaded the film song compositions.  The songs were pleasing to listen to, but beyond a limit, there was not much scope for experimentation in terms of rhythms or tunes or selection of instruments and the orchestration. Young Anthony Gonsalves joined the world of Hindi film music of Bombay.

Anthony Gonsalves started weaving the harmonic pieces of Western music styles into the traditional Indian music style compositions of music directors like Ghulam Haider, Shyam Sundar, Naushad etc. This dramatically altered the entire character of music composition culture of Indian films. It can be safely stated that this established the practice of music arrangement that was to be followed by the music arrangers for next fifty years.

Anthony Gonsalves also introduced the chord chart system and integrated different instrument pieces in the entire structure of the system. With his knowledge of Indian classic music structure of prelude, mukhda (sthayi), interludes, antaras, cadences, post-ludes or fade-outs that was to shape the solid foundation of Golden Era of Hindi Film Music.

While working for different bands in those days, Anthony Gonsalves was noticed by Naushad. Naushad used violin playing expertise of Anthony Gonsalves for the songs that he was composing for his film Sharda (1942). Anthony Gonsalves assisted Naushad and his official assistants Mohamad Ebrahim or Ghulam Mohammad in orchestration of the songs of films like Anmol Ghadi (1946), Dillagi (1949), Dastan (1950), Baiju Bawra (1952), Mother India (1957) etc.

Tara Ri Aara Ri… Ye Saawan Rut Aur Tum Aur Hum – Dastaan (1950) – Mohammad Rafi, Suraiya – Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni – Music: Naushad

In this totally un-Naushadian touch composition, we can clearly feel that it was Anthony Gonsalves was given the full charge of rhythm as well as orchestration, song being set to waltz dance rhythm with violin, guitar, accordion prelude with extensive use of soft counter melody support with a choir style humming as icing on the cake.

The intrinsic insights of knowing western and Indian music and his practice of writing staff notations for all types on instruments soon was to make Anthony Gonsalves gain popularity in the Hindi film music circle.

Soon, Anil Biswas invited Anthony Gonsalves to join his team of music for Bombay Talkies. Anthony Gonsalves actively assisted Anil Biswas for Jwar Bhata (1944) and Pehli Nazar (1945). Here are a few songs of those years wherein Anthony Gonsalves has played the violin –

Sawan Ke BadaloN Unse Jaa Kaho – Rattan (1944) – Zohrabai Ambalewali, Karan Diwan – Lyrics: D N Madhok – Music: Naushad

Dil Mera Toda O Mujhe KahiNkaa Na Chhoda Tere Pyar Ne – Majboor (1948) – Lata Mangeshkar – Lyrics: Nazim Panipati – Music: Ghulam Haider

In was around the same time that another veteran music director Khemchand Prakash also invited Anthony Gonsalves to assist him in the composition of music for Mahal, released quite belatedly in 1949.

It was with Dholak (1951, Music: Shyam Sundar) that Anthony Gonsalves opened his almost a two-decade illustrious career as independent music arranger of jaw-opening figure of over 1,000 songs.

Mausam Aaya Hai Rangeen, Baji Hai KahiN Surili Bin – Dholak (1951) – Sulochana Kadam, Satish Batra, Chorus – Lyrics: Aziz Kashmiri – Music: Shyam Sundar

The song opens with typical beats of dholak of Punjabi folk songs – a trademark rhythm style adapted by Punjabi Music directors of that period. The introduction of accordion strains @0.21, trumpets @ 0.32 joined further clarinets @ 0.42 transforms the song radically. Anthony Gonsalves also has quite smoothly introduced harmony too from 1.02 to 1.22 in the form of voices of Satish Batra and chorus.

Let us listen to one more smash-hit song from the same film to further appreciate how western style of orchestration of Anthony Gonsalves and Punjabi dholak rhythm are seamlessly integrate –

Hulla Gulla Laaiala .. Ho Kullam Khulla ..  Gaye Jaa – Dholak (1951) – Mohammad Rafi, Satish Batra, Shamshad Begum, Chorus – Lyrics: Aziz Kashmiri – Music: Shyam Sundar

The vast range of instruments that have been in the orchestration of prelude and interludes also visible in the song.

Anthony Gonsalves long association with S D Burman, right from early films like Shikaar (1946), has given us many evergreen songs.

Saiyaan Dil Mein Aana Re – Bahaar (1951) – Shamshad Begum – Lyrics: Rajendra Krishna – Music; S D Burman

Anthony Gonsalves has played major role in the orchestration of the song. However, the solo piece of violin from 0.34 to 0.40 shows that magical touch that Anthony Gonsalves could infuse by his unique style of playing the violin.

Even as Anthony Gonsalves got closely working with the front-line music directors, he went to collaborate with same dedication with other highly talented but not so appreciated music directors like Pt. Govindram (Aabroo and Sahaara 1943), Gyan Dutt (Dilruba, 1950; Gul-e-Bakawali,1956),  Hansraj Behl (Rat Ki Rani, 1949; Rajdhani, 1956; Sikandar-e-Azam, 1965) or N Dutta (Milap, 1956; Ham Panchhi Ek Daal Ke, 1957; Jaal Saaz, 1959) to name  a few.

Ham Se Bhi Karlo Kahin Kabhi Kabhi Do Meethi Meethi Baatein – Milap (1956) – Geeta Dutt – Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi – Music: N Datta

Here is one more fine illustration of so smooth blending Indian and Western styles.

Here are two songs that we have always associated as the creations of the respective music directors. However, searching for finer details of Anthony Gonsalves has added to the enrichment to the beauty of the song that an arranger / musician creates by his / her contribution.

Sham-e-gam Ki Qasam Aaj Gamgin Hai Ham – Footpath (1953) – Talat Mahmood – Lyrics: Sardar Jafri – Music: Khayyam

How imaginatively Anthony Gonsalves has matched the imagination of of he composer while selecting each instrument so thoughtfully and arranging each one of it so much delicate touch.

Hum Pyar Mein JalanewaloN Ko Chain KahaN Aaram KahaN – Jailor (1958) – Lata Mangeshkar – Lyrics: Rajendra Krishna – Music: Madan Mohan

Right from the first stroke of piano in the prelude, Anthony Gonsalves has so effectively weaved violins with sound of piano in addition to one of the finest countermelody accompaniments that adds to the pathos of the song!

The list can ultimately land up putting in each of his arrangements, so I stop here with heavy heart, leaving many uncharted waters like Ashok Rane’s 58-minute documentary ‘Anthony Gonsalves – The Music Legend’.

With his practice of providing detailed notations not only musicians were very happy because they exactly knew what was expected of them and with what emphasis when, Anthony Gonsalves also very popular among sound recordists because he made it a point to provide these notations to them as well, enabling thereby to fine tune the recording touches as the final take would take-off.

Anthony Gonsalves’s penchant for blending the Western and Indian systems of music led to creations like Sonatina Indiana, Concerto in Raag Sarang, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in Todi Taat. He also went to establish, and fund, in 1958, a group of around 110 musicians with Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey as soloists, Indian Symphony Orchestra, specifically to perform his creations.

These experiments did not succeed as much as Anthony Gonsalves had expected. The infamous episode of Anthony Gonsalves being refused to arrange music for an animation film for (the then) Films Division, by the then I&B minister B V Keskar,  whoparochially would not entrust such job to a Christian, also did not help Anthony Gonsalves to keep his self-motivation to continue to experiment!

However, Anthony Gonsalves’s efforts in the field of fusion of Western and Indian music did spread his reputation across the seas. Years later, in 1965, when Howard Boatwright, the then dean of the school of music at Syracuse University, was visiting India, he had a chance meeting with Anthony Gonsalves, that followed in an invitation to work at the university. Anthony Gonsalves readily accepted the invitation. He worked for around two years there and then worked in Hollywood for creating the educational films. Even though not much of authentic information is available on his experiences during America, it is generally believed that Anthony Gonsalves so much remained disheartened at the heart that when he chose to come back to India, he remained so much incognito that even his very close friends or associates at Bollywood had any idea the Anthony Gonsalves is back to India. He chose to settle down at his place of birth and continue to teach music to the children of the area.

That passion for teaching the music, perhaps inherited from his father, had not died down even during his busy career at Bollywood. It is said that his apartment at Sushila Sadan at Juhu-Bandra linking road, Mumbai, was always open to the students of music. Two of his the then students were Rahul Dev Burman and Pyarelal Sharma (of Laxmikant-Pyarelal music duo). Pyarelal, who went onto become an ace violinist and accomplished arranger, has paid his tribute to his Guru by convincing Manmohan Desai to change the name of character being played by Amitabh Bachchan for Amar Akbar Anthony from Anthony Fernandes to Anthony Gonsalves, and even coined the opening line of a song My name is Anthony Gonsalves. And perhaps as the fitting touch of the magic of Anthony Gonsalves’s immortal contribution, the song – otherwise not a very exceptional composition – went on become a roaring success!

An artist who was ‘far ahead of his times’, Anthony Gonsalves breathed his last on 18th January 2012, away from the fame and dazzle of the world of music he loved so intimately and passionately!

Credits and Disclaimers:

    1. The song links have been embedded from the YouTube only for the listening pleasure of music lovers. This blog claims no copyright over these songs, which vests with the respective copyright holders.
    2. The photographs are taken from the internet, duly recognising the full copyrights for the same to the either original creator or the site where they were originally displayed.

Additional References:

The article is originally published on Songs of Yore as The Sculptors Film Songs (2): Anthony Gonsalves.



In July 2011, I opted to retire from my active career as a practicing management professional. In the 38 years that I pursued this career, I had opportunity to work in diverse capacities, in small-to-medium-to-large engineering companies. Whether I was setting up Greenfield projects or Brownfield projects, nurturing the new start-ups or accelerating the stabilized unit to a next phase growth, I had many more occasions to take the paths uncharted. The life then was so challenging! One of the biggest casualty in that phase was my disregards towards my hobbies - Be with The Family, Enjoy Music form Films of 1940s to mid-1970s period, write on whatever I liked to read, pursue amateur photography and indulge in solving the chess problems. So I commenced my Second Innings to focus on this area of my life as the primary occupation. At the end of four years, I am now quite a regular blogger. I have been able to build a few very strong pen-relationships. I maintain contact with 38-years of my First Innings as freelance trainer and process facilitator. And yet, The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

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