Shivkumar Sharma goes back to the time when Silsila was being announced, and they had just been signed on as music directors for the film. ‘There was a lot of criticism at the time, with people asking why classical musicians were being asked to score music; were we diluting our art for commercial reasons? We realized we had to rise to the occasion. We spent many sessions with Yash-ji, discussing situations, locations, story. He gave us the screenplay which we read carefully. We asked for two weeks, and sat together at home and composed the songs. Sahir was contacted to write the songs, but he was not able to fit himself into the schedule. So, after a lot of consideration, Javed Akhtar was taken on. It was his first assignment as a film writer.’
Most directors may have hesitated before or worried after signing three new talents to work on the music, but Yash Chopra has decided to take the gamble. He agrees to the large assortment of instruments that the music directors want. While the flute and the santoor have their pride of place in the compositions, the role of other instruments in creating the mood and melody is not ignored either.
Shiv–Hari now bring in their own innovations. Hariprasad suggests Amitabh should sing. ‘Allahabad ka hai, use gava diya, jaise gale me haat dal ke,’ he recollects. The song they wanted him to sing was a Hori. ‘Then Yash-ji suggested, “Ask his father to write the song, a UP-style Hori.” We asked Amitabh, he was happy. Harivanshrai-ji was in Bombay at that time, so he was requested. Within an hour, the song was written, adapted from a song sung in rural UP. He wasted no time at all, especially since his son was to sing it,’ Hariprasad says, laughing.
He remembers the hard work that Amitabh put in before the recording. ‘He practised it well; the singing, movements, everything. And he got the inflections perfectly.’ ‘Rang barse’, which is heard on every loudspeaker across India on Holi, has long outlived the film. It is a dramatic moment in the film, where a slightly tipsy-with-bhang Amitabh throws caution to the winds and lets everyone within earshot know that he and Rekha are lovers. The dramatic twist comes from the fact that both Jaya and Sanjeev are also listening to the Hori-ditty-turned-confession, and squirming with embarrassment.
‘Whether it is an ad film of thirty seconds or a full-fledged song number, he would work hard on all of it,’ Hariprasad says of Amitabh Bachchan. ‘He has earned his status because of this combination of talent and hard work.’ Coming from a man who spent nights learning music after a full day’s work, and who practises on his flute for hours on end, this is praise indeed.
The other Amitabh song, ‘Neela aasman so gaya’, is tougher. ‘We had planned two versions, one by Lata, the other by Amitabh. We gave him a low base so it would be easier, and would also bring out the pathos in his voice. It worked.’ Incidentally, the song developed from a tune Amitabh was humming. Snatches from a song reportedly shared by Shammi Kapoor. In the master flautist’s words, ‘I liked the sound of the tune, told him to sing it to us, and developed it into a full-fledged song.’