Yesterday, 6th January was the 34th remembrance day of arguably the most original composer seen in the last 50 years in Bollywood. A man’s brilliant and rich career recognised by 3 National awards, but (not unsurprisingly) not a single Filmfare. A man who thought, mistakenly as it sadly turned out, that the outstanding quality of his work would speak for itself and that he would get a just share and rewards. But that’s not how Bollywood works, ever. The man was so marginalized by the music factories and the Gangs of Bollywood that he died in solitary penury, never having married, in a humble rented abode, a cheque for a relatively large amount received as part an Award from the Madhya Pradesh Government not encashed nor deposited in the bank. A sad story of wilful, cruel, soul-sapping neglect of an undeniably creative genius forcing him into the depths of despair and deprivation.
Jaidev Verma, born in Nairobi, moved to Ludhiana as a child , then attracted by the glitz and glamour of showbiz, came to Bombay (as it was then known) to act in movies as a child artist. A forced break followed due to his father’s ill health and having to look after the family which he did. Having had his sister married off, he returned to the world of music, to train with the Sarod maestro, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Amazingly, the Ustad was drawn to Bollywood for a very short period, and actually scored music for Aandhiyan and Hum Safar both produced by Navketan, one directed by Chetan Anand, the second credited to M N Banerjee (who was actually a cinematographer with Navketan and never directed any films before nor after this one). Ustad Sahab got disillusioned quickly and abdicated Bollywood to return to familiar, calmer and predictable waters of Hindustani Classical Music. Jaidev who had been with the Ustad for nearly a decade, stayed behind, and joined Sachin Dev Burman as an assistant. He got his break as an independent music director thanks to having met Chetan Anand who gave him two projects: Joroo ka bhai and Anjali, both did well and he was noticed. Hum Dono followed in 1961, a first big banner movie that was a huge success by all accounts all around, and his fantastic score very well received and celebrated. Burman da recovered and Navketan went back to his portfolio. Sunil Dutt’s Mujhe Jeene Do came his way, and did he create a massive splash with truly unbelievable compositions. Who can forget Raat bhi hai kuchh bheegi bheegi ever?
He didn’t ever get any Filmfares despite uniformly outstanding quality of his work, nor did he ever make the real A list by way of payments, and I am sure the neglect must have rankled. To his credit, he never sought inspiration from extraneous sources nor recycled his tunes. I loved his score in Gaman, the movie which got him his second National Award, ( first for Reshma aur Shera, third for Ankahee in the mid 80s). This is a wonderful and poignant movie around the theme of urban economic migrants. The song soulfully rendered by Chhaya Ganguly is a fantastic and poignant one with amazing lyrics, great just a heavenly composition. The lyrics are by Makhdoom Mohiuddin for this song, the others are by Shahryar. https://youtu.be/IM_2paoTVvM
The movie mirrors Jaidev’s life and career, a man entrapped by the megapolis, not allowing him to live and flourish, while cutting off the option of seeking freedom from the bondage.
Stay safe folks, stay happy and healthy. I look forward to my weekend of calm and rejuvenation…