Music composer Raam Laxman passes away

Published : May 22, 2021 20:20 IST

Raam Laxman. Photo: PTI

He had the rare distinction of working with the three Mangeshkar sisters, Lata, Usha and Asha. He gave Salman Khan the two biggest hits of his career. He reintroduced S.P. Balasubrahmanyam to Hindi film lovers. He gave Rajshri Films its most memorable box office success stories and he was the only one who survived the group’s transition from making shoestring budget cinema to roaring multi-starrers. A sensitive man, he retained his composer partner’s name (Raam had passed away in 1976) alongside his until he breathed his last following a cardiac arrest earlier today in Mumbai. He was none other than Vijay Patil, better known as music composer Raam Laxman.

Truth be told, Raam Laxman never got his due in Hindi cinema. In 1989, when director Sooraj Barjatya gambled big time to revive Rajshri’s fortunes with the Salman Khan-Bhagyashri starrer Maine Pyar Kiya, Hindi cinema’s first Dolby digital offering, he got remarkable help from Laxman. Raam Laxman’s music for Maine Pyar Kiya remained among the chartbusters for an entire year.

Usually, in Hindi cinema, a film’s music is declared a hit if a couple of songs hit the bull’s eye. But with Maine Pyar Kiya, Raam Laxman rewrote the rule book by giving a series of super-hit songs in the film. The soaked-in-romance songs had the college-going crowd drooling over them. And the magical duo of S.P. Balasubrahmanyam and Lata Mangeshkar made sure that each composition got the most deserving vocal support. Not many would have forgotten “Kabootar ja, ja” or “Aaja sham hone aayi” or, for that matter, “Dil deewana bin sajna ke”. Then there was “Mere rang mein rangne wali”, not to forget the breathless Antakshari! Each was a gem. Separately, each was capable of making a film a hit at the box office. Together, they entered the hallowed annals of Hindi cinema. The songs helped Lata revive her acquaintance with the young and made sure Balasubrahmanyam bridged the north-south divide and taste the popular success which even the great Yesudas was denied in Hindi cinema.

Of course, it gave Hindi cinema Salman Khan, a star that continues to burn bright. It gave, too, Bhagyashri, whose absence from cinema first evoked curiosity, then mystery before the fans realised she had opted for the joys of domesticity and motherhood. The only one whose career did not exactly skyrocket with the film was that of the music composer Raam Laxman. After such a stupendous hit, one would have expected the Yash Chopras, the Mahesh Bhatts and the Padmalayas to flock to him. But no such thing happened. A bigger travesty is yet to visit tinsel town.

To this day, many think that Maine Pyar Kiya was Raam Laxman’s first Hindi film. Far from it. Not even the first with Rajshri Films. In fact, he had started his career alongside his partner Raam as the Raam Laxman duo for Rajshri’s Agent Vinod in 1976. The film, starring Mahendra Sandhu and Rehana Sultan, was a surprise hit and made sure Rajshri Films, known for picking non-stars and relative newcomers, stuck with him even after Raam passed away.

Soon came Taraana, another Rajshri film, where Mithun Chakraborty and Ranjeeta made a successful pair. The music composer used the lesser-used vocal cords of Usha Mangeshkar and Shailendra to give some fetching songs such as “Sultana, Sultana, mera naam hai Sultana” and “Ghunche lage hain kehne”. Then came Saanch ko Aanch Nahin, another modest hit starring Arun Govil and Madhu Kapoor. It was followed soon after with Ustadi Ustad Se where Raam Laxman worked with Asha Bhonsle and Bhupinder to give us “Saathi tere name ek din jeevan kar jayenge”. The song wafted in like a cool breeze on a summer evening. Many hum it to this day. As for Raam Laxman, he continued to work with the smaller banners and directors. All through the 1980s he stayed on the sidelines as Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Bappi Lahiri ruled the roost.

He did work in some Marathi films and Dada Kondke used his services for his double entendre-ridden Aage ki Soch. Then, in 1989 came Maine Pyar Kiya and it was time to fall in love with Raam Laxman’s music. Born in 1942, he was inching close to 50 then and had been in Hindi cinema for more than a decade. He savoured the film’s success from the sidelines though both Balasubrahmanyam and Salman Khan often acknowledged his contribution to their success.

Grateful, Raam Laxman repeated the success story in Hum Aapke Hain Koun, a film that gave M.F. Husain his new muse in Madhuri Dixit and extended the run of Lata Mangeshkar just as it seemed the curtain was likely to fall on her career. But with “Deedi tera devar deewana”, there was no looking back. Add to that “Mayi ne mayi”, “Joote do, paise lo”, “Pehla pehla pyar hai”, “Mausam ka jadu” and “Dhiktana, dhiktana” and you realise Raam Laxman was not a genius who waited endlessly for that one magical moment to strike, but a hard working, earnest professional who worked on his skills, honed his craft patiently and gave his listeners a glowing composition. People often loved the sweet finished product but forgot the sweat that went behind it.

Away from the Rajshri banner, he gave us some lilting tunes in Pathar ke Phool and songs with a zing in 100 Days, not to forget those of Nirbhay, which were faintly reminiscent of the work of O.P. Nayyar. The films did not work at the box office, the songs did, proving once and for all that Raam Laxman was not dependent on a banner, a singer or a director to give us powerful songs.

He continued his innings with Rajshri’s with Hum Saath Saath Hain before quietly moving away from the scene. The banner was keen to speak the language of the young in the new millennium. And Raam Laxman, with his age-old ways of mandolin, accordion, and so on, was considered a surplus. It was entirely music lovers’ loss.

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