January 28, 2012

If you are a vintage Hindi music buff then you will be familiar with the name Anthony Gonsalves. He was a legendary music composer and the inspiration behind the song 'My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves' from the film 'Amar Akbar Anthony'.

Anthony passed away recently in Goa. He was 84.

Gonsalves orchestrated the music for many Hindi songs during the 50s and 60s. He was named as one of India's finest violinists in his time and worked with legends like S. D. Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal.

His life story is fascinating. He left for Mumbai in 1943 as a child, when he played violin at the church in his village. He later made a name for himself after he orchestrated music for songs like 'Jyoti Kalash Zhalke'. His musical arrangements in 'Hum aapki aankhon mein' in 'Pyaasa' and 'Ayega aaane wala' in 'Mahal' are considered among his best works.

He went on to teach the violin to Pyarelal.

Gonsalves became a household name after the musician dedicated the song to his real life 'guru' in the 1977 release 'Amar Akbar Anthony'. The song was picturised on Amitabh Bachchan.

He returned to his native place in South Goa in 1983 and lived a life away from the glitz and buzz of cinema.

Goans were at the heart of Bombay's music. In Madras they and the Anglo-Indians formed the nucleus of Thamizh film music.

In the small neighbourhood called Narasinghapuram now cannibalised by the teeming radio/electronics/computer market of Ritchie Street, off Mount Road there used to be a small community of Goan and Anglo musicians who were stars in Kodambakkam's studios. And a Gonsalves was among them. You rarely saw or met them because they went to work at noon and came back at 2 a.m.

I met many such musicians when we did a documentary on the Anglos of Madras and their music.

Reading the tributes that were paid to Anthony Gonsalves recently, I realised that the Goan and Anglo musicians of Madras' movieworld also deserve a film or a book.

Naresh Fernandes has published a book, 'Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story Of Bombay's Jazz Age'. It tells the story of India, especially of Bombay through the lives of a menagerie of geniuses, dreamers and eccentrics, both Indian and American, who helped jazz find a place in this subcontinent.

If you love jazz and vintage film music, this book is a good read. It also offers a CD of old recordings.

And if you have stories on our wonderful musicians of Madras' film studios, I want to hear them.

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