How it happened
My first break came at the age of 16-17 when my father Sardar Malik (composer of films like ‘Thokar', ‘Saranga' and ‘Bachpan') was indisposed and actor-producer Mohan Choti asked me to complete the songs of “Hunterwali 77” (1978). The first song that I recorded was with Asha Bhosle. My maternal uncle Hasrat Jaipuri wrote the lines “Zulmon Sitam Par Itrane Wale, Ek Din Mera Din Ayega”. A couple of years before that I tried my hand at composition for my father's production “Maano Ya Na Maano”, which had Jeetendra and Neetu Singh in the lead but it could not be completed. After “Hunterwali” went unnoticed, Harmesh Malhotra gave me a break in “Poonam” but the real start came with F.C. Mehra's “Ek Jaan Hain Hum”. Coming from a film family didn't help me much and I had to struggle a lot. I knew Umesh Mehra (son of F.C. Mehra) and I used to follow him with my compositions. I had this knack of writing opening lines to my tunes. This helped in making an instant impression. One day he liked a tune and he ensured that his father came to our home. I sang “Aasman Pe Likh Doon Naam Tera” to him and it clicked.
How it felt
Umesh Mehra's “Sohni Mahiwal” followed, where I introduced Punjabi flavour in my songs. The album was a big hit but in those days competition was really tough. Laxmikant Pyarelal, R.D. Burman and Bappi Lahiri were in top form and you had to be part of a superstar's team to get consistent work. I started following Manmohan Desai, who was looking for some fresh tunes after “Coolie” but “Coolie” got delayed because of Amitabh Bachchan's injury. However, he didn't forget his promise. When Mr. Bachchan returned to the sets, he called me and listened to my tunes. That's how I got “Mard”. He repeated me in “Ganga Jamuna Saraswati” and “Toofan” but by then his magic had subsided and Mr. Bachchan was also finding it difficult at the box office. The taste of audience had changed and they wanted to hear a new sound.
How life changed
Once again I had to struggle. This time Mahesh Bhatt saved me by offering me his TV film “Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi”. At first I thought it is beneath my stature but then I had to prove myself all over again and I did it. The music became a big hit with the young crowd and then I got “Baazigar”. When producer Ratan Jain said he wanted the title in a song, I thought how will I make use of such unmusical title but somehow it clicked and I went on to win the first Filmfare award for the film in a year when the legendary Laxmikant Pyarelal had composed for “Khalnayak”. My strength has been to come with a tune in an instant. When Mansoor Khan dropped me after “Akele Hum Akele Tum” for “Josh”, I felt bad. But one day I got a call from the shoot that the composer he hired has failed to deliver and that he was in a fix. When I reached the set he told me the situation of two rival gangs and I instantly came up with “Saylaru Sayalare”. Similarly J.P. Dutta wanted to test me when Javed Akthar wrote the 11-page “Sandese Aate Hain”. Javed sahib had told him Anu will take at least a month to compose it. I took me just seven and half minutes. Unfortunately, people like to remember me only for my faults. Today, when film music has become all sound I am the only one who still relies on melody and as melody is making a comeback, filmmakers have once again started remembering Anu Malik.