Pyarelal may not be churning out chartbusters now, but this ‘better half' of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo is still contributing to music in his own way.

“I have watched exotic sunsets at varied places – upon high seas, on mountaintops and way above the clouds – but probably never accompanied to soothing strains of music as I experienced recently at Mumbai's ocean front. Even more astonishing was that the priceless and exclusive music recital for my benefit was by none other than the elusive Pyarelal of the famous Laxmikant Pyarelal team! Savouring his piano notes upon the wings of sea breeze, I realised “music is the poetry of air” and God's gift to a chosen few, such as, Pyarelal.

Otherwise, pray what else can explain the presence of Pandit Ramprasad Sharma (music mentor to Naushad and many others) in his life as father and Guru? Or how at an age when other children were busy reciting nursery rhymes, Pyarelal could play several instruments with phenomenal dexterity? Obviously, the Gods decided to make him a musical genius whereby he was not only invited to music studios at the age of ten but also blessed with a lifelong friend in senior mandolin player Laxmikant!

The impetus

Pyarelal credits Laxmikant for their partnership and for motivating him into turning composer. He recalls, “I was ready to sail for Venice in 1957 but Laxmikantji advised me to stay back as he felt we could form a great music team.” The decision may have meant spurning the chance of being a disciple of the legendary Yehudi Menuhin but it also led to the duo composing music for over 650 Hindi films, captivating listeners across the world. Probably, Laxmikant knew his partner was a precocious talent from the time he saw Pyarelal arrange music for Khayyam at the tender age of 14 for ‘Phir Subah Hogi'; its songs are remembered till date for their haunting orchestration.

Despite an outstanding run of success, fame sits lightly upon Pyarelal's shoulders. He has no airs and speaks so softly that you have difficulty in catching his words. His conversation is as fascinating as the musical notes he and Laxmikant composed together. However, the death of his best friend Laxmikant in 1998 has affected Pyarelal profoundly, making him cut down his professional load to take care of his health and family, an action largely misunderstood by the film fraternity. He explains that the loss of his “musical soul” took time to heal but “my absence from film functions was deciphered as a sign of retirement, though earlier too, most business interests and meetings were attended by Laxmikantji alone.”

Though film creations have been few in recent years, it isn't that Pyarelal hasn't been active. One of the few composers proficient in writing Indian and western notations, Pyarelal has utilised the sabbatical composing symphonies, the prominent one being ‘Om Shivam.'

Inspired by his violin guru Anthony Gonsalves' memory, he has also written compositions entitled ‘Indian Summer' for Schott, the world's leading music sheet publishers. And he now wants to pen a book on film music gurus, musicians and sound recordists, “who haven't been recognised despite their enormous contribution to our songs”.

This desire springs forth with a deep sense of gratitude as he humbly acknowledges R. D. Burman's exquisite mouth organ pieces to the super success of ‘Dosti.' However, veterans reveal Pyarelal too provided soul to others' songs with his music arrangements including Burman's ‘Chhote Nawab' and ‘Bhoot Bangla'. His virtuosity compelled leading composers to invite Pyarelal to add glory to their creations -- a pointer is the intricate violin pattern of the popular song, ‘Main Ye Soch Kar,' from ‘Haqeeqat,' which he created and played on Madan Mohan's request!

While Rafi's heavenly crooning conveys the pain of a spurned lover in magnificent timbre, Pyarelal's ‘humming violin' enhances the soldier's loneliness and the combined effect never fails to moisten the listener's eyes. No wonder, noted Telugu film music director Rajdeep opines, “Pyarelal is a wizard and if he hadn't been a composer, he'd have been an all time great as a violinist.”

It is this good natured rivalry that Pyarelal misses most nowadays. “Seniors were respected and everyone helped each other despite being fierce competitors.” He reveals LP initially refused ‘Bobby' as they were concerned about Shankar's (Jaikishan) feelings but relented when Raj Kapoor clarified the position.

Modern synthetic sounds too distress him deeply as “they are killing traditional instruments and turning genuine musicians into paupers.” However, he is happy that “Rafi Sahab, Lataji, Ashaji and Mukesh came as God's blessing to us” and Majrooh Sultanpuri and Anand Bakshi inspired LP with their outstanding poetry. He has high praise for Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Manmohan Desai, J. Omprakash and others who not only lent their vision to their compositions but were also gracious enough to accept their creative inputs in shooting scripts.

Today, while feeding pigeons on his balcony gives him immense peace, watching the sea, along with his beloved wife Sunila, provides him musical intuitions. Though there have been overtures from several big banners, he is in no hurry to sign until he is sure that the movie will offer him sufficient artistic challenge. Certainly, the heritage of ‘Parasmani,' ‘Dosti,' ‘Shor' and ‘Amar Akbar Anthony' does need a story worthy of Pyarelal's genius and when it does come along, music lovers surely will be in for a melodious treat.