Music

Wajid Khan of music composer duo Sajid-Wajid dies aged 42

Wajid Khan (R) with brother Sajid Khan of Sajid-Wajid duo during the Mirchi Music Awards in Mumbai on January 27, 2011.

Wajid Khan (R) with brother Sajid Khan of Sajid-Wajid duo during the Mirchi Music Awards in Mumbai on January 27, 2011.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The composer was hospitalised few days ago due to complications arising from a kidney infection

Besaakhta (spontaneous) and zindadil (lively) are the words that singer Rekha Bhardwaj uses to describe music composer Wajid Ali Khan, of the Sajid-Wajid duo, who passed away in Mumbai in the wee hours of the morning on June 1. He was 43.

Also read: Tunes in twos

Ms. Bhardwaj first met Khan at the recording of ‘Kanha’, a thumri she sang for Sajid-Wajid in the film Veer. “It felt like I had known him for years…He was affectionate, fun loving, full of life. One could keep talking to him about poetry and music…We worked on only one song together but I have wonderful memories of him,” she says.

‘Sweet, ever-smiling’

Like her, Khan’s peers, professional associates and friends remember him for his sweet, ever-smiling face, twinkling eyes and tremendous warmth. Composer Salim Merchant of the duo Salim-Sulaiman remembers meeting Khan in 2000-2001, when Sajid-Wajid wanted them to arrange and produce a song for them. “We were colleagues first and became good friends. Be it Eid, success parties or musical evenings, we were often together,” says Mr. Merchant.

“He was such a fine, humble human being,” says singer-composer Roop Kumar Rathod, who knew him as a child and, like everyone else, feels that he went away too soon.

Singer Sonu Nigam had known him for 29 years. “I used to hang out outside the studio and he used to be inside because his father was a famous percussionist,” he says, and remembers having befriended him in his own days as a struggler. He got together with the duo in 1999 to do the iconic non-film album, Deewana, which became extremely popular with an entire young generation of listeners. “People would come and tell me that the album defined romance for them… I have done my finest work with them. They composed with me in mind. We were made for each other,” he told The Hindu on a phone call from Dubai.

Family of musicians

Khan came from a family of musicians. Sajid-Wajid’s father was respected tabla-player Ustad Sharafat Ali Khan, who was also one of the musicians for R. D. Burman. “Sajid-Wajid had a good understanding of classical music and were adept at creating situational music. Veer and Dabangg are two very different films and they had the talent to be composer for both,” says Ms. Bhardwaj.

“A song like ‘Hudd hudd dabangg’ captured the mood of the film perfectly,” says film buff and music expert Pavan Jha, about their ability to compose keeping the film in mind.

“Their compositions were always classy, even an ‘item’ number like ‘Dil mangta hai dildar soniye’ in Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. Or the lovely love duet ‘Sanchi sanchi teri nazrein ek darpan’ in Dabangg,” recalls Mr. Nigam.

Mr. Merchant’s favourite is ‘Lagan lagi’ from Tere Naam. “I consider it a landmark for them. It’s musically rich, has a melody and tune and also the beats,” he says.

Salman Khan films

Sajid-Wajid got their first break in Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya in 1998 and came to get identified with Salman Khan’s films — Tere Naam, Partner — which proved to be both a calling card to their success and also a limitation in terms of experimentation. Being caught in a clutch of multi-composer film albums was also a restriction in its own way. On the one hand there were melodies like ‘Dagabaaz re’ (Dabangg 2), ‘Sureeli ankhiyon wale’ (Veer) and ‘Tere mast mast do nain’ (Dabangg), and on the other hand populist “item” numbers like ‘Fevicol se’ (Dabangg 2). “But even a disco song of their’s, like ‘Anarkali disco chali’ in Housefull 2, was not about Westernised beats but folk rhythms,” says Mr. Jha.

Sajid-Wajid composed music for 80-odd albums.

Suffering in last days

Mr. Nigam said Khan suffered a great deal in his last days. He was diabetic, had undergone a kidney transplant, and was on immunosuppresants, which is said to have led to an infection and multi-organ complications. “This Eid, when he didn’t reply to my greetings, I feared the worst,” says Mr. Nigam.

According to Mr. Merchant, Khan was buried early on June 1 morning at the Versova kabrastan.

Said Mr. Rathod: “Ye saal kaise shuru hua aur kya kya dikhayega? Ye soch kar mann mein darr baith gaya hai (This year has begun on a wrong note. What more will it make us go through? Thinking of this has made one fearful).”

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