Kalyanji and Anandji are sons of Virji Shah, an uneducated man with tremendous innate wisdom and values, who migrated from Kutch to Mumbai to start a flourishing provision store business. Kalyanji was born in 1928 and Anandji was born in 1933. Legend has it that Kalyanji and Anandji began to learn music from a music teacher who could not afford to pay his bills to their father. However, insiders aver that one of their four grand parents was a folk musician of some eminence. Though both brothers were born in Kutch, they were very young when their father shifted base to Mumbai, and thus spent most of their formative years in Girgaum, amidst Marathi and Gujarati environs and some really eminent musical talent that resided in the vicinity.
Around 1958, the late Subhash Desai, Manmohan Desai’s elder brother sent a car to fetch Kalyanji and offered him eleven films, saying that he was a johri and could recognize a diamond when he saw one. The Bharat Bhushan - Nirupa Roy hit, Samrat Chandragupta (1959) was his first film as Kalyanji Virji Shah. It’s songs like ‘Chahe Paas Ho’ are remembered to this day. Followed a few more films alone like Post Box 999 before Anandji who was assisting him, joined him officially to form the Kalyanji - Anandji duo in Satta Bazar and Madari (1959). Chalia (1961) was their earliest major hit. But the Raj Kapoor factor branded them as pale imitators of Shankar - Jaikishan
even as ‘Dum Dum Diga Diga’, Chalia Mera Naam”, and ‘Mere Toote Hue Dil Se’ swept the charts. Their struggle continued till 1965 when two decisive scores, Himalay Ki God Mein and Jab Jab Phool Khile, established them as composers to reckon with. The first of these scores also won them the Cine Music Director’s Association’s newly instituted Best Music of the Year award - probably the only genuine music award in the country, considering the fact that it was given by their colleagues cum peers. After this, Kalyanji - Anandji rapidly entered the big league with films like Poornima, Raaz, Aamne Saamne, Upkar and Parivaar. Their Saraswati Chandra became the first - ever Hindi film to win the National Award
for Best Music.
Kalyanji - Anandji’s forte was sweet and simple melody with a modern flavour given to a classical base. They never believed in politics and manipulation of media, which is why they won very few Best Music awards despite a consistent record and a phenomenal array of chartbuster songs and scores. From 1965 they achieved a hit streak all the way upto the eighties with Qurbani, Laawaris, Yudh, Jaanbaaz and Tridev when they stopped signing films as they could not fit into the emerging trends. Kalyanji - Anandji also gave successful music in films, which had absolutely no scope for music in the Angry Young Man phase like Don, Johny Mera Naam, Victoria No.203, Black Mail and Zanjeer. Another facet of the duo was the ability to convince their heroes and heroines to give voice to their protagonists in their own voice. Amitabh Bachan, Shatrughan Sinha, Mala Sinha, Hema Malini and Nutan all sang under the baton of Kalyanji - Anandji.
They were also lucky for the directors who were still wetting their feet in the Bollywood waters for the first time. Rajiv Rai (Yudh), Feroze Khan (Apradh), Prakash Mehra (Haseena Maan Jayegi), Manmohan Desai (Chalia), Anil Ganguly (Kora Kagaz), Narinder bedi (Bandhan), Manoj Kumar (Upkar), and Subhash Ghai (Kalicharan) all reaped rewards with Kalyanji - Anandji. Similarly Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna and Babita all had their associations with success with the musical duo.
The duo have won numerous awards and were given the Padma Shri in 1992. The duo together had worked for over 300 films as music composers. Their last film was Pratigyabandh in 1991. Kalyanji died on August 24, 2000 after a prolonged illness. Anandji is currently involved with his musical group Little Stars and other charity works. The duo will always be remembered in the Indian Hindi Film Industry.