Salil Chowdhury was one of the greatest musical talents India ever had. A man of many talents. He was not only an outstanding composer, an accomplished and gifted arranger, poet and writer but above all an intellectual. A master multi-instrumentalist, he played excellent flute, Esraj, violin and piano , with a deep and well-studied understanding of several other instruments as is evident from their creative use in his music.
Salil was born on November 19, 1925. He spent many years of his childhood in the Assam tea gardens where his father was a doctor. He grew up listening to his father's large collection of western classical music and the folk songs of Assam and Bengal. This influenced him considerably and shaped his musical thinking. Young Salil could sing very well and played excellent flute from tjhe age of eight. In fact his expertise in flute brought him in contact with the outside musical world. He was very fond of his father. Salil remembered how his father once hit one of the British managers and broke his three front teeth after he called his father 'dirty nigger'. Salil's father organised and staged plays with the tea-garden coolies and other lowly paid workers . Salil remembers his father's strong anti-British feelings and his concern and love for the oppressed tea garden workers.
After graduating from Bangabaashi College in Calcutta, during his university years his political ideas were fast maturing along with his musical ideas. Living through the second world war, the Bengal famine and the hopeless political situation of the '40s, he became acutely aware of his social responsibilities. This is when he joined IPTA (Indian Peoples Theater Association) and became a member of the communust party. During this period he wrote numerous songs and with IPTA took his songs to the masses. They travelled through the villages and the cities and his songs became the voice of the masses.These songs were very powerful indeed. Songs of protest which made people aware of the rampant social injustice which surrounded them. These songs became very powerful and stimulating. In fact, Salil always retained his strong feelings for the social injustice and very often wrote songs which reflected this feelings. He called these songs the 'Songs of consciousness and awakening'.
In 1952 Salil Chowdhury came to Bombay to compose the music for Do Beegha Zameen. This was the Hindi version of the successful Bengali Film 'Rikshawalla' . The story of 'Rikshawaala' was written by him and the music was composed by him. It was a tremendous success and so was 'Do Bigha Zameen'. Since then he had composed for over 75 Hindi Films, around 26 Malayalam Films and several Tamil, Telegu, Kannada, Gujarati, Marathi, Assameese and Oriya Films. He had also composed for several Tele-Films and Tele-Serials.
His phenomenal flair for instruments prompted even an expert like Jaikishen to refer to him as a 'The Genius'. Raj Kapoor once said 'He can play almost any instrument he lays his hands on, from the tabla to the sarod, from the piano to the piccolo'. He was in fact a composer's composer, because unlike his market-driven counterparts, he never really set prose to music. To him the melody was sacrosant and had to precede the words. The situation could then be adapted. Salil's music was a unique blending of the east and the west. He had once said 'I want to create a style which shall transcend borders - a genre which is emphatic and polished, but never predictable'.
Shared By: Mr. Gautam Chowdhury