Shravan Rathod of the famous composer-duo Nadeem Shravan, who died of Covid-19 in Mumbai at 66 on April 22, will be best remembered for having brought the melody back in the Hindi movies in the early nineties along with his partner, with a string of musical hits, including the trend-setting Aashiqui (1990), which remains the largest-selling film album in the history of Bollywood.
Directed by Mahesh Bhatt, the Rahul Roy-Anu Aggarwal starrer turned out to be a monster success at the box-office primarily because of its chart-topping numbers such as Bas ek sanam chahiye, Ab tere bin jee lenge hum and Nazar ke saamne. It suddenly catapulted its composers to the pinnacle of popularity, ending years of bitter struggle.
Produced by music baron Gulshan Kumar of T-Series, Aashiqui’s success infused a fresh lease of life in the Hindi film music industry, which had slumped into the morass of mediocrity after the passing of singer Kishore Kumar in 1987 and the gradual decline of composers like R. D. Burman, Kalyanji-Anandji and Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Its lilting compositions gave the industry the boost it desperately needed and set the stage for the return of romantic musicals in the 1990s after the domination of mindless action flicks for more than two decades.
Ironically, Ashiqui’s songs would never have come out of the T-Series’ recording studios had director Mahesh Bhatt not intervened to dissuade Gulshan Kumar from shelving the film. As Bollywood trivia lovers know, Gulshan had got some songs, written and composed by Sameer and Nadeem-Shravan respectively, for a private album that he was planning to release. Later, he roped in Bhatt to direct a musical on a script woven around these songs. Everything was finalised but just before the movie was supposed to go on the floors, Gulshan developed cold feet and decided to shelve the movie altogether. He was told by some people that the songs were not up to the mark and he would lose all his money on the film. When Bhatt came to know about it, he came rushing to Gulshan and told him that the songs would change the music industry. He said he was ready to give it in writing and would even give up direction if the songs failed to make waves. The rest, as they say, is history.
Nadeen-Shravan did not look back after 20 million units of Ashiqui's album were sold in no time. Success, however, did not come on a platter to the talented duo. They had made their debut in the mid-1970s with a Bhojpuri film, Dangal, starring Sujit Kumar in the lead. Even though it’s Manna Dey-number, Kashi hile Patna hile became a hit, they could not gain a foothold in the industry.
Things began to change towards the end of the 1980s with the musical success of Aamir Khan’s Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), which had refreshing songs by another composer-duo, Anand-Milind. With the revival of interest in romantic musicals, Nadeem-Shravan seized the opportunity when Gulshan Kumar offered them to compose Aashiqui songs. With three Filmfare awards in a row with Aashiqui, Saajan (1992) and Deewana (1993), they went on to prove that success was no flash in the pan. They won it again for Raja Hindustani (1996).
Even though other composers like Anu Malik and Jatin-Lalit too stormed the Hindi music industry in the 1990s, the decade truly belonged to Nadeem-Shravan, thanks to their big hits such as Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin (1990), Phool Aur Kaante (1991), Sadak (1991), Damini (1993), Dilwale (1994), Barsaat (1995), Raja (1995), Pardes (1997), Dhadkan (2000), all with superhit numbers.
However, their songs -- mostly sung by the triumvirate of Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik -- began to sound repetitive towards the late 1990s. It was also the time when the industry was getting weary of romantic musicals. The audiences had by then started rooting for new-age movies like Satya (1998) and Dil Chahta Hai (2001).
In the meantime, Nadeem had also grown ambitious and cut a private album, Hi Ajnabi, as a singer under the T-series label, He had pinned a lot of hopes on the album but it flopped badly in 1997. A sulking Nadeem then accused Gulshan of not promoting his album. But their career actually floundered after Nadeem was accused by the Mumbai police of involvement in the Gulshan Kumar murder case soon thereafter. He subsequently left for London and successfully fought a case against his extradition to India. He is now running a perfume business in Dubai,
Though Nadeem and Shravan continued to compose music for a few years in the new millennium, they finally split in 2005. They did try to reunite a few years later, but they could not recreate their old music or magic.
Despite being an extremely talented musician, Shravan -- the less flamboyant of the duo -- failed to create a space for himself as a solo composer in the absence of his partner and gradually faded from the scene. But it was not his fault. There were few takers of the Nadeem-Shravan brand of music in the digital era with the ascendancy of a whole new generation of tech-savvy music directors.
Yet, they were the last of the Bollywood composers, who put a premium on melody above everything else. They may or may not be counted among the all-time great composers of Bollywood but one Aashiqui is enough to keep them nazar ke saamne, jigar ke paas of the film music buffs in the years to come.