Tribute to Anil Biswas, one of the greatest music composers of Hindi cine music, on his 104th birth anniversary today.

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Anil Krishna Biswas, more popularly known as Anil Biswas is a veteran music composer of the Hindi film industry who is most known for his contribution in redefining the contours of Hindi film music. He was a pioneer in experimenting with song structures and forms, and successfully fused a repertoire of classical and folk tunes with western forms such as the symphony, orchestra and cantala. With films like Kismet (1953) and Jwar Batta (1944) to his credit, Biswas has established himself as a formidable name in the history of Indian cinema.

Born on 7 July 1914, in Barisal in East Bengal, now Bangladesh, Anil K Biswas was exposed to the folk songs of the boatmen, Bhatiyali and Baul, since childhood. He was a trained tabla player and singer of Shyama Sangeet and Kirtan. He also performed in amateur theatre productions at the time. In 1930, Biswas moved to Kolkata and worked for Megaphone Company where he was paid Rs. 5 per song composition, but none of the songs composed by him during this time were released. Later, he joined Rang Mahal Theatre where he performed as an actor, singer, and assistant composer. Here he continued his engagement with the Khayal, Dadra and Thumri forms of musical traditions and further honed his skills as a singer.

In 1934, Biswas moved to Bombay and joined Kumar Movietone but soon moved to Eastern Art Syndicate where he worked in a number of film projects and got an opportunity to contribute songs in films like Baalhatya (1935) and Bharat Ki Beti (1935). He went on to make his debut as a music composer in Dharam Ki Devi (1935). While Biswas worked on a number of projects during the period, it was Mehboob Khan’s Jagirdar (1937) that established his name as a music composer in Hindi films. Subsequently, he composed music for Mehboob Khan in Aurat (1940), Bahen (1941), and Roti (1942). In 1942, Biswas joined Bombay Talkies and worked on prestigious film projects like Kismet (1943), Jwar Bhatta (1944) and Milan (1946) among many others. In 1947, the collapse of the studio system and the rise of more flexible distributor oriented systems prompted Biswas to leave Bombay Talkies. He worked on Abhiman (1957) and Pardesi (1957), but by the 1960s he moved his base to Delhi.

Biswas is best remembered for his innovative experiments in compositions, in particular, his use of orchestra with indigenous musical instruments. With Roti (1942), he used an innovative blend of Western techniques with the Indian film song. He was also one of the first music directors to experiment with Raag Mala as seen in the song ‘Ruti aaye, ritu sakhi re’ from Hamdard (1953). Biswas is also often credited for popularising the ghazal in film music. He introduced many singers and artists during the time including legendary singerTalat Mahmood.

In the latter half of his career, Biswas worked closely with the government, as he was involved in their broadcasting and film component. He was appointed as the Director of National Orchestra at All India Radio in 1963 and worked with Doordarshan on popular shows like Hum Log , Baisakhi and Phir Wohi Talaash during the 80s. Biswas also worked very closely with the Films division in the 80s and 90s on a number of documentary projects. For two years, he served as the Vice-Chancellor of India’s pioneer educational institution, Jawaharlal Nehru University. In 1986, Biswas was honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to the field of arts.

Anil Biswas died on May 31, 2003 in Delhi at the age of 88. The last film he worked on before his death was Chhoti Chhoti Baten (1965).

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Celebrating Cinema

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