Tribute to the maverick musical genius #SalilChowdhury on his 98th birth anniversary today.

2 min readNov 19, 2023

Tribute to the maverick musical genius #SalilChowdhury on his 98th birth anniversary today.

As a music director, songwriter, poet, and writer, Salil Chowdhury’s influence spanned across various Indian film industries, including Bengali, Hindi, and Malayalam.

Chowdhury’s musical journey is remarkable for its breadth and depth. He composed music for films in 13 languages, leaving an indelible mark with over 75 Hindi films, 41 Bengali films, and 27 Malayalam films, among others. His ability to play multiple instruments, including the flute, piano, and esraj, combined with his poetic talent, made him a unique figure in the Indian film industry.

His first Bengali film score was for “Paribortan,” released in 1949. “Mahabharati,” released in 1994, was the last Bengali film to feature his music. Affectionately known as Salilda, he mentored prominent figures like R. D. Burman and Hridaynath Mangeshkar.

Chowdhury’s entry into the Hindi film industry in 1953 was serendipitous. His script for “Do Bigha Zamin,” initially a Bengali film about a rickshaw puller, caught the attention of director Bimal Roy. This film, which was Chowdhury’s Hindi debut, won the Filmfare Best Movie Award and an international prize at the Cannes Film Festival, catapulting him to new heights.

Chowdhury’s method of composing involved understanding the film’s context and mood, creating tunes that perfectly matched the emotions, and then collaborating with lyricists for the final touch. This approach resulted in iconic scores for films like “Madhumati.”

During the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, Chowdhury contributed to the liberation struggle with his album “Bangla Amar Bangla.” His visit to Bangladesh in 1990 saw him receive a hero’s welcome, and he was posthumously honored with the Muktijoddha Maitreye Samman in 2012.

Besides music, Chowdhury was a talented poet, playwright, and short story writer. He directed the film “Pinjre Ke Panchhi” in 1966, based on his own story and screenplay. Notably, he was the founder of the Bombay Youth Choir in 1958, India’s first secular choir, inspiring a new genre of music that blended vocal polyphony with Indian folk and contemporary music.

On his birth anniversary, we remember Salil Chowdhury not just for his musical genius but for his profound impact on Indian culture. His legacy as a multifaceted artist continues to inspire and resonate with music lovers and filmmakers alike.

What are your favourite Salil Chowdhury’s songs?