Subhash Ghai entered the Hindi film industry with aspirations of becoming an actor but destiny had other plans for him. After appearing in a few films as a supporting actor, he found his calling as a director and what he did thereafter became a part of Hindi cinema’s history.
His directorial skills might look dated to some today but back when he ruled the silver screen, Ghai knew the pulse of the audience and his illustrious filmography stands testimony to the same. Now one may call Ghai a formulaic filmmaker with tropes that were commonly seen in most of his films; the bro-mance between his heroes, the family dynamics that were repeatedly exploited, but there is something about Ghai that even the best of the filmmakers must be envious of, his ear for melody.
For many years, Ghai collaborated with the music composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal and while they were both quite successful independently, the magic that was created when they worked together is truly unforgettable.
This director-music composer team first collaborated in 1979’s Gautam Govinda but it was Ghai’s 1980 film Karz that created history in many ways. Karz was a re-incarnation story and while Hindi cinema had seen many of those in the 60s-70s, what made Karz notable was its revolutionary music. The lead character Monty (Rishi Kapoor) is a musician and it was of utmost importance that the music of the film should be such that the audience could believe in Monty’s success, and so they did. The album was a smash hit, the signature tune was an even bigger success. The tune was incorporated in the story as a trigger for the antagonist and even independently, “Ek Haseena Thi” was the track that strengthened the film.
This wasn’t a one-time success story.
The team hit the nail on the head once again with 1983’s Hero, which was also the debut film of Jackie Shroff. There is no way that a cinephile who has grown up watching Hindi cinema cannot recollect the signature flute music. The melody was even re-hashed for Tiger Shroff’s debut film Heropanti which just goes to show the timeless impact of Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Subhash Ghai.
With songs like “Lambi Judai”, where the director managed to get Pakistani legend Reshma to sing for an Indian film and popular love anthem “Pyar Karne Vale Kabhi Darte Nahi”, the album was a huge success.
With subsequent films like Karma (1986), Ram Lakhan (1989), Saudagar (1991), the team continued with their success streak. Ram Lakhan’s “My Name is Lakhan” is still the anthem of every desi party and Saudagar’s “Imli Ka Boota” maintained its popularity thanks to all the years of playing Antakshari. Karma’s “Ae Watan Tere Liye” is still played every year and is one of the most popular patriotic songs to come out of Hindi cinema.
Ghai’s Khalnayak (1993) was a landmark film in many ways. With Sanjay Dutt delivering one of his best performances amidst a personal crisis of his own, Khalnayak succeeded and not just because of the publicity it garnered. “Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai” with Madhuri Dixit became an instant hit. The catchy music, Saroj Khan’s choreography and Madhuri Dixit’s innocent expressions in the music video took it miles away from being called vulgar. Ghai and Laxmikant-Pyarelal could have easily ended up in deep waters if any of these elements did not work right but what we got was Madhuri Dixit’s mesmerising performance and an unforgettable song.
Khalnayak was also the last collaboration of this dream team of Subhash Ghai and Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
Pardes, which released in 1997, featured music by duo Nadeem-Shravan and here Ghai proved that even without Laxmikant-Pyarelal, his ear for melody was just as sharp. Pardes released on the occasion of 50 years of Indian independence and to capture the mood of the audience, they created tracks like “I Love My India”. Even the love songs, “Meri Mehbooba”, “Do Dil Mil Rahe Hain” and Sonu Nigam’s breakthrough performance “Yeh Dil Deewana” turned Pardes into a musical hit.
Taal (1999) was the story of musicians and for this film Ghai roped in the maestro, AR Rahman. To his credit, Rahman worked on the music of Taal for 70 nights and the result was for all to see. Ghai even credited Rahman for the title of the film as it was his presence that led Ghai to name the film Taal.
Ghai’s subsequent films Yaadein, Kisna: The Warrior Poet, Yuvvraaj might have not recreated the Ghai effect on the box office but one can not deny that his musical genius stayed on. Subhash Ghai will always be credited for giving memorable roles to actors like Jackie Shroff, Madhuri Dixit, Anil Kapoor, he will be remembered for bringing Dilip Kumar out of his retirement but his legacy truly stays in the musical realm that gave Hindi cinema some of its best albums.