Hindi music composers belong to three categories.

This can be best illustrated by considering the musical journey of the song from point A to point B.

The first category – to which most composers belong – involves a straightforward journey, without twists and turns, easy to bear, passengers languorously slouched, no thinking involved. 

The second category involves a journey with gentle undulations, a slip road here, a detour there, sometimes on the fringe of the forest, sometimes at the edge of the beach. Here the passenger sits upright, mind alert, soaking in the wondrous sights, feeling exhilarated. 

Then there is the third category – to which a very miniscule number truly  belong. This involves a journey with sharp ascents and descents, perilous hair-pin bends, off -road driving, jumping headlong into forests and deserts. Here the passenger goes through a maelstrom of emotions. There is shock and awe. But very few passengers gradually settle down and are amazed at the kaleidoscopic ride. They get hooked. They get addicted. They cannot get enough. The remaining passengers prefer not to undertake the journey again. 

Jaidev belonged to the third category. He was unwilling or unable to switch to other categories. ‘Niche’ does not even begin to define him. 

Being niche has its advantages. You are an independent operator, not a slave to public taste. There is no compromise in your art. Your creation is an honest reflection of your soul. You remain true to your musical instincts. There is no pandering, only self-indulgence. You are the toast of the cognoscenti. Singers love the challenge you throw at them. Negotiating your labyrinthine melodies gives them a professional satisfaction of the highest order and affirms their self-worth. 

But it also has disadvantages. 

You end up living in a shabby one room rented house. The only company you have is a bottle of liquor. You drink water from a mud pot and sleep on the floor. When you die the only asset you can call your own is your harmonium. You may be the only music composer from Hindi films to have won the National Award thrice (Reshma Aur Shera-1971, Gaman -1975, Ankahee- 1985) and Sur Singar Samsad Awards four times, but you die under-appreciated, unsung. 

Born in Nairobi on Aug 3, 1918, Jaidev spent most of his childhood in his maternal aunt’s place in Ludhiana. He fell in love with films and decided to become an actor and ran away to Bombay at 15. He was unsuccessful and came back but, undeterred, he ran off again. He was hired by Wadia Movietones for small time roles in mythological films and Fearless Nadia stunt movies (such as Hunterwali – 1935, Miss Frontier Mail -1936). Having realized that his acting career was going nowhere, he enrolled in 1943 in Almora’s Music Centre run by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pt. Ravi Shankar. But the Centre soon shut shop. 

Later, Jaidev started accompanying Ali Akbar Khan in his sarod recitals. When Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was signed as a composer in Chetan Anand’s films under the Navketan Films banner, Jaidev followed him into the film industry. 

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan composed music for Chetan Anand’s Aandhiyan (1952) and Humsafar (1953) where Jaidev assisted him. Both the films and their music flopped, and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan called it a day. Jaidev stayed on and started assisting Navketan Films’ new composer SD Burman – Taxi Driver, Munimji, House No. 44, Kala Pani, Sujata, Laajwanti, Insaan Jaag Utha, and others. 

In 1955, he got his first break in Joru Ka Bhai. He would do some forty odd films in next three decades- an abysmal number for any genius. 

Right from the get-go Jaidev revealed to the world his composition style. The song from his first film “Subah ka intezar kaun kare” was a dreamy, melodious number, very different from your ‘normal’ Hindi song; an extraordinary song that showcased his exceptional artistry. 

It was a forerunner of what was to come from his baton till his death. 

So, what was a typical Jaidev song? It was not a commercial concoction; it did not earn an instant applause. It was not a hummable fun and dance number. It was serious, intricate, layered; inspired by Hindustani classical and folk music. It wove a rich tapestry of musical and lyrical nuances. There was a subtle variation of pace and mood. It was difficult to appreciate on the first listening; but it grew on you, wrapping you in its complexity: raag -based structure, leisurely pacing, soothing orchestration, sensitive lyrics and myriad musical variations. 

The song was cerebral – it appealed to the intellectual mind. The connoisseurs would give a thumbs up to his different, original musical approach. But the common man was not wooed.  Because of his unwillingness or inability to compose simple songs with catchy lyrics and crowd- pleasing tunes, his music seldom tasted commercial success. He forever remained an intellectual composer. Producers considered him an excellent composer but only fit for small budget films.

In a materialistic world, with no time to stand and stare, no time to invest in emotional enrichment, such a classically oriented composer was doomed to become an anachronism. 

His music offered ample scope for the singer to show off the gayaki ang. His tunes were fabulously detailed with striking ornamentations. Lata and Jaidev’s association produced some  precious gems. Lata’s singing was the perfect platform to display Jaidev’s  dazzling skills.

Not that he did not have outstanding songs with other singers. He created memorable classics in different voices :Rafi – “Kabhi khud pe kabhi haalaat pe rona aaya” ( Hum Dono, 1961) ; Mukesh- “ Jab gham-e-ishq sataataa hai” (Kinare Kinare, 1963) ; Talat – “ Dekh li teri khudaaee” ( Kinare Kinare,1963) ; Manna Dey – “ Pyaas thi phir bhi takaazaa na kiya” ( Alingan,1974) ; Kishore Kumar – “Yeh wohi geet hai” ( Maan Jaaiye, 1972) ; Yesudas – “Chand akela jaye sakhi re”( Alaap,1977) ;Bhupinder –“ Ek akela is shahar mein”( Gharaonda, 1977)  ; Suresh Wadkar – “ Seene mein jalan”( Gaman, 1984) ; Asha Bhosle-  “ Maang mein bhar ley rang sakhi re”( Mujhe Jeene Do,1963) ; Chhaya Ganguly- “ Aap ki yaad aati rahi raat bhar”( Gaman, 1984) ; Runa Laila –“ Tumhe ho na ho” ( Gharaonda, 1977) ; Hariharan – “Ajeeb saaneha mujh par”( Gaman, 1984) .  Non-film compositions like Manna Dey’s Madhushala (of Harivansh Rai Bachchan) and Asha Bhosle’s ‘Ghazal, Geet, Bhajan’ were an unforgettable treat. 


The 1950s produced tragic, melancholic beauties like “Har aas ashqbaar hai, har saans beqaraar hai” (Kinare Kinare, 1957) with its slow waltz rhythm, intricate use of clarinet and organ.

His music in Hum Dono (1961) became very popular. While “Main zindagi ka saath”, “Kabhi khud pe kabhi haalaat pe”, and “Abhi na jao chhod kar” became a listener’s delight, two Lata bhajans stood apart with imaginative tunes and immaculate renditions. “Allah tero naam, Ishwar tero naam” – based on Goud Sarang raag seemed a simple melody but was indeed a complex song. It was close to Lata’s heart, and she chose it in the 1982 program ‘Mortal Men, Immortal Melodies’. The merging with and separation of the chorus from Lata’s voice was fascinating. The other bhajan “Prabhu tero naam” had such musical and emotional intensity, such intricacy that this Dhaani raag based bhajan left one spellbound.

“Raat bhi hai kuchh bheegi bheegi” (Mujhe Jeene Do, 1963) was an offbeat mujra song with pace and passion. The chorus usage – “chham- chham, chham-chham” showed Jaidev’s mastery over this aspect. 

In “Mohe na yun ghoor-ghoor ke dekho, najar lag jaayegi”, he let go of his reservation and composed a full-on playful fun number which was pacy, folksy, flirtatious, robust and rustic which Lata sang with full abandon.

Besides these two films, he did not receive any box-office approval in the 1960s. 

In Reshma Aur Shera (1971), Jaidev composed his piece de resistance – “Tu chanda main Chandni” – probably the most complex song ever composed in the annals of Hindi film music.  The song was like an exquisite painting; painted with striking colors of emotion and enticing textures of melody. Lata’s vocals were tested to the full, and she delivered. No other song had ever portrayed the amazing range of his complex creativity in such sparkling fashion. Unpredictable changes in the song’s mood, pace and notes could only have been conceived by a genius. 

A singer is a complete singer only if she can render this enigma of a song with complete fidelity. This song is near non-negotiable. 

Another song from the film “Ik meethi si chuban” was a romantic song par excellence 

The film failed but Jaidev got the National Award. 

Jaidev did compose catchy tunes once in a blue moon. 

“Yeh dil aur unki nigaahon ke saaye” (Prem Parbat, 1973) was Jaidev’s response to the critics accusing him of not having the ability for composing popular tunes. However, even here he could not help himself, and despite its ostensible accessibility, it had enough nuances to make the connoisseurs swoon. 

Other prominent songs in this era were “ O mitwaa badra chhaye re”  – one of Lata’s finest semi classical romantic songs , and “Yeh wohi geet hai” (both from Maan Jaaiye, 1972) ; “Pyaas thi phir bhi takaazaa na kiya” ( Alingan,1974) ; “ Zindagi cigarette ka dhuan” ( Faslaa, 1974) ;“ Kaahe manawa naache re” , and “Chand akela jaye sakhi re” ( both from Alaap , 1977) ; “ Tumhein dekhti hun” ( Tumhare Liye, 1978) ; “ Ek akela is shahar mein” , and “Tumhe ho na ho” ( both from Gharaonda, 1977)  ; “ Seene mein jalan”, and “ Aap ki yaad aati rahi raat bhar”( both from Gaman, 1984) ; “ Jag ko sulana ( Jumbish , 1986) . 

My mother- then Usha Bhatia and her brother – late Satish Bhatia (both working in All India Radio, Delhi in the 50s – my mother as singer, and uncle as music composer) knew Jaidev very well when he was based in Delhi before he left for Bombay. It was Jaidev who insisted that my mother pursue a college degree after school and it was he who filled up her college admission form. Her BA degree from Delhi University is thanks to him. 

I too was fortunate to have met Jaidev. To commemorate India’s victory in the 1971 War, Lata gave a public performance at Ramlila Maidan, Delhi in 1972. She sang “Sarfaroshi ki tamanna” and “Satyamev jayate composed by Jaidev. A day earlier, Lata along with Usha, Hridayanath and Jaidev, visited my uncle for tea where I had the ultimate pleasure of meeting all of them. 

Jaidev died on 6th January 1987 at the age of sixty-eight. 

Jaidev composed “Main Zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, har fiqr ko dhuen mein udata chala gaya” (Hum Dono ,1961).  More than a decade later, he would return to the theme of zindagi being “cigarette ka dhuan” (Faslaa, 1974). A line from the latter song would hopefully be how history would view him- “tere paaon ko chumengi, parbat ki sab chotiyan”.

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Music of composer Jaidev was not for the masses.. His was of the kind that gave him acclaim, but never wealth. Winner of 3 national awards, he died in relative penury
A rare music composer chiselled by blows of life