Hindi Songs

Who was Anthony Gonsalves?

If you were residing in India in the late 1970s and listened to songs on the radio, you would have heard the song “My name is Anthony Gonsalves” being played repeatedly on AIR (All India Radio).  You might have even hummed, snapped your fingers or tapped your feet to the song, it is a fast number.

The song is from the movie “Amar Akbar Anthony”, another Bollywood movie in the long line of Hindi movies that featured siblings who are separated at birth and are reunited later.  This one also promoted religious tolerance with each of the siblings adopted by Hindu, Muslim and Christian families.  The song is filmed on the superstar of Indian cinema, Amitabh Bachchan who pops out of an Easter egg donning a suit, sporting a monocle and doffing a top hat.  With its mixture of Hindi and English lyrics, the song is also a nod to the Goan culture which in Hindi movies usually finds the characters wearing western clothes, dancing the jive and singing Hindi songs interspersed with English lyrics.

I had assumed that Anthony Gonsalves was a random name picked out of nowhere to reflect the character’s Christian heritage.  It was only when I read Gregory D. Booth’s excellently researched book “Behind the Curtain – Making Music in Mumbai’s Film Studios” that I came to know that this was the name of an actual musician.  

Booth writes that the musician, Anthony Gonsalves was born in 1927 in the village of Majorda in Goa.  The son of a choirmaster, he was trained in Western classical music by his father.  He went on to work in the Hindi film industry from 1943 to 1965, playing the violin in several songs.  He was also an arranger and assisted in the composition of songs for well known music directors such as Shyam-Sunder, S.D. Burman and Madan Mohan. The site swaralaap.com says he arranged and played the violin in some memorable Hindi songs such as “Tere bina aag yeh chandni” (Awara, 1951), “Shaam-e-gham ki kasam” (Footpath, 1953) and  “Hum aapki aankhon mein”  (Pyaasa, 1957). 

Anthony Gonsalves being felicitated by Swaralaap while musicians play his violin arrangement for the song “Hum aapki aankhon mein” from Pyaasa. (Music director: S.D. Burman)

Lata Mangeshkar, the legendary singer, arranged a music hall for him in Bandra, where he taught students how to play the violin.  One of his students in the 1950’s was Pyarelal Sharma who along with Laxmikant Kudalkar later went on to form the famous partnership: Laxmikant-Pyarelal, simply known as LP.  They started composing music in 1964 and their partnership continued until the death of Laxmikant in 1998.  

The song was originally written as “My name is Anthony Fernandes” but the name did not appeal to the lyricist Anand Bakshi, the director Manmohan Desai or to LP.  Pyarelal then  suggested the name of his one-time teacher and thus the song became “My name is Anthony Gonsalves”. I presume that the character of Amitabh Bachchan was initially named “Anthony Fernandes” but was changed later based on this song. The real-life Anthony Gonsalves left the Hindi music film industry in 1965 and spent ten years in the US (via a grant from Syracuse University) before returning to India.

Goa has produced a number of excellent musicians who played in anonymity in the Hindi film industry.  Besides Anthony Gonsalves, Sebastian D’Souza was another well-known music arranger.  In LPs, cassettes and CDs, the liner notes, give credit to the singers and the music composer at best.  Lyricists may be lucky to get a mention but the arrangers and musicians are completely ignored.  In an interview Anthony Gonsalves said “We were always hidden, always playing behind the curtain.  No one knew.”.  Pyarelal was thus paying homage to his music teacher and so is the title of Gregory Booth’s excellent book.  These were the musicians who helped craft the music that we listen to even today.

“My name is Anthony Gonsalves
Main is duniya mein akela hoon.”

“My name is Anthony Gonsalves,
I am all alone in this world.”

The featured image of Mr Anthony Gonsalves is from the book “Behind the Curtain – Making Music in Mumbai’s Film Studios” by Gregory D. Booth