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At home, madal player recounts good old Mumbai days

Darjeeling, May 13: In the early part of 1970, a youth from the hill town made his way to Mumbai with only a madal (a traditional Nepali drum) for company.

More than three decades later Ranjit Gazmer came back to his hometown, this time, as a successful music director of a Nepali album.

“I am here to direct a music album with three budding singers, who had won the annual competition organised by Gorkha Dukha Niwarak Sammelan, a social organisation, last year. The engagement provided me with an opportunity to visit my roots,” Gazmer told The Telegraph, before leaving for Mumbai on Friday. He was in the hill town for nearly a month for the project.

Credited with introducing the madal in Bollywood music circles, the 66-year-old musician’s foray into tinsel town could itself provide the plot for a Hindi potboiler.

“I was introduced to R.D. Burman by an acquaintance, Manohari Singh. I had taken my madal with me and he asked me to play it on the spot,” recalled Gazmer.

It was Burman, who gave the hill youth his first break in Hindi films. In fact, the legendary music director was looking for a Nepali touch to Dev Anand’s role in the Hindi blockbuster Hare Rama Hare Krishna, whose story was based in Nepal, and Gazmer seemed just right.

“I worked extensively on the film, especially in the song Kancha re. In fact, I came to be known as kancha in film circles after that,” said the madal player. His association with Burman continued and he worked on other superhit films like Sholay and Ajnabee.

At present, Gazmer is working as a freelance madal player and has been associated with composers like Jatin-Lalit, Ismail Durbar and Adnan Sami. He has also carved a niche for himself as a music director in the Kathmandu-based Nepali film industry.

“In 1982, I arranged for Asha Bhosle to sing her first Nepali song. Since then Ashaji has lent her voice to a number of Nepali hits,” said Gazmer, who has been the music director for hit films like Darpan Chaya, Saino and Kusum Mero Rumal, during his stint as a music director. Like singer Udit Narayan (who also sings in Nepali), Gazmer is based in Mumbai and records songs in the studios there. Though this forces him to constantly fly between Mumbai and Kathmandu, Gazmer is not too keen to settle down in these parts.

“Things have changed and though I have fond memories of the place I do not think I will come back and settle here,” said Gazmer who had tried setting up a recording studio in Siliguri some time back. “My son, Satyajit, is also working in Bollywood. He was the assistant director in the film Chocolate. He is also trying his hand at editing.”

Though Gazmer had no formal training in music, he considers Amber Gurung, another Nepali legend, as his teacher. He also played extensively with G. Banks, the father of Louis Banks, while he was in Darjeeling.

Gazmer has loads of hope for musicians from the hills. “There is a lot of talent here and people should come out and introduce other Nepali instruments like the sarangi, which I am sure will be appreciated in Mumbai,” he said.

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