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Anu Malik – Music composer and singer
Nadeem-Shravan – Music director duo
Ratan Jain – Owner of Venus Records & Tapes Manufacturing Company
Gulshan Grover – Late Founder of music label T-series
Mansoor Khan – The director of Akele Hum Akele Tum
Back in the 1990s, the competition between music composers was as intense as that between actors and actresses. The Nadeem-Shravan jodi were the undisputed kings of the music world while Anu Malik was a close contender for the tittle. They were known rivals but the depth of their hatred for each other emerged only when the movie Akele Hum Akele Tum, starring Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala and directed by Mansoor Khan with music composed by Anu Malik, released.
Even before the film hit the theatres there was a buzz that Nadeem Saifi and Shravan Rathod along with Gulshan Kumar, the head honcho of T-series had been portrayed in a bad light in it. But things went out of control after the film released. Though the story revolved around the ego battle between Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala, there were three characters in the movie that bore a striking resemblance to Gulshan, Nadeem and Shravan.
One was a music industry mogul, Gulbadan Kumar (played by Satish Shah) who used the phrase ‘Jai Mata Di’ in every sentence – just like Gulshan Kumar did in real life. The other two were music composers named Amar and Kaushik (played by Shafi Inamdaar and Harish Patel), who were styled exactly like Nadeem and Shravan (Nadeem’s French beard and Shravan’s jazzy outfits). The characters of Amar and Kaushik were shown to buy awards and copy songs written by aspiring composers. Simply put, it was a direct potshot at the monopoly created by Gulshan, Nadeem and Shravan in the industry.
Even though the songs of Akele Hum Akele Tum became a hit, the movie did average business at the box office. According to sources, it was Anu who provoked Mansoor to conceive characters based on Nadeem-Shravan for the movie. A Bollywood singer was quoted in a magazine as saying, “Anu told Mansoorji that if he wanted the film and the characters to look real, he should take inspiration from the existing artistes in the industry.”
NOT SURPRISINGLY, ALL HELL broke loose after the film released. Nadeem, especially was livid with the portrayal and called it a cheap gimmick. He said, “It is absolutely in bad taste. This is not only my opinion but that of the audience at large – they have proved it by rejecting the film. The most demeaning part was that the characters are portrayed as buying an award and copying songs written by another composer. We’ve never done that; we have won all our awards on our own merits. This only shows the calibre of all those involved in the making of this film.”
Nadeem was particularly harsh on Anu. When the media asked Nadeem if was believed that Anu was the reason behind the portrayals he said, “Anu Malik has failed to give good music for this film and that is the sole reason for the movie being a flop. And mind you, Anu Malik is not our rival, he is just a copycat. He cannot match us. It’s just like trying to crown a donkey! It is futile to even make a comment on a person who is not important. Comparing us (Nadeem-Shravan and Anu) is like comparing horses to a donkey.”
Anu Malik was not the kind to keep quiet. When the media published Nadeem’s spiteful comments, Anu hit back, “Akele Hum Akele Tum is a story of a struggling music director asking for work from some famous music directors. Now, if one assumes that the famous directors are Nadeem-Shravan, I can’t do anything but laugh.” He persisted that the film didn’t flop. “If Nadeem says that the audience has rejected the film… uske kehne se kya hota hai. Who is he?” he asked.
THE ALL-OUT WAR BETWEEN the two top guns of the music industry created quite a buzz in Bollywood. Many people felt Anu was jealous of Nadeem-Shravan’s success but the former couldn’t care less. “Did Nadeem say I am a copycat?” he lashed out in an interview. “Let him say so, at least I am very successful at that. This means all others are fools and I am the smartest in the industry.”
This remark went against him as it appeared that he was not only calling all other musicians ‘foolish’ but was also admitting to copying music. Later, he tried to rectify the error to the media by reminding of his successful run in the industry and pointing out that his album ‘Eyes’ was an international release and it had original music.
Anu felt that Nadeem and Shravan copycats as well. He said, “One should tell them the popular saying ‘aurat pe pehla patthar wohi mare jisne koi gunah na kiya ho!’ (People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones). If they insulted me, all I can say is God forgive them, for they know not what they’ve done’. If Nadeem has said that he doesn’t find me worth commenting on, why did he comment in the first place?”
On Nadeem calling him a donkey, Anu retorted with, “Tell him that a donkey works the hardest!”
Finally, Ratan Jain, the then MD of Venus Records & Tapes who was the producer of Akele Hum Akele Tum stepped in. He said, “The characters were not actually meant to have any resemblance. We showed the film to Nadeem-Shravan before the film released and that time they said it was okay and there was nothing against them. And there are so many people in the industry who say, ‘Jai Mata Di’ so one does not have to relate this to Gulshan Kumar only.”
HOWEVER FATE TOOK A different turn for everyone involved in the years that followed. In the year 2000, Anu was finally vindicated from accusations of being a copycat and a fluke in the industry after he was awarded the National Award for Best Music for the film Refugee. On the other hand, Nadeem towards the end of the 1990s, Nadeem found himself in the midst of a huge controversy when he was named as a suspect in the murder of Gulshan Kumar. His passport was revoked, and to avoid arrest, he stayed in England. The judge later said there was inadequate evidence to prove the charges.
WHERE THEY ARE NOW:
Anu Malik: Apart from composing/directing music, Anu is also involved in judging reality show Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega and music reality show Indian Idol.
Nadeem Saifi and Shravan Kumar: Nadeem Saifi is now based in London and Shravan Rathod is in Mumbai but they continued to collaborate on films like Raaz, Kasoor and Dhadkan despite the long distances. They finally parted ways in 2005. The musician duo is all set for a second stint in the industry.