Written by 10:53 AM Music • 4 Comments

Anthony Prabhu Gonsalves – musician, arranger; unparalleled.

When composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal and lyricist Anand Bakshi sat down to work on the music for the film Amar Akbar Anthony, the original lyric was ‘My name is Anthony Fernandes”. After much humming and hawing, they concluded that ‘My name is Anthony Fernandes’ did not sound appealing and wasn’t rolling off the tongue well. Pyarelal suggested naming the character Anthony Gonsalves. It was his way of honoring his violin teacher, Anthony Gonsalves.

Anthony Prabhu Gonsalves was born in the picturesque coastal village of Majorda in south Goa in 1927. Jose Antonio Gonsalves, his father, was a choirmaster at Majorda’s Me de Deus church. 

Anthony studied Indian Classical Music and developed techniques for writing Indian Classical Music pieces in staff notation and harmonizing them with western music pieces. He could compose music and integrate it into a complete score for a song in western staff notation. This was the most challenging job those days since most music directors of the Hindi film industry were not familiar with Western staff notation. Pyarelal Sharma, of the Laxmikant Pyarelal duo, who is widely regarded as one of the best composers in the country, still speaks of him in awe. In 1958, Gonsalves founded the Symphony Orchestra of India, blending Indian and Western music, featuring playback singers Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey as soloists. Lakshmikant and Pyarelal, who were on top of the game as composers in the Bombay film industry, played in the symphony as instrumentalists.  Such was the respect the duo had for Anthony Gonsalves. 

Every Sunday, his apartment at Sushila Sadan on Bandra’s Linking Road was open to eager students, two of whom – R.D. Burman and Pyarelal – would go on to become significant composers themselves. Unlike many of his Goan contemporaries, whose western-trained ears couldn’t quite wrap themselves around the sinuous lines of Hindustani tunes (though they could play them well enough from a score), Gonsalves developed a deep love for raga-based music.

He also collaborated with Anil Bishwas, Gulam Haidar, Shyam Sundar, Naushad, Sachin Dev Burman, Ghulam Mohammed, Salil Chowdhary, and Madan Mohan, among others. 

Anthony’s psyche was harmed by an incident in 1959, from which he never fully recovered. B.V. Keskar, the then-Minister of Information and Broadcasting, refused to let Anthony compose a score for an animation film because Keskar held the barbaric view that “Indian Christians should not even be provided with jobs.” This was the same person who prohibited harmonium use on All India Radio. 

Anthony moved to Syracuse, New York, in 1965 to join the university’s music department. He became a member of the American Society of Composers, Publishers, and Authors after moving to the United States in 1958. There, his son Kiran and daughter Laxmi were born. He returned to India in the early 1970s and settled in his ancestral village of Majorda. He never worked in the music industry again. All the symphonies and orchestral scores he wrote and conducted during his career are housed in a rusted trunk. Symphony in Raga Multani, for example, is a testament to his lifelong love of Indian Classical Music. He still hopes that they will be revived and replayed someday.

At the 41st International Film Festival of India in Panaji, Gonsalves received the Karmaveer Puraskar, a national people’s award, at 83. 

Anthony Gonsalves died on January 18, 2012, at 84, in Goa. 


Hum Aap ki ankhon mein -Pyaasa

Baithi Hoon Teri Yaad Ka – Village Girl’ 45 – Shyam Sundar  |  Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De – Pahli Nazar’ 45 – Anil Biswas  |  Zamaane Ka Dastoor Hai Yeh – Lajwaab’ 50 – Anil Biswas  |  Chhalak Raha Hai – Dholak’ 51 – Shyam Sundar  |  Seene Mein Sulagte Hain Armaan – Taraana’ 51 – Anil Biswas  |  Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahaan – Jaal’ 52 – SD Burman  |  ‘All Songs’ – Do Beegha Zameen’ 53 – Salil Chowdhary  |  Hum Aapki Aankhon Mein – Pyasa’ 57 – Sd Burman

%d bloggers like this: