Salil Chowdhury was an Indian music composer, who mainly composed for Bengali, Hindi, and Malayalam films. He was also a poet and a playwright. He is affectionately called Salilda by his admirers. Salil's childhood was spent in the tea gardens of Assam. From an early age he listened to the Western Classical collection of his father. His father was reputed to stage plays with coolies and other low-paid workers of the tea-gardens.
He graduated from Bangabasi College, affliated to the University of Calcutta in Kolkata and it was during this period of time that his political ideas were formulated quickly along with a considerable maturity in his musical ideas. He was a man with excellent talent. In 1944, a young Salil came to Calcutta for his graduate studies. He joined the IPTA (Indian Peoples Theater Association) the cultural wing of the Communist Party of India. He started writing songs and setting tunes for them.
The IPTA theatrical outfit travelled through the villages and the cities bringing these songs to the common man. Songs like Bicharpati, Runner and Abak prithibi became extremely popular with the general population at the time. Songs like Gaayer bodhu, which he composed at the age of 20, brought about a new wave of Bengali music. Almost every notable singer at the time from West Bengal had sung at least one of his songs. A few examples are Hemanta Mukherjee, Shyamal Mitra, Manabendra Mukherjee and Pratima Banerjee.
His family was original from Village Baharu, of 24 Pgs(S). His first Bengali film "Paribortan" (translation: Transformation) was released in 1949. "Mahabharati" released in 1994 was the last of his 41 Bengali films. Salil da's debut in the Hindi Film Industry came in 1953 as the Music Director for Do Bigha Zamin by Bimal Roy. The film was the cinematic version of Salil Chowdhury's short story named "Ricksawala". It also took his career to new heights when it became the first film to win the Filmfare Best Movie Award and won the international Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
After about 20 years in Bengali and Hindi films, Salil da entered Malayalam films in 1964 with Chemmeen. Almost all of his Malayalam songs became popular irrespective of the performance of the films they were made for. He went on to compose for over 75 Hindi films, over 40 Bengali films, around 26 Malayalam films, and several Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Oriya and Assamese films.
Salil da's music showed an equally rich blend of Western and Indian classical music. Some of his straight adaptations of Western Classical Music include "Itana na mujhse tu pyar badha" from Chhaya - based on Mozart's Symphony No. 40, "Raaton ke saaye ghane" from Annadata - based on works by Chopin. Salil Choudhry broke into mainstream Hindi music with his stirring compositions for Madhumati starring Dilip Kumar and Vaijaintimala.
Songs like "aaja re paradesi" and "dil tadap tadap" are immortal classics. Salil's music was a unique blending of the Eastern and the Western music traditions. Salil Chowdhury was married to Sabita Chowdhury. He has two daughters and two sons. Salilda's wife was a very good singer and daughter, Antara Chowdhury is currently a performing artist in her own right.
She recently sang for Sudhir Mishra's hit Khoya Khoya Chand in a duet with Sonu Nigam. Antara has many forthcoming projects intended to preserve the legacy of her father and bridge the gaps between old and new generations. A new album entitled Generations: Volume 1 produced by her brother, Bobby Chowdhury with compositions by Salil Chowdhury and Sanjoy Chowdhury is slated to be released spring 2008.
Hindi and Bengali singles from the album have been released on the iTunes Music Store worldwide. These include in Hindi, "kyon beheke hain / stranger" and "chale ayona / so far away" with lyrics by Yogesh and music by Sanjoy and in Bengali, "esho boshona / sit beside me" and "dur ojanate / far away" with lyrics by Salil Chowdhury and Tarun respectively and music by Sanjoy.