indian cinema heritage foundation

Viju Shah

Music Director
  • Real Name: Vijay Kalyanji Shah
  • Born: 5 June, 1959 (Bombay)
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Parents: Kalyanji Shah
  • Spouse: Sunanda Shah
  • Children: Priyal Shah

Music composer Viju Shah is known for composing the hit music scores of films such as Vishwatama (1992), Mohra (1994), Tere Mere Sapne (1996), Gupt (1997), and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998). His background score for Gupt also bagged him the Filmfare Award. Son of Kalyanji Shah and nephew of Anandji Shah, who comprised the famous music director duo, Shah worked closely with both as a music arranger since Don (1978). Experiencing first-hand the shift from acoustics to electronics in Hindi film music, he was inspired to create a dynamic sound using the synthesiser. His catchy and melodious use of electronics in his music has led him to be known as the King of Synth Sounds. Composing hit songs such as Saat samundar paar, Tu cheez badi hai mast, Tip tip barsa pani, Kisi disco mein jaayein, Duniya haseenon ka mela and Gupt gupt, Viju Shah has given Hindi film music some of its most foot-tapping as well as edgy songs.

He was born Vijay Kalyanji Shah on 5 June, 1959, the son of music director Kalyanji Virji Shah of composer duo Kalyanji Anandji fame. He worked closely with his father and uncle as a music arranger since Don (1978). Experiencing the shift from acoustics to electronics in Hindi film music, he became enamoured of the synthesiser over the harmonium. Relishing the freedom it provided, he dreamt of doing with electronics what Laxmikant-Pyarelal did with acoustics – making the sound big and dynamic.

His work on the synthesiser gave Kalyanji-Anandji’s soundtracks for Qurbaani (1980) and Jaanbaaz (1986), an added edge. Apparently, filmmaker Feroz Khan, director of these actioners, would sit with him to discover what sounds could be produced from the ‘brand new toy’. As the music arranger of Kalyanji-Anandji, his penchant for new sounds is also seen in the songs of Rajiv Rai’s Yudh (1985). 

Interestingly, while Rajiv Rai’s father, producer Gulshan Rai, had assigned Kalyanji-Anandji the task to compose the soundtrack for Tridev (1989), Rajiv and Viju worked on the tunes including future hit Tirchi topiwale, and even got them approved. The film, as well as the music, proved to be a huge success. However, on account of a contractual agreement, it was Kalyanji-Anandji who were credited as composers, while Viju Shah was credited as conductor.

Tridev saw Viju making maximum use of electronics for the first time. When Rajiv suggested he produce the thekas electronically, Shah added dholaks and sitar to make the sound bigger in Tirchi topiwale. He and Rai went on to work together in Vishwatma (1992). Despite the film not faring well and under pressure to change the music composer for his next, Rai stuck with him for his next, Mohra (1994). Faced with the criticism of having a similar composing style in Tridev and Vishwatma, Shah composed a variety of different songs in the Akshay Kumar-Raveena Tandon starrer. The songs, including Tu cheez badi hai mast, Subah se lekar, and Tip tip barsa pani, became chart-toppers. The music album went on to become the second most-sold Hindi film soundtrack album of the year, selling more than 8 million units, behind only Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994). 

Shah further came into his own with Gupt (1997). The film was a thriller which told the tale of a brooding young man on the run after being falsely accused of killing his stepfather. Encouraged by filmmaker Rajiv Rai, Shah adopted trance and garage music for the soundtrack. 

Shah scored the music for romance and comedy films such as Tere Mere Sapne (1996) and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998); however, his real skill lay in the action and thriller genres. Club songs and erotic dance numbers were his speciality. He also created an interesting soundtrack for Ketan Mehta’s Aar Ya Paar (1997). A mystery crime thriller adapted from James Hadley Chase’s 1954 novel, The Sucker Punch, it included songs such as Dil diya pyar kiya by Asha Bhosle, Sudesh Bhosle, and Aar ya paar. 

For Rajiv Rai’s Asambhav (2004) soundtrack, Shah incorporated strong splashes of EDM. However, Shah’s career lost momentum after Rai stopped making films in 2004. He did go on to have a hit with his music for John Matthew Matthan’s Shikhar (2005) which included songs such as Fitna dil rendered by Sunidhi Chauhan, Udit Narayan and KK, Aap ko samjha, and Dheere dheere. 

While he won the Filmfare Best Background Score award for Gupt, he was also nominated on multiple occasions for his work in Mohra, Tere Mere Sapne, Gupt, Vishvatma, Raavan Raaj, Andaaz Apna Apna, and Lootere.

Dubbed the King of Synth Sounds, in 2020, Viju Shah was seen in an episode of the show Times of Music for OTT platform MX Player. Here he recreated Javeda zindagi + Maula mere from the film Anwar (2007), composed by Mithoon. In return, on the same episode, Mithoon recreated Tip tip barsa paani from the film Mohra, composed by Shah. Shah is also a huge draw at various Garba/ Dandia nights, playing multiple synthesisers. 

Married to Sunanda Shah, his daughter Priyal Shah pursues Western Classical piano. 


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