Veteran music composer Vanraj Bhatia dead at 94

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With Shyam Benegal, he found his niche in parallel cinema, blending the western with the Indian classical idiom

Veteran music composer Vanraj Bhatia died in Mumbai on Friday after a brief illness, a former colleague said.

The 94-year-old virtuoso, who scored the music for Shyam Benegal classics like Ankur and Bhumika and TV series Yatra and Bharat Ek Khoj (Discovery of India) lived alone at his apartment at the Rungta Housing Colony on Napean Sea Road.

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After graduating from the Elphinstone College here, he trained in western classical music in London and Paris.

On returning home, he joined the advertising world, working for a phenomenal 6,000 ad jingles, most famously the La laaala la refrain for a soap endorsement filmed by a waterfall.

With Benegal, he found his niche in parallel cinema, blending the western with the Indian classical idiom. He created the soundtracks for Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane and Kundan Shah’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.

His last work was an opera titled Agni Varsha which was performed in New York.

Among the awards he won are the National Award for Best Music for Govind Nihalani’s TV series Tamas and also the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

He received India’s fourth-highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri in 2012.

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