Veteran music composer Vanraj Bhatia has died at 94

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With Shyam Benegal, he found his place in parallel cinema, mixing the western with the classic Indian 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 composed the music of classics by Shyam Benegal such as Ankur and Bhumika and TV series Yatra and Bharat Ek Khoj (Discovery of India) lived alone in his apartment in the Rungta settlement on Napean Sea Road.

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

Back home, he joined the world of advertising, working for a whopping 6,000 advertising jingles, including the chorus La laaala la for a soap endorsement filmed by a stunt.

With Benegal, it finds its place in parallel cinema, mixing western and classical Indian idiom. He created the soundtracks for 36 Chowringhee Lane by Aparna Sen and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro by Kundan Shah.

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

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

He was awarded India’s fourth highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri in 2012.


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