Indian film industry’s most well read and accomplished music composer, Vanraj Bhatia was born in Bombay in 1927. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was trained in Western classical music. He even enrolled himself into the Royal Academy of Music, learning under the likes of Howard Ferguson and William Allwyn, and came down from it with a Gold Medal in 1954!
He even enrolled at the Paris Conservatory and won numerous scholarships all through this while, including the French Government Scholarship for 1957-58. In the beginning of his career, he taught musicology at Faculty of Music, Delhi University, where he joined as a Reader. Simultaneously, he was composing music for jingles and soon became a rather sought after ad film maker, composing almost seven thousand scores for advertisements and corporate films. He also relocated to Mumbai around this time. It wasn’t, however, until 1974 that he bagged his first film with Shyam Benegal, an association that was to last for a long time.
Though he began by composing background score for documentary films and even composed background score for “The Householder” (1963), it was with Shyam Begenal’s debut “Ankur” (1974) that Vanraj made his debut as a music director! Thereafter, his music was a regular feature of Shyam Benegal’s and other parallel cinema directors’ films. Some of the most notable films that he did with Shyam Benegal were “Manthan” (1976), “Nishaant” (1975), “Bhumika” (1977), “Mandi” (1983) and many more.
He is also known for his discovery of Preeti Sagar, for whom he composed “Mero Gaon” (“Manthan”, 1976) and “Tumhare Bin Jee Na Lage” (“Bhumika”, 1977). The music of “Tamas” (1987) also won him the National Award. Another feather in his cap was the music for “Sardari Begum” (1996) and “Hari Bhari” (2000), while he also composed for non-film albums all through this while.