The Bollywood film industry is deeply tied to music and without music composers, the Indian cinema would be incomplete. India is home to numerous eminent music composers, both in the film industry and non-film sector, and more fresh and talented musicians are making a name for themselves in the entertainment industry.
Best Music composers in India play a significant part in which these individuals and/or pairs create compositions, i.e., songs, soundtracks, background scores, etc. mainly for films. Although a few such composers may also create music or songs for non-film music albums and single tracks. In addition to creating their musical compositions, many even sing their self-created compositions, which is no surprise to us today.
Going forth, we’re going to take a look at some of the iconic music composers in India that made numerous songs for the Indian cinema which are not only melodious and well-received but are everlasting as well.
Top 20 Music Composers in India
The following are a few mentions (in alphabetical order) of the top twenty music composers in India who have contributed to Indian cinema and gained success and awards for their work.
1. A. R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman, born as A. S. Dileep Kumar, is another well-known name in both Bollywood and the South Indian cinema industry. Rahman is a music composer, songwriter, singer and record producer. He began his career in music in a Tamil film, ‘Roja (1992)’, which won him the National Film Award for Best Music Direction, Filmfare Award for Best Music Director, and the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Music Director, respectively. That was a great turning point for Rahman and he continues to give the Indian cinema iconic music that reaches the top charts.
A. R. Rahman has won several awards for his work, a few of which are fifteen Filmfare Awards for Hindi films, seventeen Filmfare Awards for South films, six National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, one BAFTA Award, and one Golden Globe Award, and two Grammy Awards. He was also honoured with the Padma Bhushan award by the Government of India.
2. Adnan Sami
Although not originally born in India, Adnan Sami made his name in Indian cinema and music as a music composer, instrumentalist and singer. He began his musical career in India with non-film solo songs and albums in the early 2000s. He composed and sang the songs himself, which were received well. His Hindi music album ‘Kabhi To Nazar Milao (2000)’ alongside popular Indian singer Asha Bhosle became popular. He has also very famous for his non-film song ‘Lift Karaa De’ with actor Govinda which rose him to popularity. He worked in several Bollywood films, like ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)’, ‘Lagaan (2001)’, ‘Ajnabee (2001)’, and many more. He’s also contributed to South Indian cinema and music.
Adnan Sami won several national and international awards for his work in Bollywood films and for his solo compositions as well. In 2016, he was given Indian citizenship and he continues his work to this day.
Two brothers, Ajay Gogavale and Atul Gogavale, aka Ajay-Atul, are music composers, music producers and performers in Indian cinema, including South Indian cinema and non-film music. The duo began their career in music in the 2000s. As music composers, both brothers have given a myriad of hit songs in various Bollywood films, like ‘Singham (2011)’, ‘Agneepath (2012)’, ‘Bol Bachchan (2012)’, ‘PK (2014)’, ‘Zero (2018)’, ‘Thugs of Hindostan (2018)’, and many more. In addition to this, the duo also composed music for South Indian films, like ‘Natarang (2010)’, ‘Sairat (2016)’, and several other films.
Ajay-Atul won many awards for Best Music Director, which include Filmfare Awards, Zee Cine Awards, Mirchi Music Awards, Times of India Film Awards, Stardust Awards, and plenty more. Ajay Gogavale was also awarded several times for Best Playback Singer in Marathi films.
4. Amit Trivedi
Amit Trivedi is a music composer, singer, instrumentalist and music director in Indian cinema. He began his musical career in Bollywood films with the film ‘Aamir (2008)’ which gained him quite a success. He then worked in another popular Hindi film ‘Dev D (2009)’, which was a breakthrough for him and won him a couple of awards for Best Music Director. The film’s song ‘Emosanal Attyachar’ made a big hit. In addition to composing music and background scores for Hindi films, Amit Trivedi also wrote and sang his own compositions.
Amit Trivedi won many awards, which include National Film Award, Filmfare Awards, Mirchi Music Award, Zee Cine Award, Star Screen Award, and the Global Indian Music Academy Awards.
Anand and Milind are brothers, Anand Shrivastav and Milind Shrivastav, and great music composers in Indian cinema, from the 1980s and even to this day. They have been known for several well-received songs in Indian cinema. The duo received success in films Ab Ayega Mazaa (1984)’, ‘Jalwa (1987)’, ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)’, and ‘Baaghi: A Rebel For Love (1990)’.
In 1989, Anand-Milind won the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director.
6. Anu Malik
Anu Malik is a popular name in Indian cinema. He is a music composer, music director, music arranger and playback singer as well. Malik began his career in the Bollywood industry in the mid-1970s, where he worked alongside several artists and many of his film songs were quite successful. But, his actual popularity came into the limelight in the 1990s for his various musical compositions. His first playback singing was for the song ‘Julie Julie’ from the movie ‘Jeete Hain Shaan Se (1987)’, which is still remembered today.
For his success as a music composer, Anu Malik won several awards and was nominated for various awards. He won his first Filmfare Best Music Director Award in 1994 for the film ‘Baazigar (1993)’.
7. Bappi Lahiri
Bappi Lahiri was acclaimed as the “Disco King” in Indian cinema. Born as Alokesh Aparesh Lahiri, he made his musical career as a music composer and playback singer in the Bollywood film industry, Bengali films and South Indian films, from the 1970s to the 2000s. Though he’s no longer with us today. He came from a family of trained classical musicians and singers. Both the Bollywood film industry and his fans remember him for two things: his disco-style music and his fondness for wearing gold jewellery, which is said to be inspired by the late American singer Elvis Presley.
He gained popularity for his music for the film ‘Zakhmee (1975)’ in which he also did playback singing. Since then Bappi Lahiri became a big name in Indian cinema, creating songs and playback singing along with notable artists during the time.
The Legendary, Bappi Lahiri has also won the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director and two Mirchi Music Awards in the category of Lifetime Achievement Award and Best Item Song of the Year, respectively. He’s also a Guinness Book of World Records holder for having the highest number of songs (over 180 songs) recorded in a single day, and for wearing 1,000 tonnes worth of gold jewellery.
Two brothers Jatin Pandit and Lalit Pandit, popularly known as Jatin-Lalit in Indian cinema, come from a family of artists. The two brothers learned music from their father and also from Laxmikant-Pyarelal, who is another great music composer in the Bollywood film industry. The duo began their career in the 1990s as music composers and are music directors, too. Their first project was for the film ‘Yaara Dildara (1991)’ and the song, ‘Bin Tere Sanam Mar Mitenge Hum’ became very popular, even to this day. Jatin-Lalit created another popular song ‘Pehla Nasha’ for the film ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992)’.
Music composers Jatin-Lalit were nominated several times for the Filmfare Best Music Director Award, from 1992 to 2006. The duo’s compositions for films, ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995)’, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)’, ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)’, and many others had hit songs.
Two brothers, Kalyanji Virji Shah and Anandji Virji Shah, popularly known in Indian cinema as Kalyanji-Anandji, are great music composers, music directors, and orchestra conductors. The duo began their musical career in the Bollywood industry in the late 1950s and until the 1990s. As a pair, they gained recognition and success in the films Himalay Ki Goad Mein (1965)’ and ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965)’.
Kalyanji-Anandji were honoured with several awards and also the Padma Shri award by the Government of India for their outstanding contribution to Indian cinema and music.
Laxmikant-Pyarelal is two legendary music composers and music directors in the Bollywood film industry. Laxmikant Shantaram Patil Kudalkar and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma are not brothers but met each other at a children’s music academy run by singer Lata Mangeshkar’s family. The duo began their career in music in the early 1960s and continued together till the late 1990s.
Unfortunately, Laxmikant-Pyarelal did not have their first film released, however, they did receive recognition for the film ‘Parasmani (1963)’ which had all of its songs very popular at that time. The duo made hit songs for the film ‘Dosti (1964)’.
Laxmikant-Pyarelal won the first Filmfare Best Music Director Award for the film ‘Dosti (1964)’. The duo won seven Filmfare Awards for Best Music Directors and was nominated for eighteen more Filmfare awards.
11. Meet Bros
Meet Bros are two brothers, Manmeet Singh and Harmeet Singh, who are music composers and music directors in Indian cinema. The duo entered the Bollywood film industry by composing music for the films ‘Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum (2012)’ and ‘OMG – Oh My God! (2012)’ which gained them quite a success. Meet Bros also rose to fame with their songs ‘Baby Doll’ and ‘Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan’.
The duo won the Filmfare Award, IIFA Award and Screen Award for Best Director for the song ‘Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan’ alone. They also won several awards for their work as music composers in Indian cinema.
Mithoon, born as Mithun Sharma, is a music composer, singer and music director in Indian cinema. He comes from a family of musicians and is said to be related to Bollywood’s iconic music composer Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma, better known as the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo. Mithoon’s career in music began with the films Zeher (2005)’ and ‘Kalyug (2005)’ for the songs Woh Lamhe’ and ‘Aadat’, respectively. The songs were received well and his major breakthrough was in the film ‘Bas Ek Pal (2006)’ for the song ‘Tum Bin’.
Mithoon won several awards for his work as a music composer in Indian cinema. He received awards in the category of Best Music Director, Music Composer of the Year, and Best Lyricist. His song ‘Tum Hi Ho’ alone won over a dozen awards.
13. O. P. Nayyar
O. P. Nayyar was a music composer, singer and music director in Indian cinema during the 1950s and until the 1990s. His first project as a music composer began with the film ‘Kaneez (1949)’ for which he composed the background score. Nayyar is remembered for his work in films, such as ‘Baaz (1953)’, ‘Aar Paar (1954)’, ‘Mr. & Mrs. ‘55 (1955)’, ‘C.I.D (1956)’, and several more.
He is also remembered for his popular songs ‘Kajra Mohabbatwala’, ‘Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawaanon Ka’, and a couple of other songs, such as those from the film ‘Naya Daur (1957)’. Other than this, it is also said that O. P. Nayyar had played a key role in the musical career of the famous singer in India, Asha Bhosle.
O. P. Nayyar won the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director in 1958. A commemorative postage stamp was also issued by India Post in 2013 bearing Nayyar’s face to honour him.
14. Pritam Chakraborty
Although known popularly in Indian cinema by his first name, Pritam is a trained music composer, instrumentalist and singer. He began his musical career in the Bollywood film industry in the early 2000s. His first work was for the Hindi film ‘Tere Liye (2001)’ and then composed music for the film ‘Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai (2002)’. He worked alongside artist Jeet Ganguly for the two films, however, the duo later split and since then, Pritam has been working as a solo music composer in Bollywood films. A few other films that gained him success are ‘Dhoom (2004)’, ‘Dhoom 2 (2006)’, ‘Life In A… Metro (2007)’, and many more.
Pritam won several awards for his musical composition in Indian cinema. A few of these are IIFA Awards, Filmfare Awards, Mirchi Music Awards, Asian Film Awards and others.
15. R. D. Burman
R. D. Burman was an iconic music composer in Indian cinema, from the 1960s to the 1990s. His father, Sachin Dev Burman was also a renowned music composer of his time, while his mother was a lyricist. His contribution to the Bollywood industry gave him the title of “King of Bollywood Music”. R. D. Burman made his first success with the film ‘Teesri Manzil (1966)’. He then worked to create more well-received music for a number of Hindi films. Out of many hits, his song ‘Musafir Hoon Yaaron’ from the film Parichay (1972)’ is still remembered today by many fans.
R. D. Burman was honoured with several awards for Best Music Director, from 1972 to 1995. He won three Filmfare Awards, one of which was to his name for the film ‘1942: A Love Story (1994)’ after his passing. He was also honoured with a postage stamp which was issued by the Government of India in 2013.
16. Rajesh Roshan
Rajesh Roshan is a music composer and music director in Indian cinema. He comes from a family of artists, where his father, Roshan Lal Nagrath Mohan was also a music director from the years the 1940s to 1960s. Rajesh Roshan began his musical career in Bollywood in the mid-1970s, in which his work for his first film ‘Kunwara Baap (1974)’ became popular. His next film ‘Julie (1975)’ won him the Best Music Director award.
His music became very popular over the years and made him rise to fame in Indian cinema. A few other Hindi films on which he works on are ‘Yehi Hai Zindagi (1977)’, ‘Do Aur Do Paanch (1980)’, ‘Sabse Bada Khiladi (1995)’, ‘Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai (2000)’, ‘Koi… Mil Gaya (2003)’, and many more.
Rajesh Roshan won two Filmfare Awards for Best Music Director in 1976 and 2001, respectively.
17. Raju Singh
Raju Singh, born as Rajinder Singh Panesar, is a music composer, background score composer, music director and singer in the Indian cinema and non-film music industry. He began his musical career in Bollywood cinema with the film ‘Waaris (1988)’, in which he played the guitar for one song ‘Mere Pyar Ki Umar Ho Itni Sanam’ under composer Uttam Singh. The song became a melody. Over the years, he worked in many Bollywood films and composed songs.
A few films in which he worked are ‘Paagalpan (2001)’, ‘Satta (2003)’, ‘Raaz – The Mystery Continues (2009)’ and many more. He also composed the background score for several Hindi films which had won him awards.
Raju Singh won the Music Mirchi Award for his work in the film ‘Raaz – The Mystery Continues (2009)’. He also won the PTC Punjabi Film Award for Best Background Score for the film ‘Punjab 1984’. He was nominated for several more awards for his work in Bollywood films, TV serials and non-film music.
Salim and Sulaiman are both brothers, Salim Merchant and Sulaiman Merchant, and are music composers in Indian cinema. They began composing music for Bollywood films in the 1990s and continue to this day. The duo has also composed background scores for several Bollywood films which were received well. They have worked in films, like ‘Neal ‘n’ Nikki (2005)’, ‘Chak De! India (2007)’, ‘Fashion (2008)’, and many more. In addition to composing music and background scores for Indian cinema, Salim-Sulaiman also composed two songs for the Hollywood film ‘Sold (2014)’.
Salim-Sulaiman won several awards, which include the Mirchi Music Awards, Filmfare Awards, IIFA Awards, Star Screen Awards, Zee Cine Awards, FHM Awards, and a couple of awards.
Shankar and Jaikishan are still remembered in Bollywood cinema for their melodious music from the 1940s until the 1980s. Born as Shankar Singh Ram Singh Raghuvanshi and Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal, the duo met at the Prithvi Theatre in Bombay (now Mumbai). The duo got their first break in Raj Kapoor’s film ‘Barsaat (1949)’ which became a high-grossing film in Indian cinema. Since then, Shankar and Jaikishan became Shankar-Jaikishan (aka S-J) to work together in dozens of films and with many legendary singers of the time. They produced several songs that became very popular, even today.
Shankar-Jaikishan won nine Filmfare Awards for Best Music Director. The duo were also honoured with the Padma Shri award by the Government of India for their contribution. A postage stamp bearing their face was also issued in 2013.
Vishal and Shekhar have made a name for themselves as music composers and singers in Indian cinema since the early 2000s. The duo, Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani, have also worked with several South Indian films. They made their first hit with the song ‘Tu Aashiqui Hai’ from the film ‘Jhankaar Beats (2003)’, and won the Filmfare R. D. Burman Award for New Music Talent. One of their songs ‘Nashe Si Chad Gayi’ topped the charts in 2016.
Vishal-Shekhar won two Annual Central European Bollywood Awards for Best Soundtrack for films ‘Om Shanti Om (2007)’ and ‘Ra One (2011)’, one Asian Film Award for Best Composer for the film ‘Om Shanti Om (2007)’, one Global Indian Music Academy Awards for Best Film Song for ‘Chammak Challo’, and a few more awards.
Bollywood, aka the Indian cinema, and fans will forever remember the iconic music composers (and those not among us) and their contributions to the film industry for their noteworthy work.
It can be said that the work of a music composer, whether in films or private music albums or solo tracks, is never to be left unnoticed. It is a great and well-deserved profession for individuals that want to make a name in the music industry.