My Name is Anthony Gonsalves

[Update: Anthony Gonsalves passed away in Goa on January 18, 2012, at the age of 84.]

In the 1977 movie AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY, composer Pyarelal (of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo) scored the music for the number My Name is Anthony Gonsalves that went on to become a super hit in India. Not as well known is that the opening line was Pyarelal‘s nod to his mentor, the great Goan composer and musician, Anthony Gonsalves.

Before I get to the subject of this post, let me dispose of a couple of niggles. One, I don’t find Amitabh Bachchan funny at all. His is the kind of oafish nonsense that passes for humour in India. Two, Kishore Kumar‘s pronunciation of “Gonsalves” even today grates on every Goan ear. The syllable “Gon” is phonetically close to “gone,” not to “lone.”

Anthony Prabhu Gonsalves was born in 1927 in the beautiful coastal village of Majorda in south Goa. His father, Jose Antonio Gonsalves, was a choirmaster at Majorda’s Mãe de Deus church. Musically precocious, Anthony quickly absorbed his father’s lessons and then, barely into his teens, went to Bombay to join his fellow Goan musicians. In those days, Goan Catholic musicians, with their grounding in Western music, were critical to the composers of Hindi film music as they helped in developing what became the defining sound of that genre. The Goans were also pioneers in establishing a strong culture of jazz music in Bombay. For a brief account of these then-unsung and today-forgotten Goan musicians, see this.

Anthony Gonsalves was in a league all his own. A highly cerebral musician, Anthony was ahead of his time, and that meant he was a man without a musical home. With his deep love and passion for Indian Classical Music, he did not quite fit into the mould of his fellow Goan musicians. On the other hand, he was self-taught, without much formal training in Indian Classical Music. This meant he did not have a support base in that tradition either. The musical world was not yet ready to appreciate the type of musician he embodied, a bridge between two disparate genres. The struggles and the attendant frustrations left Anthony deeply disillusioned.

An episode in 1959 was to injure Anthony‘s psyche, one from which he never quite recovered. The then-Minister of Information and Broadcasting, B.V. Keskar, in a display of bigotry, refused to let Anthony compose a score for an animation film because Keskar held the barbaric view that “Indian Christians should not even be provided with jobs.” This was the same douchebag who had banned the use of harmonium on All India Radio, and imposed his prejudices in other areas as well. For Anthony‘s sensitive soul, this was a fatal blow. He recounted the sorry tale in a conversation with me in 2008. I remember well the pain writ on his visage during this retelling 5 decades later. Here’s the relevant excerpt of that conversation –


[Update: See this for a background on Clair Weeks and his pioneering work in animation in India that Anthony refers to in the audio clip above.]

In 1965 Anthony left for Syracuse, New York, and joined the music department at the university. His son Kiran and daughter Laxmi were born there. In the early 1970s, he came back to India and retired to a quiet life in his ancestral village of Majorda. He never again worked in the music industry. All the symphonies and orchestral scores he wrote and conducted in his prime lie stashed away in an old rusty trunk. The musical works carry names like Symphony in Raga Multani and are a testament to his abiding love of Indian Classical Music. He still hopes that someday they will be revived and replayed.

I met Anthony-bab several times in 2008, and during one of our sessions recorded an extended conversation with him. He spoke about his experiences with the great music makers of yesteryear – Khemchand Prakash, Anil Biswas, Naushad, S.D. Burman, Salil Chaudhary, K.L. Saigal, Lata Mangeshkar, and many others. He cited some of the major scores he had written, such as for the movie JAAL (S.D. Burman), DO BIGHA ZAMEEN (Salil Chaudhary), and so on. An excerpt of that conversation is appended at the end of this post.

Last week I visited Anthony-bab and found that his health is in decline. In May of this year, he received an award from the Dadasaheb Phalke Foundation. Soon thereafter, a fall in his home left him confined to his bed. Other afflictions include a fading memory and impaired hearing. He is being looked after by his daughter Laxmi.

A documentary on the Anthony‘s life is slated for release in Panjim next week (Aug 5), and will be available on DVD. It has been produced by Shrikant Joshi, who made a similar documentary on composer Dattaram (Wadkar) some years ago.

Let us now turn to the photo essay. Following this series of images is an audio excerpt of my conversation with Anthony-bab.

Anthony Prabhu Gonsalves

Anthony Prabhu Gonsalves
5D, 85L II

Anthony Gonsalves at his home in Majorda

At home in Majorda, Goa (2008)
5D, 24-105L

Anthony Gonsalves at the "Mother of God" church in Majorda

At the "Mother of God" church in Majorda (2008)
5D, 24-105L

Speaking on violin technique

Speaking on violin technique (2008)
5D, 85L II

Anthony with daughter Laxmi Gonsalves at Arossim

Anthony-bab with daughter Laxmi Gonsalves at Arossim (2008)
5D, 24-105L

Anthony and wife Melita in upstate New York

Anthony-bab and wife Melita in upstate New York in 1965
Photo courtesy of: Laxmi Gonsalves

Lata Mangeshkar at Anthony's home in Syracuse, New York (1967)

Lata Mangeshkar at Anthony's home in Syracuse, New York (1967)
Photo courtesy of: Laxmi Gonsalves

Lata Mangeshkar with Melita Gonsalves in Syracuse (1967)

Lata Mangeshkar with Melita Gonsalves in Syracuse (1967)
Photo courtesy of: Laxmi Gonsalves

The maestro in his flat in Bandra in 1961

The maestro at his flat in Bandra in 1961
Photo courtesy of: Vivek Menezes

Anthony Gonsalves conducting Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey at St. Xavier's Quadrangle in Bombay (1958)

Anthony Gonsalves conducting Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey at St. Xavier's Quadrangle in Bombay (1958). Also seen are Pyarelal on the violin and Laxmikant on the mandolin.
Photo courtesy of: Vivek Menezes

Goan Quintet: (L-R) A.P. Dourado, Anthony Gonsalves, Lucila Pacheco, Luis Correia, João Anton Noronha, Bonny D'Costa at Mehboob studios (1958)

Goan Quintet: (L-R) A.P. Dourado, Anthony Gonsalves, Lucila Pacheco, Luis Correia, João Anton Noronha, Bonny D'Costa at Mehboob studios (1958)
Photo courtesy of: Vivek Menezes

(L-R): Joseph Maski, Lata Mangeshkar, Anthony Gonsalves, in 1958

(L-R): Joseph Maski, Lata Mangeshkar, Anthony Gonsalves, in 1958
Photo courtesy of: Vivek Menezes

Laxmikant-Pyarelal Nite at Shanmukhananda Hall in 1963: (L-R) Pyarelal, Anthony, Goa's 1st Chief Minister Dayanand Bandodkar, Unknown, Laxmikant

Laxmikant-Pyarelal Nite at Shanmukhananda Hall in 1963: (L-R) Pyarelal, Anthony Gonsalves, Goa's 1st Chief Minister Dayanand Bandodkar, Unknown, Laxmikant
Photo courtesy of: Vivek Menezes

As a young man...

As a young man...
Photo courtesy of: Laxmi Gonsalves

...In July 2011

...In July 2011
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 100 f/2 Makro Planar


More of my conversation with Anthony Gonsalves in May 2008 here –

  • Flaviano Furtado - November 16, 2017 - 2:31 am

    thank you Mr. Rajan for the Article.ReplyCancel

  • Hitesh Desai - September 29, 2014 - 11:08 am

    ITs a beautiful artical. I am here in USA and want to buy DVD from Shrikant joshi. How can I get it?ReplyCancel

  • Jamal Rashdi - August 25, 2014 - 9:44 am

    This is monumental work that is being shared by Mr. Parrikar. Can’t thank you enough. God Bless.ReplyCancel

  • Sankar Bhattacharyya - July 25, 2014 - 1:26 am

    Thanks a lot for sharing this information. I had no idea about the genius of Anthony Gonsalves.ReplyCancel

  • Dilip Kumar - December 26, 2013 - 11:09 pm

    I really enjoy the treasure you share with us.
    I have been following your articles,knowledge and musical clips.

    Thanks for great work

  • Chandidas Mishra - August 20, 2013 - 11:26 am

    a very moving piece. the photos are a treasure. i have been reading your articles on the various raags for many years now, here and at SAWF earlier. they are so full of instructive material, especially the audio clips of Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang”. love it all.ReplyCancel

  • raghuramulu - September 26, 2012 - 8:17 am

    great story great photos… thanx rajan … i heard about this master but not had opportunity to know so much… i’m recently visiting your site… i particularly loved your piece on bhimpalas…ReplyCancel

  • Uday Kamat - June 4, 2012 - 6:58 pm

    Thanks Rajan-bab.
    Fantastic post as always for sharing this wealth of resources just like music library!ReplyCancel

  • Avijit Sarkar - May 29, 2012 - 1:05 am

    I am a musician from Sydney Australia. This is an extraordinary article from you (like all others). Truly brought tears to my eyes.When shall Bollywood music industry learn? How many times will it turn its back towards its own foundations?ReplyCancel

  • Gary - March 20, 2012 - 2:23 am

    Its nice photos . Such a remembrance of old memories . Thanks for sharing.
    movie reviewsReplyCancel

  • Prasun Sonwalkar - January 20, 2012 - 6:49 pm

    Excellent tribute to Anthony-bab!ReplyCancel

  • venantius j pinto - January 20, 2012 - 4:21 pm

    Well put Belinda. But we do not know who did what, and who did not. In the failings of a society we all get implicated, much as we may loather it. But often for most individuals it is hard to see things as Margaret Bourke-White says: To understand another human being you have to gain some insight into the conditions that made him what he is. Hopefully more Goans will continue to reflect on such thoughts. Rajan has done his share in giving us a glimpse. In the same vein as Gonsalves, there are many Hindus as well as other musicians and those in various modes of being — not necessarily connected to the arts who deserve at the very least a compassionate glance; and more so if one thinks in terms of/value the meaning inherent in, caritas, and agape.ReplyCancel

  • Bevinda Collaco - January 20, 2012 - 5:49 am

    A touching tribute, but it gives me physical pain, that someone of his genius should be treated like an also-ran during his lifetime and then hastily pushed up on a pedestal after his death.

    The younger generation is looking for role models. Anthony Gonsalves is a better role model than most. He was not afraid to take chances and not afraid to share his knowledge.

    I also fault Lata Mangeshkar who could have done much to spread recognition and awareness of this man.ReplyCancel

  • venantius j pinto - January 19, 2012 - 11:34 pm

    Here is a blog post on Anthony Prabhu Gonsalves written with verve, sensitivity and sincerity by Rajan Parrikar. Rajan is a passionate being who calls a spade a spade, like referring to Bacchan’s humor as oafish nonsense (I can now die). The other thing Parrikar points out is: Kishore Kumar‘s pronunciation of “Gonsalves” even today grates on every Goan ear. The syllable “Gon” is phonetically close to “gone,” not to “lone.”

    In the area of music — film music in India very little is know of the contribution of the Christians, and worse barring a few very little is understood by those whose entire being appears to be propped up by that music. The point is simply that very few understand how influences, mentorships, resonances and other phenomena lead to satiation in ones being. It is such awareness, which have made your music heroes who they are in your eyes today as also the confusion as to what constitutes influence which help one forge new perspective albeit often with the same raw materials. The big names who interacted with Gonsalves were not fools so why are do many of their fans arrogate peculiar notions unto themselves. Just look at the photo of him conducting and then some poor comparisons will come to mind. I am making a point. He has something to give our directors and they were ready to receive it. They needed what he had to offer and they saw it was good.

    So why is that? Give that a thought. A clue: The modernity that many of us imbibe so comfortably has come at a price in many ways on the part of a lot of specific and rigorous productivities on the part of others, who are not in the majority. They are part of India’s minorities. This is not baseless, nor is intended to take the shine away from the big names; rather, it is to draw attention to the base on which ones heroes stand tall in our own eyes.

    THANK YOU Rajan.ReplyCancel

    • Ninad - September 12, 2018 - 7:04 am

      Wonderful man. केसकर was a bigot. The harm that these kind of people have done is immense . Anthony was brilliance beyond his time . His memory and work will live on in crores of Indian hearts ,while people will ask Keskar who ? The man who banned the harmonium on AIR ? Ha!ReplyCancel

  • Narayan Prasad - December 22, 2011 - 2:47 pm

    Rajan Saheb,

    I cannot in words tell you how much I admire your work in creating the musical blog with your own personal touch. This repository is the place to find that elusive essence that pervades all that is nadabrahma.

    please accept heartfelt gratitude and best wishesReplyCancel

  • Shreesh shukla - December 20, 2011 - 5:58 am

    Dear Rajan sahab,
    I have been a great fan of your website and not to mention your impeccable language. Your active love and respect for Indian Music is very much admired. Keep up the good work. Best wishes to you.


  • KR - November 9, 2011 - 9:59 am

    Thank you for this very informative & interesting interview with a great legend. I accidentally chanced upon it. This certainly deserves wider publication.ReplyCancel

  • Tom Bell - August 3, 2011 - 1:28 pm

    Great story. It should be in the paper.ReplyCancel

  • Michael Ali - August 2, 2011 - 2:43 am

    Great interview…..great work, RajanReplyCancel

  • Ramesh - August 2, 2011 - 12:35 am

    Amazing work, Rajan! Thanks for sharing these incredible pictures. I am deeply touched by your personal touch and perfection.ReplyCancel

  • Charu - July 31, 2011 - 3:47 am

    Thank you, Rajan, for enlightening me some more yet .ReplyCancel

  • Ignatius Fernandes - July 29, 2011 - 2:38 pm

    Thank you Rajan for exposing talented Goans to the wider world. We are downgraded by India ours is a unique talent without which Bollywood would be a shambles for our composing of music made Bollywood films and films songs entertaining.ReplyCancel

  • MK - July 29, 2011 - 2:03 pm

    Thank you. Thank you very much.ReplyCancel

  • Naresh Khattar - July 29, 2011 - 10:49 am

    Great picture tribute to a great artist. Here is wishing him all the health. Many thanks for bringing this to our notice. Is the entire interview available anywhere on your website?ReplyCancel

  • […] here: My Name is Anthony Gonsalves Posted in General Tags: 24-105l, 85l ii, bombay, composer, composers, goa, keskar, movie, time […]ReplyCancel

  • Rajendra Bora - July 27, 2011 - 12:09 pm

    Great writeup. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • chris - July 27, 2011 - 10:30 am

    Great job, as usual, Rajan.
    I saw him last year at the Kala Akademi where he was honored for his great talent. He looked old and frail. But from the photos displayed at the Akademi he cut quite a dashing figure as a young man.

  • S P NAIK - July 27, 2011 - 9:50 am

    Thanks Rajan. Great piece.ReplyCancel

  • jc - July 27, 2011 - 7:02 am

    Thank you Rajan.

    That is a lovely photoblog with a personal touch. The addition of names to the photographs adds to their significance.ReplyCancel

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