The year was 1990 I was just out of college and selling Xerox machines for a living and Gulshan Kumar had just given us a mega hit film . Aashiqui with Rahul Roy and Anu Aggarwal. On a hot summers afternoon I was ushered into the Super cassette office (that was the name of Gulshan Kumar’s founding company back then ) in Okhla. I was there to sell the company a Xerox machine
Finally after the mandatory waiting I was ushered into an office that was almost like entering a Mandir religious pictures adorned every wall. I was introduced to the Gulshanji and I was struck by the almost angelic smile that was his expression. With an almost childlike curiosity he asked me a number of questions and then with a switch of mood asked me how much of a discount I would give him if he bought more than one machine. Beneath the veneer was the hardnosed businessman that was a legend to youngsters like me. He was the inspiration of a whole generation looking to make it big
Why was his story inspiring, legend has it Gulshan Kumar born in the early 50’s began business at a small corner juice vendor shop in Daryaganj in Delhi. Not content with his business he soon bought over a cassette and record shop in the area and thus began his journey to the music world. At the time what I had heard was that not long after that seeing an opportunity of selling music cassette tapes to a large audience at cheap prices he set up the factory where I went to meet him to manufacture low cost cassettes that could be sold to millions.
As the years rolled on and the business spread T Series Gulshan Kumar’s music label became the No 1 not only for film music but religious music and regional music as well. The T Series cassette was the Maruti of the time, wherever in India you went, at music shops small and big, T Series cassettes were sold at very affordable prices. The T Series cassette retailed for Rs 15 against a regular blank Sony cassette for Rs 50. A deeply religious man, Gulshan set up a ‘bhandara’ which served free food to pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine up at Katra in Jammu. The film city in Noida became the hub of the T series empire.
Not long after came Gulshan Kumar’s tryst with Bollywood. He made some big hits of the time Lal Dupatta Malmal Ka in 1989, Aashiqui in 1990 and the Aamir Khan-starrer Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi in 1991 were some of his big banner films that went on to be jubilee hits at the time.
The in the 1990’s I remember reading in the newspapers that Gulshan Kumar was being served with death threats by the underworld. Then on August 12, 1997 came the shocking news that Gulshan Kumar had been shot down at the Jeeteshwar Mahadev Mandir in Andheri in Mumbai by hired killers.
The story goes that Nadeem Saifee of composer duo Nadeem-Shravan was suspected of being the cause of the murder after a fall out with Gulshan Kumar over marketing and rights of Nadeem’s music. It was alleged that the composer got gangster Abu Salem to orchestrate the murder of the music mogul after which Nadeem fled the country. That day in August 1997 was the end of a chapter written by an industrious every smiling mogul Gulshan Kumar who had forever changed the way music was bought and listened to in India.