films
Films with only background music composed by Salil Chowdhury

I don't know any other music director who composed only the background music for so many films. Well, Salil was incredibly good at it and composed just the background music for a large number of Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil films and quite few Film Division documentary films. In a recent interview (1992) this was one of the questions Dr. Chandrasekhar of Dubai asked him. I quote Salil's reply :

"You've asked me why I have done so many background music scores for the songless films that crop up from time to time. This requires a certain degree of skill in timing the length of the footage with the duration of the piece to be recorded. I had established some sort of reputation for this soon after I had begun composing regularly in Bombay. I remember once there was a knock on my door at about 2 am and I found Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh and S.D. Burman standing on my doorstep, the latter wearing a worried expression. Sachinda had been signed up for Bimal's "Devdas", but apparently Bimal had not been happy with his background music for the last few reels of the film. So, at short notice early next morning, I was compelled to compose and record four reel's worth of music for the ending of "Devdas", uncredited, as our relationships were very cordial."
I think the first songless film of Salil, which has the most incredible background music was 'Qaanoon'(1960). Since then Salil composed the music of 'Sara Akaash',' Kal Patthar', 'Ittefaaq', 'Chiruthaa','Chehre Pe Chehra' etc. There was even an LP released called 'Dramatic scenes of Kala Patthar (ECLP 5645)'.
Interestingly, B.R.Chopra's MD was always Ravi, so why did he choose Salil for Qaanoon and Ittefaq ? I was told that B.R. was very much impressed by the background music Salil composed for a number of Documentary films for the Film Division of India such as Gautam Buddha, From Indus Valley to Indira Gandhi etc and also several other films before that.
In addition, there is another small extract taken from B.R. Chopra's own narrative piece entitled, "The making of 'Ittefaq'" from the magazine, 'Tinsel Town', December, 1997 :
"Though a lot of people pressurised me into including songs, I firmly stood by my decision (not to). But I was aware that the background music would play a significant role in the film. So I opted for Salil da who was an expert in scoring background music. As expected the music did enhance the film to a great extent."
For a complete list of his documentatry films, TV Films and TV serials go to the TV Films and TV Serials page. Below is a list of all his songless hindi films I could find. Often Salil used snippets of his background music to create new songs and sometimes used a song's melody line with some variations as background music....

Nr Year Film
SL1 1960 Qaanoon
SL2 1968 Anokhi Raat
SL3 1969 Ittefaaq
SL4 1969 Sara Akaash
SL5 1978 Naukri*
SL6 1979 Kalaa Patthar
SL7 1980 Chehre Pe Chehra
SL8 1980 Chirutha
SL9 1981 Plot no. 5
SL10 1984 Qanoon Kyaa Karegaa
SL11 1986 Zevar
SL12 1989 Kamala ki Maut
SL13 1972 Achaanak **
SL14 1975 Mausam ***

Strictly speaking not every film listed here is a songless film. There are one or two exceptions and I have identified them below.

The MD of 'Anokhi Raat' was Roshan. Salil completed the background after his death.
The MD for 'Kalaa Patthar' was Rajesh Roshan and there are of course songs composed by him The dramatic background music is however composed by Salil.
The music director for 'Chehre Pe Chehre' was in fact N.Dutta. Salil only did the background.
Film 'Kamla ki Maut' has a background song by Runa Laila - 'Ranjish hi sahi'. It's not a Salil composition.
The story and the background music of Naukri* directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee is by Salil. The MD was R.D.Burman.
**Achaanak' is a Gulzar Film (with Vinod Khanna) and Basant Desai is the MD. Salil's permanent assistant Sebastian was also assisted him in this film.
*** Mausam is also a Gulzar Film. MD was Madan Mohan and there are 5 songs composed by him. After his death Salil did the background.

Salil also composed only the background music for three malayalam films - 'Dweep' and 'Abhayam' and 'Vellam' and a Tamil Film called "Uyir". Seems like Uyir was Salilda's first entry into Tamil Films. Received some more details on Uyir from an ardent admirer: Its a TVS Productions film certified on 10.3.1971 and released on 12.3.1971 Director/Dialogues - P.R. Somu, Music - Ramana & Sreedhar, Cast :  S.P.Muthuraman, B. Saroja devi etc.