Udit Narayan has produced Bhojpuri films in the '90s, Kumar Sanu had tried his hands at producing, composing music (Utthaan) and even playing the lead in a Bengali film.
With reference to composers, Naushad had produced films and written their stories and screenplays, usually without taking official credit. Salil Chowdhury wrote Pinjre Ka Panchhi and co-wrote several films, including having the credit for the story of Do Bigha Zamin. Singer-composer Hemant Kumar produced the classics Bees Saal Baad and Khamoshi among other films. R.D. Burman has acted in Bhoot Bungla and Pyar Ka Mausam. Hridyanath Mangeshkar turned producer with Lekin in 1991.
Anu Malik played a pandit in Bride And Prejudice and Bappi Lahiri has produced films like Rock Dancer and Love Story 98 and acted in so many films, beginning with Kishore Kumar's production Badhti Ka Naam Dadhi. Kishore himself was the biggest multi-talent of them all – besides his core strengths of acting and singing, he wrote, produced, directed and edited films and also wrote lyrics and composed music – with memorable results in films like Jhumroo, Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein and Door Ka Rahi.
Today, Himesh Reshammiya, after trying his hand at singing (from Aashiq Banaya Aapne, though he is also heard a bit in Zameen) and playing the lead (from Aap Kaa Surroor) has also turned film producer and written stories, coming full circle from his beginnings as a producer and story writer of successful television serials like Andaz.
So perhaps moonlighting was always there – but never as huge as it is now. Today, every artiste in the industry wants to try out something else – if not as an alternative career to just exhibit his or her other skills to the world. "Look, I can do this too!" just about sums it up.
But it is also a sign of the changing times in Hindi cinema that people are allowed to do their own thing. In the mid-'90s, Anand Raaj Anand, when he had come to make it in Hindi films as a composer, singer and lyricist, was asked what he actually wished to do. He decided to choose a career as a composer, though he ended up writing lyrics for his first film Masoom and also singing for it. Thanks to this 'decision', he could get opportunities to work with top lyricists like Anand Bakshi and Sameer and have a dominant position that lyricists never have in Hindi cinema unless they made it really big like Bakshi and Sameer!
Circa the late 2000's, Piyush Mishra was luckier – he could simultaneously be a lyricist, composer, singer and actor in assorted films from Gulaal to Agneepath and Gangs Of Waaseypur.
It is the opening up of mindsets to look at people as talents rather than just slot them in specific categories and let them bloom that has enabled so many talents to try what they want. Singer-composer Mithoon has turned lyricist with 3G and crooner Sonu Kakkar has written the Punjabi version of one of the songs in this film, 'Khalbali', without singing it!
Swanand Kirkire, who has achieved a formidable reputation as a lyricist, has often sung in films and acted too, but apart from that he has been assistant director and actor (Eklavya) and writer (Chameli). Prasoon Joshi turned composer with one song, 'Kaun Si Dor', for Prakash Jha's Aarakshan.
A major example of moonlighting was Sanjay Leela Bhansali developing his passion for composing melodies (which was also Raj Kapoor's and V. Shantaram's forte) and taking official credit for the music (a la Bengal's Satyajit Ray) in one song in Saawariya, the entire soundtrack of Guzaarish and the forthcoming Ramleela. Director Govind Nihalani wrote the lyrics of 'Tujh Sang BaandhiDor' for his film Dev. As we all know, his core strengths are quite different – cinematography and direction, though he co-writes most of his movies in the latter capacity!
We are also aware that most actors and actresses have tried their hand at playback singing, with Amitabh Bachchan becoming spectacularly successful at it. Salman Khan actually tried his hand at writing lyrics ('Most Wanted' from Wanted) besides singing this and several others numbers. He has also given the story ideas for his old films Baaghi and Chandramukhi, besides being credited with the story of Veer. And Dharmendra wrote a Punjabi song, 'Kad Ke Botal', for Yamla Pagla Deewana.
Guddu Dhanoa, who co-produced Shah Rukh Khan's debut film Deewana and later directed several films, played a negative role in Wanted. Anurag Kashyap also played a key role in Luck By Chance. Of course, Prabhudheva has made a third career out of directing films (Wanted, Rowdy Rathore) besides acting and choreography.
Of course, with Prabhudheva and a lot of such talents, it is about a second career option – Farah Khan and Remo D'Souza being two more examples of choreographers wanting to turn directors.
But we also have the dabblers – Subhash Ghai turned singer in Meri Jung (for a duet with his composer Laxmikant) and wrote lyrics for Jogger's Park, apart from a title-song for a Saira Banu-produced serial with music by Jatin-Lalit, composers with whom he never otherwise worked.
For some artistes, a lucky break may even show them their main area of strength. Amitabh Bhattacharya, who had come to Mumbai to become a singer, assisted Pritam and would write dummy lyrics for him and others. In a matter of months, he got a break as a lyricist and never looked back, even if he continues to occasionally sing. He even has a National award for the song he wrote, 'Agar Zindagi' in I Am! In the past, Raj Khosla and Anand Bakshi, both of whom had come to Mumbai to turn singers, turned to direction and lyrics respectively to emerge as giants in their fields! Of course, Khosla did sing a song or two (as in the 1950 Ankhen), but Bakshi ended up only moonlighting as a singer from Mom Ki Gudia onwards, though he did an acting cameo in Picnic in his struggle phase!
Space constraints forbid many more examples here from the past. But whatever be the cause (or effect), moonlighting is bound to be attractive in a creative field for, as we have seen, various reasons. And in the open environs of cinema today, it will only grow bigger.