Bhatia’s first feature film score was for Shyam Benegal’s directorial debut Ankur (1974), and he went on to score almost all of Benegal’s work, including the song “Mero Gaam Katha Parey” from the film Manthan (1976). Bhatia predominantly worked with filmmakers in the Indian New Wave movement, such as Govind Nihalani (Tamas, which won Bhatia a National Film Award for Best Music Direction), Kundan Shah (Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro), Aparna Sen (36 Chowringhee Lane), Saeed Akhtar Mirza (Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho!), Kumar Shahani (Tarang), Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Khamosh), Vijaya Mehta (Pestonjee) and Prakash Jha (Hip Hip Hurray). In the 1990s, he also composed background scores for mainstream films such as Ajooba, Damini and Pardes.
Bhatia has scored television shows such as Khandaan, Yatra, Wagle Ki Duniya, Banegi Apni Baat and the 53-episode Bharat Ek Khoj based on Jawaharlal Nehru’s The Discovery of India, as well as numerous documentaries. He has also released albums of spiritual music on the Music Today label, and composed music for trade fairs such as Expo ’70, Osaka and Asia 1972, New Delhi.
Born into a family of Kutchi businessmen, Bhatia attended the New Era School in Bombay and learnt Hindustani classical music as a student at Deodhar School of Music. After earning his M.A. (English Honours) from Elphinstone College, University of Bombay in 1949, Bhatia studied composition with Howard Ferguson, Alan Bush and William Alwyn at the Royal Academy of Music, London, where he was a recipient of the Sir Michael Costa Scholarship.
On returning to India in 1959, Bhatia became the first person to score music for an advertisement film in India (for Shakti Silk Sarees), and went on to compose over 7,000 jingles, such as Liril, Garden Vareli and Dulux. His background score credits in Hindi movies with songs include Ajooba, Beta, Damini, Ghatak, Pardes, Chameli and Rules: Pyar Ka Superhit Formula.