Bollywood's Legendary Lyricists
Kavi Pradeep (1915-1998): A born poet, Pradeep had a passion for writing and rendering Hindi poetry since his early student days. He hypnotized the audiences at ‘Kavi Sammelans’ with his inimitable style. After graduating from Lucknow University in 1939, Pradeep went to Bombay (now Mumbai) to participate in a kavi sammelan where Himanshu Roy of Bombay Talkies offered him his first film Kangan. Pradeep shifted to Mumbai and wrote four songs for the film, all of which became very popular. His next film was Bandhan for which he wrote all the songs that became huge hits. The most notable was ‘Chal Chal Re Naujawan which made waves since the freedom movement was at a crucial juncture. He worked on five more movies of Bombay Talkies, which included Puranmilan, Jhoola, Naya Sansar, Anjan and Kismet. Kismet is famous for the patriotic song ‘Aaj Himalay Ki Choti Se Phir Humne Lalkara Hai’. Mashal was his next film and it features the extremely popular song ‘Upar Gagan Vishal, Neeche Gehra Patal’, sung by Manna Dey. Pradeep was at his creative zenith when he wrote the songs of Nastik and Jagruti. He even lent his voice for the evergreen hit ‘Dekh Tere Sansar Ki Halat Kya Ho Gayee Bhagwan’. Jagruti is considered to be among his best work because of the hit songs, ‘Aao Bachchon Tumhe Dikhayen Jhanki Hindustan Ki, ‘Hum Layen Hain Toofano Se Kishti Nikal Kar’ and De Di Hamein Azaadi Bina Khadag Bina Dhal’. Even in 1960s when producers preferred Western music and fast numbers, Pradeep stood his ground with ‘Insaan Ka Insaan Se Ho Bhaichara, Yahi Paigam Hamara’, ‘Chal Akela Chal Akela Tera Mela Peeche Choota Rahi’, ‘Jo Diya Tha Tumne Ekdin Mujhe Wahi Pyar Do’ and Ek Karz Mangta Hoon Bachpan Udhar Dedo’. He continued to show his brilliance in the 70s in the super hit movie Jai Santoshi Maa. Pradeep is famous for his masterpiece song he penned during the 1962 Indo-China war, sung by Lata Mungeshkar in the presence of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was moved to tears. Kavi Pradeep received numerous awards throughout his life culminating with Dada Saheb Phalke Award for the year 1997-98, months before his death.
Bharat Vyas (1918 – 1982): The writer of the immortal prayer song, ‘Ae Malik Tere Bande Hum’, Bharat Vyas entered Bollywood as a lyricist with Duhaai (1943) for which he wrote all the nine songs. The music of Duhaai attracted the attention of producer-director W. Z. Ahmed who owned Shalimar Pictures. At Shalimar Bharat Vyas started by writing 12 songs for film Prem Sangeet. The biggest musical success of Shalimar Pictures was Man Ki Jeet (1944) for which Bharat Vyas wrote two songs that became big hits – ‘Ae Chand Na Itarana, Aate Hein Mere Sanyya’. He developed a close working relationship with composer Khemchand Prakash, giving musicals like Ziddi, Bijalee, Tamasha, Muqaddar etc. The fiftees were the most productive years for Bharat Vyas. He worked with many top directors such as Bimal Roy, V. Shantaram and Vijay Bhatt. In fact, he had an uninterrupted success for two decades in which he wrote some of the most beautiful songs of hit movies like Chandralekha, Parineeta, Toofan Aur Diya, Do Aankhen Bareh Haath, Sahare, Navrang, Goonj Uthi Shehnai, Hum Hindustani, Stree, Boond Jo Ban Gaye Moti, Aaj Ki Taza Khabar, Baazigar and Akele Hum Akele Tum.
Shakeel Badayuni (1916 – 1970): An accomplished Urdu poet, lyricist and song writer of the 1950s and 60s, Shakeel started participating in inter-college and inter-universities Mushairas when has studying in Aligarh Muslim University, and won frequently. He moved to Mumbai in 1944 with the ambition to write songs for films. He met producer A. R. Kardar and music composer Naushad, who signed him up for Kardar’s Dard (1947). The songs of Dard proved to be very successful especially Uma Devi’s ‘Afsana Likh Rahi Hoon Dile Beqrar Ka’. Shakeel wrote for more than 90 films and most of his films had music composed by Naushad. Together he and Naushad became one of the most sought after composer/lyricst duos in the industry. Among the stupendous scores they churned out together are those of Baiju Bawra (1952), Mother India (1957), Mghal-E-Azam (1960) that stand out. Other films they scored together include Dulari, Shabab, Ganga Jamuna, Mere Mehboob and many more musical hits. Although Badayuni worked most extensively with Naushad, he also collaborated with Ravi and Hemant Kumar to give many great hits. His most notable film with the former is Chowdhvi KaaChand while Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam is his biggest hit with the latter. Some of his other hits include Natak, Dard, Anokhi Ada, Shair, Dastan, Babul, Jadoo, Deedar, Aan, Laila Majnu, Udan Khatola, Kohinoor, Bees Sal Baad, Leader, Ram Aur Shyam, Palki, Sanghursh and Aadmi – each one a great musical. Shakeel won Filmfare Awards for three cosecutive years in 1961, 1962 and 1963 for Best Lyricist: Chowdhvin Ka Chand (Chowdhvin Ka Chand Ho Ya Aftab Ho), Gharana (Husnwale Tera Jawab Nahin) and Bees Saal Baad (Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil).
Kaifi Azmi (1914 – 2002): The renowned Urdu poet, Kaifi Azmi, like most of the Urdu poets, began as a ghazal singer. His stint in films includes working as lyricist and writer. His greatest feast as a writer-cum-poet was Chetan Anand’s Heer Ranjha (1970) wherein the entire dialogue of the film was in verse. It was a tremendous achievement and the first and the only one of its kind in Hindi cinema. Kaifi Azmi also won great critical accloads for the script, dialogues and lyrics of M. S. Sathyu’s Garam Hawa (1973). As a lyric writer though he wrote for numerous films, he would always be remembered for Guru Dutt’s classic Kagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat (1964), India’s greatest ever war film. Who can forget ‘Bichade Sabhi Bari Bari or ‘Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Situm’ from Kagaz Ke Phool and ‘Hoke Majboor Mujhe Usne Bhulaya Hoga’ or ‘Kar Chale Hum Fida Jan-O-Tan Sathio’ from Haqeeqat. Some other notable films for which Kaifi Azmi wrote lyrics include Uski Kahani (1966), Bawarchi (1972), Pkeezah (1972), Hanste Zakhm (1973) and Razia Sultan (1983). Some of his most popular songs are: ‘Baharo Mera Jeevan Sawaro’ (Akhri Khat), ‘Yeh Nain Dare Dare’ (Kohra), ‘Chalte Chalte Yun Hi Koyee Mil Gaya’, ‘Chalo Dildar Chalo’ (Pakeezah) and ‘Dekhi Zamane Ki Yari’ (Kagaz Ke Phool).
Sahir Ludhianvi (1921 – 1980): The famous Urdu poet, Sahir Ludhianvi, debuted in films with his lyrics for Naujawan (1951). Even today the film’s lilting song ‘Thandi Hawayen Lehrake Aayen’ makes hearts flutter. His first major success came the same year with Guru Dutt’s directorial debut Baazi, again pairing him with composer S. D. Burman. Together they created some of the most popular songs ever – ‘Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahan (Jaal), ‘Jayen To Jayen Kahan’ (Taxi Driver), ‘Teri Dunia Mein Jeene Se To Behtar Ho Ke Mar Jayen (House No. 44), ‘Jeevan Ke Safar Mein Rahi (Munimji). The duo reached their creative zenith with Pyaasa (1957). Sahir, already a stalwart as the sixties approached, wrote gems for films like Hum Dono (1961), Gumrah (1963), Taj Mahal (1963), Waqt (1965), Hamraz (1967) and Neel Kamal (1968). Sahir’s work in 1970s was mainly restricted to films directed by Yash Chopra. Kabhi Kabhie (1976) saw him return to sparking form. The film won him his second Filmfare award for Best Lyricist, the first one being for Taj Mahal. A progrssive poet, Sahir penned some very meaningful songs addressing the society – ‘Aurat Ne Janam Diya Mardon Ko, Mardon Ne Use Bazaar Diya’(Sadhna), ‘Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalman Banega, Insaan Ki Aulad Hai Insaan Banega’ (Dhool Ka Phool) and who can forget ‘Yeh Dunia Agar Mil Bhi Jaye To Kya Hai (Pyaasa). A colossus among songwriters, Sahir Ludhianvi fought for, and became the first film lyricist to get royalty from music companies. Over two decades after his death, Sahir’s songs remain immensely popular.
Shailendra (1923 – 1966): One of the most popular lyricists of the golden era of Hindi cinema, Shailendra used almost all his literary genius for writing great songs which were poems in themselves. Shailendra spent his childhood in Mathura (U. P.). His father hailed from Bihar. This U.P.-Bihar cultural influence was to show later in his folk-style film songs – ‘Chadh Gayo Papi Bichhua’, Sajanwa Bairi Ho Gaye Hamar’ and ‘Abke Baras Bhaij Bhaiya Ko Bab’. Poetry was his first love. This poetic zeal and passion appealed to Raj Kapoor who was in the audience of a stage program where Shailendra recited his poems. Raj was making his first film Aag then and he immediately approached Shailendra to write songs for his next film Barsaat. From then onwards he was to become the permanent member of the famous R. K. musical quartet – Shankar-Jaikishan, Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra. This group of talented artistes was to remain together for years and make some of the greatest songs – ‘Barsaat Mein Hum Se Mile Tum’, ‘Mera Joota Hei Japani, ‘Awara Hun’, ‘Dost Dost Na Raha’, ‘Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh Mud Mud Ke’. Shailendra’s relationship with Raj Kapoor always remained special. As with Shankar-Jaikishan, Shailendra also had special rapport with S. D. Burman for whom he penned such wonderful songs like ‘O Janewale Ho Sake To Laut Ke Aana’ (Bandini) and ‘Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai’ (Guide). He also wrote beautiful lyrics for other composers like Salil Chowdhary – ‘Toote Hue Khwabon Ne’ (Madhumati). Simplicity and sincerity of his expression made his songs immortal. When Shailendra was still at the height of his glory, his film project Teesri Kasam proved to be his undoing. He could not handle the stresses and strains of filmmaking. As the film bombed at the box-office, his health suffered and Shailendra died at the age of 43 years.
Majrooh Sultanpuri (1919-2000): Majrooh was an established Hakim when he happened to recite one of his ghazals at a mushaira in Sultanpur. The ghazal became famous with the audience and Majrooh saw his calling. In 1945 he visited Bombay where the renowned poet Jigar Muradabadi introduced him to producer A. R. Kardar and composer Naushad, who put the young writer to test. Naushad gave Majrooh a tune and asked him to write something in the same meter, and Majrooh wrote ‘Jab Usne Gesu Bikhraye, Badal Aya Jhoom Ke’. Naushad liked what Majrooh wrote and gave him a break as lyricist in Kardar’s film Shahjehan (1946). The songs of the film became immensely popular. Followed S. Fazli’s Mehndi, Mehboob’s Andaaz and Shahid Latif’s Arzoo, all great musicals. Majrooh went on to write lyrics for hit movies in the 1950s and 60s. It was Majrooh’s versatility that producers swore by, for Majrooh could enthrall listeners with his every work. Majrooh won Filmfare award for Dosti. He wrote over 4000 songs and his success rate in terms of popularity of his songs was 95 percent. Majrooh was an outstanding lyricist whose songs were hummed by millions of people in India and abroad where Hindi films are a rage. Some of his most popular films include Shahjehan, Aag, Arzoo, Footpath, Baaz, Chandni Chowk, C. I. D., Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Ghar Sansar, Dil Deke Dekho, Arti, Dosti, Teesri Manzil, Mamta, Dillagi, Jewel Thief, Saathi, Pakeezah, Caravan, Samadhi, Yaadon Ki Barat, Parvarish, Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar and Pukar.
Anand Bakshi (1920 – 2002): An avid movie buff right from childhood, Anand Bakshi’s dream to become a big shot in Bollywood was realized with a chance meeting with producer Bhagwan who offered him to write lyrics for his film Bada Admi. A few years later Jab Jab Phool Khilen released and the song ‘Pardesion Se Na Ankhian Milana’ proved to be a big hit. His career took a big leap forward when the songs of Haryali Aur Raasta became chartbusters. The film had many hit songs including the timeless number ‘Bol Meri Taqdeer Mein Kya Hei’. It was Milan (1967) that finally took Bakshi to the top. Songs like ‘Sawan Ka Mhina’, ‘Bol Gori Bol’, Ram Kare Aisa Ho Jaye’ and ‘Hum Tum Geet Yug Yug Geet Milan Ke Gayen’ were hummed in every nook and corner of the country. And from then onwards, he never looked back. Followed a golden period for Bakshi whose association with Lakshmikant-Pyarelal and R. D. Burman led to such musical milestones like Farz, Do Raaste, Bobby, Amar Akbar Anthony, Ek Duje Ke Liye, Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, to name a few. His work in particularly Amar Prem stands out among his best – ‘Chingari Koi Bhadke’, ‘Kuch To Log Kahenge’ and ‘Raina Beet Jaye’. Anand Bakshi won Filmfare awards for his songs ‘Aadmi Musafir Hai (Apnapan-1978), ‘Tere Mere Beech Mein’ (Ek Duje Ke Liye-1981) and ‘Tujhe Dekha To Ye’ (Dil Wale Dulhania Le Jayenge-1995). In his 40 years career, Anand Bakshi wrote more than 4000 songs. He reigned the Hindi film industry as one of the most prolific lyricist of our times.
Gulzar (b 1934): Poet, lyricist, producer, director – Gulzar is one of those sensitive people whose work is laced with lyrical but psychologically adept examination of human sensibilities. His first break as lyricist came when he wrote ‘Mora Gora Ang Lai Lae’ for Bimal Roy’s Bandini (1963). The song was a big hit and gave Gulzar the opportunity of his lifetime – writing hit songs for films that include Anand, Namak Haram, Khamoshi, Safar, Andhi, Mausam, Lekin, Machis, Masoom, Rudali, Thodi Si Bewafai, Sadma, Ghulam, Dil Se, Satya and many more musical hits. Gulzar has won Filmfare awards for Best Lyricist seven times: Do Diwane Shahr Mein (Gharonda-1977), Aanewala Pal Jaanewala Hai (Golmaal-1970), Hazar Rahen Mudke Dekhi (Thodisi Bewafai-1980), Tujhse Naraz Nahin Zindagi (Masoom-1983), Mera Kuch Samaan (Ijaazat-1989), Yara Sili Sili (Lekin-1991), Chal Chayan Chayan (Dil Se) and Kajra Re (Bunty Aur Babli-2005). Some of his other hit songs include: Saathia Saathia and Humdum (Saathia), Dil Hoom Hoom Kare (Rudaali), Pani Pani Re (Machis), Jiya Jale (Dil Se), Aaja Mahi (Fiza) and Oh Re Kanchi (Asoka).
Javed Akhtar (b 1945): The name spells romance, intellect and aesthatics. Son of renowned Urdu poet Jaan Nisar Akhtar, Javed Akhtar has won acclaim and honor as a lyricist, screenplay writer and poet. After writing scripts of some huge hits like Zanjeer, Deewar, Sholay, Hathi Mere Sathi, Seeta Aur Geeta, Don and Trishul along with his earstwhile partner Salim Khan, Javed Akhtar took a break from script writing and concentrated his role as a lyricist. He won National Award for Best Lyricist for three consecutive years – Saaz (1996), Border (1997) and Godmother (1998). He also won Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist six times: 1942 Love Story (1994), PAPA Kehte Hain (1996), Border (1997), Refugee (2000), Lagaan (2001) and Veer Zaara (2004). In 2004 he wrote all the nominated songs. Some of his most popular songs are: Yeh Tera Ghar Ye Mera Ghar and Tumko Dekha To Ye Khayal Aya (Saath Saath), Ek Do Teen (Tezaab), Sagar Kinare (Sagar), Yeh Kahan Aa Gaye Hum and Dekha Ek Khwab To (Silsila), Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To (1942 Love Story), Sandese Aate Hain (Border), Panchi Nadian Pawan Ke Jhonke (Refugee), Mitwa (Lagaan), Dil Chahta Hai (Dil Chahta Hai), Tauba Tauba Tumhare Ishare (Chalte Chalte) and Kal Ho Na Ho (Kal Ho Na Ho).
Apart from the above noted top ten lyricists of Hindi films, there are some other great lyricists who have also written evergreen hit songs which have earned them applaud and awards – Qamar Jalalabadi, Raja Menhdi Ali Khan, Rajender Kishan, Neeraj, Indivar, Sagar Nizami, Jigar Moradabadi and Hasrat Jaipuri. They too deserve a big hand for their creative contribution to 75 years of excellence in Hindi cinema.