Hindi cinema has a long list of exceptionally gifted poets who have written immortal songs influencing the next generations. There were renowned, established poets contributing as lyricists, who often had their personal beliefs and ideologies subtly depicted in the verses suiting the characters on screen. At times, the songs were even derived from their already published works making the required changes.
However, there was one name among them, who neither presented himself as a poet nor craved for recognition in the literary world, solely working as a lyricist displaying an unparalleled love and dedication towards his chosen field of art. He never exhibited the influence of any religious, cultural, or political ideologies in his songs, simply writing for the given characters, stories, and situations with amazing perfection.
Probably the first songwriter of Hindi cinema purely active as a lyricist, he was Anand Bakshi, deservingly remembered as one of the best lyricists ever in the world of Hindi film songs.
The master of his art, Bakshi wrote songs that would resonate with the common man, thus becoming an integral part of our lives. But this is about his one unique song, in particular, explaining life and its unpredictable journey, with the reference of a train, expressed as:
Gaadi bula rahi hai, seeti baja rahi hai,
Chalna hi zindagi hai, chalti hi jaa rahi hai
One of its kind of lyrical marvels, it was incorporated as the theme song of Dulal Guha’s Dost (1974) that had music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal (for whom the lyricist wrote the maximum number of songs).
Comparing to the way a train keeps moving from one station to another heading towards its destination, the song beautifully reminds us how life is to be lived surpassing every obstacle in the path, facing deserts, heat, thunderstorms, rains, rivers, mountains, and more, making a path of our own. A verse in the song also points towards the people we meet as fellow travellers, who might be good or bad, creating long-lasting memories.
But most importantly, it has a verse that is perhaps the only one in the entire history of Hindi film songs talking about ‘suicides committed on railway lines’, insightfully saying:
Gaadi ka naam na kar badnaam, patri pe rakh ke sar ko,
Himmat na haar, kar intezaar, aa laut jayen ghar ko,
Yeh raat ja rahi hai, woh subah aa rahi hai, Gaadi bula rahi hai, seeti baja rahi hai
The simple lines, infuse life-lessons and positivity into the song, making it ‘a complete creation’ mentioning the beginning, the journey, and the end so beautifully, without using any tough words or a complex metaphor.
The context reminds me of another enlightening incident related to Bakshi’s lyrics when it raised a serious question only to be answered almost four decades later in his biography. It was related to the song in the film Andha Kanoon (1983) with the opening verse as:
Rotey rotey hasna seekho, hastey hastey rona,
Jitni chaabi bhari ‘Ram’ ne, utna chaley khilona
The contradiction in the song was about its protagonist, a Muslim character, Jan Nisar Akhtar [Amitabh Bachchan] singing the verses with the reference to Lord Ram, just after a dialogue mentioning Allah as the guardian of all. Though the lines truly represented the secular social structure of our nation, it didn’t gel with the story-narration of the film and I was quite unsure about the maestro coming up with such a mistake in his lyrics.
Unable to find its mention in any interviews of those years, thankfully the explanation came in the recently released biography of Bakshi, Nagme, Kisse, Baatein, Yaadein: The Life & Lyrics of Anand Bakshi, written by his son, Rakesh Anand Bakshi, mentioning the exact phrase. As stated in the book, the renowned lyricist duly realised both the mismatch and its reason post watching the film. In his words, “I made a mistake in not asking the director the name and religion of the character I was writing the song for. The director, while narrating the story and situation to me, kept referring to the lead character by the actor’s name, Mr Bachchan. Had I known Amitabh Bachchan was playing a Muslim character in the film, I would have used an example more suitable to the character’s belief and culture.”
The honest acceptance rightly proves why Anand Bakshi deserves to be remembered as the only lyricist of his kind, completely devoted to cinema, stories, and characters he always wrote for. But if one still asks for a representative verse, perfectly describing his excellence as a common man’s poet, then the two lines he wrote for the film Amrit would certainly serve the purpose, conveying:
Duniya mein kitna gham hai,
Mera gham kitna kam hai,
Logo ka gham dekha to,
Main apna gham bhool gaya
I strongly believe, life cannot be explained better than these two simple lines bringing immense peace.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)
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