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Khalid Mohamed rewinds to the undervalued lyricist of the people, the late Anand Bakshi

Anand Bakshi

At the outset, a quick run-through the facts: Bakshi Anand Prakash Vaid was born in Rawalpindi now in Punjab, to a Brahmin family. Reportedly, the on 21 July  family arrived in Delhi in a Dakota aircraft after the Partition, settling intermittently at Pune, Meerut and finally Delhi.

He aspired to write and become a playback singer in Hindi cinema. His voice, was however, not in the league of Mohammed Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Talat Mehmood.

In the event, he found a toehold in the Hindi films as a lyricist Brij Mohan’s Bhalla Aadmi, headlining Bhagwan Dada.One of its songs was recorded in his voice at the studio of All India Radio.


His first major success was in 1962 with Mehendi Lagi Mere Haath, composed by Kalyanji-Anandji. Followed a rousing  qawwali, Meri Tasveer Lekar Kya Karoge Tum for the little-known Kaala Samundar,  composed by N. Dutta.


And he was here to stay with the whopper hits Himalay ki God Mein and Jab Jab Phool Khile. Kalayanji-Anandji were the music directors.


Mala Sinha & Manoj Kumar in Himalaya ki God Mein (1965)

The Laxmikant-Pyarelal soundtrack for Milan earned him a lasting market with the playful duet Sawan ka Mahina Pawan Kare Shor. Bakshi, it is said, was the preferred lyricst by the then superstar. Quite astoundingly, in his career, he penned over 4000 songs and 638 films.


That brings me to the point: Ever so often, I want to kick myself. Here was a man, not quite acknowledged as a legend in his own lifetime, who wanted to talk. He had called me out of the blue to say, “Do drop by at my house in Bandra, close to the Otter’s Club, baatein karenge. Not an interview, just…over tea or ‘hard drinks’ if you like. And there’s always some great Punjabi food at my place. I’ve so much to say, things I’ve kept within me.”


Sunil Dutt & Nutan in Milan (1967)

“Li..iiike?” I drawled, curiosity aroused.


“Do you know, I used to be in the Navy? Then there was a Naval Mutiny, and the Partition happened. I had to immediately reach Lucknow to join my family,” he had narrated.


“Sure sir,” I exulted. “Will drop by soon. Your place is at Bandra, close to Carter Road, isn’t it?”


Enmeshed in the grind of daily journalism, that ‘soon’ took a long time in coming. As it happened, my friend the outstanding cinematographer Santosh Sivan was about to direct his first big Bollywood film, the Shah Rukh Khan-produced Ashoka, and wondered if I knew Anand Bakshi. Would he write the lyrics?


The wordsmith was Santosh’s prime choice. After all, of the lyricist’s songs, an incalculable number were anthemic. Consider for instance, just his output for Shakti Samanta, notably Aradhana, Kati Patang and Amar Prem; Raj Kapoor’s Bobby and Satyam Shivam Sundaram; and even a qawwali for Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay which wasn’t used eventually since the film’s running time had skittered beyond control. Never mind. 


His other Sholay tracks Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin , Holi Ke Din, Jab Tak hai jaan, Koi Haseena and Mehbooba Mehbooba, composed by R.D.Burman for the cult blockbuster, haven’t lost their zing over time.


Circa, the pre-production preps of Ashoka, Anand Bakshi wasn’t well, a terminal illness had been detected, he hardly moved out of that Bandra apartment. “Santo, I don’t know,” I reasoned. “He may not agree, he has cut down on his work. Besides, you don’t know Urdu and Hindi. How will you understand what he comes up with?”


Sensing that my friend was crestfallen. So, I called Bakshi saab to find out if he would meet Santosh Sivan. He would, adding generously, “That’s only because you’ve called up. Come over with this Santosh. We’ll see how it goes? Tell him to come over an hour after you do. Chai peene ke baad un janaab se mil lenge.”


Perhaps a cloud of loneliness and an acceptance of mortality had set in. The apartment was well-appointed, dotted with richly upholstered sofas, chairs as well stuffed as X’mas turkeys and an ageing carpet. The sunlight, though, just about filtered in.


Elaichi tea, pakoras and Santosh arrived in that order. The two got along famously. Mission accomplished? Not quite. After a month, Bakshi saab called in a panic, “Director bahut accha hai but his assistants are driving me up the wall. I feel they’re not happy with my work, they keep raising objections. I gave them this lyric San Sana San, which they had the nerve to say is stale. Stale! We’re not on the same wavelength. With your permission, I want to drop out.”


Kareena Kapoor Khan in Aśoka( 2001)

My permission? “Sir, give me five minutes, I’ll just speak to Santosh.”


“No point,I’ve done what I could, they can use my songs or thrown them in the dustbin,” he riposted firmly.“I heard that they’re already approached Gulzar for the rest of the songs. That’s fine with me. Leave all this, it’s not your fault, let’s meet as friends. I want to share so many things from my life. Is next Sunday, okay with you.” Evidently, he had many stories to tell. It has been my abiding loss that I couldn’t reconnect. That Sunday never came. Anand Bakshi passed away at the age of 72, following a heart seizure, on March 30, 2002.


Today to reconstruct his oeuvre of lyrics, is as hazardous as to pack in all the riches from an Alibaba’s cave in a carry bag. Far too many invaluable jewels, pure gold, and sparkling rarities. On the other hand, since he was unpretentious and avoided filigreed metaphors, he never acquired the status of a poet. Majority of his songs were unapologetically populist. They created instant imagery, employed an accessible vocabulary and were playful to the point of being tongue-in-chic.


“Popularity means you are not a serious writer,” he had said casually. “I’ve even been accused of vulgarity although so many of our folk songs are explicitly raunchy.” The accusations he was alluding to were vis-à-vis  Subhash Ghai’s Saat Saheliyan Khadi Khadi (Vidhaata) and Choli Ke Peechhe Kya Hai (Khal Nayak). Lapped up despite that charge of vulgarity, the lyrics sound quaintly Victorian compared to say the overtly-intended Bhaag D K Bose ditty of Delhi Belly.Today  to the infinite credit of Ghai and Bakshi ,Choli Ke Peeche has been frequently remixed and was lately one of the highpoints of Crew.


Dilip Kumar & Raj Kumar in Saudagar(1991)


Clearly a modernist, Anand Bakshi had grasped that youthful penchant for acronyms with Yeh Ilu Ilu Kya Hai  for Saudagar, contrasted by the old boys Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar breaking into the tangy duet Imli Ka Butta.  Indeed, Subhash Ghai and his Wordsworth, in a manner of speaking, formed a mutual admiration society. Their long-lasting collaboration also yielded the robustly in sync Gautam Govinda, Karz, Vidhaata, Hero, Meri Jung, Karma, Ram Lakhan, Pardes -- and  Taal, arguably one of A R Rahman’s most dance-stomp inviting Bollywood scores.


Bakshi’s songs opted to tell mini-stories-within stories, even becoming pieces de resistance of a gamut of films covering disparate genres: Evidence: Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Bandh Ho (Bobby), Bindiya Chamkegi (Do Raaste), Duniya Mein Jeena Hai Toh (Haathi Mere Saathi), Dum Maaro Dum (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), Gaadi Bula  Rahi Hai (Dost) , Maar Diya Jaaye Ke Chhod Diya Jaaye (Mera Gaon Mera Desh), Anhonee Ko Honi Kar De (Amar Akbar Anthony)… so so many more. I could go on endlessly, and seriously ask your forgiveness if I have missed out on any of your personal favorites.


He could be goofily inventive, using a string of film titles for the Mere Jeevan Saathi duet of Ek Duuje ke Liye.


Consistently catchy, and not merely for the fun songs, he could effortlessly metre mukhadas and antaras with a twist of sobriety to reveal another facet of his artistry. Check out Kuch Toh Log Kahenge and Chingari Koi Bhadke (Amar Prem), the title songs of Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki and Satyam Shivam Sundaram, and Ab Ke Sajan Saawan Mein (Chupke Chupke) besides his earliest track from the 1950s,  Dharti Ke Laal Naa Kar Itna Malaal (Bhala Aadmi).


Sharmila Tagore & Rajesh Khanna in Amar Prem ( 1972)

Perhaps the only feat Bakshi couldn’t pull off was as a superior-quality playback singer despite repeated efforts. “Try to kiya tha,” he had said over the ‘phone, “In Mome ki Gudiya I gave my voice to as many as three songs. I fancied myself maybe..lekin chala nahin.”


Inevitably towards the late ‘90s, Anand Bakshi’s prolificity and joie de music declined. He did want to look back with candour, and perhaps craved a patient listener.


But then you never expect extraordinary people to just up and go away. Like many journalists at the time, I took him for granted.


Today, his songs defy mortality.Which is why I want to gag myself, as the memory of San Sana San returns to me, it turned out to be the most chartbusting song of Sivan Santosh’s Ashoka, never mind those carping assistants. No one canonised Anand Bakshi as a poet of the people. No one could detect that maybe, just maybe he was referring obtusely to himself and a muse, when he wrote for Bobby...excerpts:


Main shaayar toh nahin

Magar ae haseen

Jabse maine dekha tujhko

Mujhko aashiqui aa gayee…


…Doston mein raha dushmanon ki tarah

Main dushman toh nahin…


..Sochta hoon agar main dua maangta

Haath apne uthakar main kya maangta?...


..Main qafir toh nahin

Magar ae haseen

Jabse dekha maine tujhko

Mujhko bandagi aa gayee

Main shaayar toh nahin…



Khalid Mohamed is a Mumbai based film critic, screenwriter, producer & filmmaker.






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Apr 13
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

There was another favourite song in Asoka ‘ Roshni se bhare bhare which was nicely written by Bakshi Saab. You didn’t mentioned about ‘Zindagi ke safar me guzar jaate hain jo mukam …..’ Anand Bakshi Saab had terrific tuning with L-P and R D. Thank you Sir for sharing your fabulous memories of Bakshi Saab with us 👏


Apr 13
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.





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