Songs by the unsung

There are writers and poets who base their work on fact, fiction, fantasy or a mix of all three. And there are the Hindi film lyricists who primarily think of how a song will appear visually on screen before using their imagination, verbal skill and ability to blend with the song’s tune.

Sadly, barring the most well-known names, the lyricist hasn’t been given as much attention by the masses as the singers or the music directors. Only a diehard fan of the genre keeps track of who wrote what, and the meaning of those words.

The death of Naqsh Lyallpuri last week thus came as a huge loss to those who have followed his genre and work. And to call a spade a spade, one isn’t talking of those who posted RIP on social media without knowing a single song he wrote.

In the film world, Lyallpuri wasn’t as prolific as many of his contemporaries. He was more involved with poetry. Yet, more than four decades later, some of his film songs remain classics. They include ‘Main toh har mod par’ (from Chetna, 1970), ‘Rasm-e-ulfat ko nibhaye’ (Dil Ki Raahen, 1973) and ‘Ulfat mein zamaane ki’ (Call Girl, 1974).

That brings us to an interesting thought. In the 1970s and early 80s, there were numerous examples of lyricists who did selective but memorable work. But before getting into details, a bit of a background.

During that period, the biggest output among lyricists came from Anand Bakshi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Gulzar, followed by Indeevar. Javed Akhtar had just made the transition from storytelling with partner Salim Khan. Past masters Hasrat Jaipuri, in Mera Naam Joker (1970) and Andaz (1971), and Sahir Ludhianvi, in Kabhi Kabhie (1976), came up with gems too. But there were others with lesser output, and yet whose work paralleled some of the legends. Maybe some were selective, maybe they didn’t get more opportunities, maybe the films flopped.

Take Neeraj, for instance. Whenever one mentions his name, one either becomes a Prem Pujari (1970) and sings ‘Phoolon ke rang se’ or becomes a Gambler (1971) and renders ‘Dil aaj shaayar’. Some will hum the classics of Sharmilee (1971) or a tune from Jewel Thief (1967). And how could one forget ‘Ae bhai zara dekh ke chalo’ from Mera Naam Joker?

Let’s look at Yogesh next. The first thing that comes to mind is two songs from Anand (1971), ‘Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye’ or ‘Zindagi kaisi hai paheli’. Followed by the Kishore classics from Mili (1975) ‘Badi sooni sooni hai’ and ‘Aaye tum yaad mujhe’. Or songs from Chotti Si Baat (1975), Rajnigandha (1974) or Baaton Baaton Mein (1979).

For his part, Shahryaar is best known for Gaman (1978) and Umrao Jaan (1981). In the former, Hariharan’s ‘Ajeeb sanehaa’, Suresh Wadkar’s ‘Seene mein jalan’ and Chhaya Ganguly’s ‘Aap ki yaad aati rahe’ remain evergreens today. As for Umrao Jaan, every song composed by Khayyam and sung by Asha Bhosle is a masterpiece.

There were others. Anjaan became the Amitabh Bachchan specialist, writing songs in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978), Laawaris (1981), Don (1978) and Yaarana (1981). Gulshan Bawra, who wrote the ultimate patriotic song ‘Mere desh ki dharti’ for Upkar (1967), began the 70s with Zanjeer (1973). Santosh Anand had ‘Ek pyaar ka naghma hai’ in Shor (1972), besides other songs in Manoj Kumar productions. Verma Malik, M.G. Hashmat and Narendra Sharma had their hits. And Hasan Kamaal wrote some outstanding pieces in B.R. Chopra’s Nikaah (1982).

Though many would insist that the 1950s and 1960s were the Golden Age of film lyrics, the 1970s were known for their variety and simplicity. Lyallpuri represented that era, and was one of the many symbols of its melodic and verbal beauty. Goodbye, Naqsh-saab.

Narendra Kusnur is a freelance music journalist

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 9:52:42 PM |

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