Today is Anand Bakshi’s death anniversary. So check out his Filmfare Interview from 2000.
His name unspools vignettes of tenderly written numbers like ”Chingari koi bhadke”(Amar Prem), “Saawan ka mahina”(Milan), “Bindiya chamkegi” (Do Raaste), “Main shayar to nahin” (Bobby), “Woh kya hai” (Anuraag), “Khilona jaan kar”(Khilona), “Teri pehli nazar ko salaam” (Ek Duje ke liye) and more recently “Tujhe dekha to”(Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge), “Le gayi,le gayi” (Dil To Pagal Hai), “Taal se taal mila”(Taal), in your mind. And like the Everready batteries, he’s still charged. And raring to go. Long after the others have fallen by the wayside.
With over 4000 songs under his belt, 38 Filmfare nominations, four Filmfare Awards in a career spanning 45 years, his is no mean achievement. At 70, Anand Bakshi’s certainly the most prolific lyricist of our times.
It all began in Rawalpindi during pre-partition. Cinema was still a nascent medium. Anand Bakshi reminisces, “There were times when I would sell my books in order to buy a movie ticket. My parents would scold me. But that never stopped me. I dreamt of coming to Bombay and doing something in films. Though I wasn’t clear what.” His natural talent for music made him popular among his friends. He’d entertain them by singing film, Punjabi folk songs and ghazals. But contrary to his literary image, Anand Bakshi studied only upto the eighth standard. “The situation were such that I had to drop out,” he recalls. “I have no formal training in writing songs.”
After serving the army for 2-3 years, Bakshi chucked it all up to come to Bombay in 1952. After three years of fruitless struggle, a depressed Bakshi returned to his old job: the army. “But I was restless,” says Anand Bakshi. “So after three years, I came back to Bombay once again. By then I’d married and had a daughter. My wife and my parents thought I was simply wasting my time. They told me to stop dreaming and to concentrate on my job. But I was adamant.”
In Bombay, Bakshi once again began his struggle, meeting people, hopping from one studio to another. To make matters worse his money was over in about three months. ” I was at the end of my tether,” he grins today. “I didn’t know what to do. I thought I should return home. But I was embarrassed to do so. What would my family say?”
Soon his struggle bore fruit. Bakshi heard that Bhagawan Dada was launching a film, Bhala Aadmi. “I went to his office at Dadar,” Bakshi flashbacks. “I told him I was a song writer. Right away he told me to write four songs. I was paid Rs 150 for those songs. It was a whopping sum those days.” The listless days however continued. And then one day Sunil Dutt, who happened to be a distant relative, send Bakshi to Raj Kapoor with a letter. But Raj Kapoor already had an established team of writers in Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. Bakshi narrates, “His assistant Hiren Kheda told me that Raj Kapoor wouldn’t be interested in me. But if he ever made a film, he would definitely give me a chance. Soon he turned producer with Mehndi Lagi Mere Haath. And I wrote the lyrics.”
Talking some more about his struggling days, Anand Bakshi remebers the day he met music director Roshan at Filmistan studio. “I still hadn’t made my mark then. He asked me to meet him the next day. That night it rained very heavily. I haven’t seen such rain in my 45 years in Bombay. There were no trains. And I couldn’t afford a taxi. “I was worried how to reach there. So I calculated the time it would me to reach Filmistan by foot from Dadar. I left four hours early the next day. When I reached Filmistan, Roshan saab was surprised to see me. He said it wasn’t important enough to go through so much trouble. I said it wasn’t important for him but it was very important for me to get work. I did CID Girl with Roshan saab.”
Soon word spread about the new writer on the block. He bagged films like ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’, ‘Milan’, ‘Do Raaste’, ‘Amar Prem’, ‘Roti’, ‘Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki’, ‘Seeta Aur Geeta’, ‘Anokhi Ada’, ‘Daag’, ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’. Films which went onto become jubilee hits at the box office. And in partnership with music direcotrs like Laxmikant-Pyarelal and R.D. Burman, Anand Bakshi slalomed to the big league. Bakshi states that he’s worked very hard to reach where he has. “Remember, we had stalwart writers like Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri, Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri. Whereas I hadn’t even passed my tenth standard. I used to get scared to write. Naturally, I had to work hard to prove myself. But there was healthy competition in those days. Sahir used to help me a lot. Even Shailendra encouraged me. He’d introduce me around. I remember he even asked me to write a qawwali in one of his films.”
But his sweetest memory is of Raj Kapoor coming to his house to sign him for Bobby. “I was thrilled,” he smiles. “He invited L-P and me for a story narration. On our way, I asked Laxmikant- Pyarelal whether Bobby was a girl or a boy. I’d written a song, ‘Hum tum ek kamre mein bandh hon’. When Raj Kapoor heard the song, he thought it would fit both the hero and the heroine.” So many anecdotes fill the air. Prod him and he mentions the time Raj Khosla explained a situation in ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’, where the hero is tied. The heroine wants to rescue the hero. “At once the dialogue between Alexander, the great and King Puru flashed in my mind. Alexander asks him, `tumhare saath kya sulook kiya jaye.’ I got my song Maar diya jaye ya chhod diya jaye.” Achha to hum chalte hain (Aan Milo Sajana)came after hours of futile discussions with Laxmikant-Pyarelal. When he still couldn’t figure what to write, Bakshi got up and said, `Achcha to hum chalte hain’. Laxmikant asked, “phir kab miloge?’ And lo! the song was born.
For ‘Bairaag’, he’d written a beautiful number for the blind Dilip Kumar. But the director Asit Sen didn’t like it. When Shakti Samanta heard it, he jumped at it. He used the ‘Woh kya hai’ song on Moshumi Chatterji in ‘Anuraag.’ Similarly the song “Maine poochha chand se”, composed by S.D. Burman was written for Ramesh Sehgal’s film. But it never got made. Later son R. D. Burman recorded it for Sanjay Khan’s ‘Abdullah’. Says Bakshi, “There are about 200-300 songs of mine which haven’t been used. They were recorded but the films never got made. They are rotting on the cans somewhere. Who knows?” He mentions “Chingari koi bhadke” from ‘Amar Prem’ as his fave song. “That song wasn’t written for any film. One evening I was sitting and the words just flowed. When Shakti Samanta and Rajesh Khanna heard it, they wanted it for the film.”
Besides penning songs Anand Bakshi has also lend his voice to a few numbers. He sang “Baagon mein baahar aayi with Lata Mangeshkar for Mom ki Gudia”. He also sang a qawwali for ‘Sholay’. “But unfortunately it was deleted from the film,” he laughs. Talks veers to today’s abysmal quality of films and lyrics. And he sighs, “Even the stories have changed so much. Those days the stories used to have so much depth. Now it’s all so superficial. There’s no romance left in the movies. All the hero and the heroine do is dance in the name of romance. Can you believe that I haven’t written a single sad song in years now. That’s because sad songs don’t fit in today’s milieu. No one wants to watch tragedies these days.”
He rues the fact that the quality of lyrics too has deteriorated over the years. “It reflects the time we live in,” he reasons. “I shudder when I hear certain lyrics. The grammar is all wrong. Writers use all the wrong words. But the audience accepts it because they don’t know any better.” He remembers how films went onto become jubilee hits in the good ole days. “I got a special suit made for the silver jubilee of ‘Milan’. It was such a big occasion for us,” he smiles. ” ‘Farz’ ran for 100 weeks. So did the other films. Today if a film runs for 25 weeks, your must count your blessings.” Clearly, his magic touch remains unsullied. “I guess my familiarity with Indian folk music has helped me a lot,” he says explaining his sucess run. “Even after so many years, when I sit to write a song, I feel I won’t be able to deliver. Suddenly I get all knotted up. The fear that I won’t be able to do it drives me.”
Finally he says, “Isn’t it amazing that I’ve worked with generations of music directors. I’ve worked with Roshan and his son Rajesh Roshan, Chitragupt and his sons Anand-Milind. I still feel young at heart. I can never tire of writing. I’m amused when people ask me how I continue to write romantic songs. Arre bhai writing is like breathing to me. It comes naturally.”
So saying, he gets up and walks towards his study. And the words are ready to flow once again.Anand Bakshi Blast from the Past Exclusive Filmfare Interviews Retro