Lyricist Anand Bakshi Knew the Pulse of the Populace

We caught up with the legendary lyricist’s son, Rakesh Bakshi. 

6 min read
Anand Bakshi (1930-2002).

Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinakar’, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Sumitranandan Pant, Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’… any student of Hindi would recall heavy-lifting of the interpretations of the works of these celebrated Hindi poets, thanks to the weightage in the school curriculum. But again, there was a different sect of poets whose poetry never figured in school textbooks. They rarely attended mushairas. Yet, their verses have interlaced into the sensibilities of the Hindi speaking populace in a very unconscious way. Prominent among them was Anand Bakshi (1930-2002).

A quick question that pops up is – in a Hindi film song, usually the lyricist gets the ‘left-over’ share of limelight after the hero/heroine and composer have lime-bathed. So, why would a deep-thinking and bold poet of the caliber of Anand Bakshi have wanted to become a Hindi film lyricist and not a ‘curriculum & mushaira’ poet?
A rare picture of Anand Bakshi at home (Photo courtesy: Pinterest)
A rare picture of Anand Bakshi at home (Photo courtesy: Pinterest)

Says Rakesh Anand Bakshi, son of late Anand Bakshi, “I know in many cases of my father’s work the lyrics came first. It was a team work and each and everyone contributed to a song,including the primary factor - the director.” According to Rakesh, his father never attended Mushairas. “In fact, he never considered himself a poet at all,though many people known to him would keep complimenting him on being one”.

Anand Bakshi was no push-over as a singer as is evident in his renditions in Mom ki Gudiya (his debut as a singer), Charas, Sholay (the qawaali which was never filmed). So why did he not choose to pursue a career as a singer? Explains Rakesh Bakshi, “There is a singer in every lyricist. They complement each otherto arrive at a song in the absence of each other.” That said, choosing a path in which Hasrat Jaipuri, Majrooh, Sahir and Shailendra had staked out their indelible lines of control was risky. But then, in his stint in the Services, Anand Bakshi had faced far graver threats.

He was posted at various borders and experienced lots of cross-border firing. He joined Royal Indian Navy in 1944. The family left Rawalpindi, Pakistan, for India, (due to the Partition) in 1947 which was when he joined Indian Army, with The Corps of Signals.
Rakesh Bakshi
Anand Bakshi made a cameo appearance in the film <i>Picnic.</i>
Anand Bakshi made a cameo appearance in the film Picnic.

Bakshi is probably the only Indian lyricist who served the Navy and the Army both. Every battle is a life’s lesson, they say. “Military life taught him discipline. Of the 3300 songs (sic) that he wrote, he never delayed (writing)even one,” discloses Rakesh.

1956 was the year in which Anand Bakshi bid goodbye to his life in Services and plunged into lyric-writing full time. What gave him the confidence that he would be a success? “Poverty,” sums up Rakesh.

Initially, the going was tough. He got few assignments, Bada Admi (1961) being one. But the flower of hope would bloom for Anand Bakshi only after his first major success, the Shashi Kapoor-Nanda romance Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965). Things got better financially. And soon followed the blitzkrieg.

Milan (1967), Aradhana (1969), Do Raaste (1969), Jeene ki Raah (1969), Kati Patang (1970), Hare Rama Hare Krishna(1971), Amar Prem (1971), Bobby (1973)… song after song was hummed by young and old, men andwomen alike all over the land. No inclusion in any curriculum was needed.

Bakshi’s pen had a grip on the emotional pulse of all and sundry. He believed that simplicity was the key to connecting. His verses were mostly colloquial, dialect-neutral Hindi. He could tailor his lyrics to a mushy coochie-cooing “Mujhe kuch kehna hai...” or to a fatalistic “Yeh kya hua...”

Unlike a Sahir Ludhianvi whose couplets carried the ‘watermark’ of his Urdu erudition, Anand Bakshi plucked words from the everyman dictionary. “For me a great song is one in which I am invisible,” quotes Rakesh Anand Bakshi in his upcoming biography about his father that he is in the process of scripting.

This is not to say that Anand Bakshi’s poetry was not thought provoking. He would dive into philosophy in the ‘antara’ only after he was sure he had connected with the audience in the ‘mukhra’. “Jeevan ke dukhon se yun darte nai hain…… sukh ki hai chaah to dukh bhisehna hai”, a man explains to his drug-addicted sister. “…Mai banke aansoo khud apni nazar se girjaoon…”, a forlorn young man punishes himself.

Anand Bakshi maintained that a film lyricist should be able to write to any situation. There was a situation in which a man was trying to explain to his estranged girlfriend the truth after she had caught him in bed with another woman, “…. Jaane tumhe maine koi dhoka diya, jaane tumhe koi dhoka hua…”

Anand Bakshi’s poetry helpeddefine quite a few screen images. The teasing seduction of Mumtaz in the awardwinning “Bindya chamkegi...” became herbrand identity. “Safal hogi teri aradhana…” and a petite young girl is transformed into a single motherstruggling to bring up her son. Dharmendra’s brawny Punjabi sauce that was soobviously intrinsic to his personality was discovered in “Mai jat yamla pagla deewana…”. Though a Punjabi, Anand Bakshi wouldbring out his Punjabi vocabulary only if the situation demanded unlike thestock Bhangra mix that is doled out in every film nowadays.

“He had excellent relationshipswith seniors like DN Madhok, Sahir, Shailendra, whom he considered his gurus.He had great respect for Hasrat Jaipuri too,” says Rakesh Bakshi. Obviously,Anand Bakshi’s people management was a strength too. With the sole exception of Nasir Husain, Bakshi was the lyricist of every major Producer/ Director – J OmPrakash, Shakti Samanta, Dev Anand, Raj Khosla, Manmohan Desai and even the South Indian heavyweights like Devar.

He had also forged inter-personal relationships with two “power players” of the 1970s and 1980s: L-P and RD Burman. “(Yet) he never invited anyone home or took any one out for dinner (as a carrot) to get work. Even the film fraternity people like RD Burman, Kishore Kumar who visited our home did so in the capacity of friends,” remembers Rakesh.
Anand Bakshi with RD Burman and Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida (Photo courtesy: Pinterest)
Anand Bakshi with RD Burman and Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida (Photo courtesy: Pinterest)

Working in Bollywood demands flexibility of every kind. How would Anand Bakshi feel if any of his songs wereleft out of the final cut of a film? “He was cool, as he believed that the film is the directors’ and producers’ medium, as he was employed by the producer and owed him his loyalty”, says Rakesh.

But Bakshi would not stand the star-nakhras. “Once a star-hero rejected his lyrics. My dad gladly walked out of the project. (Sometimes) he walked away from films, but was able to maintain friendships with those directors and producers,” reveals Rakesh.

Anand Bakshi wrote for fivedecades, watching the windmill of time roll over and over. New actors replaced old ones, his close buddies like Kishore Kumar, Pancham and Laxmikant left forthe heavens even as he watched helplessly. But Anand Bakshi’s gallery of fame keptgathering up successes like Hum, Darr, Lamhe, Mohra, DDLJ and Dil to Pagal Hai, as he kept adjusting his stancewith the changing landscapes of man-woman relationships and the generationalconflicts of the Indian diaspora. And even for a psycho-neurotic anti-hero. Hestayed young and kept his screen heroes and heroines even younger.

Anand Bakshi passed away earlythis century in 2002 on this date. He had been active till 1998, penningHrishikesh Mukherjee’s last film JhootBole Kauwa Kaate.

Unlike composers, singers and actors, none of the lyricists’ off-springs went on to become lyricists (Sameer, son of Anjaan being the only exception). Opines Rakesh, “Your experiences, your past, makes your present and future. I did not have the experiences my father so I cannot write like him. Sameer’s upbringing included the culture and experiences that lead him to becoming a lyricist.”

Director Subhash Ghai had this tosay about Bakshi’s lyrics in Taal(which Rakesh has included in his biography of his father), “The amazing thing about Anand Bakshi’s lyrics was that - though I loved them when I first heard them during the song sittings, I realized their deeper true value and significance in my screenplay when I would be shooting them, and at that time I often felt he knew my story better than me. What he had written, reflected all that my story had – (and) sometimes (those aspects that) I too had not realized. I miss a lyricist like him.”

The legacy continues to sparklemuch like the Chingari – Anand Bakshi’s personal favourite.

(Anirudha and Balaji, engineers by education and IT consultants by profession, are film addicts who find time to sing, quiz and discuss songs of the 1950s through to the 1980s. They won the National award for “Best Writing on Cinema” for their first book in 2012 :RD Burman, the Man the Music. Their 2nd book : Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, won the inaugural “Excellence in Writing” award at the Jio MAMI film festival in 2015.)

(This article is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on March 30, 2016. It is now being republished to mark Anand Bakshi’s birth anniversary.)

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