Anand Bakshi – Interview
I cannot recall any other film poet having had a more chequered career than the ”Dum maro dum” man Anand Bakshi, the film- poet who, in my opinion, is the third mostt prolific lyricist ever to burst upon the film firmament (the earlier two being Rajendra Krishan and the late Shailendra).
Ever since music became the staple ingredient of the Hindi film there have been, broadly speaking, two categories of people writing film-songs: one, the acknowledged Urdu or Hindi poetS (for example Josh Malihabadi, Behzad Lucknavi, Pradeep, Majrooh Sultanpuri, the late Shakeel Badayuni, Seghar Nizami, Sahir Ludhianvi, etc. etc.) who turned from being recognized poets in the literary sphere to the more lucrative pastures of film lyric writing; and two, the lyricist who directed his pen primarily to the composing of lyrics for specific “song-situations” in films.
This does not, however mean, that there were no creative poets in the second category. Here belong lyricists like D.N. Madhok (whom Anand Bakshi acknowledges as the one who inspired him most), Rajendra Krishan (who began his career as a film publicist!), the late Shailendra, and now Anand Bakshi, the man who attained literary stature by primarily functioning through an essentially commercial medium.
Today, Shailendra is dead and Rajendra Krishan graduated years ago from being a mere film lyricist to being an institution in the—Hindi movie industry.
So the maximum work, the maximum laurels, and the maximum kudos are being harvested by a shy, unassuming man who, in the handful of years in which he has zoomed to success, seems to have undergone no appreciable change other than to have acquired a moustache which he didn’t have to begin with, and enough success to be able to indulge what has apparently been, for years a deep-rooted secret yen: that is, to sing play-back himself in films!
Think of the most exciting duality in films today: what is it? It is the face of Rajesh Khanna and the voice of Kishore Kumar — okay?
So convert that duality into a trinity, and you have the most thrilling trio functioning in Hindi films today: the words of Anand Bakshi sung by the voice of Kishore Kumar — through the lips of Rajesh Khanna!
That is, by God, exactly how high, Anand Bakshi ranks today—besides being of course the “Dum maro dum” man and having written words for some of the finest music ever composed for any Hindi film, Dev Anand’s “Hare Rama Hare Krishna.”
And how did Anand Bakshi begin life?
You’d hardly believe it, if you look around the drawing room of his suburban apartment and study the number of Jubilee trophies stacked here, there, everywhere. The Silver Jubilee trophies are innumerable: “Himalay Ki God Mein” (Anand Bakihi’s first Silver Jubilee); “Aasra”, “Chhota Bhai”, “Milan”, “Jeene Ki Raah,” “Aan Milo Sajna,” “Sharafat”. “Khilona”, “Maryada”, “Kati Patang,’ to name only a few. And the Golden Jubilee? Well, there are trophies of “Raja Aur Runk,” “Aradhana”, “Farz”, and “Do Raaste!”
Because Anand Bakshi began life as a nobody, like most of the other top-notchers in movies, he has come up the hard way, by virtue of a basic instructive talent: he never had any godfather, nor was he born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
“I come from a family of policemen and armymen,” Anand Bakshi chuckled. “My grandfather was Superintendent of Police in Rawalpindi. But I was the black sheep of the whole family!”
That’s where Anand Bakshi was born, in Rawalpindi on July-21,1930, and that’s where he went through the hurly-burly of growing up, not noticeable adept at school work or homework — but a great fan of John Cawas and Nadia, none of whose films he ever missed!
From boyhood, Anand Bakshi was fond of films, especially stunt films. He loved to sing, dance, clown, tomfool, hence was a popular and looked-forward to participant at all the local “Ram Leelas”, “Nautankis” and village dramas staged in the district where he and his family lived.
These incorrigible and incurable habits resulted in the boy’s scholastic career being reduced to a chequered one, as full of large gaps as vintage cheddar cheese! Sending him to stay with this relative or that uncle merely worsened matters : the boy just wasn’t interested in studies!
Partition came when the lad was in his late teens. Along with the rest of his large family, Anand Bakshi came to Delhi. This was the beginning of-hard times. By now he was not only singing film songs to himself, he was writing-them — for himself!
What to do?
A few months of indecision were ended by Anand Bakshi joining the Army. He went to work as a telephone operator at the Army Headquarters in Jabalpur. But the itch to join films had not died. In the Army too, he devoted much of his time to putting up shows and organizing concerts!
It is not clear why Anand Bakshi left the Army but he did so in 1951 or 1952, tried for a job in All India Radio, Delhi, failed, then came to Bombay, the Mecca of all film aspirants.
The city was totally new to him. He knew nobody here. He tried knocking doors in filmland, only to have them slammed in his face. The little money he evaporated rapidly. Disappointed, disillusioned, disheartened, Anand Bakshi took the first available train back to Delhi— and joined the Army for a second time!
This time he became a motor mechanic trainee in the ‘Sipahi’ ranks: a common havaldar—”but I never learned anything a out the mechanics of motors!”
Instead, Anand Bakshi now got married! This time, the stint in the Army lasted nearly seven years. This seven-year itch overwhelmed him, so he abruptly chucked the Army job and came back to Bombay!
The grind began again. Bakshi tried to get a job in a motor mechanic, but the owner of the garage soon saw through him as an imposter! He now became friendly with a man working in the Railways and this friend was to be very helpful to him throughout his lean years in Bombay.
Anand Bakshi renewed his acquaintance now with Sunil Dutt —”he was from roughly the same part of the country as I was, and we’d known each other as kids.” Sunil was just then playing his first big role in “Mother India.” The young actor introduced the aspiring lyricist around. One thing led to another. And Anand Bakshi got his first lyric-writing assignment from the comedian film-maker Bhagwan, for a film called “Bhala Admi.”
“When I got that work I thought I’d conquered the world!” Anand Bakshi smiled reminiscently. “I thought all my problems were over. Little did I realize that they’d just begun!”
This was in 1958-59, and four songs written by Anand Bakshi were recorded by Bhagwan for that film. Contrary to the young lyricist’s expectations, the film industry did not stand up and cheer when this happened; nor did all gates open automatically to receive Royalty! On the contrary what was the greatest event then in the young poet’s life passed unnoticed in the movie industry.
It was actually followed by some more years of struggle, “during which my Railway friend supported me.”
“Why did this man support me for six or seven years?” Anand Bakshi wonders now. “He was neither a Punjabi, nor was he a relative, nor even someone from my native place, or anywhere close to it. No, it must be counted as one of the many miracles of my life.”
In these six or seven years, Anand Bakshi tried his best to get more song-writing assignments. He made it a point to call on at least six to eight film people per day!
“In this line”, Anand Bakshi says reflectively, “there are only two ways of getting ahead: either you have to call on people—or people have to call on you! .There is no third way!”
And how right he is!
In the short span of a few years, Anand Bakshi has reached from one diametrically opposite position in life to the other. “In the movie industry,” he says: “You either have no work — or you have too much of work.” That too, is very true. And that’s exactly what happened to Anand Bakshi.
The first full film (that is, all the songs of one film) he got to write worth mentioning, was Hiren Khera’s “Mehndi Lagi Mere Haath”, with music directors Kalyanji Anandji. The music of this film became fairly popular. Anand Bakshi had written all its songs, and he also wrote all-the songs for Hiren Khera’s next “Jab Jab Phool Khile,” also with music directors Kalyanji Anandji.
This film became a musical hit. It brought Anand Bakshi into the limelight—and the “bhed chaal” began! With Kalyanji Anandji were two ambitious assistants named Laxmikant and Pyarelal who were themselves to become successful independent music- directors not long after, and with whom also, Anand Bakshi was to form the most fruitful association of his career.
Anand Bakshi was busy getting ready that morning to go attend a song-recording for Dev Anand’s “Shareef Badmash” when I called at his residence.
QUESTION: Tell me, how many songs have you written since “Mehndi Lagi Mere Haath”? I think that was released in 1962?
ANSWER: Yes. In ten years I must have written maybe six-seven hundred songs. I don’t know. I never counted. In the beginning years I never got full pictures. You see, I’d get a couple of songs in this film, or in that one.
In “Himalay Ki God Mein” I got two or three songs. Prasadji’s “Milan,” with-Laxmikant Pyarelal, was the first major film I got in which I wrote all the songs. And the music of that film – and the film too – was such a big hit that all doors opened to me after it!
QUESTION: Are Laxmikant Pyarelal your favorite music directors?
ANSWER: Well, I’ve done lots of hit songs with them. I’ve done lots of hits with R. D. Burman too. Actually, in line I’ve worked most with, first Kalyanji-Anandji, next Laxmikant-Pyarelal, then S. D. Burman and now R. D. Burman.
QUESTION: With which music directors have you never worked?
ANSWER: I’ve never worked with Ravi. I even did one with Shankar Jaikishen – actually, Jaikishen alone – in_AVM’s “Main Sunder Hun”. Jai was a man with a beautiful sense of melody, and what a gentleman! He was a wonderful man.
Then, I’ve done one film for Madan Mohan too. There was this picture I remember, in which Raja Mehndi Ali Khan was writing the songs, and he died. So a group of us joined hands, and we contributed one-lyric each to that film and completed it.
QUESTION: How would you reason out the causes of your success?
ANSWER: (Grinning): Luck! After so many years of struggle! No, but seriously, I think the causes are to be sought in my childhood. I never seriously pursued my education. I never even passed my Metric! For this reason, my thinking is all colloquial. Simple, everyday, conversational phrases come to me more naturally than poetry – lines heavily laden with difficult Urdu words. For this reason I have fans even among that crowd of cinegoers who do not know Urdu or Hindi well. I get lots of fan-mail every day, and most of them compliment me for the simplicity of my verse. So you see, one cause of my success is lack of the usual, formal education!
QUESTION: What course does a song normally follow before it is born?
ANSWER: It’s all quite complicated and it’s the result of a series of mutual adjustment with several people: You have to hear the story. Then you have to hear the individual song- situations. Then you indulge in endless discussions about them with your music directors and your director.
Generally of course, the tune is composed first and you have to fit your lyric to that. As for me, I generally like to ‘see’ what my given song-situation looks like, before I write it.
Take “Dum maro dum” for instance, the biggest hit-song I have written in recent times. When Dev Sahab first described the situation to me in the film, a whole set of visuals began to simmer up on mental screen. The very word ‘hippie’ conjures up visions of bedraggled youngsters drawing deeply on marijuana pipes— and the words “dum maro dum” grew automatically out of these visuals.
From that point onwards … it wasn’t difficult to produce the words for that song!
QUESTION: Do you keep in mind the artiste also, who will provide the lip-movements to your song on the screen?
ANSWER: Especially so! If it’s Rajesh Khanna I know the voice is going to be Kishore Kumar’s, and I must consciously or unconsciously, confine myself to a specific writing style, a smoothly flowing, very simple and natural style which cinegoers have come to expect from this combination of the three of us.
QUESTION: Which would you say are the most satisfying songs you have written?
ANSWER: So many! I can’t recount them all here, but at random I’ll name a few. One of the earliest is “pardesion se ankhiyan na lagana” from “Jab Jab Phool Khile”, then there’s “sawan ka mahina pawan kare sor” from “Milan”. There’s “bindiya chamkegi” from “Do Raaste”. There’s ‘Kora kagaz tha yeh man mera” from “Aradhana.” There’s “dum maro dum” from “Hare Rama Hare Krishna.” There are many more …
QUESTION: Can you say that the work of any poet has either inspired you or molded your style?
ANSWER: Well. I respect Sahir Ludhianvi the most among the serious poets, though I respect all my seniors in the same way. But I am nearer to Sahir because when I first came to Bombay he helped me quite a lot, gave me lots of introductions to many people.
QUESTION: Influences on your writings?
ANSWER: Well, old-timer D.N. Madhok’s film lyrics have had a great influence on me. His simplicity, his almost effortless style, the colloquialisms he used. I have striven for all this in my work too.
In film songs it’s not so much the weighty content what can frequently bog down a song. Perhaps you make one little point in a film song, but you make it with grace, style, a certain sophistication which can appeal instantaneously to the common man. And by the common man I mean all those who are not students of Hindi and Urdu literature!
QUESTION: To wind up : what are your important assignments at the moment?
ANSWER: Actually, I’ve reached the stage where I am consciously narrowing down the quantum of my assignments. Too much work is bringing too much tension on my mind, and this tension is not a good thing to live with.
Nevertheless, these are the important films I’m writing at the moment : there’s “Bairaag”, a Dilip Kumar starrer which I’m doing with Kalyanji Anandji. There are a number of Rajesh Khanna starrers, such as C. V. K. Sastry’s “Joroo Ka Goolam” and J. Om Prakash’s “Raja Rani”. There is Dev Anand’s “Shareef Badmash” and “Heera Panna”; Raj Khosla’s “Kacche Dhage”; Subodh Mukerji’s “Mr. Romeo”; Madan Mohla’s “Raja Jani” and Century Films’ “Loafer”. I have Subba Rao’s “Jeet” and three of Shakti Samanta’s films with S. D. Burman.
In recent times, my “Uphaar”, “Piya Ka Ghar”, “Shadi Ke Baad” and “Apna Desh” have been released and they’re all running well except “Mom Ki Gudiya” — in which I sang play-back myself”! (This interview was conducted by Star & Style Magazine in 1972).