Yogesh mastered the art of writing simple songs that had great depth of meaning. Rajan NS explores the inspirations and ideas behind Yogesh’s immortal songs.
Songs have always occupied a preeminent place in Hindi films, regardless of the film’s basic theme, which could be romance, comedy, mystery and crime, tragedy, mythology, masala, stunt and action, parallel films and even films projecting the ‘Angry Young Man’ motif which dominated the 1970s and 80s. It was not unusual for a production to commence only after the first tunes for the songs had been composed, the words written for those tunes, and the songs approved and recorded even before the first shot was taken.
This practice was perhaps because of the propensity of the Indian film-going public for at least a few songs in any film to provide both aural and visual entertainment apart from the story and the action. It entailed considerable daring and risk for a producer to cut down on the musical aspects of his film. And, doing away entirely with songs was absolutely unthinkable.
All the same, there were a few daring producers/ directors who ventured to make songless films such as, Naujawan (1937), Kanoon (1960), Ittefaq (1969), Achanak (1973), Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983), Khamosh (1985), Kaun (1999) and a few others to showcase their dexterity and ideals in filmmaking without pandering to commercial interests. It is no surprise that in a long span of 60 years from 1940, only about 16 songless films were produced, and even among this small number, only a handful was successful at the box office.
Thus, from the start, Hindi film industry had two clear areas of operation in the production of a film: its ‘musical’ and its ‘visual’ components. The success of the film banked largely on how competently and artistically the editor and director meshed the two parts. There are many examples of a film with excellent music and songs sinking owing to poor and unimaginative direction.
The crucial role of music in films thus spawned the growth of composers, lyricists and singers, besides a host of instrument players and chorus singers. Most of the lyricists of that era were inclined more towards the use of Urdu words and expressions in their songs, mixing them freely with Hindi and arriving at a happy blend, which they chose to label as ‘Hindustani’. This was inevitable as they had to find words to mesh with the tune composed and the words had to be necessarily interchanged between Urdu and Hindi to go seamlessly into the whole song. The composer’s ‘word’ was law.
As an example I would cite the song written by Shailendra and composed by SD Burman Jhan jhan jhan jhan paayal baaje for the film Buzdil (1951), sung beautifully by Lata. Notice the first antara:
Paar jigar ke,
baan virah kaa,
kaajar kaari rain.
itbarse, morey nain
Among all the words in these two lines, the word ‘Jigar’ (of Pharsi origin) stands out as incompatible with the rest. But, Shailendra chose that word in preference to a Hindi word.
Such filmy ‘poetical’ license was freely taken by all lyricists. A few among them, Shailendra included, tried to frame their songs in Hindi, as far as they could manage it. Others who also wrote their songs in chaste Hindi (to the extent possible) were Kidar Sharma, Neeraj, Kavi Pradeep, Bharat Vyas, Ravindra Jain (it may surprise many that composer Ravindra Jain wrote lyrics for more than 540 songs), Indeevar, Gulshan Bawra, Narendra Sharma, and Yogesh.
Sadly, these writers were not in the ‘top billed’ category as the likes of Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, Shakeel Badayuni, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Hasrat Jaipuri and later Anand Bakshi and Gulzar. But they significantly contributed by enriching Hindi film music through their erudite and clean approach to writing songs that are still recalled and played, even after several decades. These lyricists never indulged in cheap words and the ‘double entendre’ that later became a popular style, hence eagerly demanded by producers and financiers as a sure recipe for box office success.
The Arrival of Yogesh
Yogesh Gaud was born on 19 March 1943 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He lost his father when he was young and had to move to Bombay at the age of 16, looking for work. His mother’s love for Hindi poetry influenced his inherent talent for writing poetry. His cousin Yogendra Gaur, was a screenplay writer, and after dabbling in a few odd jobs, Yogesh too drifted into the Bombay film world as a writer. He faced very hard times, was forced to live in a ‘jhuggi jhopdi’, as he himself described it, and later moved into a typical Bombay ‘chawl’ in Oshiwara, an area crowded with commercial and industrial complexes. Here, he befriended Gulshan Bawra, who was also struggling as a lyricist. Yogesh played a few roles as an ‘extra’ in films only to make some money to survive. But he was spirited enough to go on writing poetry, jotting down his creations in a diary.
As luck would have it, in 1962, he met music director Robin Banerjee, then composing for his film Sakhi Robin. Banerjee read this diary and was sufficiently impressed, leading to Yogesh writing six songs for the film. One of them, Tum jo aao toh pyaar aa jaaye. Zindagi mein bahar aa jaaye became a runaway hit and Yogesh had got his foot in.
Tum jo aao to pyar aa jaye (Sakhi Robin, 1962) Robin Banerjee / Manna Dey and Suman Kalyanpur
Working with Hrishikesh Mukherjee
But real success still eluded him and it was only in 1971 that Salil Chowdhury, looking for a good lyricist in place of Shailendra after his untimely death, engaged Yogesh to write two songs for the film Anand. Yogesh delivered what turned out to be a masterpiece in Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye and Zindagi, kaisi hai paheli haaye.
It is very interesting to know that Zindagi, kaisi hai paheli was intended to be only a backdrop for the film’s titles. This is what Hrishikesh Mukherjee himself had to say about this song and about Yogesh:
“Yogesh and I did Anand and Mili together, and he wrote so beautifully in both the films. In fact, do you know, Zindagi kaisi hai paheli was to be played in the background for the opening credits in Anand? It was Rajesh Khanna who insisted on singing it on screen. He felt we were wasting a beautiful song in the background. And he was right! I wish I had worked more with Yogesh. But you know how it is in this industry. One forms comfortable partnerships and misses the opportunity to work with some great talent in the process.”(1)
Zindagi kaisi hai paheli haaye (Anand, 1971) Salil Chowdhury / Manna Dey
Hrishikesh and Yogesh combined in Sabse Bada Sukh (1972); Mili (1975); Rang Birangi (1983) and Kisise Na Kehna (1983). Yogesh, having acquired a stature for himself after Anand, collaborated with other well-known music directors and came to be regarded as one of the best lyricists with a style and expression all his own and which was greatly admired by lovers of Hindi film songs.
Aaye tum yaad mujhe (Mili, 1975) SD Burman / Kishore Kumar
Working with Basu Chatterji
Yogesh teamed up with RD Burman for the first time in Deven Varma’s film, Bada Kabutar (1973). They did 10 films and 47 songs together, including Mazaaq (1975) produced by Jayanta Mukherjee (Hemant Kumar’s son Ritesh). It had Asha’s Takra gaye do badal ambar pe with Vinod Mehra. But their big hit came with Basu Chatterji’s Manzil (1979), with the evergreen tandem Rim jhim ghire sawan. This song is all about a lover going into raptures with raindrops falling on him, ‘setting him afire’ with thoughts of his beloved. Yogesh poetically chose to describe that feeling thus:
Jab ghungruon si
bajti hain boondein
palkein na moondein
The pouring raindrops sound like the musical tinkle of anklets. What a unique way of depicting a heart in love celebrating rain! Yogesh mastered the art of writing simple songs that had great depth of meaning.
Rimjhim gire saawan (Manzil, 1979) RD Burman / Kishore Kumar
As Peeyush Sharma and Antara Nanda Mondal observed, “Lata Mangeshkar’s version of the tandem Rim jhim gire saawan is used in a faster pace in the background. This is an excellent tandem by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. It catches the rain mood perfectly. To capitalize on the beautiful lyrics by Yogesh and evocative music score by RD, director Basu Chatterji used the song twice in Manzil. The first time it is used in Kishore Kumar’s voice and it starts with this wonderful humming. Amitabh Bachchan sings to an enchanted audience in a homely gathering, looking every bit a passionate singer with a kurta and Jawahar-coat and a harmonium and leaving Moushumi Chatterjee quite mesmerized. The second time it is Lata Mangeshkar singing and the song is used in a faster pace in the background when a rain-drenched Amitabh Bachchan and Moushumi Chatterji decide to enjoy the Mumbai downpour with a stroll on the Marine Drive and the waves crash over them playfully. And you almost feel the waves reaching you in all their masti! It is magical!”(2)
Not surprisingly, Lataji remembered Yogesh’s poetry with great fondness, according to Subhash K Jha. “Some of my most cherished songs were written by Yogeshji. He was such a quiet genius. His words were taken from normal conversation and yet so poetic. My songs Rajnigandha phool tumhare and Na jaane kyon hota hai yun zindagi ke saath from the Rajnigandha and Choti Si Baat are popular to this day,” Lata Mangeshkar had said. “But there are other lesser known songs that Yogeshji wrote for me that were equally beautiful, like Raaton ke saaye ghane in Annadata, Madhbhari yeh hawayen in Anokha Daan, Tumne diya piya sab kuch mujhko in Us Paar. These are among my most beautifully written songs,” Lataji added. “But my favourite lyrics by Yogeshji is Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye (sung by Mukesh in Anand).” (3)
Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye (Anand, 1971) Salil Chowdhury / Mukesh
With Basu Chatterjee, Yogesh did a number of films, and like Hrishikesh’s films, these too had superb music. Sample their repertoire together — Rajnigandha (1974), Us Paar (1974), Choti Si Baat (1976), Priyatama (1977), Manzil (1979), Baton Baton Mein (1979), Apne Paraye (1980), Jeena Yahan (1981), Shaukeen (1982), Pasand Apni Apni (1983), and Lakhon Mein Ek (1984).
I believe the fact that his best work flowed from his association with Bengali giants such as Salil Chowdhry, SD Burman, RD Burman, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee says a lot about the strong positive influence that the artistic and musical culture of Bengal exercised over the Mumbai film industry even since its inception. According to the book Gaata Rahe Mera Dil: 50 Classic Hindi Film Songs, “Basu Chatterjee, in a tribute to Yogesh says, Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai was based on a Bangla song by Salil, Aami cholte cholte thhemey gechhi. Yogesh’s words summed up the film’s essence well. Yogesh, Salil Chowdhry and Basu Chatterjee narrate the story of Rajnigandha in this song, stealing the proverbial thunder from the official title track sung by Lata Mangeshkar.”
Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai (Rajnigandha, 1974) Salil Chowdhury / Mukesh
Yogesh on his favourites
In an interview with Shankar Iyer for ‘Swar Aalaap Digital’ Yogesh had said that his favourite lyricists were Shailendra, Sahir Ludhianvi, Neeraj and Kavi Pradeep and his three favourite composers were “Salilda, Madan Mohan, and Roshan”.
When asked about the use of pure Hindi in his songs, Yogesh said, “Hindi was the language we spoke at home. My mother had studied at Gurukul; she was fond of Hindi poetry which had an early influence on me. When I started to write for Salilda, I realised that his compositions were more suited to the Hindi geet. There was no place for Urdu words.”
Talking about the writers that had influenced him and his style of writing, Yogesh explained, “Salilda’s Bengali poems definitely inspired me initially. Though I did not know the Bengali language fully, I used to make an effort to understand the meaning in his writing. Salilda used to narrate awe-inspiring poems from his own and Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry collection. And when I started to write for Hindi films, Salilda acted as constant support. His belief being song-writing for films was more difficult than songs written elsewhere. Of course, Shailendra’s Hindi writings too have been a huge source of inspiration to me.” (4)
Yogesh wrote over 150 songs for 55 films. Apart from this, Yogesh’s career outside of films included writing of tracks for over 200 Television Serials including Chandrakanta; Hasratein; Thoda Hai Thode Ki Zaroorat Hai and Gudgudee. In the early 1990s, Salil Chowdhry conducted a 50-voice choir for Delhi Doordarshan. Yogesh was invited to translate into Hindi several songs of Salil Chowdhry’s IPTA (Indian People’s Theater Association) days.
This is how Javed Akhtar describes him: “He wrote a number of great songs like Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye or Zindagi kaisi hai paheli or Kaee baar yun bhi dekha hai, yeh jo man ki seema rekha hai . Strangely the world did not give him his due.”
Yogesh was fairly active until around 1996. He passed away in May 2020.
1. From Anand to Mili, Yogesh wrote timeless hits for Bollywood’s best, but never got his due – Unnati Sharma – The Print
2. RD Burman and His Lyricists – By Peeyush Sharma and Antara Nanda Mondal – Silhouette Magazine
3. ‘Some of my cherished songs were written by Yogeshji’ – Subhash K Jha – Rediff.com
4. Yogesh: The unassuming bard – Shankar Iyer in ‘Swar Aalaap Digital’
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