On 20th death anniversary, Anand Bakshi’s trysts with truisms

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Anand Bakshi, who passed away on March 30, 2002, wrote lyrics for over 600 films in a career spanning 45 years. Photo: Publicity Photo

If ever there was a lyricist associated with life’s truisms, it was Anand Bakshi. The lyricist of over 600 films who passed away 20 years ago on March 30 was unmatched in romance, fluff, fun, sorrow, youth anthems, folk songs and everything else on which a song could be needed for a film. He wrote with equal fluidity and versatility for a child and a tawaif, and had the unique credo that his mind worked (and how!) only after hearing a story, because he was not a true poet.

And while Anand Bakshi wrote across genres like Accha to hum chalte hain (Aan Milo Sajana), Chal mere bhai (Naseeb), Mehandi lagaake rakhna (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) or Lambi judaai (Hero), his lyrics also taught us about life the way few other writers could. Not for nothing was it said (unconfirmed buzz is that it was writer Salim Khan of Salim-Javed fame) that if an individual never read a book in his life, or did not attend school even for a day but only heard the lyricist’s best work, he could still learn lessons good enough to serve him for a lifetime!

Bakshi had an unerring eye for life’s truisms, and as per his forte, for expressing them in the simplest of words. The cult classic, Gaadi bula rahi hai (Dost), had him comparing a human being to a steam locomotive-driven train, showing its unflagging spirit came rain or thunder, the diverse lessons one can learn from it, and ultimately to be optimistic when things were not working out.

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His song Aaj ka yeh din kal ban jaayega kal / Peeche mudke na dekh pyaare aage chal (Today will become yesterday tomorrow, so do not look back), filmed on Amitabh Bachchan in Nastik, coerced the listener to always look ahead.

In Chitthi aayi hai (Naam), Anand Bakshi trenchantly asked NRIs to come home to their grieving families, stating Apne ghar mein bhi hai roti (There is livelihood even back home). In the hallmark Yahaan main ajnabee hoon (I am a stranger here) from Jab Jab Phool Khile, through Shashi Kapoor, he scathingly expressed the cultural difference between simple Indian and modern Westernized values.

Solah baras ki bali umar (Ek Duuje Ke Liye) was like a socko punch to enemies of young love, with the hard-hitting lines, Dil ki lagi nahin bujhti / Bujhti hai har chingari (Every spark can be extinguished except that of love). The Anurodh song Tum besahara ho to kisika sahara bano (When you feel helpless, help someone and you will find succor) was as much of a masterpiece as Amar Prem’s Chingari koi bhadke wherein his similes were amazingly lucid: in one stanza, he wrote, “If an enemy hurts you, your friend will heal you, but if a friend inflicts a wound on you, who will?”

Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke’s O maanjhi chal, filmed on Dharmendra, was again about optimism and a guide on how to live a fruitful life with the words Tera jeevan nadiya ki dhaar hai / Tan hai naiyya man patwaar hai (Your life is like the river’s current, with your body as the boat and your mind as the oars that steer).

In Apnapan, Anand Bakshi, through a mendicant’s song, expressed another truism, Aadmi musafir hai, aata hai jaata hai (Man is but a passing traveler in this world). And when Rajesh Khanna regrets how the past can never return to undo his mistakes in Aap Ki Kasam, it is the songwriter’s mastery that expresses with simple depth: Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain jo maqaam / Woh phir nahin aate.

Anand Bakshi once admitted that a lyricist has to be a poet at heart, and this was proved by his brilliant line Tumhari zulf hai ya sadak ka mod hai yeh (Are these really your tresses or a turn in the road?) in Waada tera waada, his cult hit from Dushmun. How else could an inebriated and uneducated truck driver express love? In a later Dushman (1998), he wrote, Chitthi na koi sandesh / Jaane who kaun sa desh / Jahaan tum chale gaye (There is no message from you, which country have you gone to?) when the heroine, Kajol, is grieving for her twin sister.

Yeh jeevan hai (Piya Ka Ghar) expressed what life is about in poetic terms, as in the line Yeh na socho issmein apni haar hai ke jeet hai / Usse apna lo jo bhi jeevan ki reet hai (Do not think of whether you will win or lose, but follow this tradition of life). In the satiric Yaar hamari baat suno (Roti), the bard took a leaf out of Shakespeare to suggest that he who throws the first stone (accuses someone) be someone who has never committed a single sin.

Sheesha ho ya dil ho (Aasha) was another hard-hitting essay on life’s quirks. Zamane mein aji aise kayi nadaan hote hain / Wahaan le jaate hai kashti jahaan toofan hote hain (There can be such innocent souls that they sail their boats into a storm) was another truism expressed through a mujra in Jeevan Mrityu.

And in Haathi Mere Saathi, on the death of the hero’s ally, the elephant, to the villain’s bullet, his words hit with sledgehammer impact in the background stunner Nafrat ki duniya. He asked with simple directness, Jab jaanwar koi insaan ko maare / Kehte hain duniya mein vahshi usse saare / Ek jaanwar ki jaan aaj insaano ne li hai / Chup kyoon hai sansaar (When an animal kills a human being, it is branded as savage / Now that a man has killed an animal, why is the world silent?).

And another Anand Bakshi masterpiece of truism came in Amrit, in which the hero, again Rajesh Khanna (who rarely looked beyond this lyricist in his films) sings, Duniya mein kitna gham hai / Mera gham kitna kam hai (How much sorrow is there in this world, so what am I sad about?).

To repeat what poet-lyricist Nida Fazli said, “The reason why Anand Bakshi eclipsed all the great poet-lyricists in Hindi cinema was because of his unequalled grasp of folk. With that treasure in his armamentarium, he could not be matched.” Indeed, it was Anand Bakshi’s earthy wisdom and unparalleled observations on life from a young age to his tenure in the military forces (Army and Navy) and his personal experiences of village life that sharpened his pen to this extent.

And so he could write Taal se taal mila (Taal) as lucidly as his weightier song in the same film, Ishq bina, in which we heard the incredible thought, Neeche ishq hai, oopar rab hai / Inn dono ke beech mein sab hai (All the essence of life lies between love that dwells on earth, and God above)!

A mirror to society and life, a slave to a song situation and a magical writer, a thinker who was no less than a visionary: Not for nothing was Anand Bakshi, for millions of fans, the greatest lyricist cinema has ever known.

 

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