Music buffs wonder why. “Main Sunder Hoon” (1971)… Just that one film? Die-hard fans of music composers Shankar-Jaikishan, will immediately pipe in with their reasoning for aisa kyun!
Simplistic arguments of S-J fans range from, “Anand Bakshi’s songs lacked lyrics; they were a string of words with mere ‘tukbandi‘ (rhyming).” “Anand Bakshi’s lyrics were crass.” “His lyrics were not a patch on those penned by Kaviraj Shailendra.” “Anand Bakshi’s love songs could never match ‘Mera Prem Patra Padhkar‘; romance was the forte of Hasrat Jaipuri.” “Shankar-Jaikishan’s team was in a class of its own. There was no room for Anand Bakshi.” So on, so forth…
This pointless Bakshi bashing continues. Decades have gone past since the demise of each of the musical duo, first Jaikishan (1971), then Shankar (1987); the untimely death of Shailendra (1966) that had shocked the rest of this Fab Four, and Hasrat Jaipuri, a close buddy of Kaviraj continued to pen songs until his end (1999). Anand Bakshi himself breathed his last (2002), writing film songs even from his death-bed, literally, but that’s a story for another day.
In every era working partnerships have flourished. Whether it is in business, in science, or in the creative arts… a certain chemistry between partners is often the fundamental reason for success — whether it is marriage, business, or music, the longevity of a relationship can be attributed to the ease and comfort level between partners. An understanding where roles are defined, or an unspoken understanding evolves over time, where one can almost read the mind of the partner.
Shankar, Jaikishan, along with their songwriters Shailendra and Hasrat go all the way back to 1949. The four were riding high ever since the success of Barsaat (1949), their very first film. Both were poets first, film lyricists after. Note, each was ‘discovered’ by THE Kapoor – Raj, and his father Prithviraj, no less, who was a known face since the 1930s – all the way back for his roles in Alam Ara, Vidyapati (a New Theatres production) and in the title role as the mighty Sikander — can anyone ever forget that thunderous voice! Now take Anand Bakshi — he was nowhere near the film industry during that period… all the above were way senior to him.
Success begets success and there was no turning back for S-J teamed with Shailendra and Hasrat. Film viewers — the janta of the late ’40s and ’50s had just emerged from centuries of ghulami; patriotic fervor hadn’t faded… but now, the chasm between the royal or rich, and the poor or laborer was fast widening. Socialistic poets turned tales of those poverty-stricken crying souls into lyrical laments; or went into raptures of romance among royalty that was notional, no longer valid, had never before been seen, nor would it ever be visible again… except of course on celluloid. This was a golden opportunity… filmmakers, poets, music makers… with their talent they could make this era golden… this was their time. While in Europe, millions were reeling from the aftermath of World War II, or the genocide, on its surface India was euphoric, bubbling with a fervor of the First, Second, Third Five-year Plans. Ten-fifteen years flew past… cinema continued to be an escapism for millions in India, while anger was simmering within. Industrialization, and this smouldering fury went hand in glove. The gora saab had gone, but the ‘bade saab’, ‘yes sir’, ‘jee huzoor’ fever had not faded. Youth in their teens during the ’50s, or little boys and girls with their young parents crooning grew taller on this staple of Raj Kapoor’s on-screen histrionics –‘Anari‘ style, and of course, Shankar-Jaikishan’s melodious upbeat music.
By the time Anand Bakshi arrived… in the mid-late sixties and onset of the seventies, joblessness, poverty and disparity between lifestyles of the elite seth log versus the gareeb mazdoor was on cinema screens, spewing vitriol — I daresay from all that industrialization, eh! Times had changed… the golden era was long gone, now not visible even on celluloid. It was goodbye to Lucknowi tehzeeb. Welcome to the ‘70s tameez… or rather, the lack of it a.k.a. “Bad-tameez“. Recall, even Pakeezah (1972) was a flop, and in 1970 Raju the famed Joker too faced rejection… Truly, was Anand Bakshi the cause of these failures?
A change in order was the order of the day. Every other film had Anand Bakshi’s songs… romance, pathos, laments, sizzlers, patriotic, dreamy, family, happy, holi, diwali, eid, Amar, Akbar, Anthony, name any. Sure he used ‘tukbandi‘ – easy on the lips of kids (think nursery rhymes), and for the moms-pops, naana-nani, daada-daadi, chacha-bhatija, dost, dushman, daakiya! He wrote poetry – poetry that was suited to commercial cinema of the new era, but his lyrics have also stirred the soul. Foregoing his khakhi vardee he struggled for long, but pursued this career — writing film lyrics for movies that were made for all of India — that was still more rural than urban at the time, and for a long while. Black and white was out, Eastman Color was desirable – even for those watching the film under the open skies. In view of the changing preferences of audiences who flocked to see dhishum-dhishum, de-danaa-dun violence between a valiant Dharmendra and the villain, his lyrics aligned with the lingo of these masses. Through cinema they could vent their dil ki bhadaas … the steam that built up from pent up anger during ongoing strikes at steel factories, and Mumbai’s cotton mills – not unlike today’s colloquial ‘badass’ bhasha. The days of self-sacrifice, loyal friends and lasting friendships; strong emotions, sincerity, concepts of the joint family… were all fast fleeing. Smugglers’ dens, easy money for the crooked, and vices that slide in with avarice was the new order. Bashfulness, humility and modesty were no longer a virtue. Keenly observant and adaptive, Anand Bakshi poured into his lyrics this changing ethos of society – what his eyes and senses experienced, his pen noted. In keeping with the changes visible everywhere – from the way people now spoke, to the way they dressed with guys displaying bare gaping chests, to the unabashed aping of the latest from the West… he wrote about it all. Dum maro dum... mit jaaye gham! Or this one from Apna Desh (1972)…
But here was the opening song from Aradhana (1969)… remember it?
A man of principles, a man of immense talent, a man who steered his ship through the roughest seas, Anand Bakshi worked long and hard. He wrote with ease, a gift he was born with. He wrote lyrics that were his very own, always ‘original’, ever fit for the records – LP’s ‘Karz’, or Pancham da’s ‘Amar Prem’, KA’s ‘gul-bulbul’ or Burman dada’s ‘Aradhana’ — remaining true to the filmi situation, carrying forward the film’s story, befitting its folksy setting, or flattering to its flamboyant characters.
Aloof, preoccupied, confident, this modest man was never striving for stars… he just focused on the work on hand… and of that he had more than plenty. He admired his seniors – Sahir Ludhianvi, D. N. Madhok, even Shailendra – in fact Sahir and Kaviraj were cognizant of his skills; if anything, in the early days of his career they even guided him… and he always viewed their contribution to his career as invaluable! The untimely demise of Shailendra, and Jaikishan was indeed a blow to the film industry, and to fans of the desi Quartet. But this film industry moves on… why, the music world did not stop creating music even after The Beatles had broken up. Music composers are inspired, occasionally ‘borrowing’ a beat here and a tune there, but Bakshi built his own vocabulary. From a ‘dambuk‘ to ‘ilu ilu‘… it was all his very own. Although his entry was past the prime golden era of music and melody as the late 40s through 50s and early 60s are often referred to, he held his ground for 45 years, despite the crests, troughs and turbulence. Can anyone deny that?
A modest man but with immense self-respect, Anand Bakshi relied on nobody to fend for him. When I think of his mettle, I believe that he remained true to the Army values long after he had moved on… on a lifelong journey to fulfill his dreams, and along the way inspiring millions. In this interview with Star n Style (1972), Anand Bakshi speaks for himself.