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Lyricist of the masses

V. GANGADHAR

Gulshan Bawra, who passed away recently at 72, wrote 240 songs in his 42-year career in the Hindi film industry.



Memorable: Bawra wrote songs for Upkar

It seems Bollywood has a connection to people named Gulshan. Gulshan Rai produced and distributed films. Gulshan Nanda wrote mushy novels, many of which were made into Bollywood films. Gulshan Kumar and his T series brought film music closer to fans . And another Gulshan…Gulshan Bawra, the noted lyricist, has passed away recently in Mumbai at age 72.

In his 42-year career in Hindi cinema, Gulshan Bawra has written around 240 songs, most of them composed by top music directors – particularly R. D. Burman and Kalyanji-Anandji.

Meaningful and fulfilling

Bawra was lucky to work during the golden era of Hindi film music when melody reigned supreme and lyrics were meaningful and fulfilling. Besides writing lyrics, Bawra has done character roles in about 20 films such as ‘Upkar’, ‘Pavirta Papi’, ‘Beiman’ and ‘Zanjeer’.

Mention Gulshan Bawra to a Hindi film music buff and the immediate response will be, “Oh, the ‘Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle......’ chap!” Yes, the immortal lines from Manoj Kumar’s magnum opus, ‘Upkar,’ are still remembered today.



Zanjeer

According to a media report, a couple of years before the film was conceived, producer-director Manoj Kumar and Bawra were returning after visiting a shrine. At that time Manoj Kumar heard the poet humming some lines, which struck a chord. He remembered them when the shooting of ‘Upkar’ began and in consultation with music director, Kalyanji-Anandji, he invited Bawra over and asked him to complete the song which was finalised with some minor changes. The song and the film were hits.

Film fans also remember another hit song from Bawra, composed by the same music director duo, in ‘Zanjeer’. It is ‘Yaari hai iman meri yaar meri zindagi,’ where character actor, Pran, danced to the melody sung by Manna Dey. Hugely successful as the first hit of actor Amitabh Bachchan, the song and dance sequence were equally appreciated.

Bawra wrote other memorable lyrics for songs such as ‘Sanam teri kasam,’ ‘Agar tuna hote,’ ‘Kasme Vaade nibhayenga hum’ and ‘Aati rahengi baharein.’

It is strange that despite such consistent hits, Gulshan Bawra never made it to the top list of lyricists such as Shakeel, Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri or Majrooh Sultanpuri.

In a recent media interview, filmmaker, lyricist and poet, Gulzar referred to the great work of lyricists, D.N. Madhok, Kavi Pradeep, Sahir Ludhianvi and Shailendra, putting the last name at the top of his list because he was the poet of the masses. This could be because Gulshan Bawra did not work enough with many of the leading composers of his day. But his contribution to Hindi cinema cannot be ignored.

In fact, Gulshan Bawra, was very much a man of the masses. Born in Pakistan, where he lost his parents in the partition, Gulshan Mehta (his original name) had been in Jaipur and Delhi before arriving in Bombay to try and make a living.

He was employed for some time in the Railways but life was a struggle, and working in films was a distant dream. The first break came in 1959, when composer Kalyanji offered him work in the film, ‘Chandrasena’.

‘Satta Bazar’ a big hit, established him and also provided him with a new name, Gulshan Bawra. After that, there was no looking back. The lyricist who died following cardiac arrest is survived by his wife, Anju.

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