Article Hindi

Meet Prem Dhawan the versatile lyricist — birth anniversary special


From Talat Mahmood in the 1950s to SP Balasubrahmanyam in the 1990s, Prem Dhawan wrote verses that captured the heart of every singer and listener familiar with Indian cinema.

Shriram Iyengar

Actor, lyricist, composer, dance director. Prem Dhawan belonged to the elite talents that enriched Hindi cinema. A member of the Indian Progressive Theatre's Association (IPTA), he was also a trained classical musician who learnt the skill under the tutelage of Pandit Ravi Shankar. It was this understanding of music, and his nous to recognise the pulse of the changing language that made him an indomitable lyricist.

On his 94th birth anniversary today (13 June), we take a look at the lyricist's 10 compositions that prove his incomparable versatility at the art of songwriting.

1. 'Seene Mein Sulagte Hain Armaan' — Tarana (1951)

One of the early hits by Prem Dhawan was this wonderful ghazal, sung by Talat Mahmood to the composition of Anil Biswas. Dhawan shared credits for the film with another stalwart lyricist, DN Madhok. This wonderful ghazal was proof of the magic to come from this multi-talented poet.

2. 'Zindagi Mein Jab Aaye Woh Din' — Daak Babu (1954)

Talat Mahmood was an undoubted favourite of the early 1950s. His silken voice and tremulous timbre add a new dimension of pathos to this beautiful ghazal by Prem Dhawan. The lyricist created another song for the film, a magical rain song 'Ghir Ghir Ke Aaye Badarwa' for Lata Mangeshkar, to prove his versatility at emotions.

3. 'Ude Jab Jab Zulfein Teri' — Naya Daur (1957)

This is undoubtedly his best, and most famous work. For BR Chopra's seminal new age film, Naya Daur, Dhawan created a song that tapped into the energy and romance of the youth expressed in the fast paced rhythms from Punjab. In fact, he even choreographed for Dilip Kumar in the song. OP Nayyar's composition and Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle's mischievous voices did the rest of the trick.

4. 'Chal Mere Ghode Tik Tik Tik' — Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan (1959)

Few children in India would be unfamiliar with this wonderful little lullaby, though they might never have known it was actually a film song. Written for the high drama, Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan (1959), it was set to tune by music director Ravi and sung by Lata Mangeshkar.

5. 'Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein' — Hum Hindustani (1960)

A progressive poet in every way, the lyricist penned some of the most popular patriotic songs of the era. Take this wonderful composition by Usha Khanna that depicted a rising, progressive superpower in India. Sung by the wonderful Mukesh, the song is an optimistic call to a new generation to look forward, rather than to the past.

6. 'Ae Mere Pyaare Watan' — Kabuliwala (1961)

Of all the songs in Hemen Gupta's iconic adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's short story, Kabuliwala, this one remains the most memorable. Manna Dey's magical voice gave a new meaning to the term 'homesick' and created a song that resonated with immigrants and travellers for generations to come.

7. 'O Mera Rang De Basanti Chola' — Shaheed (1965)

Manoj Kumar's soaring patriotic film was known for several things, including the passionate songs that filled it. One of them was this wonderful ballad that was the revolutionaries' last call to their motherland. For the National award winning film, Dhawan composed and wrote the lyrics. Some years later, he won the National Award for Best Lyrics for the film Nanak Dukhiya Sab Sansar (1970).

8. 'Chal Chal Re Naujawan' — Ek Phool Do Mali (1969)

While he was good at passionate songs, the lyricist could also deliver a comic medley with panache. Sample this extremely funny number composed by Ravi, and picturised on a very young Sanjay Khan.

9. 'Teri Duniya Se Hoke Majboor Chala' — Pavitra Paapi (1970)

If a poet's greatest strength is measured in his ability to express sorrow then there would be no doubt of this great lyricist's calibre. While Pavitra Paapi did not have much to impress the critics, this melancholic song in Kishore's Kumar's evergreen voice remains popular to date. Proving his versatile talent, he composed and wrote the song himself.

10. 'Woh To Bana Apna' — Appu Raja (1990)

If there was one thing Prem Dhawan could be, it was adaptable. For a lyricist-composer, he traversed through the 1950s to the 1980s delivering songs according to the changing milieu. His last work came in the remake of the Tamil hit, Apoorva Sahodarargal (1989) starring Kamal Haasan. Dhawan rewrote all the lyrics for the tune set by Ilayaraja. Despite the changed language, they still proved a hit. Try humming this song, and you will know the earworms they were.