Interview Hindi

Lyricist Anjaan through the eyes of son Sameer: Death anniversary special

On his father's 20th death anniversary, Sameer spoke about his early life, his struggle to become a lyricist, and why music composers Kalyanji-Anandji were like his ‘godfathers’.

Anjaan and Sameer

Sonal Pandya

If not for an asthmatic condition, the lyricist Anjaan would never have come to Mumbai. Born Lalji Pandey in a village in Uttar Pradesh, Anjaan came to Bombay in 1953 when a doctor suggested he move to a place closer to the sea. He would later adopt the name ‘Anjaan’ when he became a lyricist.

His son Sameer spoke to about Anjaan's early life and his struggles as a lyricist. “His primary education was done in the village," he said. "Then he came to Varanasi and completed his Bachelor of Commerce from Banaras Hindu University.”

Anjaan was known for his poetry in Varanasi before he moved to Mumbai. “On every kavi sammelan [gathering of poets], every mushaira, he was popular, but one day, the famous singer Mukesh saheb was there at the Hotel de Paris in Varanasi. The hotel belonged to his [Anjaan's] best friend Mr Shashi. He introduced my father to Mukeshji. My father recited some poems and [Mukesh] was very much impressed. He told my father whenever you come to Mumbai, you come and connect with me, I will introduce you to Raj Kapoor,” Sameer recalled.

True to his word, when Anjaan came to Bombay, Mukesh took him to Raj Kapoor. According to Sameer, the showman gave the young man some sound advice about the industry and realities of success, saying, ‘Anjaan, you write very well, but if you want to become a lyric writer, you will need 10 years to become successful. It’s at the beginning stage and you are purely a poet. You have to reform yourself to become a lyric writer. You have to learn the technicality of lyric writing and understand what is the difference between poetry and lyrics.’

But, fortunately, Anjaan did get an opportunity early on to write lyrics for films. Actor Premnath was making a film called Golconda Ka Qaidi (1954) and Anjaan wrote a few songs for its album. Sameer revealed that that was when his father's struggle began. “He struggled for nearly 17 years and then finally got a film called Bandhan (1969) with Kalyanji-Anandji. Then in 1978, [the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer] Don came. From then, he [got to] a place where he wanted to be. That was his journey.”

Anjaan’s most popular songs came from his collaboration with Kalyanji-Anandji. Sameer said, “He always said Kalyanji-Anandji were his godfathers. They are the only people responsible to make him the Anjaan that he wished to be.”

Sameer said his father made a few concessions to be a part of the Hindi film industry but came to terms with his choices later. Anjaan’s father had wanted his son to work in a bank, as he himself did. But Anjaan pursued the Hindi film industry instead.

“If you ask me, he was not very happy," Sameer said. "He compromised because he wanted to get into the world of literature. Later on he felt that no, this is my bread and butter. This industry has given me what I want, so now I’m happy, it’s okay. Sometimes destiny and time say what you need, it’s not necessary that what you dream you can achieve.”

However, Sameer said his father was not keen on him [Sameer] following his footsteps and becoming a lyricist. Sameer came to Bombay in 1983, 30 years after his father had done so. Over the past two decades, he has written the lyrics for 4,000 songs. He said, “He struggled for 17 years and no father wants his son to go through this kind of pain. That’s why he said, finish your education, but don’t dream of coming over here. He was against [my joining the industry]. I came here against his wishes.”

Continuing, he said, “[From the time] I joined this industry, till today, not a single person has come forward to say that your father was a bad man. The kind of reputation he achieved in this industry is rare and that has helped me a lot, there is no doubt about it.”

As a lyricist, Sameer said his father had his own style. “My father was one of the biggest philosophers," he said. "Whatever songs he had written, there was always a message or a philosophy of life, and a different style of writing. He was not the usual kind of songwriter. Everybody respected him because of that.”

Audiences are familiar with Anjaan’s popular lyrics for Bachchan’s films like Don (1978), Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978) or Sharaabi (1984), but Sameer also brought to light other important songs from his father's oeuvre, like ‘Yashoda Ka Nandlala’ from Sanjog (1985), ‘Babul Ka Yeh Ghar Behna’ from Daata (1989) and the title song from Ganga Ki Saugand (1978), which are his favourites, too.

Asked how he would like his father and his songs to be remembered, Sameer said, “In the beginning, I was giving my name as only Sameer. But when I was writing [the lyrics] for Housefull (2010), he came in a dream and said, ‘Now you bring my name with you. I have to be alive with you at least.’ The kind of work he had done in his lifetime, people will remember him, that’s not the issue, but it was my attempt [to keep his name alive].”

Sameer performs songs that he wrote and those written by his father at musical concerts called Safarnama, an endeavour to keep his father's memory alive. “Till the time I am here, I am going to keep him alive,” he said.