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5 underrated gems of lyricist Gulshan Bawra: Death anniversary special


On the tenth anniversary of the death of lyricist Gulshan Bawra (he died on 7 August 2009), we revisit five of his songs that may have slipped your mind.

Sonal Pandya

As a lyricist, Gulshan Bawra was not as prolific as some of his peers. Remarkably, he penned only about 250 songs in a career spanning four decades. He even dabbled in acting for a bit, appearing in some films he wrote the lyrics for, like Upkar (1967), Zanjeer (1973) and Yeh Vaada Raha (1982).

When still a child, Gulshan Kumar Mehta had witnessed the brutal killing of his parents and his brother in the Partition riots. Somehow he survived and travelled to India. When he grew up, he got a job as a goods clerk at a railway godown in Bombay.

In a long-ago interview, the lyricist stated that he was drawn to writing poetry since the age of six. In Mumbai, it was music composers Kalyanji-Anandji and filmmaker Ravindra Dave who first gave him a break with Satta Bazaar (1959).

His pen name was given by a distributor, Shantibhai Dave, who “refused to believe that a 19-year-old ‘bawra’ [a seemingly lost innocent] could write lyrics of such depth.” The moniker stuck.

On the tenth anniversary of Gulshan Bawra's death, we look as some songs that, unlike his chartbusters ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’ and ‘Yaari Hai Imaan Mera’, you may have missed before.

1. 'Tumhen Yaad Hoga Kabhi Hum Mile The' — Satta Bazaar (1959)

Gulshan Bawra’s first hit song came with his first film, Satta Bazaar (1959), which starred Meena Kumari and Balraj Sahni. Directed by Ravindra Dave, the script came from KA Abbas. The family drama featured Sahni as a widower Ramesh with a young daughter Kala who marries Jamuna (Meena Kumari) to provide a mother figure for her.

As Kala (Vijaya Chowdhury) grows up, she wishes to marry the son of a family friend, Shyam (Suresh), but is forced to marry Pritam (Krishnakant) to help clear debts accrued by her father through gambling.

After her marriage, when Shyam and Kala have to stay under the same roof, the former lovers are in agony to pretend they do not know each other. The ballad is a duet featuring Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar with simple but effective music by Kalyanji-Anandji.

2. ‘Humne Tujko Pyar Kiya Hai Jitna’ — Dulha Dulhan (1964)

Another Ravindra Dave production, this film brought Raj Kapoor and Sadhana together for the first time. Working alongside Kalyanji-Anandji again, the lyricist brought out another heartbreaker with the song ‘Humne Tujko Pyar Kiya Hai Jitna’. The words are both accusatory and rueful and in the voice of singer Mukesh became another gem, though underrated.

Raj Kapoor plays Raj from Bombay who believes Sadhana to be his wife Rekha, but she claims to be another woman, Chanda from Jaipur. Here, Raj sends a veiled message to his wife, who has lost all memory of her partner. The Raj Kapoor-Mukesh combination is another reason why the song has endured.

3. ‘Peenewalon Ko Peene Ka Bahana Chahiye’ — Haath Ki Safai (1974)

Gulshan Bawra delivered another classic with ‘Peenewalon Ko Peene Ka Bahana Chahiye', a clever take on the popular literary and cinema character Devdas. The song, composed by Kalyanji-Anandji, has actor Randhir Kapoor and actress Hema Malini performing the play as Devdas and Chandramukhi. Singer Kishore Kumar adds that extra zing to the number with his flair in character as the fictional Devdas.

Now, of course, the song title has become an anthem of sorts for a new generation. The film was written by Salim-Javed and directed by Prakash Mehra. Actor Vinod Khanna won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award, his only major acting win, for his role in the film.

4. ‘Dukki Pe Dukki Ho’ — Satte Pe Satta (1982)

In the masala entertainer adapted from the Hollywood film Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954), the lyricist paired with RD Burman. The film’s songs ranged from the typical romantic number ‘Dilbar Mere’ to the unlucky-in-love track ‘Pyar Hamen Kis Mod Pe Le Aaya’, which everyone remembers. In fact, in the latter song, one can hear Gulshan Bawra utter only one word for Shakti Kapoor, ‘Haay’!

The tongue twister ‘Dukki Pe Dukki Ho’ involved four singers and the composer himself. The male singers were Kishore Kumar, Bhupinder Singh, Sapan Chakraborty and Burman, while Asha Bhosle sang the female portions. The song was craziness at its best, involving all seven brothers and their love interests. 

5. ‘Tu Rootha Toh Mai Ro Dungi Sanam’ — Jawaani (1984)

Throughout his career, Gulshan Bawra was known for injecting youthful vigour into his lyrics. He and music composer RD Burman, both in their late forties then, delivered for the aptly titled Jawaani (1984). The family film, directed by Ramesh Behl, introduced Neelam, and the number ‘Tu Rootha Toh Main Ro Dungi Sanam’ became a chartbuster.

Picturized on Neelam and Karan Shah, the modern-sounding duet, with electronic beats, was sung by Burman’s wife Asha Bhosle and Amit Kumar. By the end of the cutesy number, we were all won over by Neelam.