Rajinder Krishan: The Unsung Lyricist

Rajinder Krishan’s lyrics defined the classic black & white era – his compatibility with legendary music composers almost always resulted in magical creations

Once upon a time, Bollywood had a maverick lyricist, who wore many hats as a writer of stories, screenplays and dialogues. A favourite across age groups, it was quite ironic that though his songs were hummed both by music lovers and commoners, he remained unsung. That was the fate of Rajinder Krishan.

Born on June 6, 1919, in a Punjabi Duggal family in Jalalpur Jataan, a township in Gujarat near Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan), Rajinder Krishen was bitten by the bug of shayari (poetry) at an early age.

In 1947, he wrote the story and lyrics for the film Janata. Deeply influenced by the philosophy of Kabir and devotion of Mirabai, his first song, Ghoonghat ke pat khol, was inspired by Mira's famous bhajan. In the same year, he wrote the lyrics for Zanjeer along with three other lyricists. Within a year, Rajinder Krishan became a household name across the nation. But it was his non-filmy song, Sono suno, O duniya walon, bapu ki ye amar kahani, that he wrote immediately after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, composed by India's first musical duo Husnlal-Bhagatram, earned him enormous praise from then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Husnlal-Bhagatram's favourite lyricist was Qamar Jalalabadi but he gave a chance to Rajinder Krishan in Aaj Ki Raat (1948), for which he wrote 10 songs.

In the same year, Qamar Jalalabadi and Rajinder Krishan wrote four songs each for Pyaar Ki Jeet. In 1949, in Badi Bahen starring Suraiya and Rehman, Husnlal-Bhagatram's most popular chartbusters were penned by Rajinder Krishan: Chup chup khade ho zaroor koi baat hai (Lata-Premlata), Likhne wale ne likh di taqdeer meri, Wo paas rahein ya door, Tum mujhko bhool jao ab hum na mil sakeinge, Bigdi banane wale bigdi bana de (Suraiya), Chale jaana nahin nain milake and Jo dil mein khushi bankar aaye set in Raga Bhairavi (Lata), and lone solo of Rafi, Mohabbat ke dhokhe mein koi na aaye. By now, Rajinder Krishan had established himself as a lyricist and he wrote a single song in Aadhi Raat composed by Husnlal-Bhagatram and Hansraj Behl, Maine balam se poochha miloge kahan (Geeta Dutt-Meena Kapoor).

Rajinder Krishan worked with several composers but he gave his best to C Ramchandra and Madan Mohan. He had joined C Ramchandra in Patanga starring Shyam, Nigar Sultana, Gope and Yaqub. which became an exemplary musical hit of 1949. This deadly combination gave several silver and golden jubilees.

Albela (1951) was another musical hit of the duo. All the 12 songs composed by C Ramchandra and sung by Lata-Chitalkar were superhits: a fast foot-tapping number, Shola jo bhadke dil mera dhadke, Shaam dhale khidki tale tum seeti bajana chhod do, Deewana parwana shama pe aaya leke dil ka nazrana, Mere dil ki ghadi kahe tik tik tik (Lata-Chitalkar-chorus), and Mehfil mein meri kaun ye deewana aa gaya (Lata-Rafi); a solo of Lata Dil Dhadke Nazar Sharmaye; and it also had the best lullaby ever written in a Hindi film, Dheere se aaja re akhiyan mein, with two versions in Lata's and Lata-Chitalkar's voice.

The duo was at its best in Anarkali (1953), starring Beena Rai-Pradeep Kumar-Kuldeep Kaur. The film had four lyricists, Rajinder Krishan-Jaan Nissar Akhtar-Shailendra-Hasrat Jaipuri. Rajinder Krishan's songs were: Ye zindagi ussi ki hai jo kissi ka ho gaya and Mohabbat mein aise kadam dagmagaye (Lata), Hemant's solo, Zindagi pyaar ki do-chaar ghadi hoti hai, Ae baad-e-saba aahista chal, and a duet, Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag (Lata-Hemant).

Rajinder Krishan's melodies were further immortalised in Azad (1955). A golden jubilee multistarrer with Dilip Kumar, Beena Rai and Dev Anand was Gemini Films' Insaniyat (1955). Directed by the movie moghul of South, S S Vasan, it had 17 songs of Rajiender Krishan.

It was C Ramchandra who created an iconic number, Eeena meena deeka, in two versions sung by Kishore and Asha separately. Rajinder Krishan was inspired to write this song that he had heard from a little Dutch girl who played with his daughter.

Rajinder Krishan enjoyed working with composer Madan Mohan and this combo gave us memorable songs in 42 movies. Their golden gems were: Mera piya se jaake koi kahe and Sama hai bahar ka (Lata).

In the same year, the duo gave some captivating numbers in Bhai-Bhai (1956), starring Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Shyama and Nimmy: Qadar jaane na, Is duniya mein sab chor-chor (Lata), Ae dil mujhe bata de (Geeta), and a duet, Mera naam Abdul Rehman (Kishore-Lata).

Gateway of India (1957) didn't do well at the box office, but its numbers, Sapne mein sajan se do batein (Lata), and Rafi's solo, Na hanso hum per zamane walo, became very popular. The film may have been forgotten but these lyrics remain fresh in the memory of music lovers.

Madan Mohan had earned the sobriquet as ghazal king. His compositions of two ghazals penned by Rajinder Krishan are peerless: Unko ye shikayat hai ki hum kuchh nahi kahte and Yoon hasraton ke daag mohabbat mein dho liye. Another enchanting duet was Zameen se hamein asman par bitha ke gira to na doge (Asha-Rafi). He composed his favourite ghazal in film Jailor (1958), Hum pyaar mein jalne walon ko chayn kahan aaram kahan in Lata's voice. Rajinder Krishan also wrote about the oppressed classes like his contemporaries Sahir and Shailendra, as reflected in the song of Naya Admi, Gareebon ka paseena beh raha hai.

Here are some of the unforgettable numbers written by Rajinder Krishan and composed by Madan Mohan: Do din ki mohabbat mein (Talat) and Le le dard paraya (Hemant) in Chhote Babu; Bairan neend na aaye (Lata) in Chacha Zindabad; Saba se ye kah do ki kaliyan bichayen (Asha) in Bank Manager; Chanda ja re ja re and Main to tum sang neha laga ke in Man Mauji; and many others.

They mesmerised again in Jahan Ara (1964) with some popular ghazals. Rajinder Krishan also worked with music maestro Anil Biswas in Aaram (1951). The evergreen hits were, Ae jaane jigar (Mukesh), Shukriya hai pyaar tera (Talat) and Mann mein kissi ki preet basa le (Lata). He also wrote some memorable melodies composed by Shyam Sunder in film Lahore (1949): Baharein phir bhi aayengi and a timeless hit of Lata and Karan Diwan, Duniya hamare pyaar ki yoonhi jawan rahe.

When he teamed up with singer-composer Hemant Kumar in Golden Jubilee hit Naagin (1954), his lyrics stormed the nation: Man dole mera tan dole, Mera dil ye pukare aaja, Jadugar saiyyan, Sun re sakhi, Sun rasiya kaahe ko jalaye, Teri yaad mein jal kar dekh liya, Unchi unchi duniya ki deewarein and Mera badli mein chup gaya channd re (Lata); Tere dwar khada ek jogi, O zindagi ke denewale (Hemant); and two duets, Chhod de patang meri chhod de (Lata-Hemant) and Pyaar ki nishani gori yaad rakhna (Hemant-Asha).

Another film of Rajinder Krishan with Hemant Kumar was Miss Mary (1957): O raat ke musafir chanda zara bata de, Ye mard bade bedard, Vrindavan ka Krishna kanahiya (Lata-Rafi); Lata's solo, Sakhi re sun bole papeeha; and a lighthearted song, Gaana na aaya bajaana na aya (Kishore).

Rajinder Krishan's hit numbers with next generation's composers were with Kalyanji Anandji's Govind aala re (Rafi) in Bluff Master; Sukh ke sab saathi (Rafi) in Gopi; and O mere raja (Lata-Kishore) in Johnny Mera Naam. With Laxmikant Pyarelal: Din jawani ke chaar (Kishore) in Pyaar kiye jaa; Unki tamanna hai (Rafi) in Intqaam; and with R D Burman, Ek chatur naar karke shringar (Manna Dey-Kishore-Mehmood) in Padosan. He was rueful that he could not work much with S D Burman. He also did a film with Naushad (Ganwaar), and an unreleased Ek Gunaah Aur Sahi with O P Nayyar. His only regret was that he could not work with Khayyam Saab.

Krishan did prolific work down South, given his terrific command over Tamil, and did 18 films with AVM in Tamil and Hindi. He also wrote lyrics for several films produced in Madras. Fond of smoking, playing cards and going to the race course, he once won a jackpot of Rs 48 lakh in a Derby race and contributed generously to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.

On September 23, 1987, he felt uncomfortable at home and was taken to Breach Candy Hospital, where doctors examined him. Nothing serious was diagnosed and he was asked to go home. But just as he was leaving the hospital, he collapsed and couldn't be revived. One is reminded of the lyrics of his song in Adalat: Jaana tha humse door bahane bana liye, ab tumne kitni door thikane bana liye.

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