Written by: Rakesh Anand Bakshi
Published by: Penguin Random House
MUMBAI—This one is a tome of passion: A son’s heartfelt and natural tribute to his father—about whom, at the legendary lyricist’s peak—he himself did not know all that much. The information has been garnered quite a bit through Anand Bakshi’s immaculately-maintained diary, in English, from which many substantial and illuminating chunks have also been used in the book.
Rakesh Anand Bakshi’s own interactions with his father (including as a kid), family members and relatives, and last but not least, with his dad’s professional associates make for a very enriching picture of a true giant.
In fact, to call Anand Bakshi just a giant in his field would even be a disservice to him—he was so much more. He was the master-lyricist of about 600 films made between 1957 and 2002 (when he passed away). His movies kept coming till 2004, and in 2012, filmmaker Ashim Samanta even used a song lying with him for his new film.
From 1967 (when Anand Bakshi really hit it big—in his own opinion—after “Milan,” though he had earlier hits like “Jab Jab Phool Khile,” “Devar,” “Mehndi Lagi Mere Haath,” “Mr. X in Bombay,” “Aasra” and “Aaye Din Bahaar Ke”), Bakshi remains the most popular and prolific lyricist in Hindi cinema—an awesome record, and was the highest-paid lyricist till almost the end of his career when someone else demanded and reportedly got a higher fee than him.
A year before he passed away, Bakshi had the release of “Gadar—Ek Prem Katha,” which was the biggest grosser and most viewed film of the millennium’s first decade. Of course, he also wrote the songs of “Sholay,” Hindi cinema’s biggest-ever hit, and even sang in it—one of the six songs he recorded as a singer. He is the only lyricist, besides Shakel Badayuni, to have two films among the most viewed films of each decade.
He not only worked with the maximum number of filmmakers of 4 to 5 generations, but also the highest number of stars, and his songs launched the careers of Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Kumar Gaurav, Kamal Haasan, Saif Ali Khan, Raakhee, Dimple Kapadia, Jaya Prada, Amrita Singh, Rati Agnihotri, Meenakshi Seshadri, Manisha Koirala and more.
The composers ranged from Naushad, Roshan, S.D. Burman and Jaikishan (as Shankar-Jaikishan) to A.R. Rahman, M.M. Kreem, Sajid-Wajid, Ismail Darbar, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and others with a record 303 films with Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Popular teams were formed also with Kalyanji-Anandji, both the father and son Burmans, Rajesh Roshan, Viju Shah, Shiv-Hari, Uttam Singh and Jatin-Lalit.
Anand Bakshi was so easy to work with temperamentally that youngsters born after he began his career could easily relate to him, come filmmakers like Rajiv Rai and Milan Luthria, or the young composers.
The structure of the book is quite unconventional—linear and chronological only in part. It emphasizes a lot on his formative years that made Bakshi what he became: his dreams, his firm belief in God, his permanent sense of loss of his mother, who died very early, the communal riots after Partition that shaped his secular outlook, his stints with the Navy and Army that also honed his tremendous discipline, his determination to maintain values even when he was a struggler, and his clever ways of dealing with disapproving family members when he left the Army to fulfill his dream of writing lyrics. The trauma of missing his wife and a kid while struggling in Mumbai was a recurring leitmotif with the writer—something he could never really forget along with his memories of his mother.
An unforgettable part of the book is when Bakshi took family photographs with him as a youngster when they had to leave their homes during Partition. His reasons? Money and other things could be earned afresh, but memories, especially of his mother, could never be re-created. This one paragraph paraphrases what Bakshi was as a human being.
The best parts of the biography thus come when Bakshi is quoted, either for his diary entries or rarer for what he said to his son, for they express and make us understand the core of what Bakshi was, apart from being an incredibly gifted lyricist. In fact, as Salim Khan mentions in his evocative Foreword, “Very few people are as fortunate and as gifted to be able to fulfill their destiny on earth with such flair and style as the late Anand Bakshi.”
Mid-way through this compelling book, I confirmed what I had already sensed for decades: that Bakshi had been a visionary, a saint-like being who took the form of a lyricist in this world to not only write perfectly for situations of all hues in our films, but to inspire generations of Indians for all time with priceless thoughts, values and truisms expressed through characters—like in “Chitthi Aayi Hai” (“Naam”), “O Maanjhi Chal” (“Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke”), “Yahaan Main Ajnabi Hoon” (“Jab Jab Phool Khile”), “Gaadi Bula Rahi Hai” (“Dost”), “Solah Baras Ki Bali Umar” (“Ek Duuje Ke Liye”), “Chingari Koi Bhadke” (“Amar Prem”) or “Ghar Aaja Pardesi” (“Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge”). The “Dost” song even prevented a young man from committing suicide.
And yet, humbly, Bakshi talks about God as well with his unique perspective: “When you are alone, you are with your God. That’s God for me. That’s the time I talk with my God. God is truth.”
The simple soul behind this man for all seasons (like his songs, and as I have come to know now, his deep beliefs) continues to become more relevant as time passes, and 19 years after he left us (the book was written in that long period), we find that his timeless glimpses into life from his youth to the time when he had nothing left to prove by the early millennium become even more relevant with every passing day.
Rakesh has a simple, non-gimmicky style of phrase and has been fortunate enough to gather the contributions of associates as varied as Yash Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Dharmendra, Lata Mangeshkar, J. Om Prakash, A.R. Rahman and others, even as he simultaneously delves into the family life of Bakshi alongside his professional progress. Anecdotes about how some of his iconic songs were born enrich the book, like “Jeet Jayenge Hum” (“Meri Jung”), “Chingari Koi Bhadke” (“Amar Prem”) or “Jhilmil Sitaron Ka Aangan Hoga” (“Jeevan Mrityu”).
The book is adorned with precious photographs and so many precious nuggets of information about him (Sahir Ludhianvi, considered by many the greatest songwriter, was Bakshi’s staunch admirer too), that I would not like to reveal them here. For best results, do read the book yourself, and know why, as Javed Akhtar states on the back cover, “One day people will realize Anand Bakshi’s contribution to Hindi cinema and to our literature. Upon this realization, universities will offer PhDs (doctorates in philosophy) on his lyrics.”
In fact, as Rakesh puts it, more than one book is needed to do justice to this titan among songwriters. Until then, this book can be savored.