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Saturday, August 8, 2009

He’s alive in each word of his songs

Manoj Kumar remembers Gulshan Bawra, who gave us the legendary song Mere desh ki dharti.

Average-wise, Gulshan Bawra was the Don Bradman among lyricists. We had the pleasure of knowing each other before we entered the world of cinema. He was almost a family member for me. Meri desh ki dharti from the film Upkar happened when we had gone to a shrine to pay our respects. When we returned to the car, he was singing Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle… jawanon bhar bhar lo jholiyan… khushi se bolo boliyan… I had remained quiet as he hummed these lyrics.

A couple of years later when I made Upkar, I went to music composer Kalyanji and narrated the script. I called up Gulshan at home and told him the situation from the film. I recalled the lyrics I had heard him hum as we were returning from the shrine. They had stayed in my mind… I thought that it was a great idea for my film, given a bit of improvisation. I did not like the lines: jawanon bhar bhar lo jholiyan… khushi se bolo boliyan. I had them removed from the song finally. Instead, I insisted on: Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle ugle heere-moti. Both, Kalyanji and Gulshan were hesitant about the change. They advised that the mukhda of a song cannot have just one line. But I remained adamant about the song and suddenly, an hour later, Gulshan jumped in his room where he was sitting. ‘This is great!’ he exclaimed with joy.

Every filmmaker, while writing the screenplay arrives at a landmark point in the plot where he believes that the scene can be narrated musically. The situation is then explained to the lyricist and that’s exactly how Mere desh ki dharti happened.

Gulshan had written another song, Har khushi hai wahan tu jahan bhi rahe for Upkar. Now, he could not finish writing the whole song because he had to escort my brother to a college in Ajmer. Later, Gulshan himself confessed to the media that the second stanza of the song was not written by him, but was penned by Aziz Kaifi and me.

Gulshan was a jolly good fellow. I got to know about his illness some two-and-a-half months ago. He had told me that he was undergoing the last radiations and was all right otherwise. When we had met at Shakti Samanta’s chautha ceremony, he had said that he was doing absolutely fine. In fact, he was truly excited about a new car he had purchased after 27 years. He was proud to have paid the money to buy the car. I was thankful to God that my friend was doing well then… But again, he’s alive in each word of Mere desh ki dharti. That song is imperishable!

When Mahendra Kapoorji, who sang Mere desh ki dharti, passed away, our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said that he would always be remembered for the song. It hurts to know that so many people associated with the song — Kalyanji, Mahendra Kapoor and Gulshan Bawra — are no more. Gulshan worked very well with Prakash Mehra on songs like Yaari hai iman mera. Before he became well-known, Gulshan wrote songs under a pseudonym.

Gulshan was also an entertaining comedian. Hardly brooding, he always had everyone in splits with his act of mimicry. I don’t understand when he used to sit and write. He always seemed on the move. When I would ask him how he was, he would often hum the lines of his hit song, Iss gulshan ko ujde huey ek zamaana beet gaya… Gulshan and I were from the same village near Lahore, Pakistan. My chief assistant Sikandar was Gulshan’s cousin. So we bonded on much beyond just cinema. Filmmaker Kewal Sharma, cricket player Manmohan Sood, Gushan and I we were good friends.

Gulshan has only gone away physically. He was a wonderful man. He was a friend to everyone and would never spread gossip. God bless his soul. My love to his wife.

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