In my previous article, I talked about the extraordinary contribution of Punjabi music directors to Bombay film music. In this article we shall appreciate the very rich and outstanding contribution of Punjabi song writers or lyricists, as they are also known, some of who have also been celebrated poets. I consulted two distinguished poets, who are very close friends of mine, in Stockholm before writing this article. Ahmed Faqih’s book, ‘Badshah Nanga Hai’ was awarded the Ahmed Nadeem Qasimi award 2006-2007 and Masood Qamar in collaboration with Hussain Abid had come out with ‘Kaghaz pey bani Dhoop’, which has in recent months been receiving rave reviews in Pakistan, including one by the Vice Chancellor of Karachi University, for making the provocative point that while Lahore still conforms to the classical tradition of writing ghazal (comprising a number of two-line verses, independent of one another, but all about love of a woman, requited and unrequited), Karachi on the other hand, represents the modern, innovative nazm (several interconnected verses focusing on one subject). Both are also keen students of music and fully familiar with Punjabi genre of poetry as well. I wanted to know what position the film geet (verses meant to be sung) occupied in the different classes of poetry. I learnt that geet and nazm are closely related and that the geet is simply poetry which can easily be expressed in melody. Film songs can be geets, nazms and ghazals. However, geets are specially written for a song.
In light of such a discussion, my understanding is that since Punjabis were fully conversant with Urdu/Hindi or Hindustani prose and poetry they were able to respond innovatively to the demands of the film industry. In doing so they brought in the Punjabi tappas and kafis and other such genres into their Hindustani verses and created an exotic film song-writing culture than existed traditionally in the more orthodox regions of classical Urdu and Hindi poetry. Some wrote in both Hindustani and Punjabi and were catering for all three film centres.
The earliest Punjabi who started writing for all three industries was Dina Nath Madhok, better known as D. N. Madhok (born Gujranwala 1902 – died Hyderabad Deccan 1982). Others from the pre-partition era included Kidar Sharma, Aziz Kashmiri, Qamar Jalalabadi (Om Prakash Bhandari), Zahir Kashmiri, Nazim Panipati, Saifuddin Saif, Tanveer Naqvi, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan (nephew of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan), Qatil Shifai, Prem Dhawan, Verma Malik and several others. Two Muslims who left Lahore during partition included Aziz Kashmiri (who until then was Lahore based) and Sahir Ludhianvi (who was not writing film songs at that time). Tanveer Naqvi returned to Lahore after partition. Zahir Kashmiri, Saifuddin Saif and Qateel Shifai were based in Lahore, but used to write for Bombay films as well. They stayed behind. West Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs who later made a great name for themselves in Bollywood include Rajinder Krishan, Anand Bakshi, Gulzar (Sampuran Singh Kalra) and Naqsh Lyallpuri (Balwant Rai Sharma).
Shailendra was born in Rawalpindi, where his father had set up a small business, but the family was originally from Bihar and it left for Mathura, UP, much before Partition, when Shailendra was still going to school in Rawalpindi. I thought this fact should be noted, even if one cannot claim that Shailendra was a Punjabi. On the other hand, Nazim Panipati (just as Khawaja Ahmed Abbas) hailed from Panipat and was an Urdu- or rather Haryanvi-speaker. Till 1947, Ambala division was a part of united Punjab and therefore we include him among Punjabi song writers.
Geet is simply poetry which can easily be expressed in melody
As this series develops and evolves, we will have many occasions to discuss some of the songs which the Punjabis wrote for the Calcutta and Bombay film industries. However, already I want to make the following distinctions. D. N. Madhok was definitely the earliest of the Punjabis to establish himself in Bombay. Naushad has mentioned in an interview that during the formative phase when he was looking for a breakthrough in Bombay, D. N. Madhok helped him a great deal. Their finest cooperation was in the film Rattan (1944). The song, Sawan kae badlo unn sae ye jaa kaho’ sung by Zohrabai Ambalvi and Karan Dewan is even now remembered with great nostalgia by film buffs. Then, another, ‘merey pia gaye Rangoon wahaan sae kyia hai telephone’ sung by Shamshad Begum and Chitalkar (C. Ramchandra) and filmed on Nigar Sultana and comedian Gope in the film Patanga (1949), was a sensation. One can name dozens of others.
Rajinder Krishan (born Jalalpur Jattan, Gujrat district, 1922 – died Bombay 1988) was undoubtedly one of the greatest geet writers and one can compare him with Shailendra in terms of how beautifully he could express himself in romantic poetry. I will devote more space to his songs in a forthcoming article. The first song, I believe, in which Punjabi words were used in a Hindustani film made in Bombay was penned by Aziz Kashmiri. The song was “Lara lappa lara lappa lyee rakdha”, picturised on Meena Shorey in the film Eik Thee Larki (1949), and it was an instant hit. The music was by Vinod. All three were from Lahore originally.
However, it was Anand Bakshi (born Rawalpindi 1930 died Bombay 2002) who should be credited with starting the trend to use Punjabi words, phrases and even verses in Hindi songs. His output outstrips that of all other song writers, including non-Punjabis. Another Punjabi, Gulzar, is considered to have created an entirely new imagery and symbolism in his poetry and indeed in his film songs. Ahmed Faqih tells me that Gulzar is a class by himself. Others too have generated most beautiful and exquisite film songs. We shall be looking at some of their great creative contributions in forthcoming articles.
But the man who transformed the song-writing scene in Bombay and created an entirely new style of socially-conscious film songs with a clear message for fundamental change was undoubtedly Sahir Ludhianvi (given name Abdul Hayee born Ludhiana 1921 – died Bombay 1980). I will devote one or two forthcoming articles to his contribution. With the death of Anand Bakshi only Gulzar remains from among the Punjabi lyricists at Bombay mentioned above, who is among the top-ranking song writers in Bollywood.
Ishtiaq Ahmed is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Stockholm University; Visiting Professor at Government College University, Lahore and Honorary Senior Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore
Without Punjabis Bollywood will be barren. Punjabi culture is dominant in music art food clothes in all aspects in the subcontinent.