- A link to an interview with the lyricist Yogesh.
Yogesh's name has always been synonymous with quality lyrics like
Zindagi kaisi hai paheli from Anand or Rimjhim gire saawan from
Manzil. Even today, whenever meaningful verse is needed, as in Suno
Na..., he is one of the first choices
He's as full of beans as a twenty-plus young man, and one would never
connect him with the consistent struggles that he has faced early in
Lithe and energetic at 65-plus, Yogesh's attitude and body language
reflect only his positive approach to life, and though the pain must
be there within, he humorously relates off-the-record anecdotes of
how he had a role in mentoring almost six music directors, all of
whom cast him aside the moment they got their first whiff of success.
"Please do not mention their names," he requests humbly. "I do not
want to hurt anyone. It was I who was never inclined towards the
tricks of this trade. Raj (Kapoor)saab had called me to RK Studios
after hearing my two songs Zindagi kaisi hai paheli and Kahin door
jab din dhal jaaye, (Hrishida had dedicated the film to Rajsaab who
had inspired the story) but when I reached there the watchman took
one look at me and refused to believe both that I was a shaayar and
that Rajsaab had summoned me. I never wore the adornments of a
shaayar - the kurta, the pyjama or the long hair! So all that the
watchman said was `Tumhare jaise to roz yahaan aate hain!' This
happened thrice and each time I had changed trains and buses to reach
RK Studios in Chembur."
Laughs Yogesh at the memory, `Years later, one of the top names in
music scolded me for this, because I could have taken the help of
anyone - Hrishida (Hrishikesh Mukherjee), Mukeshji, Mannada or
Salilda - in getting through. The point was that Rajsaab must have
thought that I never gave him importance!'
Yogesh digresses and adds, "I never could work with any of the
Kapoors. Anand was to be enacted by Shashi Kapoor but that too never
happened." The poet obviously does not consider his work for Karisma
Kapoor's Dulaara significant enough.
But the real twist in the tale comes from the lyricist's revelation
that he became a songwriter for the most inconceivable reason. Here's
how the story went: "I came to Mumbai from Lucknow when my father
expired and I wanted a job - but not in films. My cousin, the popular
late writer Vrajendra Gaur, said that I should do something in films
but never helped me though he could have. So a friend of mine named
Satyaprakash was very angry about this and told me that I must
succeed in films in any department I thought it apt! He told me not
to worry about sustenance as he would look after that! A long
struggle followed. I was living alone in a chawl and even learnt to
cook!And I struck off my surname so that my cousin could never say
that I was using some point of connection with him to get anywhere!"
Yogesh considered the options of scriptwriting, dialogues writing and
lyrics because he was good at memorising poetry from his
schooldays. "My mother was extremely fond of poetry and I was brought
up in the literary culture of Lucknow," says the poet. "So I began to
try out writing songs, and providence helped me along with life's
pains and struggle. I kept writing, and slowly realized that my poems
were liked by my neighbours to the extent that no one believed they
Yogesh had a humble beginning with Sakhi Robin (1963) with music by
Robin Banerjee, a small-timer whom he happened to meet. "He called me
to his music room for over a month where he would just play music and
I would listen, and after that when I asked him when he was giving me
work, he just said, `I'm giving you tunes everyday for a month. Why
are you not writing anything?'"
The incident was an eye-opener in more than one sense. Yogesh
realised that in films, most lyrics were written to metres given by a
composer. "I found that easier than writing a song first," admits the
writer. "Also 50 per cent of the effect comes from the melody and I
do not recollect any composer who went home with my lyrics made
Sakhi Robin's Tum jo aao to pyar aa jaye was a hit and Robin signed
nine small films, most of which like Marvel Man, Flying Circus and
Adventure Of Robin Hood were written by Yogesh. Among other early
Yogesh films were Ek Raat with Usha Khanna ("Majroohsaab told me that
no one had written a better song on beauty than my song Sau baar
banaakar maalik ne that Rafisaab sang"). I also wrote a song for
Laxmikant-Pyarelal, who were struggling then, in Duniya Nachegi.
There was some financial problem and the music was not even released!
Later, till the `90s, our's seemed a star-struck association as
somehow any film planned with us never took off or was made without
Times changed by a strange quirk. "I had no money to even buy a
gramophone to hear my own songs, so we would go to Sabita Choudhary,
who was not even married to Salilda then but was seeing him, to
listen to the records as she had a turntable," recalls Yogesh. "It
was she who recommended me to Salilda as Shailendra was no more and
Salil Choudhary was making a comeback with a film named Anand. And
with Anand I took off. Hrishida and I worked in several films like
Sabse Bada Sukh, Mili, Rang Birangi and Kisi Se Na Kehna while Basu
Chaterjee heard my songs and summoned me for Us Paar and Rajnigandha."
Till Pratiksha, Basuda's last film to date, Yogesh wrote most of his
subsequent films, prominent among them being Chhoti Si Baat,
Priyatama, Dillagi, Manzil (1979), Baaton Baaton Mein, Apne Paraye
and Shaukeeen. Chor Aur Chand, Hamare Tumhare, Honeymoon (1973),
Mahesh Bhatt's debut film Manzilein Aur Bhi Hain and Sshhhh are
among his other known films.
"Salilda was my favourite composer," declares Yogesh. "Very reserved
when I was first introduced to him, once he opened up he was great
fun.He was probably the only Bengali composer with a great sense of
Hindi lyrics, maybe because he was a writer and poet himself, and so
well-read that he was an encyclopaedia on every subject! In fact
Bengali literature lost its greatest poet after Tagore when Salilda
came into music and films! Everyone said that his compositions were
like the jalebi, twisted and convoluted, but I never had a problem
even in songs like Nis din nis din and Guzar na jaaye din din din
(Annadata), Pyaas liye manwaa (Mere Bhaiyya) or Rajnigandha phool
Yogesh is now working with Sanjoy Choudhury, Salil's son in Suno
Na . "His music is contemporary, but his approach is like his dad's."
Suno Na , he tells you, is an interesting story of an unwed mother
talking to her unborn child and has five situational songs.
About the other father and son pair he has worked with, he recalls
with affection the quirks of Dada (S.D.Burman) who worked with him in
Us Paar and Mili. "When Basuda first sent me to him for Us Paar, Dada
warned me that he would throw me out if I was not good! Later, he
gave me the tunes of Mili before he fell seriously ill. R.D.Burman
recorded Maine kaha phoolon se and Badi sooni sooni hai and Dada
would mock-criticise Pancham's treatment of the songs!" smiles Yogesh.
"But Aaye tum yaad mujhe was a tune that Panchamda had not even heard
from Dada, so I sang it out in my off-key way to Kishore Kumar and
the arrangers and Kishoreda declared that he would sing it just the
way I had! With Panchamda I later did at least 8-10 films, and it was
Deven Verma who first signed us together for Bada Kabutar. But though
Pancham liked me, I was fifth in his list, after (Anand)Bakshisaab,
Majroohsaab, Gulshan Bawra and Gulzarsaab!"
Yogesh never could reconcile to the cold, emotion-less business
mindset of the industry. "But I have no complaints. I am content and
financially secure. My three children are well-settled and I have
simple wants," says the writer. "The only work I have done outside
films are the title-tracks of 200 television serials and a choir song
with Salilda. I have had the privilege of doing two films with Manna
Dey as a music composer, Hemantda's home production Chala Murari Hero
Banne and the script, dialogues and lyrics of Kishoreda's last film
Pyar Ajnabi Hai."
But the core mystery remains - how did he reach this level of
excellence without any kind of poetic base? "I honestly do not know,"
smiles the writer. "God helped me somewhere. But the fact remains
that every time I would be at a recording I would want to improve
some of the lines!"
And what was his own take on lyrics? "Though my all-time favourite
song that makes me cry is Koi gaata main so jaata written by Dr
Harvanshrai Bachchan, I rate Shailendra, Sahir Ludhianvi and Pradeep
as the best writers. Having grown up in Lucknow, I was influenced
more by Urdu and shaayari earlier and wrote songs like Maana mere
raqs-e-qadam and others. It was Salilda, whose metres were not fit
for the ghazal-like format, who turned me into a kavi!"