This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
July 21, 1930. That was the day a man was born who was to change forever the graph of the film song. Anand Bakshi, who simply said that he was a lyricist whose mind began to work only after he heard a (film) story, also was of the opinion that every lyricist had to have a poet hidden within, but averred that the lyricist's expression would come out with words that were in everyday, spoken language, even while expressing the deepest sentiment or truism, like 'Tum besahara ho to kisi ka sahara bano /Tumko apne aap hi sahara mil jaayega'.
Anand Bakshi's 600-strong filmography stretched seamlessly and without a break from 1957 to beyond his death in 2002, and included every conceivable form and genre of song. And the primary reason for this was that this ever-young-at-heart writer became, on personal, professional and creative merit, an addictive habit for composers, filmmakers and stars.
Bakshi's pen was unstoppable. With around 3000-plus songs, observers were baffled how the sheer quantity did not compromise the quality. The greatest poet of the 20th century, Padma Shri Neeraj, raved about Bakshi's caliber, declaring: "No one grasps all the dimensions of a (song) situation better than Anand Bakshi in Hindi cinema."
His songs were lightweight-but with Bakshi that meant "light but with weight"! It is widely known that Bakshi would write 8 to 10 antaras for every song, asking the director to choose what and how many he wanted to use from them all! Each, of course, fitted the situation, and when he was writing to a tune, the metre as well!
In a world driven by success and a vitally-needed connect with audiences, Anand Bakshi's 'Keep it simple' principle was paradoxically the most difficult creative path to actually follow. But the writer managed it wonderfully. One of his firm convictions was that age had nothing to do with how you tuned with associates. He hated throwing his weight or seniority around with youngsters, since he always believed that music was a collaborative effort. And he had to keep in step with the times.
And Bakshi's undying belief was that he had never written a hit song! 'Main gaana likhta hoon, aur alag-alag vajah se woh hit ho jaata hai (I just write a song, but some become a hit for varied reasons)!" he told me once, an axiomatic statement that shows that chartbusters can never be designed!
Laxmikant-Pyarelal were looking for an equivalent of what Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra were to their idols Shankar-Jaikishan and found him in Bakshi in Mr X In Bombay (1964). From here began an association of over 300 films, accounting for about half of Bakshi's works, with countless musical triumphs like Milan, Do Raaste, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Bobby, Amar Akbar Anthony, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Sargam, Karz and Khal-Nayak.
Kalyanji-Anandji were instrumental in giving Bakshi his earliest solo film (Mehndi Lagi Mere Haath / 1962) and A-grade assignments, and they collaborated on over 30 films, including Himalay Ki God Mein, Jab Jab Phool Khile and Vidhaata. But from the late '80s and Tridev began another famous association-that of Bakshi and Kalyanji's son Viju Shah, with Mohra, Gupt and other musical aces.
It is interesting thus to know that while S.D. Burman had Bakshi on his radar since the late '50s (he wanted Bakshi for Kagaz Ke Phool¸ Guru Dutt vetoed this struggling writer and wanted Sahir, and Dada vetoed that and settled for Kaifi Azmi!), son R.D. Burman went on do 99 films with the lyricist!
And it was with this man's songs that S.D. Burman made his 'youthful' and lasting comeback with Aradhana and his son first made his true professional breakthrough with The Train a year later.
The late Roshan and his wife Ira (also a composer) were also Bakshi's fans, and Roshan worked with him on Devar and a couple of other films. But from the '70s, Bakshi also went on to form a great team with Rajesh Roshan, from Julie to Na Tum Jaano Na Hum (2002). Had Bakshi not fallen ill and then passed on, he was also to do Koi…Mil Gaya with Hrithik Roshan in the cast and Rakesh Roshan as producer.
Chitragupta was another composer who admired Bakshi's work and they worked together in a couple of films in the '60s. More than two decades down the line. Bakshi worked with his sons Anand-Milind in not less than half a dozen films.
And so, from S.D. Burman's, Roshan's and Chitragupta's generation (that had come in the '40s) including Shankar-Jaikishan (Main Sundar Hoon) to superlative work with composers who came in the '90s and millennium-M.M. Kreem (Zakham), Sajid-Wajid (Chori Chori), Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Kucche Dhaage), Jatin-Lalit (led by the phenomenal Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) and A.R. Rahman (Taal), Bakshi traversed and excelled with them all.
Rahman expressed how he missed Bakshi's "life-changing lyrics" in 2008. Sajid-Wajid and M.M. Kreem were floored by his charm, and Jatin-Lalit and Ismail Darbar (Mehbooba) was in awe of Bakshi's genius. The lyricist had even signed a film with Himesh Reshammiya that was shelved. Later composers too ended up expressing regret that they could never work with him.
Coming to filmmakers, Bakshi got along equally well across generations. Besides producer Gulshan Rai (Vidhaata) and director son Rajiv Rai and producer F.C. Mehra and his filmmaker sons Umesh and Rajiv, there were also producer Yash Chopra (with whom Bakshi's association began late in 1989 with Chandni, followed by Lamhe, Darr, Dil To Pagal Hai) and son Aditya Chopra (DDLJ, Mohabbatein). After Bakshi's death, Yash Chopra experimented with Javed Akhtar (Veer-Zaara) and Gulzar (Jab Tak Hai Jaan) but the jadoo was not there.
Subhash Ghai never dreamt of working with anyone else after Bakshi's first film with him, Gautam Govinda, in 1979. Bakshi's last song was recorded for a (then shelved) Ghai production days before his death in 2002! Ghai also went the Javed (Kisna), Gulzar (Yuvvraaj) and Irshad Kamil (Kaanchi-The Unbreakable) route, without quite creating equivalent magic.
Raj Kapoor and Rajiv Kapoor, B.R. Chopra and Ravi Chopra, H.S. Rawail and Rahul Rawail, Shakti Samanta and Ashim Samanta and Surinder Kapoor and Boney Kapoor were among the father-and-son teams with whom Bakshi struck equally fruitful rapports. And in the millennium, Bakshi even wrote for the new generation like Milan Luthria from the Raj Khosla school and Kunal Kohli.
From a Kapoor scion like Rishi Kapoor (Bobby, when Bakshi was 42!) to the South Indian Kamal Haasan (Ek Duuje Ke Liye at the age of 50!) to Dimple Kapadia, Jayapradha, Rati Agnihotri, Kumar Gaurav, Rajinikanth, Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Manisha Koirala, Tabu and even John Abraham (a single song that the Bhatts used in Jism), Bakshi was in sync with young debutants at every phase in his career, giving them chartbuster songs with lyrics tailored as much to the film's needs as their own characters and personae.
Because of these virtues, most of the stars above also got addicted to Bakshi as lyricist, just like seniors Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna and others had, and the distinguished joint musical track-records did the rest.
As for film titles derived from his perennials, and the re-creations of Bakshi songs, well there are dozens. And space does not permit us to mention more than two each here-Om Shanti Om and Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai in the former case (interestingly, these are also debuts of Deepika Padukone and Tusshar respectively!) and Yamla Pagla Deewana and Dum Maaro Dum, whose titles were derived after Bakshi's all-time hit songs were re-created within the films!
There was never anyone like Anand Bakshi, and never will be.