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Gopal Das Saxena ‘Neeraj’ dies at 93: Sixteen songs to remember the legendary lyricist by

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From Dev Anand’s Prem Pujari to Madan Sehgal’s Kanyadaan, poet and lyricist Neeraj wove his magic in a raft of films.

 New Delhi: The death of Gopal Das Saxena ‘Neeraj’, 93, brings to an end an era of evergreen music in Hindi cinema. Neeraj was a ‘jankavi,’ a people’s poet who wove magic in a raft of films, from Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker to Dev Anand’s Prem Pujari to Madan Sehgal’s Kanyadaan. Over time, his music has stood on his own, separated from the movies in which they were once embedded, across the decades into the 21st century.

ThePrint brings you a curation of some of Neeraj’s songs we love:

Ai Bhai Zara Dekh Ke Chalo: This song is from the movie Mera Naam Joker (1970). It is said that, on hearing the lyrics, composer duo Shankar-Jaikishan told Neeraj that it wouldn’t be possible to compose its music. However, when they heard the tune Neeraj had in mind, they were thrilled. It is a song whose lyrics encapsulate the essence of life and tell the listener how to live a life beset with continuous challenges.

 “Girane se darta hai kyon, marane se darta hai kyon

Thokar tu jab na khayega, paas kisi gam ko na jab tak bulayega

Zindagi hai chiz kya, nahin jaan paayegaa”

 Shokhiyon Main Ghola Jaaye Phoolon Ka Shabab: This song is from Dev Anand’s Prem Pujari (1970). Sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar, it was taken from Neeraj’s poem “Chandni Mein Ghola Jaye” and was his attempt to describe love. Neeraj completely changed the antara of the poem for it to suit the requirement of the film.

 “Rang men pighale sona, ang se yun ras chhalake

Jaise baje dhun koi raat men halke halke

Dhup men chhaanw men, jhumati hawaaon men

Haradam kare jo intajaar, wo pyaar hai”

Karvan Guzar Gaya Gubar Dekhte Rahe: This song from the 1966 movie Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal has over the years acquired a cult status. Sung by Mohammad Rafi and recorded with a minimalist tune, this song perfectly captures the sense of loss and the transient nature of everything in life.

“Neend bhi khuli na thi ki hai dhoop dhal gayi,
Paon jab talak uthe ki zindagi fisal gayi,
Paat-paat jhar gaye ki shaakh-shaakh jal gayi,
Chah to nikal saki na par umar nikal gayi”

 Megha Chhaye Aadhi Raat, Bairan Ban Gayeen Ankhiyaan: The song is from Shashi Kapoor and Rakhee starrer Sharmilee (1971). The movie was a big success at the box office and Neeraj’s lyrics and S.D. Burman’s compositions played a substantial role in it. In Lata Mangeshkar’s timeless voice, the song brings out a sense of hopelessness and dejection.

Ruthh gaye re sapane saare, tut gi re asha

Nain bahe re gnga more, fir bhi man hai pyaasa

Kise kahun re man ki baat”

Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe: The famous song from Kanyadaan (1968) has an immortal touch to it. The collaboration between Neeraj and Shankar-Jaikishan here was given a distinct melodious touch by the voice of the great Mohammed Rafi. The lyrics of the song perfectly capture how thoughts of one’s beloved are sometimes all-consuming.

Koyi Nagma Kahin Goonja

Kahan Dil Mein

Yeh Tu Aayi

Kahin Chatki Kali Koyi

Main Yeh Samjha, Tu Sharmaayi”

Kal Ka Pahiya: The song from the Chanda Aur Bijli (1969), for which Neeraj received a Filmfare nomination for best lyrics, was sung by Manna Dey. The lyrics of the song are a perfect blend of religious and existential philosophy.

“Karma agar achcha hai tera

Kismat teri daasi hai

Dil hain  tera saaf to pyare

Ghar me mathura kashi hai”

 Bas Yahi Apradh Main Har Baar Karta Hoon: From Pehchan (1970), the song won Mukesh a Filmfare award for best male playback. Particularly apt for today’s troubled times, the song talks about the need for compassion and love for fellow human beings.

“Main basaana chaahata hun swarg dharati par

Aadmi jisamen rahe bas aadmi banakar

Us nagar ki har gali taiyyaar karata hun”

 Phoolon Ke Rang Se, Dil Ki Kalam Se: From Prem Pujari, this sublime song is an ode to love. Although a commercial failure, the movie is remembered for all the stunning compositions which continue to live on. Kishore Kumar’s soulful singing makes the song tug at our hearts. In a fun trivia, Neeraj revealed that the song was written to the tune. “I wrote my best songs for him and the biggest royalty I get is from the songs that I wrote for Dev Anand,” the lyricist had said, adding he never signed a contract with the superstar.

“Haan Badal Bijli Chandan Pani Jaisa Apna Pyar,

Lena Hoga Janam Humein Kayi Kayi Baar”

Sunday Ko Pyar Hua, Monday Ko Iqrar: Asha Bhonsle and Mahendra Kapoor sang this fun and exuberant number which proved that Neeraj can adapt to, and produce lyrics for a variety of genres. From Kanyadaan, the song was a refreshing respite from the other more emotional songs in the movie.

“Sunday Ko Pyar Hua,

Monday Ko Iqrar hua

Monday na jaane ab kya hoga??”

 Dheere Se Jaana Khatiyan Mein: From Vijay Anand’s Chhupa Rustam (1973), the song was listed at number 9 on the Binaca Geetmala annual list of that year. In the setting of the song, the male protagonist teases the actress and Kishore Da and Neeraj managed to produce the perfect song, and bringing a lovely romantic appeal to it. 

“Mile mushkil se ye mehman

Ho bhi jate shayad meharban

Aag laga di hai sukhan me o khatmal

Dhire se jana khatiyan me”

Khilte Hai Gul Yahan: Sung by Kishore Kumar and picturised on Shashi Kapoor and Rakhee for Sharmilee, the captivating lyrics by Neeraj and Kishore Da’s voice make for a mesmerizing, almost hypnotic song.

 “Khilte hain gul yahaan, khil ke bikharane ko

Milte hain dil yahaan, mil ke bichhadane ko

Khilte hain gul yahaan….”

 Ae Maine Kasam Li: A beautiful melody, the song is picturized on two people vowing to be together always regardless of what they encounter in life. From Tere Mere Sapne (1971), the song is an old-school classic in how Neeraj’s lyrics speak to the idea of ‘forever’ that many couples dream of.

 “Maine kasam li, tune kasam li…

nahi honge juda ham…”

 Prem Ke Pujari Hum Hain: The song is again from the movie Prem Pujari. It was the first collaboration between Neeraj and S.D. Burman. After this, they worked on multiple other successful projects in the ’70s like Gambler,Tere Mere Sapne and Sharmilee.

 Aaj Madhosh Hua Jaye Re: Sharmilee (1971) produced yet another gem in the form of this song. Neeraj, S.D Burman and Kishore Kumar were an iconic trio and produced one enthralling song after another. Picturized on actors Rakhee and Shashi Kapoor who made a gorgeous couple, the song is an evergreen romantic.

Aaj Madhosh hua jaaye re, mera mann mera mann mera mann

Shararat karne ko lalchaaye re, mera mann mera mann mera mann

Jaise Radha Ne Mala Japi Shyam Ki: Tere Mere Sapne (1971) featured another classic, filmed on the lead couple’s wedding and post –wedding romance. Sung by Lata Mangeshkar, the song expresses a wife’s devotional love for her husband.

 “Jaise radha ne mala japi shyam ki,

Maine odhi chunariya tere naam ki”

 Rangeela Re: Originally from Prem Pujari, the song has had multiple renditions which is testament to the evergreen lyrics of this song. It is one of the most riveting yet profound numbers to have been produced in Bollywood. Neeraj’s golden words are evocative depth and meaning to this song.

 “Gaaon ghar chhoota re, sapna har toota re

Phir bhi tu rootha re piya

Waah re pyaar, waah re waah”

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