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From Anand to Mili, Yogesh wrote timeless hits for Bollywood’s best, but never got his due

He wasn't branded a legend but became the voice of '70s India. Such was the charisma of Yogesh and his lyrics.

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Jo dekhta tha, jo jeeta tha, wahi likha tha (I wrote what I saw and lived)”. These words by lyricist Yogesh Gaur, popularly known just by his first name, are reflected in his simple and heartwarming melodies.

From Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli to Rimjhim Gire Sawan and Rajnigandha Phool Tumhare, Yogesh’s songs could evoke complex emotions through the simplest of words. Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar once said, “Some of my most cherished songs were written by Yogeshji. He was such a quiet genius. His words were taken from normal conversation and yet so poetic”, she said, adding that Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaye was her favourite song by the lyricist.

Despite touching many hearts through his lyrics, Yogesh lived out later years of his life in the shadows, away from limelight, bearing the ignorance of an industry that once featured his name in the opening credits of its biggest hits.

In a 2018 interview with The Indian Express, the lyricist-poet had said, “It’s been years that someone came to me to ask for songs. I wrote for some films in the late 1990s, but those films were never released. I think the industry and the people have forgotten me,” a painful reminder of how fame and success, especially in the film industry, are ephemeral.

On his 2nd death anniversary, ThePrint revisits the life and works of a celebrated poet whose songs defined an era signified by powerful renditions of meaningful and soul-stirring lyrics.

Also read: Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Anand’ to get a remake

Yogesh did not have an easy start

Born in Lucknow to a Public Works Department engineer in 1943, Yogesh saw hardships after his father, a sole breadwinner, died an untimely death. However, he was always interested in writing poetry. His mother’s interest in contemporary Hindi poets like Subhadra Kumari Chauhan helped introduce him to the fascinating world of Hindi poetry. After his father’s death, he moved to Mumbai (then Bombay) at 16, where his cousin Vrajendra Gaur, a dialogue writer, used to work. But he soon found he was on his own.

“We found a Jhopdi (hut) in a Basti (slum) about 45 minutes from the Andheri station for Rs 12 a month. There was no electricity or water, only a well. A deep doubt about being unworthy for the film line was nagging me. I did odd jobs in the far-off Kalyan and Crawford markets. I even played extras in films like Chakradhari. The intense physical stress made me sick. I still hadn’t thought about writing,” he once said.

Also Read: O.P. Nayyar, the untrained musical genius who was more than just a hit machine

From B-grade films to commercial blockbusters

While doing odd writing jobs and living in a chawl, Yogesh did not stop scribbling poems in his diary—which ultimately helped him get his first lyricist gig in Robin Banerjee’s film, Sakhi Robin (1962). Banerjee was impressed after reading his diary and asked him to write songs for him. The film gave him his first hit, Tum Jo Aao Toh Pyar Aa Jaye, sung by Manna Dey and Suman Kalyanpur. After that, he continued his stint as a lyricist but was restricted to low-budget, B-grade action films. After all, he had to earn money to survive in a city like Bombay.

His life took a turn when he was introduced to renowned music composer Salil Chowdhury, who was on the lookout for a writer after the death of his friend and lyricist, Shailendra. He asked Yogesh to write two songs for the film Anand (1971), where his co-lyricist was Gulzar. Filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee was impressed. And why wouldn’t he be—Yogesh’s song, Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli, aptly captured the essence of Mukherjees character, Anand— a victim of his circumstances willing to live life to its fullest. Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaye turned a simple sunset into a beautiful evening. Mukherjee collaborated with Yogesh for several of his films, including Sabse Bada Sukh (1972) and Mili (1975).

However, Mukherjee regretfully remembered how he thought the poet deserved much better. “Yogesh and I did Anand and Mili together, and he wrote so beautifully in both the films. In fact, do you know,  Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli was to be played in the background for the opening credits in Anand? It was Rajesh Khanna who insisted on singing it on screen. He felt we were wasting a beautiful song in the background. And he was right! I wish I had worked more with Yogesh. But you know how it is in this industry. One forms comfortable partnerships and misses the  opportunity to work with some great talent in the process.”

Yogesh also partnered with Basu Chatterji, another master filmmaker, and wrote for him in films like Us Paar (1974), Rajnigandha (1974), Priyatama (1977), Baato Baato Mein (1979) and Apne Paraye (1980) among others.

For Rajnigandha, his song, Kai Baar Yunhi Dekha Hai, is a beautiful representation of the internal conflict of the character of Vidya Sinha, who finds herself drawn to her lover from the past while she is in a romantic relationship with Sanjay, played by Amol Palekar.

Rimjhim Gire Savan, another of Yogesh’s famous songs, turned a scene of rain into a song of declaration of love for the beloved.

Even though his name was never counted among poetic legends like Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni, Shailendra and Anand Bakshi, Yogesh left with the genius stroke of his pen, an indelible mark on this world. Only he could craft songs that could find beauty in the mundane occurings of life.

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)

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