Kavi Pradeep
Kavi Pradeep | Commons
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New Delhi: Dekh tere sansaar ki haalat kya hogayi bhagwaan…
Kitna badal gaya insaan kitna badal gaya insaan
Sooraj na badla chaand na badla naa badla re aasmaan
Kitna badal gaya insaan kitna badal gaya insaan

Aaya samay badaa bedhangaa
Aaj aadmi banaa lafangaa
Kahin pe jhagdaa kahin pe dangaa
Naach rahaa nar ho kar nangaa
Chhal aur kapat ke haathon apna
Bech raha imaan,
Kitna badal gaya insaan kitna badal gaya insaan

(Look at what’s happened to the world, O Lord
Humans have changed so much
The sun hasn’t changed, nor the moon, nor has the sky
Humans have changed so much

Times are troubled now
Men have become unsettled
Somewhere there are fights, somewhere there are riots
Men dance away naked
With fraud and pretexts men are selling their faith
Humans have changed so much)

These hard-hitting words were penned by Kavi Pradeep back in 1954 for the movie Nastik. The song features a pensive Ajit staring into nothing as he thinks about the state of post-Independence India.

From Aao Bachhon Tumhe Dikhayen to Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon, Kavi Pradeep’s songs have long informed Indian patriotism. On his 21st death anniversary, ThePrint examines his life and legacy.

Born as Ramchandra Dwidevi on 6 February 1915 in Badnagar, Madhya Pradesh, he started writing and reciting poetry at a very early age. “A lot of people wrote in those days and I was encouraged because I was saying something that listeners then appreciated,” he explained.

After graduating from Lucknow University, Pradeep was deeply taken by the nationalist movement consuming Lucknow at the time. He was a regular at kavi sammelans where he started using his pen name. However, fate had something else in store.

Mitul Pradeep, daughter of Kavi Pradeep, tells ThePrint, “While in college, my father lived very close to Anand Bhawan, (the Nehru household) where he attended many political meetings. He was deeply influenced by these and felt like he wanted to do something for the nation.”

“I finished my graduation and decided to join a teacher’s course and teach, but destiny had other plans for me. I was invited to a kavi sammelan in Bombay,” Pradeep said once. Himanshu Rai, the owner of Bombay Talkies, offered Pradeep Rs 200 and made him sign a contract for Kangan. The rest is history.

With over 1,700 songs to his name, Kavi Pradeep is widely regarded as one of the most well-respected patriotic poets and song writers during India’s freedom struggle.

Also read: 5 songs by which to remember Salil Chowdhury, the man of many instruments

Romance with India

Pradeep’s idea of romance wasn’t limited to a couple’s blossoming love. He made a conscious effort of writing songs that went beyond love. “I didn’t waste my life writing only about sex, lust, love, romance and all that. Love is but a part of life, and the love written about today talks about love between sexes only. But do young men and women have a monopoly where love is concerned? Aren’t there different kinds of love — that between a mother and her children, a father and his children, between a brother and sister, between a bhakt and his deity, between a man and his motherland?” Pradeep asked.

Pradeep was one of the first few song writers that championed the art of igniting patriotic love through mainstream Bollywood music. In fact, he explained, “I chose to write about different kinds of love. The saint-poetess Mirabai wasn’t married to Krishna but she loved him and spent her life singing about him… Perhaps it was the atmosphere in which we lived that evoked patriotic feelings in us, but then, in those days, we had good upbringing, good grooming and command over the language. That is why our work is also good.”

His thought wasn’t limited to patriotic love either. In 1959, he wrote a song called ‘O Ameeron ke Parameshwari’ for the film Paigham. This song put into perspective the troubles of the poor in the world of the rich.

Aisa lagta garibo ke jag mein
Aaj rakhwala koi nahi
Aisa lagta ke dukhiyon ke aansu
Pochhne wala koi nahi
O ameeron ke parameshwar

(It seems the world of the poor
Has no protector
It seems the tears of the troubled
Have no comforter
O god of the wealth)

Mitul Pradeep recalls, “He was a very jovial person and had an infectious laughter.”

His song writing process was often always scattered. He used many pieces of paper while writing. When creativity called, he used to get confused over which piece of paper he wrote his preferred lines on. “As kids, we would chuckle at his confusion,” says Mitul.

Fighting back with song

The early 1940s witnessed the Quit India Movement. Pradeep penned a song titled Door Hato Ae Duniyawalon Hindustan Hamara Hai for the film Kismet.

Aaj Himalay ki choti se phir ham ne lalkaaraa hai
Door hato
Door hato
Door hato ai duniya waalon Hindustan humara hai

(Today we have declared from the Himalaya’s peak
Go away
Go away
Go away, Hindustan is ours)

This song took the nation by a storm. It became the go-to chant for satyagrahis at the Quit India Movement. The British considered this song seditious in nature and arrest warrants were issued against Kavi Pradeep and the composer of the song, Anil Biswas.

“My father had to go underground to escape arrest,” recalls Mitul Pradeep. “He was only able to resurface when an Indian policeman named Dharmendra Gowd pointed out to the British government that the lyrics Tum na kisike aage jhukna German ho ya Japani were directed against Germany and Japan. It was his cunningness that protected my father from the British.”

This forced Kavi Pradeep to lie low for over a month and stay underground till things cooled off.

The song that changed it all

Aye mere vatan ke logon
Zara aankh mein bhar lo paani
Jo Shaheed hue hai unki
Zara yaad karo qurbaani

(O! The people of my motherland
Shed a few tears
For those who martyred
Remember their great sacrifice)

From Independence Day to Republic Day, this song still marks every patriotic occasion in India. Kavi Pradeep wrote this song shortly after India’s defeat in the 1962 India-China war and C. Ramchandra composed the tune. This song united the masses at a time when India was agonised by its defeat in the war. Pradeep’s words reminded Indians of the sacrifice made by soldiers and reinstated the pride of the country.

On 27 January 1963, Lata Mangeshkar first performed the song in the presence of then President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at Delhi’s National Stadium for an event organised by the film industry as a fundraiser for war widows. It is said that after listening to the song, Nehru was moved to tears.

Pradeep’s daughter, Mitul Pradeep reveals, “Unfortunately, Mr Pradeep was not invited. When Mr Nehru visited Mumbai three months, my father sang it specially for him at a function at R.M. High School here and also presented the original handwritten poem to him.”

Mitul was also reminded of how Pradeep was insistent on Mangeshkar singing the legendary song. “Due to some misunderstanding between Ramchandra and Lata didi, it was to be sung by Asha Bhosale. However, my father felt nobody except Lata didi could do justice to it. He even personally convinced her and she agreed to sing it. But with a rider — Mr Pradeep must be present at the rehearsals.”

It is reported that the words of this very celebrated song came to Pradeep while he was taking a stroll on Mahim beach. As soon as the words came pouring in, “he borrowed a pen from a passerby and wrote the opening stanza of the song on a foil ripped out from his cigarette packet”.

Through the course of his career, Pradeep received multiple awards. In 1961, he was awarded the Natak Akademi Award and he received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1997.

On 11 December 1998, Pradeep died in Mumbai. On hearing of his death, Mangeshkar said, “I am very sad. I have known him since 1948 and I owe much of my name and fame to him.”

Also read: Jailed for anti-Nehru poem & celebrated for Bollywood songs, Majrooh Sultanpuri had it all


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