This wasn’t of course a planned post. His sudden demise brought a wave of shock among Hindi film song lovers. Though he stopped writing for Hindi films way back in 70s, the impact of his powerful and meaningful songs never went away . The lyrics of many of his songs are etched in our memories. He wrote all kinds of songs, songs of pathos, romantic songs, dance numbers etc.
He was born as Gopaldas Saxena on 4th January 1925, in Purvali, Uttar Pradesh. His childhood wasn’t a blessed one! He lost his father at a tender age of six. He had to work and earn while learning to support the family. He did all the things like jumping into the Yamuna to retrieve coins and working as a typist, till his post graduation. He did M A from Kanpur. Then he entered government services, but disliked it. Later he joined as a professor in Hindi literature at Dharma Samaj College in Aligarh.
He was a famous teacher and happy there. But he also used to write poems and Shayari that was published in various magazines and he became popular as a poet as well. He also used to participate in Mushayras. His poems were acclaimed for their quality and standard as well as their content and meaning. He was fluent with Urdu as well. His compositions used to touch people’s soul. Gopladas used to write under the psedonym Neeraj.
But destiny had its own plans. Once during his visit to Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1960, a producer, R Chandra approached him and asked him to work for his next film. Chandra was a student from Aligarh university and wanted him to write songs for him. He allowed Chandra to use his famous poem, ‘Swapna Jhare Phool Se‘ for the film, Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal. But the film got delayed and when it was released, was a flop. But the songs had already generated a wave of excitement for the new lyricist. He had not used ornamental, hard to digest Urdu words. Instead he used pure Hindi words to convey the feelings. This brought a wave of freshness to Hindi Cinema, where Urdu was considered a superior standard of quality for the songs. His thought process was also different, he would use some simple everyday examples to make a point, and that would appeal to all alike.
His songs from Cha Cha Cha were already popular as the film was released before Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal, and gained huge acclaim. During 1965 to 1967, except Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal, other songs were not so popular though were good. His notable songs in that period were, ‘Tum Nacho Ras Barase‘ from Sati Nari (1965), ‘Yeh Kaun Thak Ke‘ from Tu Hi Meri Zindagi (1965) etc.
In 1968, Neeraj worked with Shankar Jaikishan for the first time for the movie ‘Duniya’. S J were in search of a compatible lyricist, after death of Shailendra. Though Hasrat Jaipuri was equally capable and talented, why they searched for a new lyricist, remains a mystery to me! Neeraj wrote for their films in 70s and they worked together for more than 15 films. I personally like only a handful of the songs, borne out of their association. Also he was one of the lyricists for all of their films.
In 1970 -71, around 14 films were released with Neeraj as a Lyricist and it can be considered as a peak of his career. He worked for Shankar Jaikishan in films like, Pehchan, Mera Naam Joker, Kal Aaj Aur Kal, Laal Patthar, Ptanga, Umang etc. Majority of the songs were popular from those movies. Neeraj had a successful association with S D Burman and wrote nearly all the songs for all the movies, they worked together for. Prem Pujari, Sharmili, Gambler, Tere Mere Sapne are the prominent films of their association.
After this period, he worked for a few more films, but could not get the same popularity. Jaikishan left this world in 1971, and S D Burman in 1975. At this point, Neeraj started considering himself unlucky for Hindi film industry. He preferred going back to his original profession and returned to Aligarh. He was also the Chancellor of Mangalayatan University till 2012. He was awarded ‘Padmabhushan’ in 2007. He remained a reputed poet in Hindi literature. His poem collections ‘Neeraj Ki Pati’, ‘Baldalon Se Salam Leta Hoon’, ‘Geet Jo Gaye Nahin’ were published and became popular. In 1996, his compositions were taken for the film Fareb (Music by Jatin Lalit) and were hugely Popular- O Humsafr Dil Ke Nagar & Aankhon Se Dil Mein. I personally like both the songs a lot.
He was active even in his 90s. He died on 19th July 2018 at the age of 93 in Delhi.
I present now, my ten favourites penned by him.
1. Swapna Jhare Phool Se – Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal (1965) Rafi / Music – Roshan
This song has gained immortal position in old song lover’s memory. The lyrics of the song may suit many situations in anyone’s life. It obviously fitted the situation in the film. Other songs ‘Aaj Ki Raat Badi’, ‘Dekhati Hi Raho Darpan’ & ‘Mero Saiyan Gulabiyan Ko Phool’ are equally good.
2. Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaye – Prem Pujari (1970) Lata Mangehskar & Kishore Kumar / Music – S D Burman
Though all the songs from this movie are popular and are worth mentioning, I highlighted this one, as this is my of the favourite romantic song of all times. He has given his own recipe for Pyar. The song is cutely picturised on Dev Anand & Waheeda Rehman. Enjoy this beautiful song.
3. Woh Hum Na The – Cha Cha Cha (1964) Rafi / Music – Iqbal Qureshi
This was among his earlier hits. He had written a couple of songs, but both popular. Helen looks fabulous as usual. A beatiful tune that lingers in mind for long.
4. Megha Chhaye Aadhi Raat – Sharmili (1971) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – S D Burman
Again all songs from this movie are good and can be included here. This one is different in composition as it mixes happy & sad moods together, not commonly seen in film songs. The song has been composed in Raag Patdeep and is sung impressively by Lata. This song was an inspiration for one of my earlier posts.
5. Ae Bhai Zara Dekh Ke Chalo – Mera Naam Joker (1970) Manna Dey / Music – Shankar Jaikishan
S J got filmfare award for this movie, but it was too late. Jaikishan was no more. SJ never got Filmfare award for any other RK film. Manna Dey received best playback singer award for the song. Neeraj has described the life in a circus in a tactful but effective way.
6. Hai Maine Kasam Lee – Tere Mere Sapne (1971) Lata Mangeshkar & Kishore Kumar / Music – S D Burman
Again a cute romantic song. Every couple loves to place themselves as of the couple on screen. People used to envey Dev Anand as he carries Mumtaz on the bicycle. When I heard the song for the first time, I considered it as Salil Choudhary’s song. I find the tune somewhat similar to his style.
7. Re Man Sur Mein Ga – Laal Patthar (1972) Asha Bhosle & Manna Dey / Music – Shankar Jaikishan
A classical based song from the movie. Though Sooni Sooni Saans Ki Sitar Par was equally good, it was somewhat neglected due to overpopularity of ‘Geet Gata Hoon Main’.
It’s not easy to write a classical based song, but Neeraj does it easily.
8. Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe – Kanyadan (1969) Rafi / Music – Shankar Jaikishan
Most popular song from the movie. One of his earlier hits with S J. Nothing more to say, enjoy the song.
9. Dheere Se Jana Khatiyan Mein Re – Chhupa Rustam (1973) Kishore Kumar / Music – S D Burman
The song was based on ‘Dheere Se Jana Bagiyan Mein’ by Pankaj Malik. Dev Anand is trying to conciliate angry Hema Malini. A song with an element of comedy. This may not be a popular or a great song, but shows Neeraj was all rounder.
10. Main Laal Laal Guchkun – Majhali Didi (1967) Lata Mangeshkar, Kamal Barot / Music – Hemant Kumar
I particularly included this song to show his lighter side. He easily wrote a song like this for children. It’s a sawal- jawab kind of song. Meena Kumari describes a particular thing in a question format and the kids try to figure it out. A cute & enjoyable song.
This is my little attempt to pay a tribute to Neeraj, a famous poet and lyricist.
Would you add a song?
Disclaimer: Mehfil Mein Meri claims No credit to any of the images or songs posted here. The images and songs are the copyrights of their original owners. The song links are shared from Youtube for the music lovers to enjoy.