G S Kohli – A Tribute

Last month I wrote about a forgotten composer, Dattaram. This month, I intend to highlight yet another composer, G S Kohli, on the occasion of his 22nd death anniversary. Collecting information about him was a difficult task! Not much is readily available on the net. I looked him up in Marathi books as well. So what I’m writing today is the information collected from these sources, and my personal opinions about his music.


He might be better known as an assistant to O P Nayyar. He continued assisting him even after he started his own career as an independent music director. He was with him right from Aasman in 1952, (Some sources mention starting of their association with the film Baaz, that was released in 1953.) He was an excellent Tabla and Dholak player and used to look after the rhythm section of OP’s songs. He as an assistant and Sebastian D’souza as an arranger, was the most common combination during O P Nayyar’s heydays. Though Kohli also worked as sole assistant, for some of O P’s notable films like Naya Daur, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Howrah Bridge, Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, Kashmir Ki Kali etc.
Both of them were said to be short tempered and still managed to work together without falling out, was a mystery to many. O P Nayyar had said in one his interviews “Kohli was very talented but whimsical at the same time. He used to ask me और कितने दिन क्लॅरीनेट के पिसेस निकालने हैं।” This must be true as in late 60s O P tended to reuse his old tunes with minor differences and similar style of interludes.

GS-KohliThere is very little information available about his personal life. He was born in 1928 and details of his early life remain unknown. His full name was ‘Gurusharan/ Gurucharan Singh Kohli’. He got an opportunity to work as an independent composer for the film, ‘Lambe Haath’ in 1960, starring Mehmood & Naaz. Mehmood wasn’t an established actor that time and it wasn’t a big banner film. The songs were sung by Asha Bhosle & Rafi. The songs had a flavour of O P Nayyar’s style and the influence was obvious. Was It a natural thing or deliberately done under producer’s pressure, remains unknown. It could be either. The song ‘Pyar Ki Raah Dikha’ by Rafi was a hit. The other songs have a typical O P style punjabi tadka, ‘O Deewane Chhokare Raah Meri Na Rok Re’ being an example of this! The songs are pleasant, but don’t have Kohli’s own signature to it, in my opinion. The film also initiated successful association of Kohli and lyricist Anjaan, who later wrote nearly 50% of his songs. Kohli’s last film ‘Mahadaan’ in 1984 also had lyrics by Anjaan. The popularity of the songs helped his next venture, for Sippy films, which was a big banner, so was the main lead Geeta Bali. It is said that he actually started working for this film at the first place, but ‘Lambe Haath’ got released first. The film was Mr India (1961). Again Rafi’s solo ‘Mat Pooch Mera Kaun Watan’ was a success. Incidentally it was the most popular song of the movie and the only song by Anjaan in it. The rest were by Jaan Nisar Akhtar, that include Geeta Dutt’s numbers ‘Dekha Na Jaye’ & ‘Main Machis Ki Tili’ both of these songs again have O P’s touch. The latter song in a typical Punjabi style. The duets by Asha Bhosle & Rafi were also in similar punjabi style.

In 1963, Kohli got his all time hit films, Faulad (produced by Vinod Doshi) & Shikari (produced by F C Mehra), both of which were directed by Mohammad Hussein. The Banners had their own reputation, though the movies were stunt based B grade. Shikari and Faulad both got released in consecutive months in second half of the year, 1963 and did well at the box office. Thanks to Kohli for his wonderful music. This time a new lyricist ‘Faruq Kaiser’ got added to his list, who also wrote dialogues for Faulad. The songs from Faulad were hits of that year, with Asha Bhosle singing five songs, out of six from the film. Mumtaz got her first hit as a heroine and her pairing with Dara Singh continued for a few more films like Samson (1964), Tarzan Comes to Delhi (1965), Jurm Aur Aman (1968).
All the songs from Shikari were hugely popular, with four duets and two solos. It won’t be an exaggeration if I say, 1963 was the highest peak of his career, the graph unfortunately scaling down, the following years. With those hits why no big banners approached him in next few years, remains a mystery for me! This film had two female duet dance numbers, ‘Tumko Piya Dil Diya’ and ‘Mangi Hai Duayen Humne Sanam’.

The film started a trend of such songs where Kohli incorporated at least one female duet dance song, in all of his forthcoming films. Indeed a few films even again had two female duets. I think it’s a sort of record for a composer to have such songs in nearly all his films. He had opportunity to compose such songs as the majority of his films were costume dramas and had situations favouring such songs. Majority of these songs were sung by Mangeshkar sisters.
Some of the songs……
Tadpa Le Jitna Chahe – Char Darvesh (Asha Bhosle & Usha Mangeshkar)
Majnu Sa Aashiq – Naujawan (Lata & Usha Mangeshkar)
Hamare Sajan Ghar Aaye – Do Matwale (Lata & Usha Mangeshkar)
Badi Kafir Tumhari Narar – Sangdil (Lata & Usha Mangeshkar)
Toot Gaya Kangna – Gunda (Asha Bhosle & Usha Mangeshkar)
Tujhe Kiya Kitna Mana – Jaalsaaz (Suman Kalyanpur & Krishna Kalle)
Hans Ke Shararat Karna – Jung aur Aman (Krishna Kalle & ? singer – Pushpa Pagdhare).

He could not create the same magic in his other films. Only one or two songs from a movie were popular. Namaste Ji And Char Darvesh also didn’t perform well at the box office. The other films also had a song or two in ‘memorable songs’ category like ‘Mana Mere Haseen Sanam’ and ‘Sanwar De Jo Pyar Se’- both from ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood (I have covered the other songs in this category in the song list). His films from the year 1966, didn’t have memorable songs. He never got big banners and continued his journey with B grade, stunt- action films. Perhaps Namaste Ji was his last well known film, songs still linger in the memory of music lovers. His last films from 60s, Jang Aur Aman and Jaalsaaz were action films, featuring Dara Singh. The songs from the former were just not memorable. After Jaalsaaz in 1969, he got no opportunity to work as music director. Sadly enough, O P Nayyar also faced a downfall in late 60s. His association with Kohli also ended there. In all, G S Kohli worked as a composer for 15 films only. It is said that he was frustrated because his talent didn’t get its due and he was depressed. Indeed he should have got a few big banners to survive in the industry. He could have proved himself better than he did. After all if one composes good songs, but couldn’t get the deserved credit or opportunity, the creativity suffers. I think the same happened to him.

G S Kohli’s playback singers
For his first couple of films, his choice was Asha Bhosle & Rafi. I think if we consider him as assistant to O P Nayyar, this choice is obvious enough. In his second film, Mr India (1961), he also gave a chance to Geeta Dutt for club songs, the choice again quite obvious. He opted for the same singers in Faulad. But in the same year, for Shikari, for the first time he called Lata Mangeshkar. The songs give us a fair idea as to how Lata’s voice would have sounded in O P styled compositions. She sang one solo and Three duets (two with Rafi & one with Usha Mangeshkar). The result was fantastic and it is said that even O P Nayyar praised him for those songs.The duets ‘Agar Main PuchhooandChaman Ke Phool Bhi are my favorites too. I’m providing the links right here, as I have highlighted two other songs in my list. Lata sang for his songs again in Namaste Ji (1965) and a few other movies later on. A majority of them were female duets with Usha Mangeshkar. Afterwards he mainly composed for B grade movies and he tended to go for Asha Bhosle for majority of the songs. In the film, Jung Aur Aman (1968), there is a female dance number sung only by Asha Bhosle, ‘Nigahon Mein Mohabbat Ka’. Both the dancers are always shown to sing separately and never sing together on screen. A rare example, where two characters sing the same song in a single voice. He went for other female singers rarely and only for songs for side characters. As for male singers, his choice was clearly Rafi and only Rafi. Hardly ever he called for another male singer. Mukesh sang only one song for Namaste Ji. Manna Dey also a duet only, I think.

G S Kohli & Lyricists
He worked with a number of lyricist, Anjaan being his favourite lyricist of all. Anjaan got his first big hit with Lambe Haath (1960), though he was in the industry from 1953. After this fortunate incident, Kohli took at least a song from him for his majority of films. The film, Sangdil had only one song by Anjaan, incidentally it was the most popular and memorable song.
His association with Faruq Kaiser and Naqsh Lyallpuri was also successful. Faruq Kaiser’s major hits are with Kohli, the ones from Shikari.
He was also fortunate enough to work with stalwarts like, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Hasrat Jaipuri, Jaan Nisar Akhtar, Prem Dhawan, Yogesh and Qamar Jalalabadi. May be a film with each of them. But not all of the songs were popular. He also had a short association with Anand Bakshi for the film, Namaste Ji, where he wrote two songs. One of them ‘Hamen Kya Jo Harsu’ is amongst Rafi’s memorable sad songs.

After a huge gap, in 1984, he composed for a film called ‘Mahadaan’, with his favourite lyricist ‘Anjaan’ penning all the songs and Asha Bhosle singing all of them. But he could not stir new waves with it and the songs disappeared in the dark. In 1988, film Paigham had only a song by Kohli (incidentally a female duet dance number sung by Hemlata and Anuradha Paudwal). Of course a forgotten song. I couldn’t get its YouTube link, nor could I get the song name. Again, I could find no details about him after this film.
He passed away on 25th July 1996, leaving behind his fragrant melodies.

Today, I present my ten favourites composed by him, the songs are in No particular order.

1. Mana Mere Haseen Sanam – Adventures of Robin Hood (1965) Rafi / Lyrics – Yogesh
A perfect B grade film with Prashant and Parveen Choudhary as main lead. But just listen to the songs. Perfectly melodious and sweet! Rafi has sung this song so wonderfully well that we forget the film and it’s grading. The song opens with a pleasant Santoor piece, and later the ‘tik-tik’ of the Chinese blocks reminds us of O P Nayyar. I’m not trying to show the similarities, but an obvious influence. After all, Kohli was the one to arrange the instruments for O P Nayyar’s songs. So for me, these similarities are but obvious.

2. Tum Ko Piya Dil Diya – Shikari (1963) Lata Mangeshkar & Usha Mangeshkar / Lyrics – Faruq Kaiser
The most popular song from the movie, performed on screen by Helen and Ragini. The dance is worth watching and the song listening to. An eye and ear candy. The tune is very catchy and infectious, though at times sounds like O P Nayyar (especially the electric guitar piece in the interludes)
The Dholak and clap sounds create such an impact that we start tapping our feet automatically. Enjoy the song.

3. O Matware Sajana – Faulad (1963) Asha Bhosle / Lyrics – Faruq Kaiser
A song indistinguishable from O P’s song. The tonga rhythm, so much associated with him, makes its appearance here. I like the song a lot, let it be from a stunt film, with Dara Singh as a main lead. Mumtaz travelling with him in a ghoda gadi, enjoying his company. The ghoda Gadi actually is a chariot, and I don’t think the outdoor shoot for this song would have been pleasurable for them both. The road appears too bad. Anyways, for me, the tune and the orchestration is too good and Asha sings so easily even the high notes.

4. Pyar Ke Daman Se Lipate – Char Darvesh (1964) Asha Bhosle & Rafi / Lyrics – Anjaan
Again a costume drama. The film had only a few remarkable songs, this one being my favorite. After looking at the sets and special effects, this doesn’t seem to be a low budget movie. Kohli composes it again in style resembling Nayyar’s, but has his own touch to it as well. In antara, Asha sings aalap parallel to Rafi’s words. Sounds excellent. The lyrics complement the tune equally well.

5. Yeh Rangeen Mehfil Gulabi Gulabi – Shikari (1963) Asha Bhosle / Lyrics – Qamar Jalalabadi
A complete package, good lyrics, flawless rendition by Asha and mind blowing orchestration by Kohli. And if that’s not enough, Helen is icing on the cake. What more could you ask for! The flow of the song is so smooth, it just flows as a soft drizzling of words and instruments. Look at the variety of instruments, Kohli arranges for the exact effect. The opening piece, the piano in the second interlude are so fantastic. The arrangement sounds similar to O P’s song, yet you can appreciate Kohli’s touch to it.
I was very much confused between the two Lata-Rafi duets and this song for this place. Later I finalized this.

6. Nazar Ne Uthate Hi – Gunda (1969) Lata Mangeshkar / Lyrics – Shadab
This was one of his last films, the film was directed again by Mohammad Hussein. Though not a popular song, the tune, Lata’s rendition and the lyrics make it one of his best songs, in my opinion. It’s a Mujra song picturised on famous Qawwali queen, Shakila Bano Bhopali. Her adakari again adds to the overall effect. Kohli uses the Sarangi very effectively, throughout the song to create the desired effect of Mujra.

7. Baharon Tham Lo Ab Dil – Namaste Ji (1965) Lata Mangeshkar & Mukesh / Lyrics – Anjaan
The only song Mukesh sang for him. Nothing much is available on the net about the film, the video of the song is also not available. It was picturised on Mehmood and Ameeta. But the song was very popular that time and even now! I am sure you’ll agree, it’s a very good melodious song. This song has Kohli’s own signature to it. Nobody else’s influence at all. The other songs like ‘Mere Do Naina Matwale’ by Lata Mangeshkar and ‘Humen Kya Jo Harsu Ujala’ by Rafi, were also popular.

8. Kal Maine Ek Sapna Dekha – Jaalsaaz (1969) Asha Bhosle / Lyrics – Naqsh Lyallpuri
A cute song with good lyrics. But wasted in the film, on an expressionless heroine and a horrible dancer. It was an action film with Dara Singh in main lead. Lots of drama goes on during the song, as she sings it. Enjoy it, may be with your eyes closed. You need not watch it at all, to experience it.

9. Jaan-E-Jaana Yun Na Dekho – Faulad (1963) Asha Bhosle / Lyrics – Anjaan
Minu Mumtaz trying to seduce or may be to impress Dara Singh. This is my another favourite from the movie. You may not like it much for the first time. But later it grows on you.
“आज मैं आप की नज़रों में हूँ कुछ भी नहीं
क्या हूँ मैं आते आते एक दिन आएगा यकीन”
These words from the second stanza hold true for the song and the composer as well!
Of course it’s too late now for the यकीन.

10. Din Bure Hote Hain – Sangdil (1967) Rafi / Lyrics – Anjaan
This is the only well known song from the movie. Other songs are not available. The only song by Anjaan. This meaningful philosophical song is worth listening of course. The song tells us about difficult times a person faces, and the circumstances compel him to commit a crime, the person not being evil at heart. Kohli uses very less instruments to focus on the lyrics and waves this melody in an unforgettable song.

Bonus Song

§ Tujhe Kiya O Kitna Mana – Jaalsaaz (1969) Suman Kalyanpur & Krishna Kalle §
I’m completely in love with the song. Once you listen to it, the tune lingers the entire day. The opening Sarangi music piece is absolutely marvellous. Female duet dance number was Kohli’s special gift to Hindi films, in my opinion. So I couldn’t resist this one. Just listen to it, you will like it a lot. The tune, the orchestration, and the voices, all just perfect. It will make you forget the film, let it be of whatever grade.

I again salute this neglected composer on his 22nd death anniversary.

Would you add a song to the list?


Mehfil Mein Meri claims no credit for any image or song posted. The images and songs are copyrights of their original owners. The song links are shared from Youtube for the music lovers to enjoy.

15 Replies to “G S Kohli – A Tribute”

  1. Nice! I have to admit that while I (of course) recognized GS Kohli’s name, I couldn’t, offhand, remember which films he’d composed for. Faulad and Shikari are especially good, and I love the songs you’ve chosen from them.

    Here’s another song of his which I like a lot. From Bhai-Bahen, Kohli’s version of Saare jahaan se achcha is a much more melodious and beautiful one than the popular tune.


    1. Thank you Madhuji.
      I agree that he couldn’t create the same magic in his other films. Faulad and Shikari are his memorable films.
      Am I mistaken or the composer for Bhai Behen is N Datta?
      I think it’s N Datta, the film was released in 1959.
      Let me confirm it further.


  2. Anup G , right post at right time.
    U hav paid tribute to this talented but underrated music director on his remembrance day .

    2 things that appealed to me most in Ur post r
    U hav divided the info in different segments :- GSKohli nd singers / GSKohli nd lyricists .
    Nd secondly , the classic song by Asha from ” Shikari ” ‘ Ye rangeen mehfil ‘ , which was new for me.

    U hav asked ” would you like to add a song ? ”
    I will grab the opportunity !!!
    I wud hav added
    ” मेरे दो नैना मतवारे , किसके लिए ” from the movie ‘ नमस्ते जी ‘ by Lata .

    Anup G , thnx for the post.


    1. Thanks Pramodji,
      he was underrated no doubt!
      In my opinion his songs from Namaste Ji dont resemble at all to O P Nayyar.
      Mainly Baharon Tham Lo & Mere Do naina are quite different!


  3. Most of the songs were unheard before ,so enjoyed.tried to find minute difference between O P. Overall nice weekend stuff .


  4. Good article, composer Gs Kohi disappeared after 1969 can you tell us what he was doing for the past 15 years I heard his nephew is film director kuku kohli.


    1. Welcome Zahid to Mehfil!
      In 1980s, he composed for a couple of films, Mahadaan in 1984 & Paigham in 1988. The latter had only one song composed by him, a female duet song. I have included this info in the post too!
      I really have no idea about his nephew. I’ve heard of Kuku Kohli, but I don’t know whether they are related to each other not not!
      Keep visiting the blog.


  5. “Mana mere hansee sanam” (movie robin hood) was written by lyricist “yogesh” ji, not by late “anjaan”

    Kindly update the same
    Thank you


    1. Welcome Lalit ji to Mehfil!
      And thanks for the correction. The site that I referred somehow had wrong information. I usually cross check the particulars, before finalising any details. But it has skipped my attention once, I agree. I’ll correct it. Thanks again. Hope to see you again.


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