End of Poetic Era in B’town Music!
His poetry is dedicated to the philosophy of humanity and love. Like the philosopher Kabir, Neeraj too was a saintly figure who did not run after money and led a simple life
Veteran poet and noted lyricist Gopaldas Neeraj passed away on July 19th after he suffered a serious head injury. The 93- year-old who gave Hindi cinema numerous evergreen hits like ‘Prem ki pujaari hum hain’ and ‘Rangeela re mere man main’ was a Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan recipient. As India mourns legendary Neeraj, the Dayafter News, Feature and Editorial Services (DANFES) tries to find out is the era of poetry over in Bollywood music?
While searching answer to this question Team DANFES came across Hindi author and poet Ashok Chakradhar, who summed up his entire thinking on Neeraj and Bollywood connection in one liner, “Neeraj was much famous before Bollywood wanted him.” There is no doubt that Neeraj’s demise means the end of an era. He was the zenith of Hindi literature’s oral poetry tradition. The former professor at Jamia Milia Islamia went on to add, “Neeraj took forward a wave of literary culture that legends like Harivansh Rai Bachchan started in the 19th century. He is credited with making poetry popular, taking it to villages and communities. His association with Bollywood was much later and it was not Bollywood that brought him fame. Rather, because he was so popular, Bollywood sought his presence. While associated with the industry, he wrote close to 200 songs.”
Suggesting seeing an artist like Neeraj in totality and not associating him with Bollywood Chakradhar said, “His poetry is dedicated to the philosophy of humanity and love. Like the philosopher Kabir, Neeraj too was a saintly figure who did not run after monetary gains and led a simple life. As far as poetry in today’s Bollywood music goes, poetry never dies. Each time period sets its own trend and those become the signature styles of that era. Earlier too, not everything was poetry. Sometimes, rhythm overpowers the music and vice versa. Ironically, today rhythm has taken over all aspects of music. Subtlety is not only absent from music, but even from our thoughts and the society.”
Commenting upon the current status of poetry in Bollywood music and its connection with Neeraj Film historian Gautam Chintamani said, “With the exception of the last of the great poets like Gulzar, poetry in Hindi films, with due respects to contemporary lyricists, died a long time ago. A huge part of it has left us forever with Neeraj.”
In the late 1990s, Karan Johar ’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) played an all-important role in Hindi cinema’s transformation
from the antiquated to cool. This was not the kind of film in which you would expect to hear the word ‘sanjota’ in a song but you did. If it was surprising to come across a line like ‘tanhai mein dil yaadein sanjota hai ’ back then, today, it would practically be impossible to even imagine a mainstream Hindi film soundtrack to feature such words. In just two decades, many words have nearly been forgotten because their usage in powerful tools like popular Hindi cinema has reduced. The death of poet-lyricist Gopaldas Neeraj is one such instance that reminds us how much Hindi film songs have changed.
Neeraj was a breath of fresh air in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His words revived the beauty of songs in Hindi films. Much like the doyens of the progressive writers’ movement like Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, who changed the lexicon of Hindi film lyrics and made poetry and ghazal accessible to the common man, Neeraj, too, with his simple style that never compromised on the quality gave audiences a reason to smile. In a short span of time, Neeraj penned gems like ‘Mera mann tera pyaasa’ (Gambler, 1971), ‘Phoolon ke rang se’ (Prem Pujari, 1970) with the sublime line ‘Sanson ki sargam, dhadkan ki beena, sapnon ki geetanjali tu mann ki gali mein mehke jo hardum aisi juhi ki kali tu’ and many more.
When the Team DANFES asked the same question from Pavan Jha, Founder, gulzaronline.com Jha’s responded citing, “With Neeraj’s death, Hindi cinema has lost a distinctive voice but era of poetry not over.” He said that Neeraj’s demise is a great loss for Indian literature and Hindi film music. Although he was not a prolific lyricist as his contemporaries, his contribution to Bollywood is highly significant as he brought a refreshing change to film songs with a unique poetic imagery as well as simpler words. He was a poet of the highest order and yet a reluctant lyricist. Neeraj found it difficult to adjust to the practices and deemed himself a misfit for the place. He restricted his collaboration to just a few filmmakers and music directors.
Neeraj has been a significant signature in Bollywood, but he avoided becoming an influence. “With the departure of Neeraj, Bollywood has lost a distinctive voice, but I don’t think it is the end of the era of poetry. We still have veteran poets like Gulzar and Javed Akhtar actively contributing to film lyrics,” said Jha.
On the other hand, as Bollywood is now serving a generation of millennials with newer sensibilities, younger lyricists like Swanand Kirkire, Kausar Munir, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Varun Grover, Raj Shekhar are still holding the flag for poetry in film lyrics. With times Bollywood has changed too and Neeraj himself has described the change so well in his poetries.