February 2010


Rajendra Krishan

Lovers of old Hindi film music, everywhere, still swoon with sheer pleasure when they listen to gems like :

Chup chup khade ho zaroor koi baat hai (Badi-Behen)), 
Jaag dard-e ishq jag (Anarkali), 
Mann doley mera tan doley (Nagin), 
Ai dil mujhe bata de,tu kis pe aa gaya hai,(Bhai-Bhai), 
Main chali main chali dekho pyaar ki gali
( Padosan)

.

The common factor in these and hundreds of other songs of that era is that they all flowed from the pen of a lyricist who is now rarely remembered and about whom not much is known by the public.

 
 He was an equal amongst giants like Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shailendra, Qamar Jalalabadi and Shakeel Badayuni and penned such stirring lyrics as Suno suno ai duniya waalon, bapu ki yeh amar kahani. By the time his career ended he had penned many hundred lyrics for films, innumerable screenplays and dialogues for films like the ever popular film Padosan.
 
Given his accomplishments, it is strange that a net search for him turns up little information. Many articles mention wrongly that he was born in Shimla. I think its about time that the lovers of his songs knew some more about this man who could produce lyrics of immense pain and loss like, Chal ud ja re panchhi ki ab yeh des hua begaana and then turn around and pen a loony song like Ek chatur naar karke singar(Padosan).
 
 Rajinder Krishan was born Rajinder Krishan Duggal on June 6, 1919 to Parvati and Jagannath Duggal in Jalalpur Jattan of Gujarat district (now in Pakistan). He had three brothers Madholal, Banwari Lal and Hargobind and one sister,Gomti. His initial years and education were in this small town and it was here that he imbibed the best of Hindi and Urdu literature. He said that he was as indebted to the poetry of Urdu poets like Firaq Gorakhpuri and Ahsan Danish as he was to that of Hindi poets like Pant and Nirala.
 
 It was only in search of employment that he moved to Shimla somewhere in the late nineteen thirtees to live with his brother Madholal Duggal and his family. Being the eldest, Madholal, tried his best to get Rajnder to study some more and to try and get a reliable job. Rajinder Krishan though had his own ideas about what he wanted from life and did not pay much heed to his brother’s advice. A smart dresser and a lover of poetry, Rajinder was to be found most evenings in the Coffee House on The Mall Road, in Shimla, hobnobbing with others who shared his literary interests. He was a constant presence in all the poetry contests and gatherings that took place in Shimla.

 Needless to add that these interests of his led to many disagreements with Madholal and also resulted in Rajinder Krishan walking out of his brother’s house in anger and protest. He was to return later on his father’s cajoling and much to his eldest brother’s relief he eventually managed to get a (clerical) government job and got married to Sumitra. He then moved into 10 Nabha House next door to Madholal who lived in number 11. These houses still exist in the Shimla of today although the surrounding areas have changed. Incidentally the other neighbors included the villainous Madan Puri, Amrish Puri and their family.

 
Rajinder, however, was born to another destiny and the drudgery of the clerical job and his domestic responsibilities only sharpened his desire to break free. Sometime in1942, much against the wishes of his extended family, Rajinder Krishan left Shimla to try his luck in Bombay’s( now Mumbai) film industry. Leaving his wife and daughter, Pyari, with his brother and with about a hundred rupees in his pocket, Rajinder Krishan embarked on an uncertain future. Upset as his brother, Madholal, was about his decision to leave his secure government job he let him go and took on the responsibility of looking after his brother’s family, in addition to his own family. And this on his meager salary. His change of heart came about after he read one of the short stories that Rajinder Krishan had written and left for his brother to read.Madholal himself used to write in his spare time but after reading this story by Rajinder Krishan he understood the true genius of his younger brother and its is said that Madholal himself never took up the pen again to write!
 
What Rajinder Krishan faced over the next few years in far away Bombay was extreme financial distress and professional hardship. Try as he would he could not make a place for himself in the film world and at one point was reduced to selling socks and handkerchiefs that he would buy in wholesale and then peddle around the city. It was many years before he could get his family to Bombay to live with him.
 
During these early years of struggle he made some friends who were to prove to be his life long friends. One such man once came to ask Rajinder Krishan for some help. Madholal was on his maiden visit to his brother then and was aghast that Rajinder Krishan without hesitation handed over Rs. 10,000 to this man. When asked for the reason for such largesse Rajinder krishan told him that this man and his wife had supported him in his darkest days in Bombay and it was at their home he would knock to get a meal when he had no money to buy food.
 
It was with the Motila-Suraiyya starrer, Aaj Ki Raat that he finally got the fame that he deserved and the success he desired. This then set him on course to greater success and left a legacy of such songs as:
 
Chali chali re patang meri (Bhabhi)
Jadugar saiyyan( Nagin)
Baharein phir bhi aayengi (Lahore)
Bhooli hui yaadon mujhe itna na satao(Sanjog)
Woh bhooli dastaan jo phir yaad aa gayi(Sanjog)
Mere mehboob qayamat hogi ,aaj rusva( Blackmail)

 
A keen lover of horse racing he went on to make history of another sort when in the late sixties he won a tax free jackpot of approximately 49 lacs. However, in spite of his busy schedule and fame, he kept in touch with Madholal and his children whenever he got time to come to the north of the country. His other brothers had all moved to Bombay in years following Rajinder Krishan’s spectacular success in the film industry. Whenever he visited he rued the fact that the vegetables in Bombay never had the taste of the ones that grew in Punjab and took care to go back armed with such Punjabi favourites as fresh mooli(radish) and sarson ka saag. He enjoyed his life in Bombay where he was the toast of the film world but at heart he remained the simple man who had caught a train from Shimla to follow his destiny.
 
Note:I know all this as I am his great niece. Madholal was my maternal grandfather and my mother(Santosh) spent a large part of her childhood and teen years in Rajinder Krishan’s company. From my childhood I remember that whenever he visited he wanted my mother to make tandoori rotis and show his city bred children how the tandoor worked. He brought with him a whiff of the fantasy world of Bombay film industry and thanks to him my mother got to attend the premier of a few of his later films and see the film stars that attended the weddings of his children. I feel privileged to share these details from the life of Rajinder Krishan, the lyricist par excellence, with other lovers of Hindi songs.

For a detailed,though not exhaustive, list of songs written by Rajinder Krishan please visit:

 www.imdb.com/name/nm0471424/filmoyear

A more comprehensive listing is available at: beta.lyricsindia.net/vyakti/show/111/

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The amazing thing about India is that there is history everywhere…in almost our backyards, so to speak.The frustrating thing about India is that most of the time nobody cares.For every Taj and every Red Fort there are ten that are utterly neglected,confined almost to the dustbin of history. The Maratha forts,the many temples across the country,the Kos Minars on the old Grand Trunk Road,the Mughal monuments in Punjab…the list is endless.
 
When we set out, for a 4 day trip of Gujarat, from our base camp at Ahemdabad we had no expectations of what we would find on the way.A quizzing of many Gujarati friends before embarking had brought forth puzzled glances and a shrug of the shoulder. ” Not much to see in Gujarat…but good shopping in Ahemdabad”, was the refrain.A quick internet search yielded some details about the pilgrim’s trail to Dwarka,Somnath and some Jain temples.Our travel itinerary mentioned briefly the towns we would be driving through….Junagadh,Porbandar,Rajkot….
 
Thus it was, with few expecations, that we arrived at the dusty, town of Junagadh.Before I say anything about this town that seems to exist only for its inhabitants read what wikipedia has to say about this town.

Junagadh (Hindi: जूनागढ़ /junāgaḍh/, Gujarati: જુનાગઢ) is a city and a municipal corporation, the headquarters of Junagadh district in the Indianstate of Gujarat. The city is located at the foot of the Girnar hills. Literally translated, Junagadh means “Old Fort”. It is also known as “Sorath”, the name of the earlier Princely State of Junagadh. 

An impressive fort, Uperkot, located on a plateau in the middle of town, was originally built during the Mauryan dynasty by Chandragupta in 319 BCE The fort remained in use until the 6th century, when it was covered over for 300 years, then rediscovered in 976 CE The fort was besieged 16 times over an 800-year period. One unsuccessful siege lasted twelve years.(wikipedia)


 

We could see the fort dominating the horizon from many places in the town but no way to the fort or to information about it seemed at hand.A small part is accessible to public but most of it is in ruins, according to our driver.The next big surprise was the building housing Ashoka’s rock edicts

An inscription with fourteen Edicts of Ashoka is found on a large boulder within 2 km of Uperkot Fort[2]. The inscriptions carry Brahmi script in Pali language and date back to 250 BCE On the same rock are inscriptions in Sanskrit added around 150 CE by Mahakshatrap Rudradaman I, the Saka (Scythian) ruler of Malwa, a member of the Western Kshatrapas dynasty[3]. Another insciption dates from about 450 CE and refers to Skandagupta, the last Gupta emperor.(wikipedia)

  

The rock with the edicts.

The rock is huge and the entire surface is covered with the edicts.Some attempts in the past have been made to give the tourist some pictures and translations of the edicts but neglect is the word that comes to mind on seeing the rotting,mouldy pictures and fading,scratched translations.Only the rock stands in ist majesty….timeless and mysterious..one amongst the many markers of the vast empire of Ashoka that stretched from present day Afghanistan,Pakistan to Gujarat,Bihar….
 
Then we went to the better known, but totally negelcted,Mahabat Maqbara of Junagadh.

Mohammad Bahadur Khanji I, who owed allegiance to the Sultan of Ahmedabad, founded the state of Junagadh by expelling the Mughal governor and declaring independence in 1748. Mohammad Bahadur Khanji I, who assumed the name “Zaid Khan” when he came to power in Junagadh, was the founder of the Babi dynasty. His descendants, the Babi Nawabs of Junagadh, conquered large territories in southern Saurashtra and ruled over the state for the next two centuries, first as tributaries of Baroda, and later under the suzerainty of the British. Nawabs of Babi dynasty( Wikipedia)

 

 

It is an astounding collection of a few buildings with the local Jama Masjid and the buiding that used to be the residence of the Junagadi Nawabs (before they fled to Pakistan at the time of the partition of the sub- continent)adjacent to it.Almost black now with the effects of the weather this monument stands forlornly on a dusty street of small shops.
Children play cricket on the premises,goats nuzzle around for whatever little vegetation is there and the fakirs and the homeless sit in the shade of the building.
 
This was an impromptu counselling session by this man who had been sitting quietly in the shade.He was consoling a woman who had come in crying and in great distress.


 

 The slender minarets with the staircases twirled around them are surprisingly sturdy still and gave us a vantage point for some aerial shots of the area.
 
The dome and the minarets of the local Jama Masjid are framed by the buildings on the maqbara premises.
 

 
 
 The facade is in a state of disrepair but still impressive in its details.The jumble of various architectural styles seems to work and small graves are scattered around the entire compound.Steps lead up to the building that is locked but the many broken ‘jaalis’ and panes allow the vistor to peep inside.
 
 
 Its only when you peep through the ‘jaalis’ that the full impact of the building manifests itself.Its like a scene frozen in time.Although the floor is littered with rubble and is dusty and neglected the building has enough of its past glory still showing through the dust to whisper stories of times gone by into your ears..Its like the Nawabs and their people are still there somewhere…
 

 
 
This is my favorite shot that captures the past spirit of the place while telling the sad story of its present day neglect.The light plays tricks and I imagine soft footfalls,the swish of fabric and the gentle murmurs of conversations.

The adjacent residence of the Nawabs of Junagadh has been, most unimaginatively, converted into the District Courts….a death warrant for any heritage building knowing the track record of the government in taking care of its offices! This building would be a wonderful candidate for turning into a heritage hotel….Neemrana guys are you listening?


 

 An interesting nugget from history: When the newly formed state of Pakistan and India were entangled in a tussle over the acceeding of Junagadh to Pakistan/India, the Nawab and his family fled to Pakistan taking due care to empty the treasury of absolutely everything before their departure.It was the then Dewan of Junagadh,Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto,father of the more famous( and unfortunate) Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who invited the Government of India to intervene by writing a letter to the Regional Commissioner of the state of Saurashtra.

Read the details here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junagadh