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Down the memory lane with Gulshan Bawra

By: Screen Weekly, IndiaFM
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
He has penned only 250 songs in a career spanning 49 years, yet he is a name to reckon with. That is because Gulshan Bawra has always struck a chord with his lyrics. Whether it was the patriotic fervour of 'Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle...'/Upkar, the teen spirit of carefree romance in 'Khullam khulla pyar karenge hum dono...' /Khel Khel Mein or the song that eulogized friendship - 'Yaari hai imaan mera yaar meri zindagi...' /Zanjeer, Bawra set you humming... On a drizzly monsoon afternoon, the popular poet glides down memory lane...

Gulshan Bawra lives high up in the clouds, on the tenth floor in the posh locality of Pali Hill, Bandra in Mumbai. However, he's very much a down-to-earth person, "I am contented with what life has given me," says the 68-year-old lyricist. But of late he has come out of his self-imposed hibernation to release untold stories, an album on the making of songs with R D Burman. Busy talking to television cameras about his departed friend Pancham, he says his life has been full of coincidences that he views as "divine intervention".

Witnessing TRAGEDY

Imagine an eight-year old witnessing the killing of his parents and then fleeing for his life from strife-torn Pakistan! Young Gulshan Mehta did just that in the small town of Sheikhpura near Lahore during the Partition riots. But his survival instinct saw him through all the trying times. "My mother was shot through her head and father was slashed with swords," he recalls vividly, "Wounded physically and mentally, my brother and I hid in the fields for some days and finally joined a caravan travelling back to India. We reached Jaipur in military trucks and sought refuge in the house of our married sister. Soon my brother found a job in Delhi and we moved there. I passed my matriculation from there," he relates.

Mehta becomes 'Bawra'

Gulshan and his brother were always hard up for money, so as soon as he could, Gulshan applied for a job in the railways. He topped the interview and stood first among 900 candidates and was posted to Kota. But as luck would have it there was no vacancy for him in Kota so he was appointed the goods clerk at the railway godown in Mumbai. "I started writing poetry since I was six years old. I would accompany my mother Vidyavati for community bhajan sessions and often compose my own lines there," he reminisces, "From devotional, my verses turned romantic as I reached college," he adds with a chuckle.

Upon reaching Mumbai, Gulshan saw a big opportunity for his lyrics and thus began his struggle in the film industry, "I would walk down from my office in Masjid Bunder to Kalyanji-Anandji's music room in Girgaum. Somehow they appreciated my work and so did Ravindra Dave, the producer-director of Meena Kumari-Balraj Sahni starrer Satta Bazar. He insisted on using one of my songs although he already had Shailendra and Hasrat writing songs for the film. During the recording of my first song 'Chandi ke chand tukdon ke liye...' , Bombay distributor Shantibhai Dave refused to believe that a 19-year-old 'bawra' (seemingly lost) could write lyrics of such depth. Since then I became Gulshan Bawra," he narrates.

Struggle for stardom

Living in the far-flung suburb of Oshiwara required travelling a long distance and the last bus happened to be at 8.30 pm which they would invariably miss and then trudge it up or down to Andheri station. "Dharmendra, Manoj Kumar, Prakash Mehra, Satyen Chowdhary and I were co-strugglers. We would visit producers' offices and in the night hit out for the country liquor bar in Yari Road, miss the last bus and then walk back all the way," he recalls bemusedly.

Dharmendra would wait for his money- order from home and the day he received it, "would guzzle 20 glasses of sweet-lime juice at Andheri station." Gulshan knew Manoj Kumar from Delhi and their friendship stood him in good stead later in life.

"As the goods clerk, I would marvel at the sacks and sacks of golden wheat that came in from Punjab, inspired by the bounty of the land I wrote an ode to it - 'Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle ugle heere moti...' then. Years later when Manoj had become a hero and I recited these lines to him, he just leapt for joy and said he would use them in his film Upkaar," Bawra relates.

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