Guns 'N' Roses: Why did lyricist Anand Bakshi quit the army?

Farhana Farook
·Contributor
·8-min read
Guns 'N' Roses: Why did lyricist Anand Bakshi quit the army?

Ek baar chale jaate hain jo din raat subah o shaam

Woh phir nahin aate woh phir nahin aate…

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The soulful song written by Anand Bakshi for Aap Ki Kasam was drawn from the crevices of his heart. A sonnet of loving, losing and learning… the semi-autobiographical requiem has the ability to move even the most impervious.

He was 17 when the Partition snatched every semblance of security from them. The family fled Rawalpindi overnight in a military transport aircraft. Leaving behind valuables, all that young Anand Bakshi carried along were his late mother’s photographs.

That established his ability to hoard sentiments early in life. That also explains why he could churn out moving paeans to the mother like Tu kitni acchi hai (Raja Aur Rank), Maa mujhe apne aanchal (Chhota Bhai) and O maa tujhe saalam (Khalnayak)...

The grief of losing his mother in childhood, combined by the humiliation of being shunted out of his homeland as also the loss of identity when he quit the army as Anand Prakash Bakshi, sadly took the form of ‘fears’ later in his life.

Yet Anand Bakshi’s profile as a lyricist is a many-splendored one. Spanning four decades, he could swirl songs of seduction and celebration, of romance and reflection… Carving a niche amongst Urdu poets like Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Kaifi Azmi, Bakshi won recognition as the people’s poet.

Someone who looped commonplace jargon to prompt the most profound sentiments. Snipping the frills of language, Bakshi wove his words around just the kernel of feelings… and continues to hold generations enthralled.

The seductive Bindiya chamkegi…

The soulful Tere mere beech mein

The playful Jumma chumma de de

The teasing Choli ke peeche kya hai…

The philosophic Chingari koi bhadke…

His carnations have perhaps more hues than those of the changing seasons.

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Born on 21 July, 1920 Anand Bakshi grew up in Rawalpindi in Pakistan. He was brought up with great discipline, his grandfather being the Superintendent of Police, Punjab Prisons.

Young Bakshi was given a dressing down by his grandad, if ever caught singing. Bakshi lost his mother, Sumitra Bali, when he was around 10. She was 25 and died during the birth of her second child.

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Young Bakshi joined the Royal Indian Navy in the ’40s after he failed in school. He did so in the lure that when the ship harboured at Mumbai, he’d get off to pursue his passion for singing and acting. But to his disappointment the vessel remained fastened at Karachi. The family left Rawalpindi after the Partition in 1947. Bakshi joined the Indian Army, with The Corps of Signals.

He married Kamla Mohan in 1954. In 1956, he finally came to Mumbai. Edgy and expectant, he first paid obeisance at the Haji Ali Dargah. As a struggler, once he was caught for travelling in train without a permit. The compassionate ticket collector, understanding both the young man’s potential and poverty, invited him to put up with him in the suburbs.

Meanwhile, Bakshi’s wife in Lucknow, supported herself and their first born, Suman, by sewing clothes. He was heartbroken when he once visited them and his daughter didn’t recognise him. He then brought his family to Mumbai. They later had two sons Rajesh and Rakesh and daughter Kavita.

Bakshi got a break with Bhagwan Dada’s film Bhala Admi (1958). The shot in the arm came with Hiren Kheda’s Mehendi Lagi Mere Haath (1962). Then on there was a blitzkrieg of hits like Himalay Ki Godh Mein, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Milan, Jeene ki Raah, Hare Rama Hare Krishna and Bobby (between 1965-1973).

Amongst these were also Rajesh Khanna bestsellers Aradhana and Do Raaste (both in 1969), Kati Patang (1971) and Amar Prem (1972), which changed Bakshi’s profile forever.

Mention must also be made of the hit lyrics he wrote for Sholay (1975), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981). Bakshi remained strong in the ’90s - 2000, writing for Yash Chopra productions Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Lamhe, Dil Toh Paagal Hai and Mohabbatein. In the millennium, his work for Subhash Ghai’s Taal and Yaadein remains significant.

“The amazing thing about Anand Bakshi’s lyrics was that… I realized their true value… when I’d be shooting them… he knew my story better than me,” Subhash Ghai was thus quoted saying (The Quint) about the bard.

Amongst his last films were Chori Chori (2003) and The Hero: Love Story Of A Spy (both in 2003) and Afzal Khan’s Mehbooba (2008).

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A natural singer, he sang the duet Baaghon mein bahaar aayi with Lata Mangeshkar in Mohan Kumar’s Mom Ki Gudiya (1972). His other popular renditions include Aaja teri yaad aayee for Charas and Jagat musafirkhana in Balika Badhu (both in 1976). “Being a singer, tune and words take birth together in me,” he once said.

A life enthusiast, he had a flavour for the fine and flamboyant. He changed his cars frequently, a 1964 Fiat model being his first vehicle. He loved his whisky as well. But revering his pen as ‘Goddess Saraswati’, he never wrote while drinking. Rather he’d note down his thoughts on paper – sometimes even on his 555-cigarette pack.

He respected filmmakers, who inspired him. For instance, director Tanuja Chandra, who admired him, couldn’t afford his price for her Dushman (1998). He’s known to have told her, “Who are you to determine my price? First inspire me!” He heard the story and the soulful Chitthi na koi sandhesh was born.

Despite the fame and adulation, Bakshi never forgot his humble origins. “Once I happened to leave an omelette unfinished. Dad said, ‘When we couldn’t afford eggs, your mother would divide an egg into four parts and distribute it between you four children. She wouldn’t eat it herself. That’s the value of an egg’,” shared son and author Rakesh Anand Bakshi (reportedly he will soon release his biography on his father) in an interview to Filmfare.

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According to son Rakesh, dad Anand Bakshi was shaken by what once fading superstar Rajesh Khanna told him. “I’m going through such bad times ke mujhe koi kutte ka bhi phone nahin aata!” Rajesh apparently told the lyricist. That’s why Bakshi wanted to go while he was still relevant.

Another documented instance is of a depressed man, who contemplating suicide, put his head on the railway tracks. But from a distance he heard Bakshi’s lines Gaadi ka naam na kar badnam patri pe rakh ke sar ko (Dost, 1974) playing on the radio. That split second changed his mood and he returned home. Bakshi considered such life-changing moments as his real awards.

Perhaps, the baggage of past memories and his own sensitive nature, led Bakshi to develop some fears and phobias over time. He was a hypochondriac, who stressed over non-existent illnesses. His medic accompanied him everywhere. The fear of heights, the fear of getting into a lift, the fear of air travel... began to govern his life. Also, he feared being alone.

Bakshi was a hefty smoker. Through the years, his lungs deteriorated. He slipped into coma twice. The second time he fell unconscious, a vital part of his brain had turned dysfunctional. He passed away on March 30, 2002 at 81.

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Reportedly, Bakshi had once shared with lyricist Sameer that his only lament was the fact that after his death countless songs within him would go unsung. “If I could I hand them over to you, I would have. But these songs have come with me and they will go with me,” a wistful Bakshi is known to have philosophically told Sameer as quoted by son Rakesh Bakshi in Filmfare.

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