Yogesh Gaur, the unsung lyricist of Hindi films, is no more

Published : May 30, 2020 18:39 IST

Yogesh Gaur. Photo: The Hindu Archives

His would have been the archetypal rags-to-riches story if he were a bit poorer at the beginning and a bit richer at the end. As it turned out, the reality for Yogesh Gaur lay somewhere in between. He was a noted lyricist who added the joy of melancholy to Anand, the man who shot to fame with Chhoti Si Baat. But somewhere down the road he fell short and was never quite able to reach the dizzy heights attained by Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi, Shakeel Badayuni and, later, Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Nida Fazli.

Which was sad considering that in his own understated way, Yogesh Gaur changed the way Hindi films looked at a lyricist. Azmi, Badayuni, Ludhianvi all wrote songs for Hindi films largely in Urdu. But Yogesh Gaur wrote Hindi songs for Hindi cinema and therein lay his greatest contribution. Of course, the fact that he used everyday Hindi, not the kind of vocabulary which made the listener run for a dictionary, helped.

He had a knack for expressing sorrow almost joyously. Remember Anand? Well, not many have forgotten the 1971 film which brought the best out of Rajesh Khanna and in which even Amitabh Bachchan managed to lend subtle shades to his character. And there was the remarkable "Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli"! It had poetry seeping through it, which was remarkable in an industry that reduced poets to lyricists. Then there was "Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaye", where Mukesh was pure magic.

Anand was the fruit of a journey that began immediately after schooling for the Lucknow-based Yogesh Gaur. As he entered college, his father passed away, leaving him with the responsibility of running the house. With Rs.500 in his pocket—a decent sum back in the early 60s—he came to Bombay as a teenager and sought the help of his cousin Yogendra Gaur who was a screenplay writer. Not much help came his way. Alongwith his childhood friend “Sattu” Tiwari, he took a room with wooden walls in a chawl on a rent of Rs.11 a month.

In his school days, he often wrote kavitayen. The joke was that whenever the entire class was to be punished, the teacher would ask Yogesh Gaur to recite one of his poems. Once he had recited the poem, the punishment for the entire class would be waived. It was this memory that was the anchor for him in those dark days. He did not know anybody else in the industry. He went from one studio to another. Some listened to his work, appreciated it too, but it did not result in a professional commitment.

Then, one day, he met Robin Banerjee, who heard his songs, liked them and promised to give him a break. Days lapsed into weeks. Weeks gave way to months. Hope was beginning to ebb. Just then came the call he had been waiting for! Sakhi Robin was released in 1962 and Yogesh Gaur had officially become a film lyricist.

Sakhi Robin, however, did not open the floodgates as he had hoped it would. He had to learn to be in the shadows of not just the likes of Ludhianvi or Azmi, but even Shailendra and, later, Anand Bakshi, Gulshan Bawra and others. Then came Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand and life was no longer a sad song. The pathos, the angst of its songs came from the long, enervating periods of waiting for an opportunity.

With Anand, Yogesh Gaur left anonymity behind. With years of well-earned fame behind him came Mili, another Mukherjee film in 1975. The film is best remembered for the lilting song “Maine Kaha Phoolon Se”. Much before Mili, he had communicated to the viewers the gentle scent of Rajnigandha, a Basu Chatterji film, whose songs like “Rajnigandha phool tumhare” and “Kai Baar Yuhin Dekha Hai” earned Vidya Sinha her passport to fame; the second song earned Mukesh the National Award for Best Male Playback Singer. Vidya Sinha, with her chiffons and georgettes and the appeal of the girl next door, took her own place in viewers’ hearts. And music director Salil Chowdhury too was lapped up. But what about Yogesh Gaur? Well, he was praised, but in passing.

Rajnigandha was not the only class act to follow Anand. There was Chhoti Si Baat in 1975, a year that saw blockbusters like Deewar, Jai Santoshi Maa and Sholay. But Chhoti Si Baat managed to carve out its own little niche thanks to its songs like “Na Jaane Kyun Hota Hai Ye Zindagi ke Saath”, where Lata Mangeshkar’s voice modulation was excellently complemented by Salil Chowdhury’s notes. Then there was the breezy “Jaaneman, jaaneman, Tere do Nayan”, where Yesudas made sure he did not come out second best to Asha Bhonsle, a past master of songs with lilt and energy. Once again, Vidya Sinha shone through the song. Once again, Chowdhury was feted. Once again Yogesh Gaur was an unsung hero.

Not one to either rest on his achievements or wallow in relative lack of appreciation, Yogesh Gaur came up with Baaton Baaton Mein and gave us the kind of songs a man would play on his music system as he drove to work. There was nothing profound about the lyrics, just an ability to stay in the mood of the moment. With Baaton Baaton Mein, Priyatma, Manzil and others, Yogesh Gaur carved out a neat career graph for himself, the kind he would not have visualised when he left Lucknow for the Hindi film industry.

Yet, there was a lurking feeling that he was meant for better, higher achievements. His songs were replete with Hindi words in an era when to be able to churn out songs laced with Urdu was considered a prerequisite. His work had the subtlety to appeal to the common man and the discerning alike. But did he underestimate himself?

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