Ten of my favourite Rajendra Krishan songs

2019 marks the birth centenary of two major lyricists of Hindi cinema: Kaifi Azmi and Rajendra Krishan. While they may have shared the same birth year, Krishan and Azmi appear to have been very different personalities. Unlike the ardently socialistic Azmi, Rajendra Krishan seems to have pretty much embraced the capitalist side of life (interestingly, he is said to have been the ‘richest lyricist in Hindi cinema’—not as a result of his earnings as a song writer, but because he won 46 lakhs at the races).

Also, unlike Azmi, who wrote songs for less than fifty films (up to 1998, when he wrote for Tamanna), Rajendra Krishan was much more prolific. Though he died in 1987, by then he had already written songs for more than a hundred films.

Born in Jalalpur Jattan (Gujrat District, Punjab Province, in present-day Pakistan), Rajendra Krishan is believed to have been very interested in literature since an early age. As a young man, Krishan moved to Shimla (where his elder brother was already living) and began work as a clerk. This didn’t last long, and he eventually moved to Bombay and the film industry—after, supposedly, eking out a living by selling handkerchiefs and socks on the pavement. Krishan’s first film was as a screen writer—he wrote the screenplay for Jannat (1947)—but as a lyricist, his first hit song was Chup-chup khade ho zaroor koi baat hai (Badi Bahen, 1949). In the nearly four decades that followed, Rajendra Krishan wrote hundreds of songs, won the Filmfare Award for Best Song (for Tumhi mere mandir tumhi meri pooja from Khandaan, 1965) and wrote dialogue and/or screenplays for dozens of films.

Choosing ten favourites from such a formidable corpus was a difficult task, but here it is: my ten favourite Rajendra Krishan songs. As always, these are all from pre-70s Hindi films that I’ve seen, and are in no particular order. The English transliterations and translations of these songs are available here.

1. Yoon hasraton ke daag (Adalat, 1958): Adalat may not have been a brilliant film, but it did have some superb music—from the lyrical and romantic Zameen se humein aasmaan par, to this heartbreaking song of blighted dreams. Nargis’s character, her life destroyed by the greed and lust of one man and the prejudiced suspicions of the man she loves, laments her life. The words are not a plea for help—there is no-one to turn to, no-one to offer sympathy—but a sad and simple account of sorrow: the ‘Gham raah mein khade thhe, wohi saath ho liye’ (‘Sorrows stood in the way, and they became my companions’) is so heart-wrenching a line. Interestingly, in the last verse, Rajendra Krishan brings in a reference to another song of Adalat: Unko yeh shikaayat hai ke hum kuchh nahin kehte is mirrored in that bit about the world begging her to speak when she would much rather stay silent.

2. Main teri nazar ka suroor hoon (Jahanara, 1964): Jahanara had some lovely ghazals, a stunning score that often gets remarked upon more for the excellence of Madan Mohan’s music than for the beauty of Rajendra Krishan’s lyrics. But beautiful they certainly are, as can be seen in this aching love song sung to a lover from whom one has been separated forever. Bharat Bhushan’s character, a commoner, has made the mistake of falling in love with a Mughal princess—and both he and his beloved, Jahanara, know that nothing can possibly come of this ill-fated romance, because Mughal princesses are not allowed to marry. They spend years far apart, but their love does not wane. This song, though wavering between despair and hope (can she have forgotten him? Can the separation mean a final break, even as far as memories go?), finally ends with a confident (though still dignified, still poignant) assertion: yes, he is always in her heart.

3. Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badhaa (Chhaaya, 1961): When it came to Chhaaya, I was torn between two songs, Aansoo samajhke and this one—and even Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badhaa occurs in two versions, one a duet and the other a male solo. Finally, I settled for Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badhaa in its duet form: a beautiful example of a love song that is not a promise of roses all the way. Though he loves her, he fears their love will never be—the gap between them is too wide—and resists, trying to dissuade her by saying that love is not for him; he’s a wayward cloud, here today, gone tomorrow. But she counters that, again and again, telling him that if he is a cloud, she is water, inseparable from the cloud. And that come what may, she will always be with him. Sweet, and beautifully rendered as well.

4. Meri pyaari Bindu (Padosan, 1968): And, for a change, a song that’s very different, and which I included primarily to illustrate Rajendra Krishan’s versatility. Of course, the sheer funniness of Meri pyaari Bindu depends upon a lot of factors, Kishore Kumar’s rendition and acting being prime among them; but the lyrics of this nutty song deserve a mention too.

Here, Bhola (Sunil Dutt) and his solicitous friends—especially his ustaad (Kishore Kumar) imagine the day Bhola will finally be accepted by his lady love, Bindu, as her sweetheart. What Bindu will say, what praise she will lavish on him. And then, naturally, how Bhola will respond. Ustaad enacts it all, sings it all, down to that hilarious bit about his love being a naiyya, a boat: ‘beech bhanwar mein gud-gud gote khaaye’. That never fails to crack me up, the imagery is so funny. In fact, this entire romantic exchange, chockfull as it is of mostly stock metaphors (but all couched in everyday, most un-poetic language), actually becomes something pretty unromantic. Unromantic, but humorous.

5. Chal ud jaa re panchhi (Bhabhi, 1957): Bhabhi was a pretty formulaic family drama, chock-full of misunderstandings, long-suffering and self-sacrificing relatives, easily manipulated other relatives, evil and greedy villains, and tonnes of melodrama. What redeemed this film was its songs, especially this one song. Chal ud jaa re panchhi appears in several instances during the course of the film, invariably accompanying the departure of some character. While the music and Rafi’s rendition are excellent, one must give due credit to Rajendra Krishan’s lyrics as well. Here is a sad and simple song of farewell, wishing a departing friend and lover goodbye, consoling them for the sorrow they take with them, comforting them for the dashed dreams that lie behind. A bird must fly away, leaving behind its home: a good metaphor for the blighted souls in Bhabhi who keep travelling hither and thither, pushed about by fate.

6. Yeh raaste hain pyaar ke (Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke, 1963): If Rajendra Krishan could write the classically romantic songs of Jahanara, or the beautiful Kaun aaya mere mann ke dwaare, he was also capable of writing a bitterly cynical song warning against love. In the title song of Yeh Raasta Hain Pyaar Ke, Asha Bhonsle sings playback for Shashikala’s character, a woman who has realized that her lover has wandered: he is having an affair with another, a married woman, no less. Even as she watches them together at a poolside party, she sings a song against love: an emotion that leaves one scarred and battered, an emotion that wrecks one’s life, forever and ever. There is no hope here, no desire for revenge and no heaping of anger on the faithless one: just a bitter lament against love.

7. Yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chaandni (Sangdil, 1952): A far cry—at least as far as lyrics are concerned—from the previous song is this one (ironically enough, the lyrics and the situation are in fact very deceptive: Dilip Kumar’s character in Sangdil is not in love with Shammi’s character, and knows very well that her pursuit of him is all a sham: she only wants his wealth). But when it comes to being a classic love song, this one ticks all the boxes. For one adaa of hers, he will give up all that is beautiful: this night, this breeze, this moonlight. For she is the most beautiful in all creation, her very eyes brim with the wine that makes flower buds so enticing. And who is to blame him for his quest of her? This mission, to be hers, is itself sheer joy.

Rajendra Krishan’s words themselves drip intoxication.

8. Yeh raah badi mushkil hai (Gateway of India, 1957): Gateway of India had some good songs, with Do ghadi woh jo paas aa baithe and Na hanso humpe zamaane ke hain thukraaye hue probably beating all the others when it came to popularity—which is sad, because at least one of the other songs is notable more for its lyrics than for its music. Madan Mohan’s music for the club song Yeh raah badi mushkil hai is good, but what sets this song apart are the very pointed words of Rajendra Krishan’s lyrics. Anita Guha, dancing while Chic Chocolate and his band play in the background, warns Madhubala’s character not to fall prey to the charming young man who’s trying to woo her. The metaphor in the second verse is especially good: the gleaming sand, the attractiveness of which suggests water, enticing the thirsty… stay away, stay away. These are flames; do not try to quench your thirst here. Brilliant imagery.

9. Khush raho ahl-e-chaman (Main Chup Rahoongi, 1962): Main Chup Rahoongi allowed Rajendra Krishan to write songs of very varying tones, from the devotional Tumhi ho maata pita tumhi ho to the extremely romantic Koi bata de dil hai jahaan. And it had this one, one of my favourite songs of farewell from Hindi cinema. Meena Kumari’s character, leaving home under a cloud—disgraced, believed to be a ‘fallen woman’ (by virtue of being a supposedly unwed mother)—is shown going away, while Rafi’s voice sings of her emotions. Krishan’s lyrics are poignant, full of homesickness, telling those left behind (‘the fellow residents of the garden’) to remain happy and to comfort those who miss the one gone. But through all that comfort offered, one unspoken thought keeps pressing forward: who will comfort the lone traveller, the one who goes God knows where, alone and friendless?

10. Bulbul ke nasheman par (Duniya Jhukti Hai, 1960): For me, the one song from Duniya Jhukti Hai which really stands out (enough for me to have watched the film) is the stunningly romantic Gumsum sa yeh jahaan—but that, I will admit, is more for the music and the rendition, not for the lyrics. The lyrics there are only part of the package, and as far as I’m concerned, are overshadowed by everything else.

Not so in Bulbul ke nasheman par, where, while the music and rendition are good, the lyrics do stand out. A dancing girl sings a song that has a somewhat woeful seductiveness to it: the man she yearns for, whose very existence has wreaked havoc with her life, keeps his distance from her. She fears he will never be hers, but she cannot help but hope, pray. I really like the metaphors Rajendra Krishan uses here: the protecting of one’s garment from the fire; the lightning striking the hapless bulbul’s nest; the hands lifted in prayer to a merciless heaven… beautiful.

Thank you for your poetry, Rajendra Krishan Sahib. May your words live on.

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48 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite Rajendra Krishan songs

  1. It is so nice of you to remind us of Rajendra Krishan’s birth centenary. I admired his lyrics. Most lyricists flourish in the company of some particular music directors. Rajendra Krishan sizzled with C.Ram Chandra, Madan Mohan, Hemnat Kumar. How many hits after hits he gave: Albela, Anarkali, Azad, Amardeep, Baarish, Mem Sahib, Ashiana, Nagin, Miss Mary, Aaram , etc. I first noticed him when he wrote lyrics for South-made Hindi movies which were remakes. I found his lyrics superior in poetic quality and this made me study his lyrics closely. Some of his lyrics which I like immensely:
    – Zindagi usi ki hai Anarkali
    -O betaji, O babuji Albela
    – Kitna hasin hai mausam Azad
    -Dekh hamein awaz na dena Amardeep
    – Kehte hai pyar kisko Baarish
    – Dil dil se milakar dekho Mem Sahib
    – main pagal mera manwa pagal Aashiana
    – Are chode sajaniya Nagin
    – Bridavan ka kishan kanhaiya
    -So gaya sara zamana Miss Mary
    — Man mein kisi ki pyar basale
    -Aye jaan e jigar Aram Anil Biswas.
    Oh what an array of gems! Rajendra Krishan will live in our hearts.

    • 1)His 1st hit was “Tere nainon ne chori kiya”.
      2) He Always wrote & signed his name as RAJINDER KRISHAN. Unfortunately, his name in film titles has come in around 7-8 different permutations-combinations!!
      3) He wrote in over 260 films & 1600 songs
      4) 40 % of Madan Mohanji’s films & 30% of C.Ramchandraji’s films had lyrics by Rajinder Krishanji!!
      Kalyanji-Anandji- 26 films
      Ravi – 21 films
      Shankar-Jaikishan – appx 18 films
      Laxmikant-Pyarelal – 18 films
      Chitragupta -13 films
      Husnlal-Bhagatram – 12 films

        • Thanks a lot Rajesh ji.
          He is my one of most favourite lyricist. Actually I was going to have a post on his songs. But my other posts got delayed and now I’m postponing Rajendra Krishan posts to September.
          Now that you clarified it, I’m happy.

          :-)

            • I’m not tech savvy & a 1st timer on This platform. So I missed the intermediate conversations that took place. Sorry.

            • 😊 My pleasure Mr Anup. I have been on a small mission taking baby steps to update on RAJINDER KRISHANji’s journey.
              But there’s tooooo many convoluted things going around that it’s been a struggle.
              Will share from time to time.

          • Oh, my goodness! I am very honoured to have you on my blog. :-) Thank you so much.

            Let me also extend an invitation to you: if you would like to write a guest post for my blog about your father – say, any anecdotes you might recall, any behind-the-scenes insights – I would be very grateful. A few others, including Johnny Walker’s daughter and Rajinder Singh Bedi’s daughter have also written here about their respective fathers and about their recollections of what it was like to be (even if only peripherally) part of Hindi cinema during its golden period.

            If you decide you would like to, let me know by leaving a comment here, and I’ll send you an e-mail so that we can take it forward. I know that I and lots of my readers would certainly love to read an article like that!

  2. Enjoyed the post a lot. Rajendra Krishna (I think, it’s Krishna, and not Krishan).
    His major association was with C Ramchandra, Madan Mohan, Ravi & Chitragupt.
    And I know, its your list and your choice, but ,I missed C Ramchandra, who had a long & successful association with Rajendra Krishna.
    I’ll be back with comments later.
    :-)

    • “And I know, its your list and your choice, but ,I missed C Ramchandra, who had a long & successful association with Rajendra Krishna.

      That’s because my focus was on the lyrics of the songs rather than on the music director Rajendra Krishan was collaborating with. :-) I do think it’s ‘Krishan’ (since that was what I saw mentioned in several places, and it sounds plausible, given he was Punjabi), but I could be wrong, of course.

  3. Rajendra Krishna is one of my favorite lyricists. Thanks for the post on him. Except for one or two, the rest are all my favorites. In Jahan Ara, “jab jab tumhe bhulaye” is the one I listen to often. I like the lines “marne ki arzoo mein hum jee rahen hain aise jaise ki laash apne khudhi koi uthaye”
    It is said that he knew a bit of Tamil (I don’t know how) because of which he stuck a good relationship with the producers from Madras. So he got to write the lyrics/dialogues for the films produced there. It also brought him to work with some MD’s who generally worked with other lyricists, like SDB (Bahar), SJ (Darti) RDB (Padosan) etc.

    • I’m glad you liked this post – and thank you for mentioning those lines from Jab jab tumhe bhulaaya: I had forgotten that, and reading them gave me gooseflesh! Beautiful.

      Interesting information about how he came to work with the Madras-based producers. When I was compiling this list, I did wonder over how come Rajendra Krishan wrote songs for so many films from the South.

    • He didn’t know Tamil but he was a responsible writer who in his own sweet ways, (& Dedicatedly) delivered his lyrics & Dialogues as per time frames.
      That , along with his Command over Hindi & Urdu, apart from his English speaking which helped in Communication down South.
      18 films with lyrics & Dialogues for AVM, & many with Gemini, Prasad Productions, Sridhar, etc, made him the the most relied on North Indian Writer, Down South.
      Good Karma followed him!! 😊

    • RAJINDER KRISHANji’s knowledge of Tamil was nearly non-existent. & You have chosen a wonderfully different song sung by LatAshajis’, from Jahan Ara, which was one of the finest musical scores between Madan Mohanji & Rajinder Krishanji, Producer Actor Om Prakash’s film was a major flop (thanx largely to it being a period film, &…..
      Madan Mohanjis jealous Detractors

      • Such a shame… it’s a real pity that Madan Mohan didn’t get a Best Director Award till Dastak. While I do like the music of Dastak, It think Madan Mohan composed much better music for many of his earlier films. That award should have been given to him well before Dastak.

  4. Madhu,
    Among many variants of his name, probably the most wrong is Rajendra Krishna, but that is how All India Radio pronounced it, and I prefer to write it. He was one of the most prominent lyricists of the Golden Era. It is difficult to say whether it was because the quality of his lyrics, or his association with great music directors, who gave many immortal songs. Therefore, my thoughts have gone to his songs with C Ramchandra.

    A nice post and very good selection of songs.
    AK

  5. Happy to see this post to celebrate Rajender Krishnan’ s birth centenary from you Madhu. What a great post and lyricist! While most remember padosan for funny scenes and comedy.. including the song you included.. many may not kow that the famous “mere saamne wali khidki” had a slow sad version that was recorded but was removed from the movie. I recently discovered that. See the lyrics for yourself about the quality of Rajender Krishan’s writing:

    पहले तो हवा उन ज़ुल्फ़ों से/खुशबू भी चुरा कर लाती थी
    भूले से कभी उड़ती-उड़ती/आवाज़ सी भी आ जाती थी
    आवाज से भी महरूम हुए/इस बात का दुखड़ा रहता है

    Link to this slow version

    • Thank you, Ashish – and very especially for this clip! I had never heard of it. Yes, really lovely lyrics. I love it when music directors realize the worth of good lyrics and subdue the music accordingly to give centrestage to the lyrics. :-)

      • No music director gave the due diligence space of prominence to the writer, while suppressing their own composing capability, the Way Madan Mohanji did!!!
        Songs of Sharabi like Mujhe le chalo/
        Sawan Ke mahine mein (slow version)/
        Baad Muddat, ki ye ghadi aayee- Jahan Ara/
        Etc, etc

  6. I don’t think i can really appreciate Hindi lyrics sufficiently, but I’ve seen a fair amount of his songs in mostly Sunil Dutt films and they seem so thoughtful and detailed. Does that make sense? Like they completely describe a feeling. There are some good songs in films now, but that kind of complex imagery seems gone.

    • I think I know what you mean. It seems as if he gets deep down into an emotion and understands its nuances really well – and, more importantly, is able to articulate those really well. Agree completely with you about that complex imagery – it was so palpable in songs from so many of the lyricists of the Golden Age, but has pretty much disappeared now.

    • Very rightly spotted. They shared the same birthdate too.
      Songs in Sunil Dutt films like
      #Maen Kaun Hoon, Maen K’haan Hoon,
      Mujhe Ye Hosh N’hin!! -& “Khush R’ho ahle ch’m’n” Maen Chup Rahungi
      #Ya Meri m’nzil B’ta, Ya Zindgi ko cheen Le- Meherbaan
      # K’l Ch’m’n tha, Aaj ik, Sehra hua- Khandan
      # Aansoo s’m’jh Ke kyun Mujhe- Chhaya

  7. Wonder why Rajinder Krishan is not usually included in the likes of Sahir, Shailendra, Majrooh. Could it be because his work was uneven? Or because he was just too versatile? Meaning, there’s really no typical Rajendra Krishan song, no pet phrases or images.

    Anyway, his words will never be forgotten. Mere Saamne Wali Khidki especially stands out — everyone knows it and everyone loves it, so much so that we take its brilliance for granted. The credit is shared by Kishore Kumar and RD Burman of course, but RK’s words ensure that it will always stay relatable.

    My personal favourite among his songs is probably Sapne Mein Sajan Se Do Batein, and that’s only because of the words

    I used to wonder what situation it was written for

    • Sorry, I missed this comment because I got caught up in responding to the comments on the trees post.

      Yes, I do think Rajendra Krishan’s versatility probably went against him – he’s not like (say) Sahir, whose work is fairly distinctive.

      Sapne mein sajan se do baatein is a lovely song. But the situation is nothing great: Om Prakash’s character is a huge fan of the singer’s (Lata’s face is shown on the album cover, though some other name is given to the singer), and so he insists that his new acquaintance – Madhubala listens to the record.

  8. Hi,
    Couldn’t comment on your last post. Frankly, “Some Like it Hot” is the only movie of Tony Curtis I have seen.
    It is always so tough choosing favourites among favourites, but all the above are among my favourites.
    I also learned quite later that many of the funny songs that I always liked have been penned by Rajendra Krishna: “Laila Ki ungliyan Bechun” is one such song and the other is from “Miss Mary”, “Gaana na aaya”.

    • Thank you! And yes, I also realized, when I was compiling this post, that Rajendra Krishan wrote some of my favourite funny songs. He seems to have had a good sense of humour. :-)

      • Eena meena deeka- asha
        Z’roorat Hai -manmauji
        Ek tha Abdul Rehman- manmauji
        Shola Jo bh’dke- Albela
        Gore Gore O banke chhore- bhai bhai
        Suniye suniye Aaj Kal Ki ladkiyon ka program- ladka ladki
        Zulm ameeron ka Ab seh k’r, chup n’hi rehna Hai- Pyar kiye jaa
        O Meri maina- Pyar kiye jaa
        Ek ch’turnaar- padosan
        Munne ki Amma, Ye To B’taa- tum haseen Main Jawan
        Mannu bhai motor chali pum pum pum- Phool Khile Hain Gulsh’n Gulsh’n
        Rafta rafta dekho aankh Meri l’dee Hai- Kahani Kismat Ki

  9. That’s a wonderful post. Compliments. Rajendra Krishan was an extra-ordinary lyricist who should be considered a great Hindi poet as well. Almost all the songs listed out by you are of my liking too, especially Yeh Hawa Yeh Raat Yeh Chaandni which virtually hypnotizes me whenever I listen to it in Talat’s voice.

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