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-Bahen), "Jaag dard-e ishq jag..." (Anarkali), "Man 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
, 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...".
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. 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 a woman named 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 in 1942, much against the wishes of his extended family, Rajinder Krishan left Shimla to try his luck in 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 of about Rs.40. 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 were extreme financial distress and professional hardships. 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 free meal when he had no money to buy food.
It was with the Motilal-Suraiya
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).
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.
Contributed by: Mrs. Vandana Kumar
(Author is the great niece of the lyricist)