Remembering Gopal Das Neeraj : The humble poet whose magical words made us rich

Itna Madir Itna Madhur Tera Mera Pyar

Lena Hoga Janam Hameh Kayi Kayi Baar

Gopal Das Neeraj was not just a poet; he was a magician with words.. in the above line from the song Phoolon Ke Rang Se from Dev Anand’s PREM PUJARI, the doyen of Hindi poetry Gopal Das Neeraj has magically used the word madir (rough translation – intoxication) with madhur (rough translation – sweet) in the song. Sweet intoxication - that was what Neeraj’s poetry is all about.

Gopal Das Neeraj was also popularly known as Kavi Neeraj was born in the village of Puravali near Mahewa of Etawah in Uttar Pradesh, Neeraj was Gopal Das pen name and he considered himself to be a poet and not a lyricist. He never intended to be a Bollywood lyricist though he was a huge draw at Kavi Sammlelans. His mastery over words and impeccable ability to use simple words for maximum effects made him the favorite poet amongst the masses.

During the 60’s one of his most popular poetry karva guzar gaya, gubar dekhtein rahe was played in radio which impressed film maker R Chandra so much that he met Neeraj with a dream to get him on board as lyricist for his upcoming movie. Neeraj refused but said if R Chandra wishes to use any of his poetry in his film, he has no objection. After few years, destiny smiled on Bollywood music industry when R Chandra included Neeeraj’s famous karva guzar gaya, gubar dekhtein rahe’in his movie NAI UMAR KI NAI FASAL starring Tanuja, the song was sung by Rafi became an anthem of melancholy during those era.. this song is still in the list of many..

The same song karva guzar gaya was instrumental in the famous collaboration of awesome threesome Dev Anand, S.D. Burman and Neeraj. It was the time when PREM PUJARI (1970) was getting made, Dev Anand was already impressed by Neeraj and had heard him at one of Kavi Sammelan. One fine day, Dev Anand, S.D. Burman and Neeraj met. S.D. asked Neeraj to write something on the word Rangeela and it is said that within 20 odd minutes, Neeraj came with that evergreen number Rangeela Re sung by Lata Mangeshkar.. Dev Anand couldn’t control his feelings and gave Neeraj a big hug.

Kavi Neeraj not only mastered the art of song writing and poetry, he was fabulously in tune and sync when he recited his poetry. He was next only to Harivansh Rai Bachchan. Apart from S.D. Burman, his association with Shankar Jaikishan is also talked about. His specialty in narrating his poetry in tune was instrumental in the song Ae Bhai Jara Dekh Ke Chalo from Raj Kapoor’s MERA NAAM JOKER. Shankar Jaiskishen where not clear whether they can give music to the lyrics of Ae Bhai as they found it not in form and having elements of gadhya (prose) instead of padhya (metrical) in between. Neeraj helped in suggesting a tune and we got the song Ae Bhai Jara Dekh Ke Chalo from MER A NAAM JOKER,  a rare number for Raj Kapoor sung by Manna Dey and not his voice Mukesh.

It’s very unfortunate for our music industry that in 1973 after the death of Jaikishan and SD Burman not able to work due to ill health, the poetry of Kavi Neeraj didn,t find its place in Bollywood music. It is said that it was not possible for a poet of the caliber of Neeraj to ask for work from the other music directors and they failed to realize the potential of the genius.

Kavi Neeraj was a known name in the world of Hindi poetry, people close to him say that though he earned several literary awards, the prestigious Padma Bhushan, and the Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist for the song ‘Kal Ka Pahiya Ram Krishna Hari’, however, the happiness he cherished from that five rupees won from his first participation in a poetry gathering at the age of 14 in Delhi, where he recited, Pardesi apne ghar jao re’in front of stalwarts of those times is priceless to him.

In the list of Bollywood great lyricists, Gopal Das Neeraj aka Kavi Neeraj has a special place.. there will be no one as simple, pure and magical like Neeraj.

Badal Bijli Chandan Pani Jaisa Apna Pyar

Lena Hoga Janam Humein Kayi Kayi Baar

Long Live Neeraj

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