PYARE LAL SANTOSHI – MULTIPLE HATS, VARIED FORTUNES …
By: Archana Gupta
Pyare Lal Santoshi, a lyricist, a film director and a story/screenplay writer, very occasional actor – a versatile personality by all accounts, is in current times probably more easily recognizable as father of film director Rajkumar Santoshi but was very well known and almost a star in his own rights in 40s, 50s and even early 60s. He was born on August 7th 1916 in Jabalpur, M.P as Pyarelal Shrivastav in a school headmaster’s house. He was an early starter in poetry writing and started participating in “Kavi Sammelans” during his school days.
He moved to Bombay in late 30s and started working with Jaddan Bai (Nargis’ mom) who was an active movie-maker, as her personal assistant. In 1937, he got a bit part in her movie “Moti ka Haaar” and also wrote a few songs for the same (“Aisaa baagh lagaaya”, “man ke vaasii man mein aao”) – thus began his career in films, both as an actor and lyricist. In the same year, he also wrote four songs for “Jeevan Swapn”, another Jaddan Bai film.
In 1937 itself he joined Ranjit Movietone and wrote six songs for “Toofani Toli” under Gyan Dutt’s baton. His other movies as lyricist for Ranjit included “Baazigar”, “Ban ki Chidiya”, “Billi”, “Gorakh Aaya”, “Prithvi Putra”, “Prof. Waaman M.Sc.”, “RickshaWaala”, “Secretary” (’38), “Aapki Marzi”, “Meri Aankhen”, “Nadi Kinaare”, “Adhoori Kahaani”, “Pati Patni”, “Sant Tulsidas”, “Thokar” (’39), “Achhut”, “Pagal” (’40), “Pardesi” (’41). Most of these movies had music by Gyan Dutt except for the last two that had music by Khemchand Prakash. Of these, Pardesi was particularly successful.
In 1941 he joined Bombay Talkies and wrote songs for a movie named Anjaan. In 1942 he wrote songs for Basant under music direction of Anil Biswas (official credit to Pannalal Ghosh). Basant’s music was particularly successful with songs like “Tumko mubaarak hon oonche mahal ye”, “Ik Duniya Basa Le Mere Mann”, “Hua kya Qusoor jo humse ho door” and “Aaya basant sakhi ri” etc. making waves. He also wrote screenplay and dialogues for 1943 release “Kismet” in partnership with Shahid Lateef. He worked for other banners like Prakash Pictures also (“Station Master”, ’42) around this time.
P. L Santoshi then moved to Prabhat Film Company of Pune where managed to get a film as an independent film director in 1946. The film was “Ham Ek Hain”. He also wrote the dialogues and song lyrics for this film. This film, based on communal unity, was also actress Rehana’s first venture with him – start of an association that would prove significant at a later point – both professionally and personally.
Another very important association in his career was that with Music director C. Ramachandra and by association, Lata Mangeshkar. The two first worked together for Shahnaai in 1947 and started a new trend in music with songs like “Aana meri jaan, meri jaan, Sunday ke Sunday” that continued through “Khidki” (’48), and “Sargam” (’50) and beyond with songs like “Maar kataari mar jaana”, “Qismat hamaare saath hai, jalnewaale jalaa Karen”, “Jab Dil ko sataaye gham”, “Koi kisee ka diwaana na bane”, “Wo humse chup hain” etc. Three big hits established PLS as well as this partnership further but also gave him a reputation for writing meaningless lyrics that just “sounded” nice with CR’s music (or that of other MDs) – Prime examples in this category are “Main hoon ek khalaasi, mera naam hai bhimpalasi”, sa re ga re sa ni, tinak tin tani” (Sargam), “Shin Shinaki Bublaa Boo” (Shin Shinaki Bubbla Boo), “Ye maana …haa haa hee hee hoo hoo” (Haa Haa Hee Hee Hoo Hoo, ’55) etc. But no one can deny the popularity that these “catch phrases” enjoyed – the impact is seen even today when a significant number of songs seem to rely on some catch phrase alone. In that sense, PLS could be considered a pioneer of modern lyric writing style. Also, it wouldn’t be too incorrect to say that if he had done nothing except writing one song “Aana meri jaan, meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday”, he would have still ensured a place in annals of HFM, such was the impact of this song.
P.L. Santoshi and CR together became huge cult figures. While the truth remains that CRs music had a bigger role to play than the beauty of lyrics in producing these “hit” songs together, PLS, in all fairness, actually did exhibit real versatility and wrote lyrics for various genres with many of the songs remaining popular to date both with and without CR. On one hand, he wrote heartbreaking numbers like “Aisii muhabbat se ham baaz aaye”, “Mahfil mein jal uthi shama” (Nirala ’50) that oozed pathos, while on the other hand penned the fun and frothy “Aana meri jaan” with light hearted teasing numbers like “Wo humse chup hain” (Sargam), sort of patriotic song (well not really though I am guessing it was meant to be one) like “Ae ho …Jai bolo Mahatma Gandhi ki” (Khidki), out and out simple sweet romantic ones like “Mere dil mein hai ik baat”, “O neend na mujhko aaye…” (Post Box 999, ’58), loris like “Lo chhip gaya chand bahe hawaa mand mand” (Hum Panchhi ek daal ke, ’57), and light philosophicals like “Aankhiyaa Hain Ye Roop Kee Pyaasee “ (Teen Batti Chaar Raasta, ’53) all thrown in between for a good measure.
His popularity as a lyricist remained high right until mid-fifties, and declined thereafter though his last film as a lyricist was “Diler” in 1979. Some of his other major soundtracks not mentioned so far were “Actress” (‘48), “Saanwariya”, “Chilman” (’49), “Apni Chhaaya” (’50), “Naadan”, (’51), Chham Chhama Chham (’52), “Chaalis Baba Ek Chor” (’54), “Sabse Bada Rupaiya” (’56), “Garma Garam”, “Chhote Babu” (’57), “Raj Tilak” (’58).
Other than CR, the major Music Directors that P. L Santoshi worked with included Naushad, Vinod, Gyan Dutt, Khemchand Prakash, Kalyanji Anandji (also as Kalyanji Virji Shah) , Chic Chocolate, N. Dutta, S.D. Burman, S.N. Tripathi, Usha Khanna, O.P. Nayyar, Ravi, Madan Mohan, Manna Dey etc.
As mentioned before, “Hum Ek Hain” was his first venture as an independent film director. This film marked the beginning of Santoshi’s fairly successful stint as a film director with at least 21 titles to his credit including some very well-known titles like “Sargam”, “Barsaat ki Raat”, “Hum Panchhi ek Daal ke”, “Opera House”, “Dil Hi To Hai”, “Shehnai”, “Khidki” etc. This, of course, placed him amongst topline directors at one point in time. Towards the end of his career, he also directed a few Bhojpuri films. His last directorial venture was “Roop Ruppaiyya” in 1968.
He also has dialogue (Jhoola ’41), screenplay (Jhoola, Saudagar ’73) and story writing (Station Master ’42) to his credit and produced “Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo” in 1952.
It is claimed that he was extremely well paid, in fact was amongst the highest paid as both a Director as well as story/ Dialogue/screenplay writers and commanded up to a lakh of rupees in his heydays. By all accounts he was also both generous and careless with his money. He is reputed to have “rich” tastes and indulged in what were considered strong vices. As a result, once his movies starting failing at box office, he went bankrupt and was heavily under debt. So much so that he was even jailed in that connection. He married twice and was rumored to be completely besotted with Rehana, leading lady of his earlier successful ventures. The lady apparently did not reciprocate. He spent his last days on dialysis due to kidney failure and breathed his last on September 7th, 1978 due to heart failure. All in all, he appears to be a man of extreme versatility and very varied fortunes who saw the highest of highs and lowest of lows in the Industry…
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